"folklore" (stylized in all lowercase) is the eighth studio album by Taylor, released on July 24, 2020, through Republic Records. A surprise album announced without pre-release promotional campaigns, "folklore" was written and recorded while in isolation during
the COVID-19 pandemic.
Musically, the album marks a departure from the upbeat pop sound of Taylor's preceding studio albums to stripped-down tunes driven by piano and guitar, with production from Aaron
Dessner, Jack Antonoff and Taylor herself. Categorized as an indie folk, alternative rock, electro-folk, and chamber pop record, "folklore" portrays
what Taylor called "a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness" rising out of her imagination. It manifests vivid storytelling from
largely third-person narratives that detail heartbreak and retrospection.
"cardigan" was released as the lead single from the album on July 27, 2020. "exile", featuring American indie folk band Bon Iver, and "betty" are scheduled to be the second and third
singles, respectively. "folklore" received widespread critical acclaim, with emphasis on its sonic coherence, relaxed atmosphere, and lyrics based on fictional narratives. It broke
numerous streaming records upon release, including the Guinness World Record for the biggest opening day for an album by a female artist on Spotify. The album sold two
million copies in its first week globally, 1.3 million of which were sold on its first day.
Earning more than 846,000 units in its first-week in the US, "folklore" debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, giving Taylor her seventh consecutive number-one album on the
chart. The album also reached number-one in Australia, Canada, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and several other territories. All sixteen tracks of the album
debuted simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with three in the top-ten; "cardigan" debuted at number-one, giving Taylor her sixth chart-topping single in the US and
making her the first act in history to debut atop the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 charts in the same week, while "the 1" and "exile" reached fourth and sixth spots,
Taylor announced "folklore" as a surprise release on her social media accounts sixteen hours before its launch. The album was released eleven months after Taylor's seventh studio album
"Lover" (2019), the fastest turnaround for a Taylor studio album, beating the one year and nine months gap between "reputation" and "Lover". Taylor announced that the music video for "cardigan" would debut at the same time as the album's release.
During the YouTube premiere countdown to the music video for "cardigan", Taylor revealed that the album lyrics contained many of her signature Easter eggs:
"One thing I did purposely on this album was put the Easter eggs in the lyrics, more than just the videos. I created character arcs and recurring themes that map out who is singing about who...
For example, there's a collection of three songs I refer to as the Teenage Love Triangle. These three songs explore a love triangle from all three people's perspectives at different times in
their lives". -- Taylor Swift
She referred to the album as "wistful and full of escapism. Sad, beautiful, tragic. Like a photo album full of imagery, and all the stories behind that imagery", described "cardigan" as a song
that explores "lost romance and why young love is often fixed so permanently in our memories," and named the self-written track "my tears ricochet" as the first song she wrote for the album.