Taylor Swift’s folklore: the lockdown album

By Amirah Yasmin

When Taylor Swift posted “Not a lot going on at the moment” on her social media, it was an indication that this is not a drill – a new album is on its way. The 31-year-old singer-songwriter made use of her extra time in COVID-19 lockdown by feeding her imaginations with books and movies.

Slowly, the imaginations turned into casual songwriting which led to two successful albums, five months apart.

Despite the unprecedented events of COVID-19, the folklore (and evermore) album were made by abiding the World Health Organisation (WHO) social distancing recommendations. Throughout the process, Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff, and Aaron Dessner were never in the same room. This shows how they respected their responsibility in flattening the curve of COVID-19, one that all of us should prioritise as well.

Swift expressed her frustration when she explained her song “epiphany”, which mirrors the hardships of soldiers in war and medical staff in hospitals.

In her Disney+ feature, she criticised the people who take COVID-19 lightly while refusing to follow the SOPs of physical distancing. She emphasised that having a night out is not worth the ripple effect of consequences faced by health institutions and it is very upsetting that some people just do not care.

Although Taylor Swift unintentionally wrote folklore in the middle of the pandemic, the album does not limit itself to the virus outbreak only. Instead, it carved the emotions felt or longed to be felt by people during the pandemic.

The indie-folk album built a world of fictional and non-fictional stories that had music enthusiasts invested in dissecting the embedded dimensions of folklore.

An interesting element of the album’s storytelling is the lyrical masterpieces that mirror each other. In the song ‘mirrorball’, Taylor Swift made a reference to ‘this is me trying’ with the line “all I do is try,” mirrored with “I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere,”. The songs ‘cardigan’, ‘august’, and ‘betty’ acts as a trilogy of a teenage love triangle that makes listeners wish it could be adapted into a movie.

It was crystal clear that folklore had a shift of perspectives in Swift’s songwriting. A reason is due to the influence of Joe Alwyn as her co-writer with the pseudonym ‘William Bowery’. Both songs written by him (exile and betty) were from a masculine perspective.

This twist of personas allows listeners to experience a new dimension of Swift’s growth in storytelling.

Co-writing with partners is not an alien concept to Taylor Swift as she once co-wrote a song with her former partner with a pen name ‘Nils Sjöberg’ for ‘This Is What You Came For’. Unfortunately, Taylor Swift was neither given recognition nor credit even though the song was honoured with awards.

Using betrayal as a lifelong lesson, Swift would always credit Alwyn in their songwriting process. This includes the exclusive information that ‘betty’ and ‘exile’ were initiated by Joe Alwyn.

The sister album of folklore, evermore, is an extended experience of folklore as the songwriting dives deeper to surfaces untouched and a lyrical utopia yet to be discovered.

Folklore (and evermore) portrays the remarkable growth and journey of Taylor Swift and we are eager to find out more embedded masterpieces that are yet to unravel the next time she claims that there is not a lot going on at the moment.***

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