Watch out, world: Taylor Swift swears now.
Her surprise new album folklore, which dropped at midnight Thursday, East Coast time, with less than a day’s notice, is the first to sport a Parental Advisory label. Five songs feature lyrics with naughty words, including “bitch,” “shit,” and her favourite, “fuck.”
The superstar singer-songwriter has been very famous since she was a teenage country music phenomenon, her image is American as apple pie and just as sweet (at least until she started singing about S-E-X in her twenties). She’s sworn on a song exactly once before — she says “shit” on Reputation in “I Did Something Bad.” (“Damn” is not a profanity, people.) But Tay Tay is a grown-ass woman now, and she’s got the Explicit tags on streaming services to prove it. And it absolutely rules.
folklore (the album and all song titles are in lowercase) is a lush, subdued, and gorgeous quarantine record, easily one of the best of her career. The National’s Aaron Dessner produced or co-produced and co-wrote around half the songs, Bon Iver guests, and of course there are some Jack Antonoff collabs in there too. According to Swift it’s a collection of stories she dreamed up in isolation — a love triangle, war, and affairs spanning years — though that won’t stop Swifties sifting through every word looking for autobiographical detail. For the slightly more casual listener, though, it’s easy to miss some of that delicious cussing the first time around. So here are the songs where America’s sweetheart racks up a modest debt to the swear jar.
1. “the 1”
Straight out the gate: in the literal first line of the entire album. Is it a subtle nod to her old nemesis Kanye (who in the midst of an apparent breakdown this week promised an album that hasn’t materialised)? He used an almost identical line on a 2006 mixtape.
I’m doing good, I’m on some new shit
Been saying “yes” instead of “no”
taylor cursing within the first few minutes THIS ALREADY BETTER THAN LOVER
— ryan (@starvingvirgin) July 24, 2020
2. ”the last great american dynasty”
“Did Taylor just say ‘bitch’?” Damn right she did. On this, one of the album’s relatively upbeat moments, Swift pays tribute to Rebekah “Betty” West Harkness, the legendary composer and heiress who used to live in the Rhode Island mansion Swift bought in 2013. Harkness and her girlfriends called themselves the “Bitch Pack,” which must have delighted Swift, the infamous leader of her own Girl Squad.
Rebekah gave up on the Rhode Island set forever
Flew in all her Bitch Pack friends from the city
3. “mad woman”
At track 12, there’s this quietly furious ode to women who are branded angry and crazy, sporting a delicate, sad piano you’d expect to hear on a Sufjan Stevens track. It’s almost certainly the song Taylor describes as being about “a misfit widow getting gleeful revenge on the town that cast her out.”
Do you see my face in the neighbor’s lawn?
Does she smile?
Or does she mouth, “Fuck you forever”?
in my teens? taylor said “damn” in my 20s? “fuck” its called growth sweety !!!
— Catherine Cohen (@catcohen) July 24, 2020
The old Taylor came to the phone for this highlight: homeroom, skateboards, longing looks, a distinctly countryish harmonica. But then right there in the chorus, in a hypothetical confrontation at a high school party, there’s that next F-bomb.
But if I just showed up at your party
Would you have me?
Would you want me?
Would you tell me to go fuck myself?
The soulful, spare penultimate track takes us out on a lower-key curse, as Swift pleads with and apologises to a lover, promising love and support but not smooth sailing. Same, tbh.
Your integrity makes me seem small
You paint dreamscapes on the wall
I talk shit with my friends, it’s like I’m wasting your honor
Don’t worry, parents: If you’re not a fan of profanity, or don’t fancy your eight-year-old singing “Fuck you forever” into her hairbrush, there’s also a clean version on both Apple Music and Spotify. But trust me: Curse words make everything better.
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