Folklore
A greyscale picture of a young woman standing in the woods
Standard cover[A]
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 24, 2020
Recorded2020
StudioVarious (see below)
Genre
Length63:29
LabelRepublic
Producer
Taylor Swift chronology
Live from Clear Channel Stripped 2008
(2020)
Folklore
(2020)
Alternative cover
Target-exclusive CD cover[B]
Target-exclusive CD cover[B]
Singles from Folklore
  1. "Cardigan"
    Released: July 27, 2020
  2. "Exile"
    Released: August 3, 2020
  3. "Betty"
    Released: August 17, 2020
  4. "The 1"
    Released: October 9, 2020

Folklore (stylized in all lowercase) is the eighth studio album by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It was a surprise album, released through Republic Records on July 24, 2020, eleven months after its predecessor, Lover (2019).

An indie folk, alternative rock, electro-folk, and chamber pop album, Folklore departs from the upbeat pop sound of Swift's previous albums, for mellow tunes driven by piano and guitar, featuring production from Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. Written and recorded in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Swift called the album "a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness" rising out of her imagination; it manifests vivid storytelling from largely third-person perspectives that detail introspection and escapism. The project sees Swift adopting a rustic, cottagecore aesthetic.

Upon release, Folklore received widespread critical acclaim, with emphasis on its relaxed atmosphere, emotional weight, and poetic lyricism. Music critics deemed it a bold move from Swift, to experiment with indie genres unconventional to her usual styles. The album broke numerous records on streaming services, including the Guinness World Record for the biggest opening day for an album by a female artist on Spotify. According to Republic Records, Folklore sold two million copies in its first week globally, 1.3 million of which were sold on its first day. It reached number one in Australia, Canada, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and several other territories.

Debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, Folklore gave Swift her seventh consecutive number-one album in the United States, and immediately became the best-selling album of 2020. It spent eight weeks atop the chart, making it the longest-running number one album of 2017 to 2020. All its 16 tracks entered the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously, with three in the top-10: the lead single "Cardigan" debuted at the top spot and gave Swift her sixth number-one single in the US, making her the first act in history to debut atop both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 simultaneously, while "The 1" arrived at number four and the Bon Iver duet "Exile" at number six; the three tracks opened inside the top-10 in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the UK, as well.

Background

On July 23, 2020, nine photos were posted to Swift's Instagram account, all without captions, that formed an image of the singer standing alone in a forest. Following that, she made another post across all her social media accounts, announcing that her eighth studio album will be released at midnight; Swift stated: "Most of the things I had planned this summer didn't end up happening, but there is something I hadn't planned on that DID happen. And that thing is my 8th studio album, Folklore". She confirmed the image as the album's cover artwork and also revealed the track-list.[4] The Wall Street Journal stated the surprise announcement "caught fans and the music business off guard".[5] Folklore was released eleven months after Swift's seventh studio album Lover (2019), the fastest turnaround for a Swift studio album, beating the one year and nine months gap between Reputation and Lover. In another post, Swift announced the music video for the track "Cardigan" would debut at the same time as the album's release.[6]

During the YouTube premiere countdown to the music video for "Cardigan", Swift revealed the album lyrics contained many of her signature Easter eggs: "One thing I did purposely on this album was put the Easter eggs in the lyrics, more than just the videos. I created character arcs and recurring themes that map out who is singing about who... For example, there's a collection of three songs I refer to as the Teenage Love Triangle. These three songs explore a love triangle from all three people's perspectives at different times in their lives".[7] She referred to the album as "wistful and full of escapism. Sad, beautiful, tragic. Like a photo album full of imagery, and all the stories behind that imagery",[8] described "Cardigan" as a song that explores "lost romance and why young love is often fixed so permanently in our memories,"[9] and pointed-out the self-written track, "My Tears Ricochet", as the first song she wrote for the album.[8] Uproxx narrated, "on Thursday night, that hand-drawn 'T' and 'S' could be seen up and down the timeline. Music fans and critics across genres unveiled hot takes, quoted lyrics like Myspace teens writing on the back of textbooks or crafting the perfect AIM away message, and debated Folklore's place in the unimpeachable Taylor Swift canon".[10]

Conception

Swift was scheduled to begin her Lover Fest concert tour in April 2020 in support of her seventh album Lover (2019),[11] but the tour dates were either cancelled or postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.[12] While in isolation during the lockdown, she let "[her] imagination run wild", stating that Folklore "started with imagery" and "visuals that popped into my mind and piqued my curiosity". Some of the imageries the singer developed include: "An exiled man walking the bluffs of a land that isn't his own, wondering how it all went so terribly, terribly wrong. An embittered tormentor showing up at the funeral of his fallen object of obsession. A seventeen-year-old standing on a porch, learning to apologize. Lovestruck kids wandering up and down the evergreen High Line. My grandfather, Dean, landing at Guadalcanal in 1942. A misfit widow getting gleeful revenge on the town that cast her out".[13] Swift "poured all of [her] whims, dreams, fears, and musings" into the songs, and reached out to her "musical heroes" to collaborate with.[14]

It started with imagery. Visuals that popped into my mind and piqued my curiosity. Stars drawn around scars. A cardigan that still bears the scent of loss twenty years later. Battleships sinking into the ocean, down, down, down. The tree swing in the woods of my childhood. Hushed tones of "let's run away" and never doing it. The sun drenched month of August, sipped away like a bottle of wine. A mirrored disco ball hovering above a dance floor. A whiskey bottle beckoning. Hands held through plastic. A single thread that, for better or for worse, ties you to your fate. Pretty soon these images in my head grew faces or names and became characters. I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing about or from the perspective of people I've never met, people I've known, or those I wish I hadn't.

— Swift on how she developed Folklore, Billboard[13]

Swift initially planned to create her eighth studio album through 2020 and release it in early 2021, but it "ended up being done" sooner, and released in July 2020 without giving it second thoughts.[15] She approached the album's creation without subjecting herself to any rules, and explained that she "used to put all these parameters on [herself], like, "How will this song sound in a stadium? How will this song sound on radio?" If you take away all the parameters, what do you make? And I guess the answer is Folklore". While making the album, the singer watched numerous films, and "was reading so much more" than she ever did, books that "dealt with times past, a world that doesn't exist anymore", such as Rebecca (1938) by English novelist Daphne du Maurier.[15]

Writing and production

Swift drifted towards "a total direction of escapism and romanticism" in terms of songwriting,[15] and enlisted two producers to achieve her desired sound for Folklore—her longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, who previously worked with her on 1989 (2014), Reputation (2017), and Lover (2019), and first-time collaborator Aaron Dessner, guitarist of the American indie rock band the National.[16]

Man playing a guitar on stage
Man playing a red guitar
Folklore features production from Aaron Dessner (pictured left) and Jack Antonoff (pictured right); Dessner produced the majority of tracks.

