On July 24, 2020, Taylor Swift released her first-ever surprise album, folklore, which brought her fans into a whole new genre of imagination, empathy and wonder.
The album consisted of songs Swift wrote in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the surprise release sent fans in a frenzy, unveiling each new track together and navigating the narrative realm she created.
The album instantly saw massive success, breaking the record for biggest opening day on Spotify for a female artist and receiving glowing reviews from critics. Swift was also awarded her third Grammy for Album of the Year for folklore, making her the first female artist to win the award three times.
Five months later, Swift surprise-released an album once again as a sister record to folklore, called evermore. Since the release of the two, a divide has formed among Swifties as to which album ranks higher.
That album is undeniably folklore.
Swift described folklore as a “collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness” which differs greatly from the style and structure of her previous seven albums. Much of Swift’s career has revolved around her telling the stories of her own life through her lyrics, which has garnered immense media attention. folklore, however, allowed her to imagine stories outside of her own space, conjuring up imagery and characters for tales that were separate from her own life.
This is part of the reason why this album is so superior — it encapsulates perfectly that sense of escapism and magic in such a concise and stylistic manner, something that evermore simply does not achieve.
The cohesive nature of folklore does wonders for its beauty and strength – it is well-rounded and feels like a collection of short stories. Swift smoothly intertwines her own experiences within the made-up tales, offering a complete package of heartfelt memories and intricate dreams. It is an album I thoroughly enjoy playing in order, while evermore feels far more scattered and unsure of itself.
folklore's wistful energy conveys wisdom in the more mature songs and charisma in the more youthful ones, appealing to both older and younger audiences, balancing on the theme of nostalgia.
Additionally, the gravity of the lyrics varies from any of Swift’s other works. And, while evermore still contains gorgeously poetic lyrics, they are fewer and further between. folklore’s white lace and garden wandering transcends each song and feels timeless, while much of evermore’s motifs feel rather modernized and stagnant as it does not grasp a central theme of any sort.
folklore’s opening with “the 1” sets the stage for a world of hope and loss, which are explored in-depth in the succeeding tracks.
The second track, “cardigan”, the sole single from folklore, begins the three-part story arc that Swift invented, painting vivid imagery to represent young heartbreak. The arc flows into songs “august” and “betty”, each offering the perspectives of the different characters amid melancholy tones.
The song “the last great american dynasty” is Swift’s storytelling at its finest, demonstrating a perfect integration of imagination and truth all in one song. Similarly, “seven” offers a whimsical and tragic perception of childhood, longing for the innocence she portrays in the lines.
Tracks like “mirrorball,” “this is me trying” and “my tears ricochet” possess a calming and dreamy effect, despite their introspective and, at times, dark lyrics.
The song I first fell in love with on the album was “peace.” Swift’s vocals and her apologetic plea to her lover are simultaneously gut-wrenching as they are wholesome, offering such promises as “give you my wild, give you a child” that appear almost startling upon the first listen.
Each of these tracks and the rest on the album create a delicate and sophisticated image, drawing out memories through poetic writing that is ultimately unmatched in the sister record.
While evermore is still a beautiful album, it is far more chaotic in nature, feeling much weaker and more disorganized than folklore. folklore’s elegant and connected storylines rightfully outshine evermore’s hurried and less mature sense of self.
Some of the writing on evermore is still impeccable, with “ivy” and “marjorie” being some of Swift’s best songs of her career. However, the album in its entirety pales in comparison to folklore as a collective, magical unit.
Personally, I found folklore to be incredibly comforting during the isolated time of its release, creating excitement and a sense of community as everyone listened together despite being apart. I am still strangely nostalgic for this period of time and feel it each time I re-listen. There is something so private about this album to me. Despite its very public recognition, it still feels like a secretive, personal piece of work.
This is something I am constantly craving from evermore, but I am always left unsatisfied. evermore desperately wants to be the underdog, but fails to rise above its predecessor. Ultimately, the commercial success of folklore is thoroughly warranted and earned in each line, chord and melody.
folklore’s comfort, intrigue and grace have placed it not only as far better than evermore, but as truly Swift’s best work to date.
Lauren Serge is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Lauren know by tweeting her @laureneserge.