An unexpectedly breathtaking album from America's pop star

Illustration by Madison Cohen

About 11 months ago, I was here writing a review for Taylor Swift’s seventh studio album "Lover." Not even a year later, Swift’s eighth album, "folklore," has been released.

The album falls under the alternative genre on Apple Music, and the genre switch is one of the most interesting parts of this new album. Each song is a melancholy story, woven with backing vocals, asynchronous instrumentals and well-thought out characters. In an Instagram post about the release of the album, Swift explained that she had let her imagination run wild, creating stories of people she has never met and never will meet.

Bon Iver is featured on track four, a song titled "exile." The song is beautiful and proves that Swift is absolutely in her element in this new genre. The mix of their voices is haunting and makes me feel like I am wandering around the woods on the album's cover.

One aspect of this album that I don’t think we’ve seen with any of her others is how raw and real it is. Swift has always been an honest songwriter and has drawn inspiration from her real experiences, but this album doesn’t feel even a bit sugarcoated. It feels to me that she has let even her deepest fears and insecurities be explored on this one.

This album had no warning. I would know. As a die-hard fan, we’ve been searching for clues and bread crumbs since the release of "Lover," but there was minimal evidence of her next album being released this year. She also has never released an entire album to the public in one night, which really leads me to believe that "folklore" is a passion project. Exactly at midnight eastern time, the entire album released on Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music. No months of anticipation, no waiting in lines at Target to buy the physical album. They released it all at once.

This is proof to me that, especially after the loss of her first six albums to Big Machine Records and Scooter Braun, Taylor Swift is not greedy about her art. She didn’t create this album for the money, for the advertising. She dropped the announcement the morning of, giving her fans less than 24 hours to prepare, something her old team would have never been on board with. She has discussed the control of her old team in the past, a team that would even micromanage her album names, and I am so happy that she has found Republic Records and UMG so she can release albums she truly loves like this one.

"August" is one of my favorite tracks, although each time I relisten to any of them, I’m sure that it will be my new favorite. "August" takes my heart and slowly squeezes it throughout the song. It’s a story about a relationship that was never official — “August slipped away into a moment in time because you were never mine.” The music and the vocals on this track are one word: dreamy. I see myself listening to this one as I walk around campus, or while sitting on a swing at the beach, or hammocking between trees. This is the song of reminiscing.

I could write an essay about each of the songs on this album. How "illicit affairs" is a beautiful song about a relationship you know won’t work but you want it to. "Invisible string," with a line about giving her past lover’s children presents, is about being tied to people forever. Betty, the lesbian anthem, is about being seventeen and learning how to apologize and mend relationships. "Hoax," the closing song, is about not believing in anything except the hope of love.

"Folklore" is nothing like any of Swift’s past albums. She pulls from bits and pieces of them, but this is something we have truly never seen before from her. It is raw, it is folky, it is lovely and it is new. A dramatic change from the happy notes woven throughout "Lover," I think isolation has taught us all that sadness and longing can come from even the most familiar places.

“Don’t want no other shade of blue but you / No other sadness in the world would do.”