In case you missed it, Taylor Swift dropped her eighth studio album, Folklore, just last Friday. In contrast to what her fans are used to, the singer didn’t promote for weeks with easter eggs hidden in her every post. In fact, she only dropped the news less than 24 hours before the album’s release. And it seems to be fitting, since even the album itself is a step away from her recent pop releases with its indie-folk vibe. But still, some things never change as Swift once again proves herself to be an amazing lyricist, putting lines together and building her fictional world in your mind. We think it’s her best album yet, so it was really a challenge to narrow down our best 8 Folklore tracks, but we tried anyway.
As a fan of Taylor’s earlier country material, “Betty” was immediately appealing from its first strains. It has all the hallmarks of a classic Taylor Swift ballad: the guitar and harmonica; the visual, narrative lyrics; the cathartic key change that makes you want to punch the air in slow motion as the credits roll, teen movie-style.
It’s the one song on Folklore that’s most like her old-school sound, yet it’s completely different from anything she’s ever done before because of its subject matter. Sure, many of Taylor’s country songs also wax nostalgic over high school loves, but “Betty” is a love song for a girl, sung by a girl — something Taylor has never done.
(Yes, the song is narrated by a character named “James”, but the narrator could still be female. Why? The characters are named after Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ daughters: James, Inez, and [you guessed it] Betty.)
Though Taylor is being intentionally ambiguous here, the internet has already labeled the song as a queer anthem. It’s the most obvious reading of the song, and this interpretation makes “Betty” one of — if not the— most poignant TS songs. Basically, if you don’t feel anything when she belts out, “Standing in your cardigan / Kissing in my car again”, then you must be dead inside.
— Cristina Morales
Seeing that “ft. Bon Iver” on a Taylor Swift song, I instantly knew that “Exile” would be a tear-jerker. And girl, I wasn’t wrong. It’s one of the first tracks I listened to from the album and it got me crying over my non-existent boyfriend (LOL) in the middle of the day. As a fan of alternative music, this song instantly became my favorite. “You’re not my homeland anymore / so what am I defending now?” That’s just one of the lyrics that stuck with me the most.
So the song is about lovers meeting up after a breakup. Taylor and Justin’s exchange in the outro was PERFECT. It reminds me of when Owl City made a response slash cover of “Enchanted.” Except while that cover makes you want to fall in love, “Exile” is just heartbreaking. “You never gave a warning sign / I gave so many signs” It was like holding onto all the what-ifs. The contrast between their voices worked so well, each telling their side of the story on why things didn’t work out. I think it shares the same theme with “The Last Time,” which gives you that sinking feeling when you’ve just accepted that a relationship’s ending. “I think I’ve seen this film before / and I didn’t like the ending,” because don’t the greatest love stories even have endings, too?
I still can’t believe that Folklore was entirely made in isolation. It got us feeling things we didn’t know were there, and it’s totally okay. I missed Taylor making this type of music, and please! Make this album of the year! It’s just an album you can’t easily get over with. Red has always been my favorite TSwift album, but I think Folklore just outranked it.
— Ina Louise Manto
I have a confession to make: “Red” was my Swiftie awakening moment (if there’s such a thing). I’m still just a casual listener up until today, but Taylor Swift definitely won me with that track back in 2012 and made me respect her songwriting prowess. So, listening to “Invisible String” eight years later is like a déjà vu. The reference to colors for the “feels” caught me yet again.
“Invisible String” made me miss the simpler, happier times. It’s dreamy and comfortable to listen to – almost like eavesdropping on a woman who found her soulmate sharing her love story with a friend who’s never been in a relationship. Oh yeah, I’m the latter (and I’m okay, not complaining). Whether or not Taytay was referring to her English beau Joe Alwyn with this song, I’m giving her a proud slow clap for the “red thread” folk myth reference. It’s genius!
Overall, I think Folklore is pop done right for this season of uncertainty. It is quiet, soothing, and very personal – almost like a plea for us to value “living in the now.”
— Matthew Balicudiong
I had my solo streaming party for Folklore. The whole album is perfect for long drives, late nights, and red-eye flights. This is the Taylor Swift who couldn’t come to the phone during the Reputation era. Lover has colors; Folklore has words.
Just by listening to the first few lines of “August”, I already knew it would be my favorite track. Taylor Swift wrote and produced it with Jack Antonoff, the tandem who always delivers! Yay! “August” sounds like a sober “Getaway Car,” with vibes of “Style.” I don’t know about you, but this is a song who made us feel like we’re 22 “meeting someone behind the mall” or those days we’d “cancel plans in case [they’d] call.” This is the Taylor Swift singing vivid memories of that one dark night when “she pulled up and said get in the car.” I think it’s a lonely song of a fleeting summer love, something that’s sure to “slip away into a moment in time” ’cause it was never ours.
It doesn’t hurt that I love this because I was born in August.
