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Reviews of Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’ album are in. Here’s what critics are saying

Taylor Swift
Reviews are rolling in for Taylor Swift’s “Folklore.”
(Beth Garrabrant)

“Exquisite,” “introspective,” “emotionally raw,” “breathtaking” and “radically intimate” are just a few ways critics have described Taylor Swift’s surprise new album, “Folklore,” which debuted Thursday night after the pop star unveiled the title and track list Thursday morning.

And so far, the mellow, indie-folk sounds of her eighth studio album — written and recorded by Swift in quarantine — have drawn mostly rave reviews, including from the Los Angeles Times, which dubbed the effort “social distancing music, par excellence.”

“It sounds like a quarantine record,” Jody Rosen wrote for The Times. “The album is ruminative and dreamy, the work of an artist who, cut off from the everyday world, turned inward, following the rushing rapids of her imagination and scooping up songs as they flowed past.”

Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’ abandons the dance-pop of her post-Nashville career for a ruminative indie singer-songwriter sound befitting the times.

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Variety called “Folklore” the singer-songwriter’s “most overtly contemplative — as opposed to covertly reflective — album since the fan favorite ‘Red.’”

“Actually, that’s an understatement,” Variety’s Chris Willman wrote. “‘Red’ seems like a Chainsmokers album compared to the wholly banger-free ‘Folklore,’ which lives up to the first half of its title by divesting itself of any lingering traces of Max Martin-ized dance-pop and presenting Swift, afresh, as your favorite new indie-electro-folk/chamber-pop balladeer.”

USA Today similarly lauded Swift for “switching up her sound once again” and reminding audiences that “she’s the most gifted songwriter in music today.”

“Every track on the decidedly un-radio-friendly album is a treasure trove of evocative metaphors and diary-like lyrics, managing to capture familiar feelings in ways you didn’t know were possible,” USA Today’s Patrick Ryan wrote.

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Pop singer-songwriter Taylor Swift surprised fans Thursday with news that she’ll release her eighth studio album, “Folklore,” at 9 p.m Pacific.

Billboard, too, was impressed by Swift’s “totally different approach” that offers “a deviation from the top 40 trajectory that Swift set herself upon six years ago.”

“Most artists would not possess the gumption to sell such a transition, but Swift has been sharing her reality with us for over a decade, so the darkest moments of ‘Folklore’ never ring hollow,” wrote Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz. “And when the light pours in, the vision is breathtaking.”

In addition to celebrating the “bold new direction” Swift has taken, NME noted some callbacks to her earlier work, while admitting the slower pacing of the 16-part collection can “sometimes drag slightly.”

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“‘Betty’, a sweet tune about high school romance ... fuses this new folk-rock sound with moments of country we’ve not heard for several albums,’” wrote NME’s Hannah Mylrea. “‘My Tears Ricochet’ feels like a sister to the Imogen Heap co-written ‘Clean’ from ‘1989’, only this time a megawatt pop song is encased in layered vocals and twinkling music box instrumentals.”

Several publications, including Teen Vogue, particularly complimented the storytelling prowess Swift brings to the “character-driven” lyrics on “Folklore.”

“‘Folklore’ comprises mini-narratives that shape themselves around the after effects of emotional blasts, those feelings that ricochet after the initial hit and the subsequent euphoric shock,” wrote Teen Vogue’s P. Claire Dodson. “It’s the album embodiment of sitting with uncomfortable feelings or with months of isolated self-reflection.”

On her new album “Lover,” Taylor Swift backgrounds her empowerment anthems for songs about drinking, sexual need and even political protest.

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The Independent compared the song “Cardigan” — the emotional music video for which Swift created in quarantine and released along with the album — to the “yearning cadence” of Lana Del Rey, while also commending Bon Iver singer Justin Vernon’s “pummeling lower register” as a featured artist on “Exile.”

“There are no pop bangers here, just exquisite, piano-based poetry,” the Independent’s Roisin O’Connor wrote. “‘Folklore’s’ songs care less for those showstopping one-liners and more about the small details.”


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