If the muted rollout was an unexpected turn for a superstar whose previous efforts were heavily promoted for months on end, the end product was nothing short of shocking.
“Folklore” is milder, understated, and mature than Swift’s previous offerings, plunging into darkness on more than one occasion – but early reviews are bright.
“His emotional sharpness has never been so assured,” the Guardian wrote in a praising five-star review.
“The folklore is fresh, avant-garde, and most importantly, honest,” NME said.
The album, which Swift said she developed during the lockdown, features 16 delicately crafted tracks that at times rumble in ethereal soundscapes but never explode into the carefree, bubblegum pop that made the singer a star.
“Before this year, I probably would have thought too much about releasing this music at the ‘perfect’ time, but the times we live in keep reminding me that nothing is guaranteed,” Swift said ahead of the release. “My gut tells me that if you do something you love, you should just bring it into the world. This is the side of uncertainty that I can engage with. ”
Her moving new sound perfectly reflects the months of isolation Swift and her fans have gone through – and her followers were just as enthusiastic as the critics. “Once again, Taylor Swift proves why she’s one of the best songwriters of this decade,” one superfan concluded on Twitter.
“This whole album sounds like old books in a forgotten library have started singing their stories out loud to people who can’t come and pick them up anymore,” another theorized.
English singer Maisie Peters was also full of praise, writing: “Happy folklore day my favorite is me trying, betty and invisible string and peace is her best song. It’s also his best album of all time. ”
“I would die for Taylor Swift,” was Halsey’s brevity. And Australian star Alex Lahey wrote, “This record @ taylorswift13 is amazing. Thank you for inspiring us all at such an uninspiring time of humanity. ”
The album opens with “the 1”, a contemplative track that envisions an alternate life with the one who escaped, and ends with “hoax”, a second person lament about a broken relationship.
“If my wishes came true, it would have been you,” Swift admits in the opening, sparking an inevitable debate over the song’s degree of autobiography.
“You beat my heart. I don’t want any shade of blue other than you… no other sadness in the world would do, ”she sings, closing the album.
Swift had a relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn, whom she beamed at on ‘Lover’ last year – even bragging about a poorly planned day trip through London with him on ‘London Boy’ – but fans speculated in online discussions Friday whether his words indicate a breakup.
The album came out with a video for “Cardigan,” which shows Swift getting lost in a dark “Alice in Wonderland” adventure, climbing into her piano to protect herself from a swirling storm.
Much of his fan attention was fixed on “Exile,” a slow-building duo developed and sung with indie-folk mainstays Bon Iver.
“Exile isn’t just a Taylor Swift song, it’s a lifestyle, a reason to breathe, an escape from this cruel world full of thieves,” one fan wrote on Twitter. “It’s art, the first gift you open at Christmas, a hug from a loved one, everything you ever wanted, everything you need.” ”
And NME considered “The Last Great American Dynasty” – a bouncy biography of 20th century socialite Rebekah Harkness – a “contender for the best Taylor Swift song ever written.”
Swift even swears a handful of times on the record, including in its very first line – something a number of fans have commented on.
The singer has been semi-silent in 2020 since the release of her Netflix documentary, “Miss Americana,” in January. But Swift is still one of pop’s biggest stars – and she apparently doesn’t need a lot of fanfare to turn heads.