— Joseph Cataan
“my tears ricochet”
I became a fan of Taylor Swift thanks to “Love Story.” Since then, her music has been a part of every relationship and heartache I’ve experienced. Her music just speaks to people. From relationship breakups to even friendship breakups, there is always a Taylor Swift song that could give a name to whatever you’re feeling.
Her lyrics are always so deep that it can cut you like a knife. Who would’ve thought that a song can make you ugly cry for hours even though you’re not heartbroken? Case in point: this particular lyric in “The Archer” — “Cause all of my enemies / Started out friends” — still gets me every time, since we’ve all lost friends at some point in our lives.
Yet perhaps “My Tears Ricochet” is one of the most painful songs Taylor has ever written. Since it’s about asking someone the hardest question — what if. The song is about a person trying to bury all the hurt and sorrow of the past, but can’t because it’s still very painful.
“And if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake?” is a reminder that you’ll always be too late to regret what happened in the past. “My Tears Ricochet” will definitely be my go-to song when I need a good cry as it’s just full of *feels* that we all need.
— Bianca Katipunan
While Folklore as a whole proves to be more haunting than Swift’s previous albums, this one track stands out from the rest. Track 13, “Epiphany”, is a story of trauma and death and loss and all that comes with it.
The track opens quietly and solemnly, and you wouldn’t know you’re in for a haunting until she starts singing about the harrowing reality of war, a reference to her grandfather Dean “landing at Guadalcanal in 1942.” The first verse has already been successful in haunting me for the rest of my life, but the song’s not yet over. With the second verse, it brings the trauma and loss a lot closer to home, when Swift sings “Something med school did not cover / Someone’s daughter, someone’s mother / Holds your hand through plastic now.” And doesn’t that just describe some of the struggles in this pandemic in so few words? In this world riddled with disease, only the frontline healthcare workers are the ones who could comfort patients fighting to live another day.
We’re used to love songs and romance and heartbreak and friendship in Swift’s discography, but “Epiphany” is unlike any other Taylor Swift song. She steps out of her comfort zone and tackles a truth far more universal to all of us than any other — the truth of life and death. Straddling the line between fiction and reality, its lyrics may seem to be just one-sided conversations, but when strung together, they would haunt you through the days, ripping your heart open again, gracing you with an epiphany, and making you think of “some things you just can’t speak about.”
— Meryl Medel
This song could feel small compared to the others in the overwhelming 16-track album, but it gives you a pang in the chest all the same, albeit through a more contemplative, somewhat nostalgic melody. Opinions about this song are pretty divisive among listeners, particularly those who are leaning more towards Taylor’s pop side, but it’s “different” sound might be the thing that makes it charming, if you give it another listen.
“Mirrorball” thrives in the metaphor-heavy lyricism that Swift is known for, amplified by its dreamy production that hits you slowly and deeply. Where do you even start to pin down what message it wants to tell? Some say it’s about continuously trying to fit into someone likeable to please everyone, or maybe only showing the real you to the person you love the most, or about eventually finding your true self, or perhaps this is Taylor’s reflective piece about her fame. (Several people also say that they imagine this playing in a prom night montage of a coming-of-age film, but I digress.)
Whatever the possible interpretations are, I think the best thing about it is how it really feels so intimate, as if we’re looking from inside her head and seeing all this enigmatic imagery play out, instead of the more solid declarations in other tracks. “Mirrorball” seems like a layered story that just becomes even more elusive if you try to grasp it in your hands, especially when the song hits its peak in the bridge where she paints both physical ache and emotional torment simultaneously. Bask in the reverb, ladies and gentlemen.
At the end of the day, although it’s arguably one of her more “experimental” tracks, hearing this in Folklore just proves her range as an artist and how she could conquer just about any genre, if she wants to.
— Paula Macatangay
Taylor Swift was probably smirking as the rest of the world exploded from excitement over the surprise release of Folklore. Her eighth studio album is nothing like we imagined. She went from pop songs to alternative/indie-folk trademarked with lyrics penned to evoke emotions only she knows how.
After listening to the entire album twice, “The 1” quickly cemented itself as one of my favorites. Here, Taylor sings serenely about a sort of “the one that got away,” contemplating on a what-if life with an ex-lover. I think of it as the softer and calmer sister to her iconic “All Too Well.” For maximum emo feels, I recommend listening to this while it’s raining and you’re looking out the window.
Roaring twenties, tossing pennies in the pool
And if my wishes came true, it would’ve been you”
Taylor has outdone herself this time like she always does. Reputation had her saying the old Taylor is dead, but I refuse to believe that. The old Taylor has evolved and matured into an elegant artist proving that all the prestige she’d collected over the past decade rightfully deserves to be hers. Folklore is the first Taylor album of the new decade, and needless to say, I can’t wait for more.
— Kyzia Maramara
Do you agree with our picks? What are your top 8 Folklore songs? Tell us below!