To his favorite, folklore affirms something that has been true since the beginning of Swift’s career: her greatest strength is her storytelling, her well-honed art of songwriting responding to the vivid whims of her imagination; the music in these stories is subject to change, as long as it can be rooted in these traditions. You can tell that’s what drives Swift by the way she shapes her songs: cramming specific details into curious cadences, bending the lines to her will. This is particularly apparent on folklore, where the production – mostly Dessner, with Jack Antonoff’s pop flair at times in the mix – is more minimal than it usually wants. His lyrics soar above sparse pianos, sullen guitars and radical orchestration, ever so quotable.
After years as pop’s most trusted first-person essayist, Swift channels her distinct style into what are essentially works of fiction and self-fiction, finding compelling protagonists in a rebellious heiress and love triangle. classic teenage girl. In “The Last Great American Dynasty,” she tells the story of eccentric debutante Rebekah Harkness, who married into the Standard Oil family and lived in the Swift mansion in Rhode Island, in order to celebrate the women who “Have a wonderful time ruining everything. Filled with historical details and Americana imagery, you can see the song playing through your mind like a storybook, but it also highlights society’s treatment of brash women. Swift deftly draws a line between Harkness and herself at the end, an idea she fleshed out in a more literal sequel, “Mad Woman.” Of all the songs on folklore, “The Last Great American Dynasty” is the all-timer, the instant classic. It feels like the National / Taylor mashup of the last days that you never knew you needed – textured and tastefully majestic, with Fitzgerald-esque lines on the pool filling with champagne instead of drinking all the wine.
With folkloreThe heartbreaking trilogy of adolescence, Swift circles the same case from each side’s different perspective. “Betty” is the story of 17-year-old James trying to win back his girlfriend after cheating, a familiar crime made new by the narrator’s genuine remorse and belief in a newfound love. He has the youthful hope of a song like “Wide Open Spaces,” but is noticeably wiser (and weirder) than the high school romances Swift wrote as a teenager. The first single “Cardigan” is narrated by Betty, whose disillusionment with James translates into a sad and sultry sound reminiscent of Lana Del Rey, right down to the vocal style and relaxed lyrical quote from another pop song. But the overlapping details and the central framing of the songs – of a forgotten cardigan and found without a second thought – are pure Swift, an instant memory portal that resembles the scarf of rouge“Everything is too good”. (The cute marketing angle for “cardigan” is also reliably Swiftian.) And even though “August” is considered the third in the trilogy, the sweetest, sweetest love story on record unfolds. during “illicit business”. “You taught me a secret language that I can’t tell anyone else,” she sings. “And you know very well that for you I would ruin myself. The scenes and perspectives evoked by these songs say a lot about Swift’s evolution as a songwriter.
The theme of folklore is a very different way of recognizing that people are going to talk, an idea that animated the 2017 trap-tinged work of Minor Wickedness, Reputation. Swift knows her own mythology like a model knows her angles, and that’s part of what makes folklore fascinating if you keep an open mind: a kind of reverse-engineered “mindie” project, it places it closest to Lana and chamber musician Florence Welch, but can also sometimes remind you of Triple-A radio, Sufjan Stevens s ‘he killed off his more ambitious tendencies, or Big Red Machine, Dessner’s duo with Justin Vernon (see: sparse and moving “peace”). The album’s duet with Vernon, “Exile,” is a bit like Bon Iver’s version of “Falling Slowly,” the centerpiece of the 2007 folk musical. Once: Glide awkwardly until the clouds slowly separate to allow something beautiful to build. Swift plays the long game here, and while there aren’t any wild missteps, the album could use selective pruning (see: “seven”, “hoax”).
It is worth pointing out that folklore nor is it a total aberrant value in Swift’s catalog, or even in his recent work. Antonoff’s songs move away from the electro-pop of the 80’s 1989 and forward, but they lean into the swooning Mazzy Star of LoverSwift’s title track, Swift’s continued fascination with Imogen Heap and a cranberry pinch. There are interesting images, indelible hooks and real signs of maturity. In the dreamy “mirror ball,” Swift compares the celebrity relatability trap to a disco ball, singing tiptoe beats and working to make it look effortless. “August” is Swift’s big, vigorous summer anthem about forbidden love, where the up-close and warm heat of songs like “Style” or “Getaway Car” is swapped for a nostalgic reflection in the rear view. Like the rest of us, Taylor Swift knows she’s had better summers before and will have better summers again. At least she made thoughtful use of it.
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