Taylor Swift’s new album is a cup of hot chocolate joy for our shivering, tattered souls.
In the midst of a global pandemic, folklore is the unexpected surprise we never knew we needed. Through sixteen gorgeous tracks (plus one bonus), the album takes us on a journey away from our troubles, and into an emotive world anyone can relate to. folklore reminds us of what Taylor Swift does best… telling us the most beautiful stories through brilliant songwriting.
The second the album begins, a wonderful, calming vibe is set. folklore starts with a light beat and piano tapping along. From the first lines, Taylor shows that folklore will be a refreshingly honest album, a style from her that we have grown accustomed to. “I’m doing good, I’m on some new shit. Been saying yes instead of no. I thought I saw you at the bus stop, I didn’t though.”
The album’s second track, “Cardigan” is equally as beautiful and honest. I can’t help but picture the song being written in a reclusive cabin, but like Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. Its venturing music video was released on the same day, and fits the song perfectly (I made sure to include a link below..!) The song’s chorus is one any person who has been in love can relate to, “..and when I like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed, you put me on and said I was your favorite”.
Third comes “the last great american dynasty”. The piano accompanies us along still, as the beat gets a little hipper, a little quicker. The narrative follows Rebekah and Bill, highlighting their journey and bold traits in a way only Taylor Swift can do.
Next comes the gorgeous, “exile” with Bon Iver. The piano is with us once more as Bon Iver’s unmatched harmonies trace their way along the lyrics. Swift joins in on the second verse, adding her own prose and chorus with tremendous harmonies. The song builds as Bon Iver and Swift join together in an emotional duet that feels just as open as “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever”. I can’t help but feel endlessly happy for this collaboration, and the opportunity to introduce such a beautiful song into my musical library.
Throughout the album, I can undoubtedly recognize Jack Antonoff’s production and unmistakable lyrical cadence. His hand has been such a welcome friend on so many of Swift’s track treasures. The masterful folklore has a vulnerable feel that throws me back to Swift’s older albums, yet possesses the growth and wisdom of one like Lover.
“seven” brings a nostalgic summer feeling as Swift’s light vocals take us from a tree swing over a creek, to sipping sweet tea. Lyrics like, “…and I think you should come live with me, and we can be pirates. Then you won’t have to cry, or hide in the closet” allow us to feel another’s connection in the most profound of ways. It’s easy and wonderful to pick out the lyrical inspiration for the title of each deluxe edition available to order. Finding the edition’s titles feels like a glorious scavenger hunt.
“this is me trying” offers such incredible insight into the depth of work a relationship requires, personal growth, and the feeling of looking back. “I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere. Fell behind all my classmates, and I ended up here.”
“illicit affairs” makes me reminisce on the hidden encounters that graced us in “Style” and “I Know Places”. It expresses how unique a connection can be with those we love in such a profound way. “You showed me colors you know I can’t see with anyone else… You taught me a secret language I can’t speak with anyone else”. It also paints such a perfect picture of how foolish love can make us… “Don’t call me kid, don’t call me baby. Look at this god-forsaken mess that you made me… You know damn well for you I would ruin myself a million little times”.
“invisible string’ is one of my personal favorites on the album. It begins with such a relatable adventure when we’re waiting for love to come along… “Green was the color of the grass where I used to read at Centennial Park, I used to think I would meet somebody there.” The instrumentation and vocal expedition of the song is vast and beyond lovely. In typical Taylor Swift fashion, she continues to include color throughout, emphasizing feeling and allowing any listener to easily put themselves in her shoes. “Gold was the color of the leaves when I showed you around Centennial Park… Gave me the blues and then purple skies.” A standout lyric, “Bad was the blood of the song in the cab on your first trip to LA, you ate at my favorite spot for dinner” weaves the golden invisible string that leads these two souls together.
“betty” so vividly takes us back to Taylor’s songwriting and stylistic roots in the very best of ways. Beginning with an acoustic guitar and harmonica, the song reflects on an old connection and opportunities passed. Swift’s expletive additions remind us just how much her courage has grown as a songwriter as well. “But if I just showed up at your party, would you have me? Would you want me? Would you tell me to go fuck myself? Or lead me to the garden?” With a key change, and glorious “Love Story”-type of ending, she sings, “Yeah, I showed up at your party, will you have me? Will you love me? Will you kiss me on the porch in front of all your stupid friends?” Betty also welcomes some mystery, leaving us wondering if Betty is someone Swift is reminiscing, or a story told from another perspective. This unknown makes the song even more endearing.
