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WHAT TAYLOR SWIFT’S ‘FOLKLORE’ MEANS TO QUEER FANS

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A MUSICAL ANALYSIS AND REVIEW

Earlier this summer, Taylor Swift dropped her eighth album with only a day’s notice. ‘Folklore’ seems to take Swift a few steps back to her country roots and away from the mainstream pop of her past few albums. Made entirely during isolation, Swift describes ‘Folklore” in an Instagram post as an “album of songs I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into.” She explains the album is “a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness,” with tales of both fictional and real people. 

Swift’s history of allyship with the LGBTQ+ community is often criticized  She received considerable backlash for not being vocal during the 2016 Presidential election. Since then, Swift has become more outspoken about political issues and her support for the community. In the 2018 midterm election, Swift publicly called for Tennessee residents to vote against homophobic senatorial candidate Marsha Blackburn (who still won). Last year, Swift released ‘You Need to Calm Down’ on her previous album, which lyrics and music video celebrated the LGBTQ+ community, including a variety of cameos from queer-identifying celebrities. This also received criticism, many people claiming her support to be performative or insincere by using the LGBTQ+ community as a marketing strategy or by queerbaiting her fans. 

The singer has also been the center of rumors of her sexuality, often involving other female celebrities she was close friends with. Despite having previous gender-flipped songs before, Swift has clarified she doesn’t consider herself a part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Swift’s new album showcased a new side of her by bringing new stories, new feelings, and new experiences to the table. ‘Reputation’ was about dark colors and harsh edges, and ‘Lover’ was colorful and bright, but ‘Folklore’ brings a softer vibe, more earth-toned and cottagecore. The lyrics of the songs are different as well, bringing more acoustic and sentimental emotions. One of the strongest appeals of this album, especially for queer fans, was the near-blanket use of second-person point of view. Almost every song lacks descriptive qualities of both the narrator and the subject of the song, erasing the heteronormative component often found in popular love songs. The lack of gendered pronouns creates an abundance of queer subtext in the album. ‘Seven’ tells the story of a childhood crush both forgotten and remembered, with the person of affection described as having ‘braids’ and ‘dolls.’ ‘Mirrorball’ and ‘Illicit Affairs’ both describe loving someone behind closed doors, when nobody is around, which often is the experience of a closeted queer relationship. ‘Betty’ has been widely interpreted by fans to be an LGBTQ+ love song, even though Swift has conveyed the narrator is a boy. 

Despite her rocky support for the LGBTQ+ community, Taylor Swift’s new album provides moving content for fans who can identify with it because of her lack of gendered pronouns. Queer fans can listen to the soft melodies and relate to the folktales, without having to ignore descriptive phrases or gendered markers. Generating imagery of burning candles, soft sweaters, and stolen moments, many critics and fans are considering this album to be one of the best in her career.

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