According to Antonoff, with whom Swift worked on five songs from the album, he worked from New York City while engineer Laura Sisk recorded Swift's vocals from Los Angeles. Antonoff compared the writing process of "Mirrorball" and "August" to that of "Out of the Woods" from 1989; he sent tracks to Swift, who returned them with completed lyrics.[17] In late April, Swift approached Dessner to co-write some songs remotely. Swift had previously met the National on an episode of Saturday Night Live in 2014, and she attended one of their concerts in 2019, where she talked to Dessner and his twin brother Bryce.[18] She enquired Dessner about his songwriting technique, because it's her "favorite thing to ask people who I'm a fan of", and Dessner replied that his band members live in different parts of the world, and that he would make instrumental tracks and send them to lead singer, Matt Berninger, who would write the lyrics—this ignited Swift's idea to create music during quarantine.[15] Dessner worked on eleven of the album's sixteen tracks with Swift over the next several months, while Swift wrote the remaining songs with Antonoff, William Bowery, and Bon Iver.[19]

Dessner remarked he "thought it would take a while for song ideas to come" and "had no expectations as far as what we could accomplish remotely", but was pleasantly surprised that "a few hours after sharing music, my phone lit up with a voice memo from Taylor of a fully written song—the momentum never really stopped."[20] Swift and Dessner "were pretty much in touch daily for three or four months by text and phone calls".[18] He would mail her folders of instrumentals, and she would write the "entire top line"—melody and lyrics—for a song, and "he wouldn't know what the song would be about, what it was going to be called, where I was going to put the chorus".[15] The first song Swift and Dessner wrote was "Cardigan", which was based on one of Dessner's sketches called "Maple".[20] "Cardigan" was followed by "Seven", then "Peace";[21] the latter was done with one vocal take.[18]

Taylor has opened the door for artists to not feel pressure to have "the bop". To make the record that she made, while running against what is programmed in radio at the highest levels of pop music—she has kind of made an anti-pop record.

— Dessner on Swift's new sonic direction in Folklore, Billboard[22]

After a few weeks, when Swift and Dessner had written "six or seven" songs, Swift explained her concept of Folklore to Dessner.[21] She also told Dessner about ideas she had earlier worked on with Antonoff, adding she thinks both bodies of work fit well together for an album.[20] Other songs Swift and Dessner wrote include "The Last Great American Dynasty", "Mad Woman", and "Epiphany". For "The Last Great American Dynasty", Dessner arranged an array of electric guitars inspired by Radiohead's album In Rainbows (2007), which Swift wrote the lyrics to while Dessner was out for a run.[20] Dessner composed the piano melody for "Mad Woman" with his earlier work on "Cardigan" and "Seven" in mind.[21] On "Epiphany", Dessner slowed down and reversed the sounds of different instruments to create a "giant stack of harmony", and added piano for a "cinematic" sound.[20]

The last two songs Swift wrote for the album were "The 1" and "Hoax", the first and last songs on the album respectively. They were both written with Dessner, with Swift writing both in the span of a few hours.[20] Speaking about his collaboration with Swift, Dessner commented, "There's a palpable humanity and warmth and raw emotion in these songs that I hope you'll love and take comfort in as much as I do."[23]

Swift wrote two songs with Bowery, "Exile" and "Betty". Swift developed "Exile" as a duet, and Dessner recorded a draft of her singing both the male and females parts.[21] Swift and Dessner ran through candidates for the male partner, and Swift liked the voice of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, who is one half of the experimental indie folk rock band Big Red Machine along with Dessner.[18] Dessner sent the song to Vernon, who liked the song, added his own lyrics and sang his part.[20] "Betty" is the only song on the album worked on by both Dessner and Antonoff; Swift used Bob Dylan's 1963 album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, as a reference point,[21] while also drawing from Dylan's 1967 album, John Wesley Harding.[20] Bowery appears to have no online presence and may be a pseudonym.[24][25]

In a November 2020 Rolling Stone interview with Paul McCartney, Swift stated that she also began using words in the lyrics of Folklore that she always wanted to use, not worrying about whether it would suit radio. She made use of "bigger, flowerier, prettier words" such as "epiphany", "elegies" and "divorcée", just because they "sound beautiful". The singer disclosed that she maintains lists of such words, and recalled using one such—"kaleidoscope"—in her 2014 song "Welcome to New York".[15]

I always thought, "Well, that'll never track on pop radio", but when I was making this record, I thought, "What tracks? Nothing makes sense anymore. If there's chaos everywhere, why don't I just use the damn word I want to use in the song?"

— Swift on using her favorite vocabulary in Folklore, Rolling Stone[15]

Folklore was written and recorded in secrecy. Near the end of the process, Dessner reached out to regular collaborators, including the National bandmates, to provide instrumentation remotely.[21] Dessner's brother Bryce wrote orchestration for several songs, while the National's drummer Bryan Devendorf performed the drum programming on "Seven".[16] Dessner kept Swift's involvement confidential from his collaborators and his daughter until Swift's announcement.[18][26] While filming the music video for "Cardigan", Swift wore an earpiece and lip-synced to the song as a safeguard against the song leaking out.[27] According to Dessner, Swift's label was not aware of the album until "hours" before its launch.[18]

Music and lyrics

A tale that becomes folklore is one that is passed down and whispered around. Sometimes even sung about. The lines between fantasy and reality blur and the boundaries between truth and fiction become almost indiscernible. Speculation, over time, becomes fact. Myths, ghost stories, and fables. Fairytales and parables. Gossip and legend. Someone's secrets written in the sky for all to behold. In isolation, my imagination has run wild and this album is the result, a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness. Picking up a pen was my way of escaping into fantasy, history, and memory. I've told these stories to the best of my ability with all the love, wonder, and whimsy they deserve. Now it's up to you to pass them down.

— Swift on the concept of Folklore, Instagram[28]

The standard edition of Folklore is about an hour and three minutes long, consisting of 16 tracks, while the deluxe edition adds a bonus song, "The Lakes", as the seventeenth track. American indie-folk band Bon Iver is featured on "Exile", the fourth track. Folklore was written and produced by Swift, Dessner, and Antonoff, with additional writing credits to William Bowery on "Exile" and "Betty", and Justin Vernon, the lead vocalist of Bon Iver, on "Exile".[16][29] Mainstream media, commentators and fans have conjectured Bowery to be a pseudonym for Swift's boyfriend, English actor Joe Alwyn.[30][31]

Composition

Folklore has been described as an indie folk,[11][32] alternative rock,[11] electro-folk,[33] and chamber pop[33][34] album with elements of indie rock,[35] electronica,[36] dream pop[37] and country.[11] Devoid of any pop songs or top 40-suited tracks,[38][39] the album marks Swift's departure from the mainstream pop sound of her previous works.[33] Folklore consists of mellow, cinematic,[20] down-tempo[40] ballads[33] with an "earthy", lo-fi production[41] and elegant melodies, which together lend a modern spin on traditional songcraft.[40] It is largely built around "nearly neo-classical" instrumentals, such as: soft,[36] sparse[34] and sonorous pianos,[40] moody,[34] picked[40] and burbling guitars,[36] glitchy and fractured electronic elements,[36] throbbing percussions,[32] mellow programmed drums and Mellotron,[33] sweeping orchestrations[34] with "ethereal" strings[37] and "meditative" horns.[42] The album does not completely avoid plush synths and programmed beats characteristic of Swift's pop music, but instead "dials them down until they are an almost invisible texture",[40] delivering an electro-acoustic soundscape.[43]

