It’s been two weeks since Taylor Swift dropped her eighth album folklore on us out of the blue. We ran through it track-by-track when it dropped but repeat listens have changed our feelings on a number of the songs. Here are all 16 songs ranked from best to worst.
This album is a marathon and maybe Epiphany just comes at the wrong point. It’s meandering and introspective but after nearly 5 minutes it all blends into one.
15. Invisible String
This is an album full of rich, mature songwriting. Invisible String is the exception to that. It’s nice but the colour metaphors in the verse just don’t sit right with me.
This is where it becomes an impossible task to rank the songs. Hoax is great. It’s a tip-toeing, haunting album closer that has some exceptional lyrics. “Stood on the cliffside screaming give me a reason,” is absolutely chilling. It’s the subtlest song on the record which is perhaps why it lands far down in this list.
13. Illicit Affairs
The song that had everyone Googling clandestine (searches of the word literally peaked on the album’s release date). Illicit Affairs is almost forgettable and then Taylor and Jack Antonoff come through with their magical middle 8 and it becomes spectacular.
12. Mad Woman
Suitably the steeliest sounding song on the album, Mad Woman sounds to be aimed towards Scooter Braun and he ex-label boss Scott Borchetta. “No one likes a mad woman / You made her like that,” is an excellent lyric. This song cuts through even deeper than Lover‘s The Man.
The most country-sounding song on the album immediately popped to the top as a fan favourite. It’s part of the love story trilogy that follows Betty and James and features some of the most vivid story-telling of the whole album. It’s also home to one of the most shocking Swift lyrics – “Would you tell me to go fuck myself.” Plenty of hype but the repeat plays have dwindles since the album’s release.
We were repaired for folk but we weren’t quite ready for lo-fi Swift. Mirrorball is likely to be the closest we ever get to a chillwave song from Swift but it’s stunning. So much of the songwriting on this album relies on the picture it paints and Mirrorball is so vivid. It all blurs together like a mirrorball spinning on a hazy night.
Swift’s Sufjan Stevens moment was an instant skip on first listen but its magic has slowly unveiled itself. Much like Lover, this song waltzes from one line to the next on a bed of crisp keys. Unlike Lover, however, the chorus isn’t where this song cuts through. It’s all about, “I think your house is haunted / Your Dad is always mad.” A subtle peak that really cuts through.
8. My Tears Ricochet
Some of Taylor and Antonoff’s finest work is on this album and My Tears Ricochet is definitely up there. Everything about it simmers from the elongated background vocals to Swift’s velvety vocal performance (one of her best on the album). It’s a haunting and personal moment that leaves you with an indescribable feeling long after it’s come to a close.
There’s a lot of hearsay and fiction on this album but this one feels personal for Swift. She’s always been very self-aware when it comes to how her public life affects her personal relationships. Delicate did a great job at laying it out but Peace does it even more powerfully. The instrumental here doesn’t need to do much. It’s all about allowing space for these lyrics. “Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?” is the best lyric on the album.
6. The Last Great American Dynasty
The Last Great American Dynasty tells the story of Rebekah Harkness, the American philanthropist who once owned Swift’s Rhode Island home. This is where Swift’s songwriting really shines. She’s told great stories before – often with hyperbole – but this song literally passes a non-fictional story down as she remembers it. The way she then relates it back to herself at the end is *chef’s kiss*.
5. The 1
The 1 honestly felt like a throwaway on first listen but it’s become warmer and warmer with each run through. There’s something so comforting about the steady way that Swift delivers this one, gently singing lyrics like, “If you never bleed, you’re never gonna grow.” It mourns the past but it’s also optimistic for the future.
4. Exile (Feat. Bon Iver)
Putting Bon Iver on your “folk” album feels like a painfully obvious move but Justin Vernon’s appearance on folklore is more than token. This breakup song needed another voice and, unexpectedly, Vernon’s dry, deep tone balances Swift’s pure voice masterfully. The call-and-response is rousing while their individual takes on the chorus are stunning.
3. This Is Me Trying
There’s something really special about an, “It is what it is,” moment from Swift. When she pulls all the theatrics back and gives it unfiltered. Call It What You Want off Reputation did it and This Is Me Trying does it too. Telling someone you’re really trying is about as vulnerable as it gets and there’s a perfect balance of fragility and desperation on this one. “It’s hard to be at a party when I feel like an open wound,” might be the biggest emotional suckerpunch she’s ever handed.
The single of the album if you could even call it that. Cardigan is the least immediate song Swift has ever given the single treatment to but it’s slowly unfurling charm is what makes Cardigan so special. It’s spectacular the way she dances between fantastical memory (“I knew you”) and poignant takes on youth (“I knew everything when you were young”) is a pairing I never knew I needed. Like so many of the songs on this album, she subtly works her way to the climax . The third verse of this might be the best 30 seconds of music she’s ever written.
This was the standout on the first listen and it’s still up the top of the list. There are so many Swift songs that are reliant on context whether that be the music that was popular at the time or her own public persona. Then there are some that are timeless – supremely written songs that could exist in any era. All Too Well, Lover, Clean and now August instantly come to mind. It’s a perfect 4 minutes and 21 seconds of music. A sweeping blur of nostalgia, longing and regret, all pulled together by a spectacular Swift and Antonoff middle 8.
Hear more Swift talk on this week’s episode of Flopstars where we go deep on her Reputation record: