Taylor Swift drops big surprises in Folklore
Taylor Swift drops big surprises in Folklore
SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Harry Styles chose to drown with his waterboarded piano in the video for his hit song Falling from his solo album Fine Line. For her video for her new single Cardigan, Taylor Swift also plays on a piano, a magic one that later ends up submerged in water. But unlike ex-One Direction Styles, she clings on to the piano for dear life and returns to the real world. She does not drown.

What is the connection here, aside from the poor, drenched to the insides piano? Well, Styles and Swift once dated some years ago.  That is all over but we all know how Swift has this tendency to seem to be referring to her ex-boyfriends in her songs. Remember We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together? Was that for John Mayer? So the sight of Swift with that piano and her not drowning brought back memories of her with Styles.

I do not know which of her former dates make an appearance in the songs in her new album Folklore. Her present love gets co-writing credits disguised as “William Bowery.” But she does make a somewhat generalized mention in the track Invisible Strings. “For the boys who broke my heart/ now I send their babies presents.” How nice of her and I wonder who those lucky kids are.

Folklore is Swift’s quarantine album. It was recorded entirely in her home with remote collaboration by co-producer Aaron Dessner of the acclaimed indie band, The National, and her frequent recording partner Jack Antonoff. This is her follow-up to Lover and is also her big surprise release. When no one was looking or I should say, listening last week, there was suddenly a new album out of entirely original materials by Swift.

That is not the only surprise about Folklore. Remember how Swift surprised everyone by her foray into pop music from country with the album Red from 2016? That turnabout resulted in a series of big sellers, 1989, Reputation and Lover. This time around, Swift left the sleek arena pop music she is mostly identified with to go into the soothing, wistful, atmospheric alternative rock, with a touch of goth. It is also very emotional.

There are 16 cuts and each one tells a story. Well, save for Invisible Strings which is about a happy relationship, the rest are brokenhearted songs but all told from somebody else’s point of view. That is what Swift has been saying in her promo interviews. She wrote songs by imaginary people. But maybe if fans go over the lyrics, they will find that it is actually Swift in some of the stories.

She tells really good ones while alternating between fantasy and reality with interesting characters to help her out. One of the album’s best tracks is The Last Great American Dynasty where she really rocks out. It is a sad tale about Rebekah Harkness, the heiress who was the original owner of Swift’s mansion in Rhode Island and whose notorious behavior shocked a lot of people.

Give a listen to the first single, the pensive Cardigan. It is about a girl who compares herself to a cardigan, a light-knitted jacket that was worn, loved for a while and then discarded. “You said you loved me best,” she says. The song forms a trilogy about a teen-age love triangle that Swift tells so well. The others are August and Betty, where Swift hints of her country origins by combining guitar and harmonica.

There is also the ballad Exile by Swift with Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) where they play a former couple in a duet of recriminations. Mad Woman where Swift is at her pouty best; the whimsical Mirrorball with its twanging guitars; Illicit Affairs, a truly lovely song performed with an acoustic guitar; plus The I, My Tears Ricochet, This is Me Trying, Peace, Hoax, Seven and Epiphany.

Folklore sold 1.3 million copies on its first day out in the market. I do not know if it will sell as much as Swift’s other albums. But I can tell you that because it is full of timeless melodies and universal emotions, it will be selling for a long, long time. Swift has produced her first would-be standard with Folklore. I tend to measure albums by female singer/songwriters against Carole King’s Tapestry. I know that is a tall order but Folklore comes close.

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