Last year, the Jonas Brothers released their first studio album in a decade, which promptly broke my brain. At that time, I decided to travel back in time and ask my 14 year-old self—at the height of my JoBros infatuation—to review the Happiness Begins album – and, unsurprisingly, it was a big hit.
Taylor Swift, peer to the Jonas Brothers (and Joe’s one-time ex) also released an album in 2019, called Lover. It has a few hits, and I’d overall rate it as “lovely.” Lover did not motivate me to time travel in the same way as Happiness Begins. But last week, Taylor dropped a surprise album called folklore, written and recorded entirely in quarantine, and somewhat evocative of her Speak Now era.
The album Speak Now was critical to my teenage years, and is one that was played on repeat driving my first car around Wyomissing, Pennsylvania—also Swift’s hometown. All of this is to say, I decided to travel through time once more, and get my teen self’s take on folklore.
2020 Erin: Hey Erin, it’s me, again.
2010 Erin: Oh my gosh, you scared me! Wait, why are you back? Did the Jonas Brothers… die or something?
20E: No, they’re fine.
10E: Is it something about me? What’s happened since 2019?
20E: (sighs) You don’t want to know.
10E: Hold on a sec—why are you wearing a mask?
20E: It’s for your protection, and for mine. Enough questions! The reason I’m here is because Taylor Swift just put out a new album while in quarantine—
10E: Quarantine!? What does THAT mean? Does the world end or something?
20E: (rubs eyes in despair) You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.
10E: Okay, so Taylor put out a new album….
20E: And I want you to listen to it! Being a Taylor fan in your time is incredibly formative, and I know you’re going through a lot right now… trying to get into college, trying to get a boyfriend….
10E: Okay, but I like, don’t need a boyfriend.
20E: I know you don’t.
10E: But like, do I get a boyfriend this year?
20E: Erin. Are we really gonna do this?
10E: Sorry, go ahead and play it.
(20E takes out her iPhone.)
10E: That’s what iPhones look like in 2020?? I just got my first iPhone! That phone looks so big!
20E: Yeah, you can hardly fit them into your pocket, it’s kind of annoying, actually. Alright, first up: “the 1.” I need you to know all of the song titles are written entirely lowercase.
10E: Taylor swears!?
20E: It’s gonna happen a few more times, so buckle up.
10E: I like this. It’s… sweet.
20E: Who are you thinking about right now?
10E: …[name of my high school crush redacted]
10E: This is…moody! Dramatic! I feel like she’s either super peppy or writing a breakup song, and these are just so… deep!
20E: I know! It’s different for her, but also feels very authentic.
10E: What’s next?
10E: Already love the name! So this feels a little like “Mean,” but I like that it’s a complete story. Fun!
20E: Okay, here’s “exile.” I should warn you, this song features Bon Iver.
10E: Oh, I’ve heard of them!
10E: Damn, I really felt that one.
20E: Right? Right in your gut! Here’s the fifth track.
10E: Can I ask… who is Taylor dating right now?
20E: That’s complicated. Some think it’s this actor, Joe Alwyn. Some think a lot of the songs could be about Karlie Kloss, a model Taylor may or may not have dated.
10E: My mind is blown right now!
20E: Same, girl. Let’s check out “mirrorball.”
10E: This has a very 90s feel… like, Donna Lewis or The Cranberries. I really like this song! It makes me want to go into the park behind the Highlands and make out on a bench.
20E: “mirrorball” is one of my favorites on the album, too. So glad we have the same taste! This next song is another one of my favorites.
10E: A Pennsylvania reference!
20E: I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but she also put out a song about the Christmas tree farm.
10E: Finally acknowledging her Pennsylvania roots! And mentioning a haunted house, okay, this song is really good.
20E: And now, “august.”
10E: This feels very close to my current Taylor. I’d like to scream-sing this in the car with Alexa.
20E: Whew, eight tracks down, eight to go!
10E: Jeez, can we skip a few? I need to get to soccer practice!
20E: Oops, I forgot about that. Let’s skip ahead to “mad woman.”
10E: So I’m guessing we still don’t have a woman president in 2020?
20E: I can neither confirm nor deny… but let’s wrap this up with “betty.”
10E: AN F-BOMB??? FROM TAYLOR SWIFT??? And that key change! This one’s pretty romantic! Feels very high school.
20E: There is an entire discourse around this song, but you’re gonna have to wait until 2020 to understand the depth and impressive detective work greater Taylor fans will undergo.
10E: Well, I’m glad Taylor is still making music in 2020. Where does it rank for you in the Taylor discography?
20E: Hmm, hard to say. I’d probably say my rankings go 1989 (which will drop in 2014, you’re gonna love it), Speak Now, Red (which is coming next), folklore, Lover (2019), Fearless, Taylor Swift, and then Reputation (which was god awful).
10E: Is there any other reason why you’re here?
20E: In all honesty, I just wanted to get out of my room for a little bit.
10E: What do you mean by that?
20E: I don’t want to bum you out, but there’s something really big and crazy that’s going to change everything in 10 years… and unfortunately you aren’t a virologist, so you won’t be able to stop it. That’s all I’ll say. But if it makes you feel any better, everyone will be going through something at the same time. And then, Taylor Swift will drop an album that makes you feel like she’s really going through it, too. It’ll help!
10E: Wow, you’re really making me not want to grow up.
20E: Hang in there, kid! Enjoy these next 10 years! 2020 is a shitshow!
10E: I forget if I asked this last time… have the Bills won the Super Bowl yet?
20E: No, we’re still waiting. But I love where your head’s at.