The Atlantic wrote that Folklore "swims through intricate classical and folk instrumentation" largely organized by electronic music, resulting in an "eerie, gutting, and nostalgic" effect.[44] Rolling Stone noted the album's vibe resembling "Safe & Sound", Swift's single for the The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond (2012).[38] The Ringer observed that Antonoff confers a synth-based production to the record, while Dessner contributes a piano-leaning sound, and linked Folklore to two songs on Lover—"The Archer" and "It's Nice To Have a Friend"—as Swift's albums "usually have a couple tracks that harken back to the previous album or wind up connecting them to the next".[1] Many critics noted a "subdued" texture to the production, making space for Swift's voice and songwriting to glow.[45][33][37]

Lyrics and themes

Folklore is a concept album,[46] with songs that explore points of view diverging from Swift's life, including third-person narratives,[42] written from the perspective of characters that interweave across the tracklist.[20] The songwriting is primarily distinguished by its wistfulness, nostalgia,[20] escapism,[47] and empathy.[44] Although the singer takes a new direction sonically, the album retains stylistic aspects of her songwriting, such as mournful delivery and "bildungsroman obsession".[1] Compared to much of her older discography, Folklore reflected Swift's "deepening" self-awareness[36] and vivid storytelling[11] that showed a higher degree of fictionalization and less self-referential,[33] culminating in an outward-looking approach.[44]

The imaginary narratives described in Folklore include 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—Betty, James, and an unnamed woman—as depicted in the tracks "Cardigan", "Betty" and "August", with each of the three songs written from the perspective of each of those characters in different times in their lives.[38] Commenting on the maturity of the album's lyrical execution, NPR's Ann Powers compared Folklore to releases by other contemporary artists when they were thirty years-old, such as: The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. (1972), Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark (1974), Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life (1976), Elliott Smith's Either/Or (1997), and PJ Harvey's Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2000).[48] Many songs on Folklore incorporate a cinematic quality to their lyrics.[49]

Songs

The opening track, "The 1", is driven by a danceable,[50] "bouncy"[36] arrangement of trickling piano, minimal percussion, and electronic accents. Written in the perspective of Swift's friend, the song describes their new-found positive approach to life and past love, confessing they could have been soulmates.[11][20] The slow-burning "Cardigan" is a folk[51] and soft rock[52] ballad driven by a moody, stripped-down arrangement[53] of clopping drum sample and tender piano;[54] Swift sings from the perspective of a fictional character named Betty,[32] who recalls the separation and enduring optimism of a relationship with a boy named James.[49] She mentions Peter Pan and High Line in the song, and uses cardigan as a simile for a "lingering physical memento" of the relationship.[55]

"The Last Great American Dynasty", the third track on Folklore, tells the story of Rebekah Harkness (pictured above) who previously lived in Swift's Rhode Island mansion.

"The Last Great American Dynasty" is an alternative indie pop tune with classical instruments like slide guitar, viola, violins, drums and glitchy production elements.[11][56] The satirical song tells the story of American socialite Rebekah Harkness, the founder of Harkness Ballet and former resident of Swift's Rhode Island mansion—Holiday House. It details how Harkness married into an upper-class family, was hated by the town, and blamed for the death of her then-husband and heir to Standard Oil, William Harkness, and the fall of his family's name. Swift compares Harkness to herself, drawing parallels between the harsh criticism Harkness received to that of which Swift received throughout her career.[57][58] The soaring "Exile" is a sentimental,[59][60] gospel-flavored,[61] indie folk[62] duet with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, fusing Swift's soft "honeyed" vocals with Vernon's low "growling" baritone,[63] serving as an unspoken, argumentative conversation between two former lovers.[62] It begins with a plodding piano and advances into a climax of chorused vocals, dramatic strings, synths[64] and posh harmonies.[65] It has drawn comparisons to Swift's 2013 single "The Last Time".[62]

Sung from the perspective of a deceased lover's ghost, "My Tears Ricochet" is an icy arena-goth song[66] that reflects on the tension and toxicity of a past relationship, employing funereal imagery.[49] It metaphorizes Swift's dispute with Scott Borchetta, the founder of her former label, Big Machine Records.[49] The self-written song encompasses twinkling music box instrumentals, backing choir vocals, reverbed ad-libs in the bridge, reaching a tumultuous climax over shuddering drums.[11][67] "Mirrorball" is a folk-tinged, jangle-pop[68] and dream pop[35] song with swirling vocals, pedal steel,[69] snowy tambourine,[44] and twanging guitars,[66] which build "like the swell of waves before they crash against the shore",[70] creating a nervous dance-floor sensibility.[7] The song portrays Swift as a disco ball, pertaining to its reflective quality, vowing to the listeners to reveal every facet of themselves. It inspects Swift's ability to entertain people through her music, by sacrificing her vulnerability and sensitivity.[71][49] The song is also interpreted as a "saccharine declaration of romance".[11]

In "Seven", the nostalgic seventh track,[71] Swift sings in her lustrous[72] upper register[67] with an innocent tone,[36] reminiscing about an abused friend from her childhood in Pennsylvania,[73] whom she cannot fully remember but still has fond memories of, over a resonant production set to flurrying strings and piano.[36] The escapist song sees her hinting at her friend's queerness and urges them to run away with her to India.[55][49] "August" is a gloomy pop rock and dream pop song[37] that captures the "summer fling between two young lovers"—a naive girl who is seen holding on to a boy that "wasn't hers to lose";[32] the boy is revealed to be James, later in the album.[49] The song is a summer anthem,[74] seeing the girl grieve and yearn over her love, using Swift's light and breezy delivery, "yo-yoing" vocal yelps, and a grandiose production driven by acoustic guitar, glistening vocal reverb, and "perfectly-timed" key changes.[37][49]

The ninth track, "This is Me Trying", is a drowsy orchestral pop song[66] that documents accountability and regret, where the narrator admits feeling "inadequate", with references to alcoholism.[49] The production grows slowly into a dramatic setting with Swift's "ghostly" reverb-drenched vocals.[36][71] Over a hushed[66] acoustic arrangement of finger-plucked strings and soft horns,[37] "Illicit Affairs" unfolds infidelity[69] and highlights the measures the disloyal protagonist has to carry out in order to keep the affair a secret.[71] "Invisible String" is an airy[75] folk song[76] that gives a "candid glimpse" into Swift's current love with English actor Joe Alwyn, recounting the "invisible" connection between them that "they weren't aware of until they met"; it alludes to Red thread of fate, an East Asian folk myth.[49] It is built around thumping vocal backbeats and an acoustic riff,[76][49] a distinct songwriting style that uses passive voice to create narrative remove,[77] mentions Centennial Park, Nashville, and references Swift's past hits "Bad Blood" (2015), "Delicate" (2017) and "Daylight" (2019).[49]

In "The Lakes", the seventeenth track, Swift sings about her vacation with her lover to Windermere (pictured above), the largest lake in England.

