Culture Crash 20-34: Taylor Swift’s Surprise Album


Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

On July 23, Taylor Swift did my favorite thing that an artist can do when she announced that she would be releasing a new album, called Folklore, the very next day. I often find the long, drawn-out marketing roll-outs for new buzzy albums to be draining. Artists will sometimes spend four months promoting the heck out of an album and releasing so many singles that, by the time the album comes out, there are only a handful of new songs to even experience for the first time.

With Folklore, Swift steered away from that, and the reward was getting to experience a new album from one of the world’s premier songwriters all in one go, which is my preferred method. The album itself is wonderful, far less produced than her last few outings, Folklore plays like an album written and recorded entirely during the COVID-19 lockdown, which… it was. Swift clues the listener in early that this is going to be a little different from her last few radio hit outings, when the first line of the album includes an expletive. It’s not vulgar at all, but it sends the message that Swift is 30 years old, no longer the teenager who surged to popularity back in the 2000s, and she can write whatever lyrics she wants these days.

It’s a palate cleanser of sorts, and the resulting album is certainly Swift’s strongest outing in years, at least since she released 1989 back in 2014.

The song, Exile, a duet with Bon Iver is an early standout from Folklore, but on repeat listens, I’ve found myself drawn to some element of just about every song. Two other songs, August and The Last Great American Dynasty are a couple of my favorites at the moment.

Taylor Swift’s album, Folklore arrived to audiences on short notice, meaning it lacked months of hype and overreaction. What listeners got instead was a mature, contemplative album that is absolutely perfect for a night drive or a lazy Sunday.

Folklore by Taylor Swift is now available.

I’m Evan Rook.

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