Appropriately, “hoax” closes out the album with just a piano and Swift’s emotive vocals. Strings add such a gentle touch in all the right places. Acoustic guitar joins as well, adding subtle but beautiful layers. The honest chorus hits with, “Stood on the cliff side screaming, ‘Give me a reason’. Your faithless love’s the only hoax I believe in.”
Overall, folklore is a downright masterpiece. It plays like an album I could listen to forever, and never tire of. The collaborative hand of the National’s Aaron Dessner is evident and so welcome throughout. In hindsight, folklore is the type of album that seems perfect to have made in our current time. Typically, Swift’s albums have been released in grand fashion, with several cryptic hints, videos, and singles proceeding… but this album has taken us back to the basics of great music in such a stripped-down moment in history. folklore is a (Polaroid) snap into creativity and remote collaboration at its finest, a sonic photo we can look back on and enjoy forevermore.
Review by Tiffany Cuthrell, photo by Beth Garrabrant
This morning, Taylor Swift announced she will be dropping her eight studio album, folklore, tonight at midnight!
Via social media, the talented songstress shared several details on the album’s creation. She outlined that eleven of the sixteen songs were co-written or co-produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner. Also appearing with co-writing and vocal credit on a track is Bon Iver, while William Bowery had a hand in two of the album’s tracks. Who William Bowery is exactly remains to be seen (!!!), but one thing is for certain, Swifties are posting their theories in force online (some theories include Joni Mitchell and Taylor’s brother Austin). Also contributing to the album without surprise is Swift’s long-time collaborator, Jack Antonoff.
Swift additionally announced the forthcoming release of a new music video entitled “Cardigan”, which she wrote and directed. In our crazy pandemic time, Swift assured fans that the video was shot in a safe manner under the supervision of a medical inspector, with social distancing adhered to.
Ever the deliberate artist, Swift has made available not one, not two, but EIGHT different deluxe options to check out that come in both CD and vinyl format.
Be sure to pre-order one of the exclusive items from Taylor Swift’s online shop (there’s even a cozy cardigan!).
1. the 1
3. the last great american dynasty
4. exile (featuring Bon Iver)
5. my tears ricochet
9. this is me trying
10. illicit affairs
11. invisible string
12. mad woman
17. the lakes
Preview by Tiffany Cuthrell, photo by Beth Garrabrant
Taylor Swift is certainly a gal with a big reputation, but she let nothing but her talent shine at Ford Field in Detroit on Tuesday.
Fans were greeted at the door with light up bracelets to hold high and add their own ray of shining light to the sea of Swifties in the crowd. Fans of all ages dotted the stadium. Several dressed up as characters from different Swift music videos and performances (I even saw a lady with plush kittens sewn to a robe…!) The costumes were no less than creative to honor their musical hero, covering the entire musical spectrum of Taylor’s incredible career. Taylor’s lucky number “13” was everywhere as well (including my own hand).
Joining Taylor on the gigantic tour are stellar artists Camilla Cabello and Charlie XCX, each arriving with exceptional musical reputations of their own.
First to the stage was the beautifully talented Charlie XCX. Charlie burst onto radio waves, into headphones, iPhones, and any possible musical presentation imaginable with the inescapable “Boom Clap” in 2014. Dressed in white denim, she started the evening with the smash hit. She got the crowd cheering when she welcomed everyone to the reputation Stadium Tour. “Are you guys excited to see Camila Cabello? Are you excited to see Taylor Swift?”
Next up was the fiery Camilla Cabello. Having rose to the musical scene spotlight with Fifth Harmony, Cabello has branched out and into her own with tremendous songs like “Havanna” and “Never Be The Same”. Camilla waved, smiled, and blew kisses to several fans when her set began. Dressed in a football jersey that sported her last name along the back, she addressed the crowd, “I’m from Miami, can we make it a little hotter in here?” With great dance moves, and a fun vibe, she encouraged the audience to sing along with her.
It was obvious several fans had also come early to see Charli and Camila as they sang and danced throughout each set.
Ford Field’s energy was electric as the time for Taylor’s set drew near.
Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” played across the stadium, starting Taylor’s night solidly before she even emerged.
The lights dimmed, and a brief video showcasing certain career moments and whispers began. The massive screens parted ways for Taylor to appear, covered in a glittering hood. Smoke rose from the stage to the beat as “Ready For It” began. Ford Field was most assuredly ready for Taylor’s set to begin! Fans throughout the packed stadium sang along from the very first note.
A dancer removed Taylor’s sparkling hood, and she moved into “I Did Something Bad”, another terrific track from “reputation”. Her strong attitude and ample expressions emphasized the song’s feel. Toward the end of the song, Taylor and her backup singer chorus echoed, “Light me up, light me up” as dancers raised her high above the stage.
When the song ended, Taylor greeted the crowd with, “Well good evening Detroit, and welcome to the reputation Stadium Tour!” The audience erupted with cheer. She continued, “I’ve been touring since I was about 15 years old and since that point in time I’ve played twenty shows in the great state of Michigan, which is like touring way of saying I really love you guys and we keep coming back to see you.”
She continued, “It’s not like you just know the words to the songs, you guys are screaming the words to the songs and I really appreciate you doing that. It’s just a beautiful thing that you would be that passionate. You know, it’s actually more than beautiful. Do you know the word for something that’s more than beautiful? What’s the word for that, Detroit?” Immediately, “Gorgeous” began. Before the final verse, she took a minute to introduce the gorgeous gals on her tour.
Next during “Style”, she encouraged the crowd to make some noise for her band, and transitioned into “Love Story”.
“Detroit, let me see you jump!”, she exclaimed.
A video montage soon began in which Taylor climbed onto a tall throne of snakes. With a wink, “Look What You Made Me Do” started. Taylor was set on a tilted stage of her own. A giant snake rose tall above the stage.
Toward the final chorus, Taylor’s SNL counterpart, Tiffany Haddish appeared on screen to inform an unknown caller, “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh! Cause she’s dead!”
The set continued into two more tracks from “reputation”, “End Game” and “King Of My Heart”.
Upon concluding, Taylor began speaking on one of the most powerful local heroes… Aretha Franklin. In a touching moment, Taylor reflected that Aretha did so much for music, for women’s rights, and for civil rights.
“She was one of those people where no matter what we said, no matter what glowing positive thing you said about her, it would be an understatement. Words could never ever describe how many things she did in her lifetime that made our world a better place, and this is her home. I would like it if we could have a moment of silence so that every single one of us could reflect on our love and respect for her and everything she did in her life, so could we please cut the lights and have a moment of silence for Aretha?”
Everything went dark for the moment of reflection.
After a minute, Swift stated, “We love you, Aretha.”
With a beautiful, sparkling rainbow dress, she began into “Delicate”. Swift entered a golden enclosure, perfect for the new album’s golden theme. She soared above the audience, serenading the crowd, as she made her way to one of the venue’s two smaller stages on the other side of the stadium.
The crowd was ready to dance as soon as “Shake It Off” began. After the song’s first chorus, she welcomed the incredible openers back to the stage. Charlie XCX and Camila Cabello joined the shining superstar to dance and shake any blues away. Rainbow confetti popped, and showered the stadium with colorful fun, adding a perfect celebratory touch.
Dressed in a glimmering green reputation jacket, Taylor continued her open dialogue with the audience.
“You may notice something about your outfit… you may notice a light up bracelet on your wrist”.
She told the crowd that this is her first full on stadium tour, and though they are really massive, vast places to play, she wanted the bracelets to illuminate each fan.
“I really wanted to be able to see every single one of you in this place. The last section, the last row, I can see you, and that makes me really happy. I can see when you’re jumping around. I can see when you’ve got your hands in the air. I can see you dancing”. She started into “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” with just her acoustic guitar. Her skill as a musician was on full display.
Next she happily told the crowd, “This tour is the most fun I’ve ever had in my whole life. One of the things that’s been so fun about it is every night I’m getting to have a moment with you guys. Just me and a guitar. I hope that’s ok with you…”
The audience cheered and applauded, answering a resounding “Yes!” without having to speak now a single word.
“I’ve been doing different songs than I usually do, songs I haven’t played in a really long time, or maybe songs I’ve never even played acoustic. I’m pretty sure I’ve never played this song acoustic live.” She smiled and noted, “If I’m wrong about that, I’m sure the internet will remind me later”. She began into a stunning version of “Jump Then Fall”.