With snark remarks at sexism,[78] "Mad Woman" tackles "the taboo associated with female rage",[49] exhibits sombre and a sarcastic tone,[69] acting as Folklore's moment of vituperation.[33] It narrates the story of a "misfit widow getting gleeful revenge", with references to witch hunts,[58] throwing back to Swift's 2017 deep-cut "I Did Something Bad". "Mad Woman" is a tense sequel to "The Last Great American Dynasty", and has been described as a scathing version of "The Man" (2019). Mainstream media has surmised Scott Borchetta, Scooter Braun (who acquired Swift's masters along with Big Machine), Yael Braun, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West to be the subjects of the song.[49][69] "Epiphany" is an ambient,[35] ethereal hymn[69] that depicts the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, paying homage to the healthcare workers. Swift dubs doctors and nurses as "soldiers on beaches",[32] comparing them to her military veteran grandfather, Dean, who fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal (1942) in World War II; she empathizes with their trauma of seeing death and having to reconcile with that to continue serving the affected.[49] Her vocals are notably "reverent" and "angelic" in the song, supported by glacial piano,[79] howling brass[67] and orchestrals.[58]

The fourteenth track, "Betty", is a country and folk rock song knitted in harmonica.[11][69] It is the tale of the relationship narrated in "Cardigan", but in the perspective of the cheating boyfriend James,[32] who had a "summer fling" with the female narrator of "August".[69] James apologizes for his past mistakes but does not fully own up to them, citing his fear of crowds and Betty's "wandering eye" as excuses, setting forth his irresponsibility.[58] Its characters—Betty, James, and Inez—are named after the daughters of Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively.[80] The R&B-inclining "Peace" spotlights Swift's soulful and jazzy voice, using a complex vocal melody[66][20] over a pulse juxtaposed with three lushly harmonized basslines,[78][21] complemented by minimal synths and a light piano drizzle.[43] "Peace" is a prayer-like ode[66] that dissects the effects of Swift's hectic superstardom on her relationship and warns the subject of the challenges that come with them being a part of her life.[74][71]

The standard edition closing track, "Hoax", is a slow piano ballad with emotionally raw lyrics that detail a flawed but lasting relationship,[58][20] ending the album on a despondent note of "hopeful sadness".[81] The deluxe edition bonus track, "The Lakes", is a string-laden midtempo song[81] that introspects on Swift's semi-retirement in Windermere, the largest lake in England, situated in its Lake District;[7] the location is also mentioned in "Invisible String".[49] Fantasizing a red rose growing out of tundra "with no one around to tweet it", Swift imagines a social media-free utopia,[33] with references to depression, Wisteria flowers, and William Wordsworth, the 19th-century poet known for his Romantic writings.[81]

Art direction

From the very beginning, Taylor had a clear idea of what she wanted for the album's visuals. We looked at Surrealist work, imagery that toyed with human scale in nature. We also looked at early autochromes, ambrotypes, and photo storybooks from the 1940s.

— Beth Garrabrant, "Meet the photographer behind Taylor Swift's folklore artwork", i-D[82]

Cover artwork

The promotional photos for the album, shot by Beth Garrabrant,[83] are characterized by a grayscale, black and white filter.[50][39] Swift styled herself for the photoshoot, including the hair and makeup.[84] The digital cover artwork[85] depicts Swift in a misty forest with a morning fog in the distance, standing alone,[84] wearing a long, double-breasted plaid coat over a white prairie dress,[86] gazing "in awe" at the height of a trees-meadow.[87] On the backside cover, she stands turned away from the camera, wearing a slouchy flannel-lined denim jacket slumped around her arms, and a white lace frock, with two loose braided buns low towards her nape, similar to the American Girl doll Kirsten Larson.[86][84] The album title is written in an italicized roman font, reminiscent of a "Chronicles of Narnia scrawl", indicating the folk atmosphere of the album.[88][89]

The Folklore logo

Aesthetic and fashion

Reflecting its lyrical motifs of escapism,[90] Folklore sees Swift embracing a rustic,[39] unadorned, nature-focused,[50] woodsy,[51] cottagecore[86][91] aesthetic for the project, moving away from the "technicolor carnival" of Lover.[92] The music video for "Cardigan", the lead single, expands on the aesthetic, and starts with Swift sitting at a vintage piano in a cozy cabin in the woods, wearing a nightgown. The video features a moss-covered forest and a piano producing a waterfall. Accompanying the album release, Swift also sold replicas of the "folklore cardigan"—a cream colored cable knit, with silver embroidered stars on the sleeves' chunky elbows, and navy blue piping and buttons—that she wore in the video, on her website.[86]

W Magazine regarded the cardigan the "piece de resistance" of the album's cottagecore-centred merchandise, and thought that the eight cover artworks of Folklore see Swift "frolicking through the woods like a cottagecore queen".[93] Irish Independent wrote that the singer casts herself as a "rural tunesmith communing with the birds and the trees", dressed up in a bulky, "Clancy Brothers-style" Aran sweater, and added that, "at this rate, she'll be playing a bodhrán and belting out 'The Auld Triangle' on Hill 16".[94] Noting that each of Swift's album eras has been defined by its own color scheme, fashion, cultural motifs and details, Teen Vogue described Folklore as simple, neutral-toned wear, with the cardigan helping in understanding the role clothing plays in our lives better, instigating an alternative way of thinking about fashion—a perspective that "traces back to its sentimental value".[95] RTÉ thanked Swift for putting cardigans "back on the map once more", following Coco Chanel, Kurt Cobain, Elizabeth II and Michelle Obama.[96] Cottagecore faced resurgence on the internet after Swift popularized it through the album.[97]

Refinery29 dubbed Swift's return to her "truest self—both musically and stylistically" in Folklore as "a sign of the times", filled with prairies dresses and a merch cardigan",[86] and compared the singer's looks to that of a "classic English Rose".[98] Vogue found Swift opting for a pastoral palette, combining cottagecore and tall trees, and drew parallels between the album's aesthetic and the music video for Swift's 2012 single "Safe & Sound".[69] Beats Per Minute deemed the aesthetic reminiscent of works by painters Grant Wood, Andrew Wyeth, and Lionel Walden, especially Wood's American Gothic.[87] Vulture defined Folklore as "an eerie black-and-white indie period horror film" that pays "purposeful or accidental homage" to various cult classic films, especially A24 horror films, with the songwriting evoking visuals that allude to films and horror, citing the tracks "The 1", "Exile" and "Seven" as examples.[92]

The imagery and fashion of Folklore have welcomed comparisons to the cinematography and costume design in several films, such as Summer with Monika (1952), Ivan's Childhood (1962), Daisies (1966), Persona (1966), Deliverance (1972), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), Autumn Sonata (1978), The Blair Witch Project (1999), The Virgin Suicides (1999), Pan's Labyrinth (2006), Antichrist (2009) Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), The Babadook (2014), The Hateful Eight (2015), The Witch (2015), The Beguiled (2017), Woodshock (2017), Thelma (2017), The Lighthouse (2019), Midsommar (2019) and Little Women (2019).[92][99][86][69]

