Album review: ‘folklore’

By Jacob Baker

Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift walked away with her third Album of the Year award at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards Sunday for her eighth studio album “folklore.”

This album signified a change of pace for Swift, leaning much more into experimentation, and favoring the singer-songwriter style Swift was known for in her early work. The production is a treat, and “folklore” definitely wields some good tracks, but the album isn’t as much of a standout departure worthy of the one of the highest awards at the Grammys. 

The album’s biggest strengths reside within the production crafted by producers Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. From the album’s opening track to its very end, Dessner and Antonoff provide Swift with some nicely layered production that ranges from soothing to cinematic. 

“the 1” is an immediate treat for those exact reasons. Swift is arguably at her best here on the album. Swift and the instrumental are essentially one, creating a very passionate track. The same thing can’t be said with “cardigan,” as the mixing on the track leaves an inorganic mesh between Taylor’s vocals and the instrumental. 

“exile” feat. Bon Iver is a premier moment in the tracklisting. The piano track is emotional and pairs impeccably alongside Iver’s and Swift’s heartfelt vocals. After “exile,” which is track four in the listing, there’s a disappointing drop in quality. 

From track five to 10, “folklore” becomes extremely derivative of Lana Del Rey’s style of music. The tracks are somber, and Swift even decides to take from Lana’s signature voice inflections. For any listener who is even remotely familiar with Del Rey’s style, it’s bright as day that Swift is taking pages from Del Rey’s highly successful book. 

“seven” is a bizarre moment within the album as she tries her hand at several different vocal styles and none land; the mixing doesn’t help her either. 

One of the late highlights within the album is “epiphany.” The production is cinematic and alluring, and Swift does a great job capitalizing. Immediately after is the track “betty,” which is the complete opposite. “betty” is a signature track within her discography at this point, in a formulaic sense discussing high school relationships and drama. The fact that Swift is 31-years-old and is still making songs like this is redundant and boring. 

For an album titled “folklore,” it should be made clear that folk isn’t the center of attention on the album. There’s elements of folk layered throughout, but nothing that takes over a track and is the main focus. Most of the album is more rooted in indie and chamber pop. 

“folklore” does tread some new ground for Swift, as the production shines by adding folk and cinematic elements with tracks like “the 1,” “exile” and “epiphany.” The album’s strengths don’t overwhelm its derivative stylistic choices and redundant song writing and themes. Overall, “folklore” doesn’t provide anything remotely groundbreaking to warrant an album of the year nod.