July 24, 2020
Table of Contents
Background and Release
The code name used for folklore was woodvale. Taylor referred to the album as “wistful and full of escapism. Sad, beautiful, tragic. Like a photo album full of imagery, and all the stories behind that imagery”, and described “cardigan” as a song that explores “lost romance and why young love is often fixed so permanently in our memories,”. She also named the self-written track “my tears ricochet” as the first song she wrote for the album.
A documentary detailing the making of folklore along with an acoustic performance of its songs, folklore: the long pond studio sessions, was released to Disney+ on November 25, 2020, accompanied by its live album.
The album does not completely avoid “digital beats, plush synths” characteristic of Taylor’s pop music, but instead “dials them down until they are an almost invisible texture”. Rolling Stone noted that the vibe of folklore resembles that of “Safe & Sound“, Taylor’s Grammy-winning single for the Hunger Games film soundtrack (2012). Co-producer Jack Antonoff told the publication in 2021:
Lyrics and Themes
Compared to much of Taylor’s older discography, the songwriting on folklore reflected her “deepening” self-awareness, formed “vivid” storytelling, and showed a “higher degree of fictionalization” that was less “self-referential”. The songs are also notably less upbeat than on Lover. In October 2020, Taylor told Paul McCartney in an interview for Rolling Stone that she wanted to make sadness the central theme of the album in a way that made it less scary and more comforting because some may have needed it amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The imaginary narratives described in folklore include a scandalous old widow hated by her whole town, a scared seven-year-old girl with a traumatized best friend, a ghost watching her enemies at her funeral, recovering addicts, and a fumbling teenage boy. Three of the tracks — “cardigan”, “august” and “betty” — depict a love triangle between three fictitious characters: Betty, James and an unnamed woman, with each of the three songs written from the perspective of each of those characters in different times in their lives. Commenting on the maturity of the album’s lyrical execution, NPR‘s Ann Powers compared the album to releases by other artists when they were thirty years old, such as: The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. (1972), Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark (1974), or Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life (1976). Many songs on folklore also incorporate cinematic imagery in their lyrics. Taylor told Paul McCartney:
Earning more than 846,000 units in its first-week in the US, folklore debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, giving Taylor her seventh consecutive number-one album on the chart. The album also reached number-one in Australia, Canada, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and several other territories. All sixteen tracks of the album debuted simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with three in the top-ten; “cardigan” debuted at number-one, giving Taylor her sixth chart-topping single in the US and making her the first act in history to debut atop the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 charts in the same week, while “the 1” and “exile” reached fourth and sixth spots, respectively.
“cardigan” was released as the lead single from the album on July 27, 2020 and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. “exile“, featuring American indie folk band Bon Iver landed at No. 6 upon release and was made the second single. Later, “betty” and “the 1” followed as third and fourth single, respectively. folklore topped the Billboard Hot 200 list for 8 weeks. In November 2020, it achieved the monumental feat of selling 1 million copies in the US, becoming the first million-seller of 2020.
At the 2020 American Music Awards, Taylor scored four nominations: “Artist of the Year”, “Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist”, “Favorite Music Video” for “cardigan” and “Favorite Pop/Rock Album” for folklore, and won the first three, extending her record as the most awarded artist in the show’s history with 32 American Music Awards. It also marked the third consecutive year Taylor was crowned the “Artist of the Year”, and sixth overall — the first and only artist to achieve it.
Impact and Legacy
Ryan Tedder, who worked with Taylor on the songs “Welcome to New York” and “I Know Places” noted that since Taylor released folklore, other artists have been wanting to produce music with organic instruments again. In January 2021, Hayley Williams of Paramore released her second studio album, Flowers for Vases / Descansos, which she described as “her folklore.” Phoebe Bridgers suggested that her next record could be inspired by the album. Ed Sheeran said: “I think the catalyst to that [the return of real instruments in mainstream music] was Taylor’s folklore. I honestly think when folklore came out, everyone went, ‘Oh, you know what? Yeah, we should be writing like this, we should be making albums like this!’ So I think all credit for that goes to Taylor, for starting that.”
|Released||July 24, 2020|
|Studio||Conway (Los Angeles)|
April Base (Fall Creek)
Gaite Lyrique (Paris)
Kitty Committee (Los Angeles)
Long Pond (Hudson Valley)
Rough Customer (New York)
Electric Lady (New York)
TAYLOR SWIFT CHRONOLOGY