Release and promotion

Folklore marked the first time Swift strayed away from her traditional extended album rollout, instead opted to release the album suddenly because of her intuition; she stated that her gut feeling told her "if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world". Swift first announced the album on her social media, 16 hours prior to its release.[100] It was released to all digital music platforms at midnight on July 24, 2020; limited-edition deluxe CDs and vinyls featuring eight different alternate cover artworks, only available during the first-week, were sold on Swift's website exclusively.[2] The "In the Trees" (stylized in all lowercase) edition CDs of Folklore were released to retail in its third-week, on August 7, 2020,[101][102] while "Meet Me Behind the Mall" (stylized in all lowercase) CDs were made exclusively available at Target.[3] The formerly physical-exclusive Folklore deluxe edition, featuring the bonus track "The Lakes", was released to digital and streaming platforms on August 18, 2020.[29]

Beginning on August 20, 2020, a limited number of autographed Folklore CDs were delivered to a multitude of independently owned record stores across the US and Scotland, to support small businesses during the pandemic.[103][104] Swift mailed replicas of her "folklore cardigan" to celebrity friends and well-wishers.[105] She released four six-song compilations of Folklore tracks on streaming platforms, explaining "the songs on Folklore fit together in different groups and 'chapters' based on how they fit together thematically". The Escapism Chapter, The Sleepless Nights Chapter, The Saltbox House Chapter and The Yeah I Showed Up at Your Party Chapter (all stylized in all lowercase) were released on August 21, August 24, August 27, and September 21, 2020, respectively.[106]

Singles

American indie-folk band Bon Iver is featured on "Exile", the second single from Folklore.

"Cardigan" serves as the lead single from Folklore.[107] Its release was accompanied by an official music video posted to Swift's YouTube channel, directed by Swift and produced by Jil Hardin. Both were released July 24, 2020, alongside the album and lyric videos for each track.[6] It was serviced to pop and adult pop radio stations on July 27.[108][109] The same day, limited-edition versions in digital, CD, 7-inch vinyl, and 12-inch vinyl formats were released for purchase on Swift's official website. The voice memo Swift originally sent to Dessner on April 27, 2020, after receiving his instrumental tracks for what would become "Cardigan"—in which Swift describes her songwriting process and sings alternate lyrics a cappella over the track—was included in the limited-edition single.[110] The song debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming Swift's sixth chart-topper and second number-one debut.[111]

Following its peak at number six on the Hot 100, "Exile" was made a single to adult alternative radio on August 3, 2020,[112][111] while "Betty" was sent to country radio formats as a single on August 17, 2020,[113] after arriving at number 6 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.[114] Supported by 58 Mediabase-monitored country radio stations, "Betty" was the most added song of the format in that week, becoming Swift's first song to top the add-board since "Red" (2013).[115] "The 1" impacted German contemporary hit radio as a single on October 9, 2020.[116] It opened at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, accompanied by "Cardigan" and "Exile" in the top-ten.[111]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?8.5/10[117]
Metacritic88/100[118]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[119]
And It Don't StopB+[120]
Chicago Tribune3.5/4 stars[121]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[40]
Entertainment WeeklyA[73]
The Guardian5/5 stars[36]
NME4/5 stars[11]
Pitchfork8.0/10[34]
Rolling Stone4.5/5 stars[38]
The Sydney Morning Herald 5/5 stars[37]

Folklore received widespread acclaim from music critics, who praised its emotional weight and instrospective songwriting,[122] dubbing it as Swift's most subdued and sophisticated body of work yet.[123] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized score out of 100 to ratings from publications, the album received an average score of 88 based on 27 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim"; it is the highest score for any of Swift's albums.[118]

Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone lauded Swift's songwriting abilities that brought out her "deepest wit, compassion, and empathy", making Folklore her most intimate album so far.[38] Also noting the vivid, well-crafted storytelling filled with imagination and American imagery, Pitchfork's Jillian Mapes considered the album a mature step in Swift's artistry while retaining her core as a celebrated songwriter.[34] Mark Savage of BBC classified Folklore as an indie record dealing with nostalgia and mistakes "that chimes perfectly with the times".[124] Katie Moulton from Consequence of Sound appreciated Swift's lyrical maturity on the album, particularly the employment of third-person perspectives that had been uncommon on her previous releases.[68] Others who were impressed with the album's lyricism include The Daily Telegraph's Neil McCormick,[40] i's Sarah Carson,[32] and The Sydney Morning Herald's Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen,[37] all of whom gave the album full score ratings. Describing the album as a bold attempt, Hannah Mylrea of NME praised Swift's ability to evoke vivid imagery with her songwriting, although she found the 16-song run to be sluggish in places.[11]

Several reviewers welcomed Swift's new musical direction. In the words of Chris Willman from Variety, the album is a reminder Swift is among the few pop stars who are willing to experiment with different musical styles.[33] The Guardian's Laura Snapes complimented the album for being both the most cohesive and the most experimental among Swift's releases.[36] Entertainment Weekly's Maura Johnston deemed the album a bold move for a pop star like Swift to challenge its audience.[73] Roisin O'Connor of The Independent praised the album's "exquisite, piano-based poetry" which she found unconventional for Swift's catalog.[70]

Some reviewers were more reserved in their praise. AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine was overall positive towards the album but felt the new musical styles of the album not really "precisely new tricks" for Swift.[119] Sharing the same viewpoint, Annie Zaleski from The A.V. Club deemed the album not completely experimental, but still showcased a new aspect of Swift's artistry.[79] In a mixed review, The New York Times critic Jon Caramanica praised Swift's songwriting but felt the songs occasionally end up burdened with formulaic, clichéd indie pop that turned out to be "frail and unversatile".[72] In his Substack-published "Consumer Guide" column, Robert Christgau was most impressed and touched by youth-themed "Seven" and "Betty" than the more adult songs, which he summarized as "yet another bunch of melodically fetching, lyrically deft pop songs that are fine as far as they go". Despite being "striking", he singled out "The Last Great American Dynasty" as the only intolerable song for how it reminds him "all too much of Taylor Swift the showbiz plutocrat".[120]

The Guardian named it one of the best albums made during the lockdown,[125] and Paste ranked it the best album of July 2020.[126] NME named it one of the best autumnal albums.[127]

Awards and nominations

At the BreakTudo Awards 2020, Folklore was nominated for Album of the Year, while Swift was nominated for International Female Artist.[128][129] She scored three nominations at the 46th People's Choice Awards, including the Album of 2020 with Folklore, and the Female Artist of 2020.[130] At 2020 American Music Awards, Swift scored four nominations: Artist of the Year, Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, Favorite Music Video for "Cardigan" and Favorite Pop/Rock Album for Folklore.[131]

Awards and nominations for Folklore
OrganizationYearAwardResultRef.
Guinness World Records2020Most day-one streams of an album on Spotify (female)Won[132]
BreakTudo Awards2020Album of the YearNominated[128]
People's Choice Awards2020The Album of 2020Nominated[130]
ARIA Music Awards2020Best International Artist (Folklore)Pending[133]
Bravo Otto2020Album of the YearPending[134]
American Music Awards2020Favorite Pop/Rock AlbumPending[131]
Danish Music Awards2020International Album of the YearPending[135]

