Released: July 24, 2020
Peak: 18 US, 13 UK, 13 CN, 14 AU
Sales (in millions): 1.04 US, 0.1 UK, 2.05 world (includes US and UK)
Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Total Running Time: 63:29
4.267 out of 5.00 (average of 27 ratings)
Quotable: “The first chapter of Swift’s mature second act.” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
Taylor Swift’s eighth studio album been called “the quintessential quarantine album” and the “first great work of art” from the pandemic. WK The surprise release “blindsided the pop music world,” saving listeners from “their tedious lockdown lives.” WK She announced it via social media 16 hours before its release. Supposedly even her record label wasn’t aware of the album until hours before its launch. WK
Swift conceived Folklore as “a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness” out of her imagination. WK She departed from her the usual autobiographical references of previous works to craft stories mostly from a third-person perspective, keying in on themes of “escapism, nostalgia, loneliness, and introspection.” WK Some of the narratives included “a ghost finding its murderer at its funeral, a seven-year-old girl with a traumatized friend, an old widow spurned by her town, recovering alcoholics, and a love triangle between three-fictitious characters.” WK As Taylor said, “these images in my head grew faces or names and became characters. I found myself…writing about or from the perspective of people I’ve never met, people I’ve known, or those I wish I hadn’t.” WK
All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine said the songs “are recognizably her work, bearing telltale melodic phrases and a reliance on finely honed narratives that turn on exquisitely rendered lyrical details.” AMG He said that the album feels “not like a momentary diversion inspired by isolation but rather the first chapter of Swift’s mature second act.” AMG
Folklore was a musical departure from previous more upbeat pop albums, traversing instead in indie-folk territory. Variety’s Chris Willman said the album was a reminder that Swift was one of the few pop stars willing to experiment with different styles. WK The Guardian’s Laura Snapes called it Swift’s most cohesive and experimental album. WK
She worked with longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, but also Aaron Dessner, guitarist of indie-rock band the National. She’d gone to one of their concerts in 2019 and he’d told her how the band members lived in different parts of the world, but sent instrumental tracks to their singer. During the quarantine in 2020, Swift decided to adopt the idea and she and Antonoff and Dessner sent digital files of instrumentals and vocals to each other to craft the album. WK
Folklore came only 11 months after her 2019 Lover album, her fastest turnaround time between albums. It became her seventh album to top the Billboard charts in the United States. It set the Guinness World Record for the biggest opening day on Spotify for an album by a female artist, became the longest-running #1 since 2017, and became the biggest-selling album of 2020. WK
The album’s first single, Cardigan, gave Swift the distinction of being the first act to debut atop the Billboard album chart and Hot 100 singles chart simultaneously. The song was also nominated for a Grammy for Song of the Year. Swift described the song as one that explored “lost romance and why young love is often fixed so permanently in our memories.” WK
Another of the singles, Exile, hit the top 10 and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The “sentimental, gospel-flavored, indie folk duet with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver” WK was “an unspoken, argumentative conversation between two former lovers.” WK
Notes: The deluxe edition added the song “The Lakes.”
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First posted 1/12/2021; last updated 4/30/2022.