When the song wrapped, Taylor made her way along a barricade that connected both smaller stages. She grabbed fan’s hands while beaming a glowing smile to everyone along the path. Taylor absolutely radiated confidence and endless love for each fan in attendance the whole night through. Despite the show’s larger than life size, Taylor still managed to give the evening a personal feel, making every single fan feel so welcome and so special.
Once she made her way to the second smaller stage, she started into “Blank Space”. It was truly spectacular to see an artist taking the time to play to each part of the stage, no matter how small.
“In this crowd, I’ve seen some ensembles. The effort you’ve put in is top notch! I’ve seen a lot of people wearing things that correlate to a lyric of a song. I feel like I need to get on your level, and so I’m going to wear a dress while singing a song about a dress…”
She slipped on an airy black dress to emote the honest and beautifully written “Dress” from her latest album. Once arriving at the song’s last line, “Only bought this dress so you could take it off”, she slipped off the dress as the lights dimmed. The attention to detail she paid to each song was second to none.
During “Bad Blood”, Taylor made her way back to the main stage via a soaring skeleton cage transport. She also included a mix of “Should’ve Said No”.
Swift then started into the vocal masterpiece, “Don’t Blame Me”. Screens that showcased the stage were shaped like arches, emphasizing the song’s religious feel. Backing vocalists joined in, adding as much power to the live show as the song has on “reputation”.
After a wave of applause, she took a seat at a beautiful piano. Taylor touched on her gratitude for all of the folks making the tour possible, those that leave their families to drive the trucks and build the stage. She even thanked all of the people in Detroit who helped put the show on from the security teams to workers doing parking, selling t-shirts, selling food and water…
“I want to thank everyone here in Detroit who helped us do this because this stage did not put itself up and I’m so lucky to get to be on it.”
She then reflected on how unreal it is when people remind her of the passage of time.
“When somebody comes up to me and says, ‘I’ve been listening to your music since I was 8’, and I’m looking at an adult saying that to me… No matter how many times somebody says that, it’s still really surreal. When somebody tells me that I’ve been more than a year long phase in their life, I really appreciate that. I want to sing a song that I wrote a while ago, but for me, it’s always going to be about you”.
With just her lovely voice and piano, she started into “Long Live” from 2010’s album, “Speak Now”. Concert-goers waved their wristlets in the air, and many embraced.
With an adjoining “confetti falls to the ground”, she started into “New Years Day”.
After, the stadium was silent as another video began. Taylor was standing in the desert, different moments flashing by, as she read a sharp, poignant, honest, and vulnerable poem.
“Getaway Car” commenced. A backdrop continued landscape expanses, emoting words from the song spotted in neon.
Next up she sang, “Call It What You Want”. A lovely fountain was set up center stage, as white confetti shot up over the stadium. Adding a personal touch at the end of the song, Swift flashed a peace sign, or two right in line with, “Call it what you want to”.
In a purple sequined dress, Taylor began into a medley of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”. All of the performers closed out the night with an absolutely epic party! Bracelets sparkled bright in the stadium, fireworks shot up from the top of the stage, and even the water in the fountain danced along.
“Thank you Detroit! We love you so much!”
Clearly ever-grateful for each person with her onstage, Taylor encouraged the crowd, “Please make some noise for the dancers. Make some noise for the singers!” She formed a line with everyone and they all bowed together. After asking the audience to “Give it up for the band”, she ran to both sides of the stage, bowing again.
Once Taylor had disappeared from view and the music stopped, “And in the death of her reputation, she felt truly alive” graced the screens.
The old Taylor might be dead and unable to come to the phone, but the snake-clad goddess who has taken her place sure puts on one exceptional show.
Taylor has continued to evolve right before our very eyes stylistically and musically as an artist, as a person, and as a beautifully powerful force to be reckoned with.
With any amount of negativity thrown her way, or any jab at her reputation, Taylor has remained an entertainer who truly epitomizes class, talent, generosity, and above all, magnificent songwriting.
The Ford Field stop of her tour left no doubt as to why she’s one of the world’s most successful artists, and one unafraid to take risks.
The reputation Stadium Tour will continue with nine more shows in the United States, before heading overseas through November.
Review and photos by: Tiffany Cuthrell