Commercial performance

United States

On the US Spotify chart, Folklore accumulated over 44.489 million streams in its first day, surpassing the previous record of 31 million set by Ariana Grande's Thank U, Next (2019). The album's 16 tracks occupied the top 16 spots; "The 1" placed first with 4.175 million streams, setting a record for the biggest first-day song debut by a female artist. On US Apple Music, the tracks from the album claimed the top five spots and eight of the top 10 positions.[136] Overall, on-demand streams for Folklore surpassed 72 million in the US on its first day, breaking the female record formerly held by Thank U, Next (55.9 million).[137] The album sold more than 500,000 album-equivalent units—over 400,000 of which were pure sales—in its first three days of release alone, becoming the first album since Swift's Lover (2019) to move at least 500,000 units in one week.[138]

Folklore debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and topped it for eight weeks. Opening with 846,000 units, consisting of 615,000 pure sales and 289.85 million on-demand streams, the album marked the largest sales week and streaming figures of 2020 (surpassing Juice Wrld's Legends Never Die) and the largest since Swift's Lover. Folklore's first-week sales alone were enough to make it the year's top-selling album, surpassing BTS' Map of the Soul: 7. With a total of seven Billboard 200 number-one albums, Swift became the first female artist to have seven albums debut at number one, and tied Janet Jackson for the third-most number-one albums on the chart.[139] She was also the first act in Nielsen SoundScan history to have seven albums each sell at least 500,000 copies in a week, breaking her tie with Eminem.[139] Folklore sold more copies than the next 50 albums on the Billboard 200 combined,[140] and earned Swift her first appearance on the Billboard Alternative Albums chart, entering at number one and marking the biggest debut in its history.[141] In its second and third consecutive weeks at number one, the album sold 135,000 and 136,000 units respectively, making Swift the first woman since Barbra Streisand to have six albums spend multiple weeks at number one,[142] and Folklore the longest-running number-one album by a solo female artist on the chart since Swift's Reputation.[143]

After three weeks of availability, Folklore exceeded one million units in the US, becoming the fastest album of 2020 to hit the mark.[144] The album moved 101,000 units in its fourth week and became the first album by a female artist to spend its first four weeks atop Billboard 200 since Adele's 25 (2015);[145] it made Swift the fourth act in history to have six albums top the chart for four weeks each, and the first act in 21st century.[146] Folklore earned 98,000 and 90,000 units in its fifth and sixth consecutive chart-topping weeks, respectively, making it the longest-reigning number one album of 2020. Swift became the first solo and first female artist (after The Beatles) to have five albums each top the Billboard 200 for at least six weeks.[147][148] Billboard attributed the album's prolonged number-one run to its timing, smart promotion, pandemic-suited songs and Swift's ability to creatively connect with listeners.[149] After a two-week gap, the album climbed back to number-one for a seventh week and sold 87,000 units, making Swift the woman with the most chart-topping weeks in Billboard 200 history (47 weeks), surpassing Whitney Houston.[150] In its thirteenth week, Folklore spent its eighth week atop the chart, selling 77,000 units. It surpassed one million pure copies sold in the US, becoming the only album of 2020 to do so and Swift's ninth project reach the mark—all her eight studio albums and Christmas EP The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection.[151]

All 16 tracks of Folklore debuted simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including three top-10, five top-20, and 10 top-40 entries. The lead single "Cardigan" debuted atop the chart, becoming Swift's sixth Hot 100 number-one single and making her the first artist to debut at number one on both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 in the same week. She also became the first act to debut two songs in the top four and three songs in the top six simultaneously, as "The 1" entered at number four and "Exile" at number six. This increased Swift's total of top-10 hits to 28, including 18 top-10 debuts. Folklore was her second consecutive album to chart all of its tracks simultaneously on the Hot 100, following Lover.[152] With 16 new entries on the chart in a week, Swift became the woman with the most simultaneous Hot 100 debuts in history, breaking her own record set with Lover, and surpassed Nicki Minaj as the woman with the most Hot 100 entries of all time, with a total of 113.[153] Eleven of the album tracks charted on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart, setting a new record for most top-10 entries by an artist, with eight.[141]

Other markets

In Canada, Folklore opened at number-one on the Canadian Albums Chart with 47,000 sales,[154] giving Swift her seventh consecutive number-one album in the country; it spent four weeks atop the chart. All 16 tracks of the album debuted simultaneously on the Canadian Hot 100 chart, with "Cardigan", "Exile", and "The 1" arriving in the top-10.[155][156]

In the UK, Folklore debuted atop the Official Albums Chart, selling 37,000 copies, besting Eminem's Music To Be Murdered By for the biggest digital sales week of 2020 in the country. It became Swift's fifth consecutive number-one album in the UK, making her one of only five female artists to score at least five chart-toppers in the country—following Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Barbra Streisand, and Celine Dion—and the first female artist to do so in the 21st century.[157][158] Becoming Swift's first album to spend multiple weeks atop the chart, Folklore remained at number one for three consecutive weeks.[159] On the UK Singles Chart, "Cardigan", "Exile", and "The 1" opened at numbers six, eight and ten, respectively, taking Swift's UK top-ten hits total to sixteen[160] and making her the first woman in UK history to debut three top-ten songs simultaneously.[161] Folklore is the UK's most downloaded album of 2020.[162]

In Ireland, Folklore arrived at number one on the Irish Albums Chart, scoring the country's biggest opening week of 2020 and outperforming the rest of the top-five combined. Swift became the first female solo artist to chart five Irish number-one albums in the twenty-first century. Folklore stayed at the top for four weeks, becoming Swift's longest-running Irish number-one album. The tracks "Exile", "Cardigan" and "The 1" kicked-off at the third, fourth and seventh spots on the Irish Singles Chart, respectively, bringing Swift's career total top-ten hits to fifteen.[163][164][165] Folklore is 2020's longest-running number-one album of Ireland, and the year's most downloaded in the country.[166] The album reached number one in many other European territories, including Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, and Switzerland, the top-five in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, and Lithuania, and the top ten in Hungary, Iceland, and Italy.

In China, the album sold more than 200,000 copies in its first six hours of availability and around 740,000 copies in its first week, instantly becoming the best-selling and fastest-selling album of 2020 by a western artist.[167][168] Folklore was certified Diamond by QQ Music, making Swift the first western act to have four albums—others being Reputation, 1989 (2014) and Lover—reach the milestone.[167]

In Malaysia, Folklore spawned nine top-20 hits on the RIM Singles chart, with five in the top-10: "Cardigan", "Exile", "The 1", "My Tears Ricochet" and "The Last Great American Dynasty" at numbers two, three, five, seven and ten, respectively.[169] In Singapore, 14 tracks from the album landed on the RIAS Singles chart, 11 of which reached the top-20 and five in the top-10.[170]

In Australia, Folklore entered atop the ARIA Albums Chart; it was Swift's sixth album to do so, giving her more chart-toppers in the country between 2010 and 2020 than any other artist.[171] Moreover, each of the album's 16 tracks entered the top 50 of the ARIA Singles Chart simultaneously, breaking the all-time record for the most debuts in one week, previously held by Post Malone and Ed Sheeran; "Cardigan" became Swift's sixth Australian number-one hit, while "Exile", "The 1", "The Last Great American Dynasty" and "My Tears Ricochet" reached top-10. This made Swift the artist with the most Australian top-ten hits in 2020 so far.[172] Folklore topped the chart for four consecutive weeks; it is Swift's longest-running Australian number-one album since 1989, and the only 2020 album to spend more than two weeks at number one in the country.[173][174]

