In the Age of Uncertainty, Taylor Swift’s folklore Brings Comfort
The singer's lyricism shines in her most mature album yet
Taylor Swift has once again taken the world by storm with the release of her surprise album folklore. folklore reintroduces the “Old Taylor”: a woman presumed to be long dead, as Swift herself declared on 2017’s Reputation. The lyrics are wistful, nostalgic, and somewhat childish as Swift delves into her past. The singer reflects on her mistakes, her regrets, and her current struggles. This creates an irony; the album is so lost in the past, but also so undeniably relevant. Likewise, while the lyrics detail a teenage romance, they have a strong sense of agency and maturity. As Swift herself stated, the album is a “collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness.”
Themes of isolation and fantastical escapism have long been present in Swift’s music of Swift’s. She famously reimagined the story of Romeo and Juliet where the lovers ended up together on her 2008 single, “Love Story”. On folklore, Swift builds on the escapism, but with a melancholic lens. As she states in her opening number; “If my wishes came true, it would’ve been you.” No longer the Fearless-era world of happy endings, Swift has transformed her fairytale into a reality where Fairy Godmothers do not exist. The imagery of cobblestones, stars, and sunlight somehow seem more mundane than idealized in the wake of this tone.
Although all the songs on the album are nostalgic and reflecting on the past, “exile” is the track that stands out the most. Surely one of Swift’s best songs of all time, “exile” recounts a faltered relationship between two people. Swift recounts “I think I’ve seen this film before/I didn’t like the ending/You’re not my homeland anymore.” No longer taking comfort in fantasy, Swift forces herself to confront reality and her own roots. This song reflects the larger theme of the entire album. While the dream of an idealistic romance can spur inspiration, there is truly no better ground for inspiration than one’s own true life experiences.
The triad of songs that make up the so-called Teenage Love Triangle –– “cardigan”, “august”, and “betty” –– grapple with this overarching theme of young love in a tidy bookends narrative. The singer tracks the coming-of-age of three characters through their own points of view. In doing so, Swift’s lyricism recalls lonely summer days spent as a teenager in a small town. On “betty”, two young lovers at the dawn of adulthood face the realities of their relationship just as Swift has come to terms with her own standing as an artist.
Surely many listeners can relate to these themes of nostalgia and teenage love, especially in such an age of solitude and longing. However, just as Swift faces the realization of her “kingdom come undone”, we all must move on from our former dreams and into a new consciousness that betters us all.