Taylor Swift's Eight Albums: How Does Folklore Compare To The Rest?

Taylor Swift never treads the same water twice, evolving musically with each of her major releases. The country-pop superstar went pop for 2014's 1989, the fastest album to sell 5 million copies in the U.S. in a decade, Billboard reported. She went vengeful techno-pop for her 2017 album Reputation and dove more into singer-songwriter grounds on 2019's Lover. So, where has the surprise album Folklore taken Swift? 

Sending fans into a tizzy, Swift's eighth album was announced over Twitter and Instagram only a day before dropping on midnight on July 24, 2020. At the same time, the singer released a self-directed music video for the album's lead single, "cardigan." Swift described the release as "an entire brand new album of songs I've poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into." According to her post, though Swift recorded the album in quarantine, she still collaborated with indie rock greats like Bon Iver, featured on the track "exile"; The National's Aaron Dessner, who apparently co-wrote 11 of the 16 songs; and regular confidant Jack Antonoff.

With heavyweights like that, it's no surprise critics think this is Swift's most mature album yet, with a subdued, acoustic folksy musical style that was hinted at by the wooded album art and title. "Red seems like a Chainsmokers album compared to the wholly banger-free Folklore," Chris Willman of Variety wrote. "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." Here's more about the refreshing sound of Folklore

'Folklore' is personal like 'Lover,' but less pop-influenced

With a title like Folklore, fans and critics were expecting Taylor Swift to get folksier and more personal and introspective than ever. And the album did not disappoint. Much like Lover, in which Tay Tay pushed herself to new levels of vulnerability with songs like "Soon You'll Get Better" (which was about her mom Andrea's battle with cancer, per People), Folklore is mature, somber, and totally new ground for the singer.

Some critics think it's her best album yet. "Released with little fanfare this move to more muted songwriting is proof Swift's music can thrive without the celebrity drama," Laura Snapes of The Guardian wrote. With collaboration from Aaron Dessner of The National, the songs are much more dialed down and rarely have beats, much like songs from Dessner's own band. But Swift's signature songwriting style is on full display.

According to Billboard, by doing a surprise release instead of her typical masterfully planned rollout, Swift was able to delight fans, but take a left turn from radio-friendly (like her 2010 album Speak Now), not having to live up to her Billboard-topping past, but instead just focus on songwriting. "'the 1' by taylor swift is a page out of my journal," one Twitter user wrote. "Folklore is an amazing album and proves that no matter what genre of music it is Taylor always gives us an amazing album," said another. So there you have it — fans are loving the new album.