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“Our Song” and “You Belong with Me,” by Taylor Swift were milestone songs in my teenage years and I can still recite every word to this day. If you ever ask me to do so in person, you’re in for a show.
There was nothing quite like listening to those songs along with Swift’s other oldies like “Love Song,” or “Fearless.” Swift’s country phase (and how I wish it wasn’t a phase) reminds me of my tween and teenage years. They remind me of those Friday afternoons when I would pull out of my highschool parking lot with my little sister sitting shot-gun. She would turn up Swift’s tracks to drown out the sound of me bragging about the limitless freedom my fresh, shiny G2 license warranted.
Swift’s classics remind me of getting ready for high school dances or house parties before I knew that one or two coats of mascara were sufficient and that people could in fact see that the nearly pumpkin orange Covergirl foundation did not match my skintone. Swift reminds me of learning how to French braid, of having sleep-overs and finally getting my braces off. Ah, those were the days.
There is something so nostalgic and wholesome about Taylor Swift’s older tracks. They were: my dancing around my room songs; the “No, Mom, I will not turn it down, this is the best part!” songs; the replay-it-because-I-need-to-sing-that-part-over-again tracks (and still are).
When Swift transitioned into pop music, I was disappointed. Not to say her songs weren’t good, but because they just didn’t have that spark that her debut tracks did. There were no butterflies when I listened, or music videos that set really unrealistic standards of what dating is like in highschool. Trust me when I say prom is not what the “You Belong with Me” music video makes it out to be and I have yet to have a boy write me a love song.
Needless to say, Swift’s songs slowly fell off my “Recently Played” playlist. However, to my surprise, she has made one hell of a resurgence last week.
Swift recently dropped a surprise album entitled folklore and there is a lot to unpack.
Firstly, I am a sucker for album art. First impressions mean a lot. Before you can even hit play on an album or song, you look at the cover. Swift’s newest album opted for a simple approach; the cover features a misty, black and white forest, appropriately setting a mellow, vulnerable mood. Although the album cover is simple, the songs that make up folklore are complex.
Love songs are extremely on-brand for Swift and folklore is no different. Although the trope of unrequited love is ever present in Swift’s music, this album paints a much more incredibly complex picture of loving and being loved. Swift dumped the cliche highschool sweetheart love for a more genuine exploration of relationships.
folklore is an ode to the ups and downs of love, the connectivity between souls and the pain associated with unreciprocated romance. Swift explores the intricacies of relationships from a female perspective, leaving me immediately intrigued.
Bon Iver is truly a man after my heart in his feature on the track “exile.” His voice is stunning and vulnerable and is paired perfectly with Swift’s mellowed out, smooth whisper of a voice. “exile” is truly a masterpiece, it is impossible to not sway gently with the melodic intertwining of Iver and Swift’s voices. The lyrics relay a story of moving on from a love-interest and the pain of growing apart.
“exile” is only one of many songs that transport listeners into the world Swift created with folklore. Each song places you in the crosshairs of pain and happiness, wanting and refusing, missing and moving on. Swift’s ability to make each song about your first love or your worst break-up is truly breathtaking. She situates listeners in a way where it is not just a song about any old, archetypical love story, it is about the listener’s love story.
Swift knows how to connect with her audience and elicit emotions through music, something that I found was lost on her in her pop music. folklore feels as though Swift is recentring towards what made us fall in love with her in the first place; she is relatable. With her older tracks, audiences could connect to her renditions of highschool football games, school dances, sneaking out to meet up with your crush or talking on the phone late into the night.
Now that she has grown up and her long-time fans have too, she found new points of connection: unrequited love; independence and empowerment after a break-up; and the reality that relationships are not all fun and games. folklore is an emotional exploration of modern love.
And she doesn’t stop there.
The only thing more intoxicating than being in love is the American Dream. Swift seduces her listeners with the idea of dynastic success in “the last american dynasty.” The American Dream is another staple in Swift’s music and always has been. As I listen to folklore, I can’t help but think back to her foundational days as the all-American-girl on the front-cover of her debut album, Taylor Swift. She is far from that freshman that burst onto the country music scene over a decade ago, but through adaptive music and relatable content she has remained relevant and continues to outdo herself.
folklore is a truly impressive album that no one, including myself, expected from Swift as she seemed settled into her pop sound. I can only hope Swift continues down this folksy road.