folklore is the eight studio album by American singer and songwriter Taylor Swift and Swift’s second album that she owned following her departure from her previous label, Big Machine Records. The album was a surprise album and Swift announced the release 16 hours before album’s official release while teasing the album cover in 9 photos that collaged the album’s standard cover on her Instagram prior to. The album was released digitally on July 24, 2020 by Republic Records and contained sixteen new songs by Swift that she wrote in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic and after the cancelation of her Lover Fest that had been set to promote her 2019 album, Lover. The album features collaborations with Aaron Dessner and longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff whom Swift has worked with on 1989, reputation and Lover.
Sound wise, the album is a departure from Swift’s previous pop sound on her last three albums and features more alternative rock, indie-folk and electroacoustic styes. The album’s theme explores themes of escapism, empathy, romanticism, nostalgia and melancholia through the songs’ lyrics. Several songs are told through set characters, fictional narratives and story arcs which is a departure from Swift’s previous autobiographical tones in her previous albums. The album’s title was inspired by Swift’s desire for the songs on the album to have a lasting legacy akin to folk songs. Three songs on the album were described by Swift as being narrated by three different characters’ perspectives of a love triangle.
Commercially the album was a huge success debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 staying there for eight weeks making it the becoming the longest-reigning number-one album of 2020 as well as making Swift the first woman with seven Billboard 200 number-one debuts. It also opened to 80.6 million global streams on Spotify and earned the Guinness World Record for the most opening-day streams for an album by a female artist beating Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next album. The album won Swift her third Grammy for Album of the Year, after Fearless and 1989, at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards making Swift the first female artist in history to win the award three times. The album also debuted at number one on the Billboard Adult Alternative chart, becoming Swift’s first entry on the chart, and also had the biggest debut ever on the chart.
A physical deluxe edition was released on August 7, 2020 containing a bonus 17th song. An alternative cover and liner booklet of the album was released exclusively to US Target Stores, one of the eight which Swift had released exclusively for a limited time on her website. Eleven days later, on August 18, 2020, the entire deluxe edition was released for digital download.
Four singles were released to promote the album. “cardigan” was released as the lead single from the album. The music video for the song was released the same day as the album’s digital release while being sent to Hot adult contemporary radio stations on July 27, 2020. It debuted at number one of the Billboard Hot 100, making it Swift’s second number one debut and her sixth chart-topper overall. “exile” featuring Bon Iver was released as the second single from the album to adult alternative radio stations on August 3, 2020 and peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. “betty” was released to country radio on August 17, 2020 and peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart making it Swift’s twenty-second top-ten hit on the chart. The fourth and final single to be released from the album was “the 1” that impacted German contemporary hit radio on October 9, 2020. The song peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.
|Standard Digital Edition|
|1. “the 1”||Aaron Dessner, Taylor Swift||Aaron Dessner||3:29|
|2. “cardigan”||Aaron Dessner, Taylor Swift||Aaron Dessner||3:58|
|3. “the last great american dynasty”||Aaron Dessner, Taylor Swift||Aaron Dessner||3:50|
|4. “exile” (featuring Bon Ivor)||Justin Vernon, Taylor Swift, William Bowery||Aaron Dessner, Joe Alwyn||4:44|
|5. “my tears ricochet”||Taylor Swift||Jack Antonoff, Joe Alwyn, Taylor Swift||4:15|
|6. “mirrorball”||Jack Antonoff, Taylor Swift||Jack Antonoff, Taylor Swift||3:28|
|7. “seven”||Aaron Dessner, Taylor Swift||Aaron Dessner||3:28|
|8. “august”||Jack Antonoff, Taylor Swift||Jack Antonoff, Joe Alwyn, Taylor Swift||4:21|
|9. “this is me trying”||Jack Antonoff, Taylor Swift||Jack Antonoff, Joe Alwyn, Taylor Swift||3:14|
|10. “illicit affairs”||Jack Antonoff, Taylor Swift||Jack Antonoff, Joe Alwyn, Taylor Swift||3:10|
|11. “invisible string”||Aaron Dessner, Taylor Swift||Aaron Dessner||4:12|
|12. “mad woman”||Aaron Dessner, Taylor Swift||Aaron Dessner||3:56|
|13. “epiphany”||Aaron Dessner, Taylor Swift||Aaron Dessner||4:49|
|14. “betty”||Taylor Swift, William Bowery||Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff, Joe Alwyn, Taylor Swift||4:53|
|15. “peace”||Aaron Dessner, Taylor Swift||Aaron Dessner||3:53|
|16. “hoax”||Aaron Dessner, Taylor Swift||Aaron Dessner||3:39|
|Deluxe Edition Bonus Track|
|17. “the lakes”||Jack Antonoff, Taylor Swift||Jack Antonoff, Taylor Swift||3:31|
- Eight physical deluxe editions were released exclusive Taylor Swift’s store for a limited time and featured different album covers and liner photos within each version, the track listing remains the same. Each cover, including the standard album cover, are named after or inspired by lyrics of six tracks from the album. “meet me behind the mall” was released exclusively to US Target stores upon the album’s physical release date.
