Folklore Review ;)


Brandy Kehl

The interpretation in this article of the songs from the album “folklore” are a mixture of factual statements that have been confirmed by Taylor Swift herself and my own meaning I have gathered from the songs. Please consider that I listened to many of these songs for the first time as I was writing this article, so I may have missed some subtle messages. I encourage you to listen to the album by yourself with no outside influence before reading any reviews or interpretations of it, as it is a masterpiece best enjoyed in your own thoughts.

folklore (deluxe version)

the 1

The opening song on the album is about mourning what could have been if a relationship had not ended. Swift sings about wishing things could be different, but understanding that the relationship is over.

Favorite Lyric: “In my defense, I have none / for never leaving well enough alone.”


This song is about someone knowing the real you and accepting you as you are, and the pain that comes when they leave.

Favorite Lyric: “Sequin smile, black lipstick / Sensual politics / When you are young, they assume you know nothing.”

the last great american dynasty

Perhaps the first biographical song on the album, “the last great american dynasty” is about Rebekah Harkness. Harkness was a patron of the arts and previous owner of Swift’s mansion in Rhode Island. In the song, Swift compares herself to Harkness subtly. 

Favorite Lyric: “There goes the most shameless woman this town has ever seen / She had a marvelous time ruining everything.”

exile (feat. Bon Iver)

This is one of the most heart-wrenching songs on the album, by far. It is the narrative of two people who have recently gotten out of a rocky relationship who find themselves unsure of how to act around each other.

Favorite Lyric: “I’m not your problem anymore / So who am I offending now?”

my tears ricochet

Swift specifically shared on Instagram that “my tears ricochet” is about an “embittered tormentor showing up at the funeral of his fallen object of obsession.”

Favorite Lyric: “And if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake? / Cursing my name, wishing I stayed / Look at how my tears ricochet.”


This song is about doing everything you can to keep attention on you so that no one gets bored, but losing yourself in the process… That is, until someone loves who you truly are.

Favorite Lyric: “You are not like the regulars / the masquerade revelers / Drunk as they watch my shattered edges glisten.”


With twinkling instrumentals, “seven” is about looking back on an innocent love from a very complicated point in life, and wishing you could return to the days when everything seemed possible.

Favorite Lyric: “I think your house is haunted / your dad is always mad and that must be why / I think you should come live with me / and we can be pirates / Then you won’t have to cry.”


“august” is a relatable anthem about looking back on love and realizing you were naive to think it was more than it really was.

Favorite Lyric: “Cancel plans just in case you’d call / And say, ‘Meet me behind the mall.’ / So much for summer love and saying ‘us’ / ‘cause you weren’t mine to lose.”

this is me trying

This song is about someone who is in a healthy relationship for the first time and is struggling to trust that everything is okay and that they can let their guard down for someone. It’s a heart-wrenching song, but there is a purity in the raw emotion as well.

Favorite Lyric: “They told me all of my cages were mental / so I got wasted like all my potential. / And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad / I have a lot of regrets about that. / I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere.”

illicit affairs

A slow song that sounds reminiscent of some of her earlier songs in the Red era, “illicit affairs” is about a relationship that ends seemingly because it was never meant to last, but still being bitter over the way things ended.

Favorite Lyric: “Don’t call me kid / Don’t call me baby / Look at this godforsaken mess that you made me. / You showed me colors you know / I can’t see with anyone else.”

invisible string

One of my personal favorites off of the album, this song is about being in a relationship with someone and looking back at all the little things that connected you to them, and determining that fate played a role in you two coming together.

Favorite Lyric: “Something wrapped all my past mistakes in barbed wire / Chains around my demons, wool to brave the seasons / One single thread of gold tied me to you.”

mad woman

This quiet angry song is about being warranted in your anger and finally snapping after being called irrational for reasonable reactions too many times.

Favorite Lyric: “Everytime you call me crazy, I get more crazy / What about that? / And when you say I seem angry, I get more angry. / And there’s nothing like a mad woman.”


Many people believe this haunting song is about the Covid-19 pandemic that struck the nation, and that it may act as an ode to the healthcare workers who have served on the frontlines over the past year.

Favorite Lyric: “Only 20 minutes to sleep / but you dream of some epiphany / just one single glimpse of relief / to make some sense of what you’ve seen.”


With many parallels to “cardigan,” this song takes on the perspective of a boy who realizes his mistake after cheating on the girl he loves, so he decides to talk to her and try to make things right.

Favorite Lyric: “But if I just showed up at your party / Would you have me? Would you want me? / Would you tell me to go f**k myself / Or lead me to the garden?”


This song is about recognizing the parts about you that aren’t easy to love, and wondering if you can still be enough for the person you are with anyways.

Favorite Lyric: “I’d give you my sunshine, give you my best / But the rain is always gonna come if you’re standing with me / But I’m a fire and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm. / If you’re an ocean wave blues come / All these people think love’s for show / but I would die for you in secret.”


This song is about the exhaustion that comes after leaving a toxic relationship, but still feeling the hopeless attachment to the person who hurt you.

Favorite Lyric: “I am ash from your fire. / Stood on the cliffside / Screaming ‘Give me a reason.’ / Your faithless love’s the only hoax / I believe in.”

the lakes – bonus track

An perfectly fitting song to end this unique album, “the lakes” is about being an artist who doesn’t fit into the modern’s world expectation of creators and the critiques that chew up and spit out ideas that don’t fit the cookie-cutter mold.

Favorite Lyric: “I’ve come too far to watch some name dropping sleaze / tell me what are my words worth.”

Album Rating: 11/10

“folklore” is truly a jarring experience that feels painfully authentic. Taylor Swift outdone herself with the powerful vocals, crisp imagery with brave lyrics, and simple but gorgeous instrumentals. This album has likely ranked itself as my favorite from Swift.

Stay tuned for a review of “evermore” coming soon!