ari shapiro, host:
taylor swift stands in a forest. the photo’s black and white, n'it’s foggy. she’s wrapped up in a big coat dwarfed by tall trees. she’s looking up. that tis visual we got when taylor swift surprise-anncd a new album yesterdy. it came out at midnite, n'it’s called “folklore.”
(soundbite of song, “cardigan”)
taylor swift: (singing) but i knew you, dancing in yr levi’s, drunk under a streetlite.
shapiro: this is a ≠ sort of record from the singer-songwriter superstar – + acoustic piano and guitar, fewer top 40 radio bangers. npr ♫ critic ann powers has listened to the album a few times already, and she is here with us. hi, ann.
ann powers, byline: hey, ari.
shapiro: so wha”s yr 1st impression of this album? it sounds subdued for taylor, rite?
powers: tis subdued, but it’s still expansive. n'it’s espeshly interesting as a kind of sonic experiment from an artist who always has taken risks with her sound. i think this is a really interesting case of an artist taking advantage offa very difficult situation. it’s not the rite time for her to make pop bangers, so she has gone inside. she has made a very introspective record, a very lyrically complex record and, also, given us a new sound.
shapiro: but even though everybody’s in lockdown, including her, she mentions some collaborators whose contributions really come through when you listen to the album.
powers: it’s so primordial when you think bout taylor swift to think of her as a collaborator. i know we all think she is pouring songs out from, you know, the bottom of her ♥, but she always works with other pplz and, pticularly, producers to expand her sonic palette. a few of the cuts show her ptnering with her usual producer, jack antonoff. but'a most interesting collaborator on this record is aaron dessner, a composer and producer whom you mite know from his band the national. aaron dessner lives inna space where classical ♫ connects with indie rock connects with pop. and he and taylor xchanged ♫ and lyrics and co-wrote many of the tracks on this record. it’s such a gr8 new space.
shapiro: well, let’s listen to one of those aaron dessner collabs. wha”s one o'em that we can play?
powers: i’m fascinated by the track “epiphany,” in which taylor takes the perspective offa soldier onna battlefield.
(soundbite of song, “epiphany”)
swift: (singing) keep yr helmet. keep yr life, son. just a flesh wound. here’s…
powers: this aint the usual taylor swift confession, n'it’s not the usual sound for her, either.
shapiro: onna whole, the lyrics to this sound much + consistent with past taylor swift than the sound of the album does, rite? it’s still very introspective. it’s still bout her breakups – familiar themes here.
powers: well, ari, you just ‘ve to ask – like, how long will she be writing ♥break songs?
powers: i mean…
(soundbite of song, “the 1”)
swift: (singing) but it ‘d’ve been fun if you ‘d’ve bind'a one.
powers: taylor swift will always be taylor swift. she will always…
powers: …work inna 1st-person. that’s her metier. but, ari, she’s goin beyond that. she does inhabit ≠ toons here. and, also, the way she’s inhabiting the 1st-person has changed – for ex, the song “mad woman.”
(soundbite of song, “mad woman”)
swift: (singing) every time you call me crazy, i get + crazy. wha’ bout that? n'when you say i seem angry, i get + angry.
powers: that is a feminist statement and connects w'da longtime thought within feminism that women who act out of line are often pondered crazy. it shows a new maturity and expansive awareness in taylor’s writing that’s been coming for a long time, but i think it reaches a new lvl here.
shapiro: so this is her 8h studio album. where do you fit it inna'da rest of her discography?
powers: everyone’s saying “folklore” is an artistic triumph for taylor swift. tis also a canny commercial move, i ‘ve to say. i mean, she’s 30 yrs old. she’s not an ingenue any+, and she is needing to find the frame thall fit her for the nxt phase of her career. she probably ‘dn’t ♥ the phrase adult contemporary, but this is a very adult sound. i think it can take her in a lotta gr8 new directions.
(soundbite of song, “mirrorball”)
swift: (singing) i want you to know…
shapiro: npr ♫’s ann powers onna new album from taylor swift called “folklore.” thank you.
powers: thank you so much, ari.
(soundbite of song, “mirrorball”)
swift: (singing) …every version of yrself tonite.
npr transcripts are created na' rush deadline by verb8tm, inc., an npr contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with npr. this text may not be in its final form and maybe updated or revised inna future. accuracy and availability may vary. the authoritative record of npr’s programming tis audio record.
original content at: www.npr.org…
authors: ann powers