- Swift later revealed in her documentary of the album called folklore: the long pond studio sessions, released exclusively on Disney+, that Willaim Bowery is in fact a pseudonym for Joe Alwyn.
- “cardigan”, “august” and “betty”, tracks two, eight and fourteen on the album, are each told from the perspective of three people involved in what Swift dubbed as a fictional “love triangle”. The songs are out of order on the track listing with “betty” being the first of three and told from the perspective of the fictional character James when he was seventeen, who had an affair on the title track. “august” is told by Augustine years later about her side of the affair with James, while “cardigan” is told by Betty many years later. In the documentary folklore: the long pond studio sessions, Swift revealed that Betty did in fact get back with James after the events of “betty”.
- Japanese releases of the physical deluxe edition of the album include a bonus DVD featuring the music video for “cardigan” along with the lyric videos for the first sixteen tracks of the album.
- Four six track compilations, known as chapters, of songs from folklore, based on the thematic cohesion between them, were released exclusively to digital and streaming services.
- the escapism chapter was released on August 21, 2020 and featured “the lakes”, “seven”, “epiphany”, “cardigan”, “mirrorball” and “exile” featuring Bon Iver.
- the sleepless nights chapter was released on August 24, 2020 and featured “exile” featuring Bon Iver, “hoax”, “my tears ricochet” “illicit affairs”, “this is me trying” and “mad woman”.
- the saltbox house chapter was released on August 27, 2020 and featured “the last great american dynasty”, “august”, “the 1”, “seven”, “peace” and “betty”.
- the yeah i showed up at your party chapter was released on September 21, 2020 and featured “betty” (Live from the 2020 Academy of Country Music Awards), “the 1”, “mirrorball”, “the last great american dynasty”, “invisible strings” and “cardigan”.
- Copies of the “hide-and-seek” edition of the album accidently had the name “woodvale” written on them. Fans speculated that the title was for Swift’s next album, and in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, who asked Swift about this, Swift denied this stating that “woodvale” was the code name for folkore as she did not reveal to anyone the title of the album until just before its release and so chose a random name with the same amount of letters and while working on the album covers Swift wanted to see how the name would look on the them, mocked them up, decided she didn’t want the album title on the covers and the title was accidently left on one of the album covers.
- Clean versions of the album consists of “the 1” and “peace” silencing the word “shit”, “bitch” being silenced in “the last great american dynasty” and alternate lyrics of for “mad woman” and “betty”. “mad woman” alters the line “Or does she mouth “Fuck you forever”?” with “Or does she mouth “I hate you forever”?” and with “betty” the lines “Would you tell me to go fuck myself” is altered to “Would you tell me to go straight to hell”.
- “in the trees” – seven lyrics
- “in the weeds” – seven lyrics
- “meet me behind the mall” – august lyrics
- “betty’s garden” – betty
- “stolen lullabies” – my tears ricochet lyrics
- “hide-and-seek” – cardigan lyrics
- “running like water” – cardigan lyrics
- “clandestine meetings” – illicit affairs lyrics