Celebrating Cultures, Promoting Integration
In 2020, Taylor Swift released two surprise albums, folklore and evermore. Here’s a double review, because it is difficult to talk about one without talking about the other.
Doing a folklore and evermore review seems to be the most logical way to address these two records because they just hit differently together. In a period when Taylor Swift is rerecording her first albums to gain total control of her music and her version of her old hit, “Love Story” is already out, folklore and evermore can be considered both a smooth continuity of her work and a total new direction.
Right time, right place, right mood
By today’s and yesterday’s standards, two albums in a single year are a lot. Taylor Swift did it in the span of six months and during a global pandemic. In July and December 2020, the singer gave a little bit of hope to all her fans around the world by dropping new music, when the music industry has been almost frozen in time. Fortunately, as the world is in bad shape and the global mood is poor, artists still release records.
folklore and evermore (both stylized with no capital letter) are a mood. Mostly folk songs with either a tint of sadness, or a sweet taste, or even a bit of nostalgia and melancholia, Taylor Swift surpassed herself, just like she seems to do every time she writes new tunes. No album can satisfy everyone and maybe some people didn’t enjoy folklore and evermore as much as others (a large part of her fanbase) did.
Indeed, the songs are good, very good, even if this question depends on one’s taste, but it is impossible not to notice the difference with her previous record Lover, released in 2019. On this one, the titles were more pop, even electro for some of them, when folklore and then evermore sounded more peaceful. Putting words on these albums is difficult because they are first an atmosphere and then a style.
folklore and evermore, as fans sometimes write to talk about the two records at the same time, have some rhythmic, modern songs, but the ambiance just isn’t the same. Just looking at the covers, you can feel the music isn’t the same. When Lover’s cover was pink and flashy, folklore is all in black and white and evermore is made of sweet and warm colours. The differences were visible.
‘Sister records’ in style and songs
The styles of the two records are similar, but it is not where the resemblance stops. After folklore, Swift released several EPs to show thematic links between the titles with the escapism chapter, the sleepless nights chapter, the saltbox house chapter and the “yeah I showed up at your party” chapter. She did it again after evermore but this time she could put together songs from the two records. And here we have the “dropped your hand while dancing” chapter, the “forever is the sweetest con” chapter and the “ladies lunching” chapter.
Taylor has been asked about these storylines during a Q&A live chat and she explained herself that Dorothea, from one song, and Betty, James and Inez, from another song, went to the same high school. Some may say it’s a little detail, but it’s something to acknowledge: Swift did not only give us songs telling a story (because in most of the songs on folklevermore, you can hear a whole story in three minutes) but she linked these stories together.
If you look closely at the lyrics, you can find other parallels, sometimes clear but mostly depending on one’s interpretation and will to establish connexion. When she sings in “august” “cancelled my plans just in case you’d call” and then she asks her man to “wreck [her] plans” in “willow”, one can extrapolate. Same thing for the train reference in “cardigan” (“cause I knew you, steppin’ on the last train”) and “willow” (“you know that my train can take you home”).
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“Peace” and “long short story”, “mad woman” and “champagne problems”… If you really want to, you can find parallels almost everywhere. But the most interesting lyrics comparisons are probably when you can understand an evolution within the narrator’s feeling. When in “hoax” you can hear “what’s the point of keeping score?” or “stood on the cliffside”, “long story short” answers with “no more keeping score” and “climbed right back up the cliff”.
In “epiphany”, she managed to talk about war and fight against Covid in a beautiful slow melody, giving you enough time to simply think about life. Some may say all these links are far-fetched, but isn’t it the whole point in interpreting a written piece of art? Just like some spend hours analysing classic literature, you can totally analyse lyrics because they are not so different from poesy. And Taylor Swift is quite a poet.
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Personal favourite lyrics
“Time, curious time, gave me no compasses, gave me no signs.” (“invisible string”, folklore) : What a sentence to relate to in these uncertain times, when nobody knows or can even imagine what life will be in the following month. Knowing that Swift wrote her album in lockdown, we may wonder if she was actually thinking about that. Here, the time isn’t only “curious” but also “mysterious” and “wondrous”. But unfortunately, it never gives anyone answers or signs. It’s a line worth thinking about.
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“I don’t belong and, my beloved, neither do you.” (“the lakes”, folklore) : Either you’re just in a sad mood or you are deeply feeling bad, this sentence probably represents what you’re thinking. And it’s okay, because if you really pay attention to the line and the whole song, the narrator isn’t alone in this world where they don’t belong. So keep that in mind, you’re never on your own, even when you think the whole world is against you.
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“Don’t call me kid, don’t call me baby. Look at this idiotic fool that you made me. You taught me a secret language I can’t speak with anyone else. And you know damn well for you I would ruin myself a million little times.” (“illicit affairs”, folklore) : This part in this song is on another level. When the song tells the story of an affair, these few sentences are more about the influence a person can have on another one, no matter the kind of relationship. A beautiful way to put this feeling into words.
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“Sometimes giving up is the strong thing, sometimes to run is the brave thing, sometimes walking out is the one thing that will find you the right thing.” (“it’s time to go”, evermore) : This sentence is very important because you should know that, sometimes, especially when it comes to relationships, it doesn’t make you stronger to stay. Sometimes you just need to let it go because it’s the right thing to do at one special moment. And then it’ll help you go on with your life and you won’t be stuck forever in a place you don’t like. It’s not because you give up, you run or you walk away that you’re weak, on the contrary.
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“So I’ll go back to L.A. and the so-called friends who’ll write books about me if I ever make it and wonder about the only soul who can tell which smiles I’m fakin’.” (“‘tis the damn season”, evermore) : Even if you’re not on your way to L.A. and leaving a lover behind you, this sentence works. Because of these “so-called friends” we all have known at least once in our lives, and because of these fake smiles. Who doesn’t wonder about the only person who can tell when you’re not feeling good, even when you’re saying the contrary? Yes, that’s what it means. If you don’t feel something when you think about this line, please tell me how.
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“One for the money, two for the show I never was ready, so I watch you go. Sometimes you just don’t know the answer ’til someone’s on their knees and asks you ‘She would’ve made such a lovely bride what a shame she’s fucked in the head,’ they said. But you’ll find the real thing instead, she’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred.” (“champagne problems”, evermore) : One big paragraph here, because it’s so difficult to choose the best lyrics in “champagne problems”, especially in the bridge. The sadness, the hurt, the feelings, everything is here, and it just hits right. Nothing more, nothing less.
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Either you were a Taylor Swift’s fan before or not, folklore and evermore might make you see the artist in another light. If you immerse yourself totally in the two albums, you’ll discover something special, whatever it will be depends on you. Let us know what you think of the albums and what are your own personal favourite songs and lyrics in the comment section!
Image credit: “Taylor Swift Speak Now Tour” by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity Photographer.