Taylor Swift experiments with indie-folk genre in top selling albums
Last year, Taylor Swift released two sister albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore,” within a span of six months, presenting an uncommon genre to her listeners.
These companion records vastly differ from her former pop albums, “1984,” “Reputation” and “Lover.” However, they still include familiar hints of her country music roots. Swift rebranded her music genre and shifted toward an indie-folk sound. Her new albums have breathy vocals, accompanied with the acoustic guitar, cello and male duet partners.
In the past, Swift treated each album as an era or phase in her life with strategically marketed hints of their release, but for “Folklore” and “Evermore,” there were no promotional teasers. Both “lockdown” albums were written in the silence and isolation of last year’s quarantine. Swift announced the albums’ releases on Instagram only 24 hours prior.
Swift’s eighth studio album, “Folklore,” debuted on July 24, 2020, less than a year after “Lover.” This anti-pop record introduced a new songwriting style for Swift: first-person fiction.
The lyrics were written from a fictional-world perspective with imaginary characters and their stories in order to tell of Swift’s own personal experiences.
Popular song and winner of Favorite Music Video award, “cardigan,” mourns lost romance and young love. These natural feelings are shown in the lyrics “and when I felt like I was an old cardigan / under someone’s bed / you put me on and said I was your favorite.” This song’s raw and emotional lyrics landed it the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 songs chart.
Swift’s more experimental second album of 2020, “evermore,” came out on Dec. 11, less than five months after “Folklore.” “Evermore” digs deeper into the “Folklorian” woods and finishes the stories of the previous record. The same introspective and poetic lyrics were kept. However, “Evermore” goes further into Swift’s new concept than “Folklore.”
Swift’s current top song, “willow,” explores the curiosity and desire of wanting someone. In the second verse, she sings as one powerless to these desires, saying “Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind/ head on the pillow, I can feel you sneakin’ in.” Swift herself directed this lead single’s music video, mixing mature but fairylike images to convey the speaker’s struggle.
The “Folklore” album is more grounded in reality, whereas “evermore” lives in a fantasy world. They are two parts to the same elegant story, and both use magical worlds based on realistic and personal themes from the artist’s life. The lyrics in these two parallel albums are composed from wistful memories and filled with metaphors. Some of the songs even have a gothic and melancholy atmosphere to them.
Even though the album featured multiple artists, lead singer Justin Vernon, of indie-folk band Bon Iver, was the only singer featured in both “Folklore” and “Evermore.” Vernon’s duet with Swift in “Folklore’s” “exile,” remains my personal favorite out of Swift’s songs.
It is rare to see a well-known pop artist release an indie-folk album, let alone two, and still remain at the top of the charts. As an avid indie-folk listener, I am beyond thrilled that an influential musician dug up an underground genre and brought it into the mainstream.