In New Zealand, Folklore launched at number one and spent two weeks at the spot.[175][176] "Cardigan", "Exile", and "The 1" charted in the top-10 of the New Zealand singles chart, and "The Last Great American Dynasty" placed thirteenth.[177]

Worldwide

Globally, Folklore amassed over 80.6 million streams on Spotify within its first day of release, earning a Guinness World Record for the most opening-day streams for an album by a female artist, surpassing the former record holder, Thank U, Next.[132] It also claimed eight of the top 10 spots of the global Spotify chart; "Cardigan" placed first with 7.742 million streams, marking the biggest single-day play count for any song by a female artist released in 2020.[136] The album also broke the Apple Music record for the most-streamed pop album within 24 hours with 35.47 million streams, occupying the top eight positions on the platform's chart,[178] and the Amazon Music indie/alternative streaming record both in the US and worldwide.[179] Republic Records reported that Folklore sold approximately 1.3 million units worldwide on its opening day[180] and over two million units in its first week.[181]

Music critic Tom Hull said that "judging from download counts and reviews", Swift has "caught the spirit of the times" with Folklore's "long, pleasant, intricate songs".[182]

Track listing

Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.[183]

Folklore track listing
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."The 1"Dessner3:30
2."Cardigan"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:59
3."The Last Great American Dynasty"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:51
4."Exile" (featuring Bon Iver)
Dessner4:45
5."My Tears Ricochet"Swift4:15
6."Mirrorball"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
3:29
7."Seven"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:28
8."August"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
4:21
9."This Is Me Trying"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
3:15
10."Illicit Affairs"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
3:10
11."Invisible String"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner4:12
12."Mad Woman"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:57
13."Epiphany"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner4:49
14."Betty"
  • Swift
  • Bowery
  • Dessner
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
4:54
15."Peace"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:54
16."Hoax"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:40
Total length:63:29
Deluxe edition bonus track[29]
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
17."The Lakes"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
3:32
Total length:67:01
Japanese special edition bonus DVD[184][185]
No.TitleDirector(s)Length
1."Cardigan" (music video)Swift4:35
2."The 1" (lyric video) 3:32
3."Cardigan" (lyric video) 4:01
4."The Last Great American Dynasty" (lyric video) 3:52
5."Exile (featuring Bon Iver)" (lyric video) 4:47
6."My Tears Ricochet" (lyric video) 4:17
7."Mirrorball" (lyric video) 3:30
8."Seven" (lyric video) 3:30
9."August" (lyric video) 4:24
10."This Is Me Trying" (lyric video) 3:16
11."Illicit Affairs" (lyric video) 3:12
12."Invisible String" (lyric video) 4:14
13."Mad Woman" (lyric video) 3:59
14."Epiphany" (lyric video) 4:51
15."Betty" (lyric video) 4:56
16."Peace" (lyric video) 3:55
17."Hoax" (lyric video) 3:42
Total length:68:33

Compilations

Folklore: The Escapism Chapter[186]
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."The Lakes"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
3:32
2."Seven"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:28
3."Epiphany"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner4:49
4."Cardigan"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:59
5."Mirrorball"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
3:29
6."Exile" (featuring Bon Iver)
  • Swift
  • Bowery
  • Vernon
Dessner4:45
Total length:24:02
Folklore: The Sleepless Nights Chapter[187]
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Exile" (featuring Bon Iver)
  • Swift
  • Bowery
  • Vernon
Dessner4:45
2."Hoax"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:40
3."My Tears Ricochet"Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
4:15
4."Illicit Affairs"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
3:10
5."This Is Me Trying"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
3:15
6."Mad Woman"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:57
Total length:23:02
Folklore: The Saltbox House Chapter[188]
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."The Last Great American Dynasty"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:50
2."August"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
4:21
3."The 1"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:30
4."Seven"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:28
5."Peace"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:54
6."Betty"
  • Swift
  • Bowery
  • Dessner
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
4:54
Total length:23:57
Folklore: The Yeah I Showed Up at Your Party Chapter[189]
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Betty" (Live from the 2020 Academy of Country Music Awards)
  • Swift
  • Bowery
Swift5:12
2."The 1"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:30
3."Mirrorball"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
3:29
4."The Last Great American Dynasty"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:50
5."Invisible String"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner4:12
6."Cardigan"
  • Swift
  • Dessner
Dessner3:59
Total length:24:14

Notes

Personnel

Credits are adapted from Pitchfork[16] and the album's liner notes.[183]

Musicians

  • Taylor Swift – lead vocals (all tracks), songwriting (all tracks), production (tracks 5, 6, 8-10, 14, 17)
  • Aaron Dessner –  production (1–4, 7, 11–16), songwriting (1–3, 7, 11–13, 15, 16), piano (1–4, 7, 11–16), acoustic guitar (1, 7, 11, 12, 16), electric guitar (1–4, 11–14, 16), drum programming (1–4, 7, 11, 12), Mellotron (1, 2, 11, 13, 15), OP-1 (1, 4, 16), synth bass (1, 16), percussion (2–4, 7, 11, 12, 14), bass (2, 3, 7, 11, 12, 14, 15), synthesizer (2–4, 7, 11–13, 15), slide guitar (3), keyboards (3), high string guitar (14), field recording (15), drone (15)
  • Bryce Dessner – orchestration (1–4, 7, 11–13)
  • Thomas Bartlett – synthesizer (1), OP-1 (1)[a]
  • Jason Treuting – percussion (1)[a]
  • Yuki Numata Resnick – viola (1, 2, 7, 11, 12), violin (1, 2, 7, 11, 12)
  • Benjamin Lanz – modular synth (2)
  • Dave Nelson – trombone (2, 13)[a]
  • James McAlister – drum programming (2, 11), beat programming (12), synthesizers (12), hand percussion (12), drums (12)[a]
  • Clarice Jensen – cello (2, 7, 11–13)[a]
  • Rob Moose – orchestration (3, 16), violin (3, 4, 16), viola (3, 4, 16)[a]
  • JT Bates – drums (3, 7, 13)[a]
  • Justin Vernon – lead vocals (4), songwriting (4), pulse (15)[a]
  • William Bowery – songwriting (4, 14)
  • Jack Antonoff –  production (5, 6, 8–10, 14, 17), songwriting (6, 8-10, 17), live drums (5, 6, 8–10, 14, 17), percussion (5, 6, 8–10, 14, 17), programming (5, 6, 8–10, 17), electric guitars (5, 6, 8–10, 14, 17), keyboards (5, 6, 8–10, 17), piano (5, 17), bass (5, 8–10, 14), background vocals (5, 6, 9, 10, 17), acoustic guitars (6, 8, 14), B3 (6, 14), organ (9), Mellotron (14)
  • Evan Smith – saxophones (5, 8–10, 14, 17), keyboards (5, 8–10, 17), programming (5), flute (8, 17), electric guitar (8, 10), accordion (10), background vocals (10), clarinet (14, 17), bass (17)
  • Bobby Hawk – strings (5, 8, 9, 17)
  • Bryan Devendorf – drum programming (7)[a]
  • Jonathan Low – synth bass (8)[a]
  • Mikey Freedom Hart – pedal steel (10, 14), Mellotron (14), Wurlitzer (14), harpsichord (14), vibraphone (14), electric guitar (14)
  • Kyle Resnick – trumpet (13)[a]
  • Josh Kaufman – harmonica (14), electric guitar (14), lap steel (14)[a]

