Taylor Swift seems to look at fame like a chess match, with most of the pieces being of her dominion. This left her army of fans and interested others – and she remains one of the planet’s most popular and intriguing stars – trying first to understand why folklore had appeared with just 24 hours notice, then almost immediately afterwards what the now thirty something was up to.
There were some clues; more than half of the sixteen new songs were co-written with The National’s Aaron Dessner and exile – one of the early centrepeices – is a fine, emotionally charged duet with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. The general mood is reflective and austere, the charachters according to the essay which accompanied the release sketched from both real life and imagination, with perhaps the inference of both.
Musically, whilst her ongoing forays into pop heralded first by 1989 have allowed the singer to push through any Nashville glass ceilings, the absence of gimmickry here is both a revelation and a relief. There’s no shortage of lyrical melodrama, but also a back to her roots expression in the simple picking of the exquisite invisible string and seven’s rolling piano is an uncomplicated delight.
As ever, there are also messages to Swift’s would-be detractors, some more veiled than others. That they sometimes both help and hinder perceptions of her seems to be a message finally being understood, and on mad woman the endless cycle of becoming pointlessly embroiled in drama to feed the machine is decoded with graceful intuition. What is she up to then? We don’t really need to know, other than to appreciate that folklore is a warm, articulate exploration of a factional world drawn from somebody else’s memory.
You can read the full review here.