Folklore is a Pretty Album
by Ron Chester ★ Saturday, August 1, 2020

This morning I listened to the entire Taylor Swift new album, Folklore. Of course I've seen her on TV, but I've never listened to one of her albums before. I'd heard some discussion of her Folklore album on social media, so I decided to listen to it.   

I mainly wanted to see whether it might compete with Bob Dylan's new album for Album of the Year honors.  I had been thinking that Fiona Apple might be the only artist who might challenge Bob for that top honor.  

So I listened to Folklore on YT Music and watched the videos, interspersed between some Apple ads, mostly about their watches. Not ideal, but free, which is what I wanted.  

After a few songs, I found myself characterizing them as pretty, even very pretty. She is clearly skilled with words, but whatever words she was singing, the songs all seemed pretty to me. If she ever runs out of words, I think she could make a career as an interior decorator.  I think she could make a house very pretty.  

As the album progressed I found myself wondering whether she would sing about anything I might care about. Some of the lyrics described dire circumstances, but always with pretty music.  

I got to the song Epiphany and I thought this one would be different, because an epiphany is a dramatic event, with big ideas falling into place. Those don't come along all that often in life!  But nope, I didn't feel a thing. The song came & went, pretty enough, but that was all. In fact I was having trouble reading the lyrics with the tiny fonts on my phone, so I didn't even get much of any lyrics on that song.  

Near the end there was a song called Betty that I liked. It had a feeling of nostalgia, even some regret about past events in it. Maybe I'll listen to that song again. I probably won't bother to play any of the other songs again.  

I might look up the lyrics to Epiphany just to satisfy my own curiosity about what happened.  

Overall I was disappointed. In fact I was feeling a little concerned about her.  She seemed to be singing about some events in her life that didn't work out well for her, but it was all so uniformly pretty. She doesn't seem to have any connection with her feelings, which she describes in words at times, but I never felt those feelings in the music, except a bit in Betty.  

When I was done listening, I googled the album and discovered quite a few people have written about the album. Most of them seem to be all about what the songs mean, with a lot of speculation about whether she was revealing herself to be gay.  The writers seemed to be quite focused on identity, perhaps a generational thing. None of them made me want to listen to any of the songs again.  

I found that Swift has a very large Wikipedia page. I read very little of it, but did discover that she was actually named after James Taylor. This seemed quite ironic to me, as I always found his music to be quite uninteresting, but pretty! He was not mentioned as one of her musical influences.  

One of the articles mentioned the early part of her new album had "Dylan vibes," something that did not occur to me when I was listening to it. He was not mentioned as a musical influence in her Wikipedia page, but McCartney certainly was.  

The Betty song seemed to be the most discussed song on the album, a focus for a lot of the speculation about her identity.  

Yesterday Billboard announced that Folklore hit #1 on the Billboard 200 Chart & the album had the biggest week of 2020. I don't know how they decide what album wins Album of the Year, but for me Bob Dylan's album is way out in front. Maybe I should listen to the new Fiona Apple album to see whether it seems to be in the same league as Bob's album. For me, Folklore certainly is not.