2020 just keeps on surprising us - but this time it's in a good way. On Friday, Taylor Swift dropped a new 16-track album out of the blue.
Surprise 🤗 Tonight at midnight I’ll be releasing my 8th studio album, folklore; an entire brand new album of songs I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into. Pre-order at https://t.co/zSHpnhUlLb pic.twitter.com/4ZVGy4l23b— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) July 23, 2020
No anticipation, no promotion, just like that. This is very exciting, and I'm sure you'll be the judge of it for yourself, but we thought it was best to curate this latest collection of songs, to help prime your ears and hopefully enhance your appreciation of Taylor's musical craft.
Now, I'm not a music critic - in fact I can't even read music - but I do have a perspective on folklore that nobody has dared to offer up: I'm going to review every song based on how easy it is to do The Chicken Dance to each one.
If you need to refresh yourself the steps, or the "criteria" as it were, check below...
Now let's slap on that record!
Track 1: the 1
Although you wouldn't know it from the opening chords, I'm very pleased to say you can dance to this. As soon as the beat kicks in, there's something you can really latch on and flap your wings to. It's no polka - and very little on T Swizzle's 8th album is - but it's a joy all the same.
Track 2: cardigan
Track two has some unusual rhythms, so it's harder to chicken dance to. It is, however, quite nice to close your eyes and move along to. She mentions "dancing in your Levi's" and it's important to note she never specifies what dance that is. If you move to the chicken dance, it'll suit just fine.
Track 3: the last great american dynasty
This is the most up tempo of the tracks so far, or at least the warmest. It's classic Taylor. I get the sense she wants us to dance a little bit on this one. She mentions a wedding, which is a setting where the chicken dance is likely to come out every now and then. Off to a good start.
Track 4: exile
Right now you're thinking "wow, so Taylor Swift has cut the perfect [chicken] dance album?" - but that changes on track four. There's too much sombre piano and guest vocalist Bon Iver’s voice is a bit too deep. It does not make me want to dance.
Track 5: my tears ricochet
This opens with a choral section, and it doesn't fill me with high hopes that I'll be able to dance to it. The vocal melody, however, is quite nice and gives a lot more to work with. The song continues to build in scale, adding many new rhythms, including a synth bassline that's very easy to chirp along to. It’s at its best whenever Taylor’s vocals are present, but you can still dance along to it.
Track 6: mirrorball
Yeah, you can do the chicken dance to this. It’ll have more of a sedated 90s vibe, but a grungier version of the chicken dance is still unmistakably the chicken dance.
Track 7: seven
The name of the album is "folklore", and this is the track where Swift's album is at it's folkiest. She’s even singing about folk songs in this one. It's lovely but, you know, you can't really chicken dance to it. Not sure what Taylor Swift expects me to do with this one.
Track 8: august
The next song has the same problem, yet the opposite too. 'august' isn't a folk song, but you can't really chicken dance to it either. It’s a bit too alterna-pop for that. It has more in common with a Ben Folds album than a "kids birthday party greatest hits" cd.
Track 9: this is me trying
We're definitely in the moodier parts of the album now, and I’d given up hope that this one would let me boogie, but it really came together. It's one of the few tracks - perhaps the only one - to feature some kind of horn section. It's not the easiest track to dance to but not the hardest either.
Track 10: illicit affairs
She’s definitely not having a love affair with a certain poultry-based dance on this one.
Track 11: invisible string
The tempo is quite suitable on track 11, but unfortunately it’s just not in the right key for me to do the chicken dance. I don’t know why this isn’t more or a problem throughout the album, which I now get the sense was not composed to be chicken danced to, but in any case, the vibe on this one definitely isn't quite right.
Track 12: mad woman
Brilliant. It's very easy to move to, and this may be a stretch, but the melody sounds a little bit like the chicken dance to me. Again, I know nothing about music, but it’s the closest I can imagine anything on this album being to that of the classic, beloved chicken dance song.
Track 13: epiphany
Completely the wrong feel. Taylor clearly didn’t write this hoping to create a new dance craze - or even reappropriate an existing one (ie. the chicken dance).
track 14: betty
Late in the album, this is a step back in the right direction, but the harmonica does it no favors. This is my housemate's favourite track on the album, but I don't think he's a very good dancer. If he hit the d-floor, he'd probably try and pull off some cringe disco moves. It's a no from me.
track 15: peace
This penultimate track is not about spreading peace throughout the world by uniting the song in chicken dance. "peace" is too minimalist, too interetsed in sonic textures, to convincingly perform the chicken dance along to.
Track 16: hoax
Some albums go for a big finale, a real showstopper. Here, Taylor has gone for something quieter, more meditative, in-line with the emotional tone for the previous 15 songs. That's fine, and I'm sure that this will ultimately be seen as the right decision, creatviely speaking. But I'd hoped for a little more.
All in all, the album is very good. Taylor Swift, perhaps more than any artist today, sings from the heart; she has a way of expressing the sincerity in every word she sings, like it's come direct from her own diary and not the labour of teams of ace songwriters, musicians and producers. Nothing on folklore is as great to chicken dance along to as "Shake It Off" but I don't think that's her intention either.