Taylor Swift posted a series of 10 black and white photos to her Instagram on July 23rd. The last picture she captioned, “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. Surprise.” If anyone is able to surprise 137 million social media followers, it is the one and only Taylor Swift.
While the rest of us were too busy trying out the latest Tik-Tok quarantine trends, Swift wrote and recorded 16 songs with Aaron Desner, Bon Iver, and Jack Antonoff. “Before this year I probably would’ve overthought when to release this music at the ‘perfect’ time, but the times we’re living in keep reminding me that nothing is guaranteed. My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world.” folklore is an indie folk, alternative rock record. Announced only 16 hours prior to its release, it broke numerous streaming records including a Guinness World Record for the biggest opening day for an album by a female artist on Spotify.
It’s common knowledge that Taylor Swift began her career on country radio. Before we had the cryptic “Reputation Era” and the dreamy “Lover Era” we had glittery guitars with sun dresses and headbands. Swift's ability to be able to fluidly switch genres is what allowed her to stay on top and be crowned “Artist of the Decade” at the American Music Awards. Taylor Swift was 16 years old when her self titled debut album was released in 2006. The past 14 years have brought so much growth and change as her fan base matures with her. Was there any indication that Taylor’s life was about to change with her first single release, “Tim McGraw”?
The Pennsylvania native released five songs from her debut album as singles. “Teardrops on My Guitar,” “Should’ve Said No,” “Our Song” and “Picture to Burn,” in addition to “Tim McGraw.” Each song has been certified at least platinum. Swift is known for her massive cross country stadium tours, but back then even the massive success of her first album didn’t guarantee her a headlining tour. She continued playing radio stations, interviewing on talk shows, playing county fairs, and opening for other major country acts. She landed her first opening gig with Rascal Flats and George Strait before landing her dream opening slot for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
The “Fearless era” still maintained Taylor’s country sound. Her sophomore album was released in 2008 and featured her classic hits, “Love Story,” “Fifteen” and “You Belong With Me.” Fearless led to her first headlining tour in 2009 which included Kellie Pickler and Justin Bieber. By the way, it is also the most-awarded album in country music history to this day! Being only 18 when this album was released, made Taylor the youngest artist ever to win a GRAMMY for “Album of the Year.” In the albums sleevenotes Taylor wrote, ““Fearless is getting back up and fighting for what you want over and over again… even though every time you’ve tried before, you’ve lost,” she wrote. “It’s fearless to have faith that someday things will change.”
“Speak Now” was released on October 25th, 2010. It would go on to become the best selling self-written album in history. Taylor already had numerous awards under her belt at this point, but she was still establishing herself as an artist. She found herself thrust into the tabloids and at the center of celebrity feuds. She had dated notable young men at this point including, Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner, and John Mayer. With the release of “Mean” we saw Taylor’s confidence and ability to stand up to the haters shine. Swift let the music do the talking rather than publicly addressing her relationships, per, “Dear John.” Billboard says, “In many ways, Speak Now is the last album Swift made before the “wide-eyed gaze” she’d sing about on Red standout “All Too Well” began to narrow into a cynical glare.
Swift's fourth studio album, Red, was her last album to be considered country-pop by the majority. Some critics categorized it as a pop-rock record with indie influence. Taylor released, “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” as the lead single. After only a minute of the single being released, it hit Top 50 on the iTunes charts. Other singles released off of Red are, “22,” “Everything Has Changed,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “The Last Time,” and “Red.” In recent years, Taylor’s music videos have been giant productions including anything and everything from elaborate CGI to guest performances from stars such as Brendan Urie, Adam Lambert, Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Reynolds and more. “I Knew You Were Trouble” is about losing yourself and the music video at the time was uncharastically heavy featuring Taylor in a dystopian landscape. We know that she is singing about a troubled relationship, but it also represents Taylor losing sight of what made her America’s favorite princess - being authentically herself.
2 years later in 2014, she released, 1989, followed by Reputation, and Lover. No matter how Taylor’s style, and sound evolves, it is evident that her incredibly loyal fan base loves her through it all. She talks more about this in her Netflix documentary, Miss Americana. So in the meantime, let’s grab some coffee and a cozy blanket and listen to her most recent masterpiece, folklore.
Author: Haley Moloney