Additional instrument recording[b]

  • Kyle Resnick – viola (1, 2, 7, 11–13), violin (1, 2, 7, 11–13)
  • Bella Blasko – modular synth (2)
  • Lorenzo Wolff – strings (5, 9)
  • Mike Williams – strings (8, 17)
  • Jon Gautier – strings (8, 17)
  • Benjamin Lanz – trombone (13)

Technical

  • Jonathan Low – recording (1–4, 7, 11–16), mixing (1–4, 7, 8, 11, 15–17)
  • Aaron Dessner – recording (1–4, 7, 11–16), additional recording (2, 11)
  • Laura Sisk – recording (5, 6, 8–10, 14, 17), vocal recording (1–3; Swift on 4; 13, 15, 16)
  • Jack Antonoff – recording (5, 6, 8–10, 14, 17)
  • Bella Blasko – additional recording (2)
  • Justin Vernon – vocal recording (Bon Iver on 4)
  • John Rooney – assistant engineering (5, 9, 14)
  • Jon Sher – assistant engineering (5, 9)
  • Serban Ghenea – mixing (5, 6, 9, 10, 12–14)
  • John Hanes – mix engineering (5, 6, 9, 10, 12–14)
  • Randy Merrill – mastering (all tracks)

Mixing and mastering locations

  • Long Pond (Hudson Valley, New York) – mixing (1–4, 7, 8, 11, 15–17)
  • Mixstar (Virginia Beach, Virginia) – mixing (5, 6, 9, 10, 12–14)
  • Sterling Sound (New York City) – mastering

Studios

Main recording locations

  • Long Pond (Hudson Valley, New York) – recording (1–4, 7, 11, 13–16), synth bass (8)
  • Kitty Committee (Los Angeles, California) – recording (5, 6, 8–10, 14, 17), vocals (1–3; Swift on 4; 13, 15, 16)
  • Rough Customer (Brooklyn, New York) – recording (5, 6, 8–10, 14, 17)
  • Electric Lady (New York City) – recording (5, 9)
  • Conway (Los Angeles, California) – recording (5, 9)

Additional recording locations

  • Biarritz, France – orchestration (1–4, 7, 11–13)
  • The Dwelling (New York City) – synthesizer (1), OP-1 (1)
  • Princeton, New Jersey – percussion (1)
  • Buffalo, New York – viola and violin (1, 2, 7, 11–13), trumpet (13)
  • La Gaîté Lyrique (Paris, France) – additional recording (2)
  • Stuttgart, Germany (on tour with the National) – additional recording (2)
  • Bone Hollow (Accord, New York) – trombone (2, 13)
  • Los Angeles, California – drum programming (2, 11), beat programming (12), synthesizers (12), hand percussion (12), drums (12)
  • Brooklyn, New York – cello (2, 7, 11–13), orchestration (3, 16), violin and viola (3, 4, 16)
  • Salon (Saint Paul, Minnesota) – drums (3, 7, 13)
  • April Base (Fall Creek, Wisconsin) – Bon Iver vocals {{small|(4){{small|, pulse (15)
  • Pleasure Hill (Portland, Maine) – saxophones (5, 8–10, 14, 17), keyboards (5, 8–10, 17), programming (5), flute (8, 17), electric guitar (8, 10), accordion (10), background vocals (10), clarinet (14, 17), bass (17)
  • Restoration Sound (Brooklyn) – strings (5, 9)
  • Cincinnati, Ohio – drum programming (7)
  • Sound House (Lakeland, Florida) – strings (8, 17)
  • Hook and Fade (Brooklyn, New York) – pedal steel (10, 14), Mellotron (14), Wurlitzer (14), harpsichord (14), vibraphone (14), electric guitar (14)

Management and marketing

  • Taylor Swift – executive production, wardrobe styling, hair and makeup, packaging creative and art direction
  • Beth Garrabrant – photography
  • 13 Management – packaging design, project support and coordination
  • Republic Records – project support and coordination

Charts

Chart performance for Folklore
Chart (2020)Peak
position
Argentine Albums (CAPIF)[190]1
Australian Albums (ARIA)[191]1
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[192]2
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[193]1
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[194]3
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[195]1
Czech Albums (ČNS IFPI)[196]1
Danish Albums (Hitlisten)[197]1
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[198]2
Estonian Albums (Eesti Ekspress)[199]1
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[200]1
French Albums (SNEP)[201]12
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[202]5
Hungarian Albums (MAHASZ)[203]7
Icelandic Albums (Tónlist)[204]8
Irish Albums (OCC)[205]1
Italian Albums (FIMI)[206]8
Japan Hot Albums (Billboard Japan)[207]8
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[208]10
Lithuanian Albums (AGATA)[209]2
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[210]1
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[211]1
Polish Albums (ZPAV)[212]8
Portuguese Albums (AFP)[213]2
Scottish Albums (OCC)[214]2
South Korean Albums (Gaon)[215]27
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[216]2
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[217]3
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[218]1
Swiss Albums (Romandie)[219]1
UK Albums (OCC)[220]1
Uruguayan Albums (CUD)[221]1
US Billboard 200[222]1
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[223]1

Certifications and sales

RegionCertificationCertified units/sales
China920,000[224]
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[225]Gold10,000double-dagger
Japan14,035[226]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[227]Gold7,500double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[228]Gold100,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[230]Platinum1,038,000[229]

double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history

Release dates and formats for Folklore
RegionDateFormat(s)Edition(s)LabelRef.
VariousJuly 24, 2020Standard[231]
United KingdomAugust 4, 2020CDDeluxeEMI[232]
VariousAugust 7, 2020Republic[102]
JapanCD[233]
Special Edition[184]
VariousAugust 18, 2020
  • Digital download
  • streaming
DeluxeRepublic[29]
August 21, 2020"The Escapism Chapter"[186]
August 24, 2020"The Sleepless Nights Chapter"[187]
August 27, 2020"The Saltbox House Chapter"[188]
September 21, 2020"The Yeah I Showed Up at Your Party Chapter"[189]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ This is the cover of digital, streaming and "In the Trees" (stylized in all lowercase) physical edition of Folklore. Limited-edition physical copies, with seven alternate covers in addition to "In the Trees", were sold DTC on Swift's website during the first week of release.[1][2]
  2. ^ This is the cover of "Meet Me Behind the Mall" (stylized in all lowercase) edition of Folklore—one of the album's seven alternate covers. CDs with this cover are available only at Target, while "In the Trees" CDs are issued universally.[3]
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l This performer is also credited with recording their instrumentation.
  2. ^ Several performers are also credited with recording their own instrumentation, as noted in the 'Musicians' section.

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