By: Savannah Friedman and Eloise McDonald
Folklore, Taylor Swift’s eighth studio album, has been a major sensation in the music world. The album has been at the top of the Rolling Stone chart for more consecutive weeks than any other album in the chart’s history. Swift had a surprise release of this album on July 4, 2020 and wrote and recorded it all during quarantine. This has been Swift’s first alternative album and has sixteen tracks and a bonus track. Taylor Swift shares that this is her first album where it felt as if she did not need to write her songs 100% autobiographically. She thought that listeners did not just need to hear a story that they could read in a tabloid. Swift’s idea was that there is more to song writing than just writing about her own experience. She had decided to write like this because she had been in Lock Down reading and watching movies. Writing in this way was a completely new experience for Swift. Throughout quarantine the album felt like a flotation device for her to not lose her mind in the hectic year of 2020.
Taylor Swift once again surprised the world with a post on November 24, 2020 announcing that she and Disney+ were coming out with a new documentary performing the album’s songs and talking about the meanings of each individual piece.
Over the summer she virtually recorded the new album with her producers. They used new technology that allowed it to sound as if they were next to each other. In this documentary they recorded the songs again, in person, at the Long Pond Studio. Two of her producers, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, accompanied her in recording. This album was lighter and airier than her past albums, taking a large step away from her last pop album, Lover. This change in tone was reflected in the instruments used. The guitar and piano were the most used instruments. For example, Invisible String, a song from the album, used a special type of guitar to bring the music to life. The guitar is one from the 50’s that has been redone with a rubber bridge that deadens the strings.
One interesting song from the album is Epiphany. This song truly encapsulates the feeling of loss that we have felt during this pandemic. When Swift first heard the piece she thought about her grandfather’s experience from WWII, and how he never spoke about his time defending his country. This led her to think about how bad an experience must have been to never want to share about it. She reflected on the research that her father and uncles had conducted on what he had been through and found that her grandad had been through one of the most horrible situations a human could possibly imagine, let alone experience. Taylor Swift’s mind then jumped to the trauma that first responders were going through during this pandemic and how most likely they would never want to talk about it. There is a great sense of harmony in Epiphany between current and past trauma and how we as humans get through it, pushing our emotions farther down than imaginable.
Hoax, another song from this album, embodies all of the important themes that the album showcases. Hoax is about multiple different situations in Swift’s life. One is a business situation, one is a situation about love, and one is a situation about someone who is considered family. Some of these scenarios are joyful and some stung her deeply to the point where she will never fully heal. Through the song it shows how love overcomes even the worst situations and experiences.
When Taylor Swift released the documentary she also released a new bonus track, The Lakes. The Lakes is based on the Lake District in England, a place where Swift visited a few years ago. The Lake District is a place where famous poets moved hundreds of years ago to escape from the constant spotlight and attention of fame, though they were made fun of for moving. In this piece, Swift relates to their feelings and actions. There is a complete sense of understanding and a feeling that Swift shares as not being the first celebrity to feel like escaping. She learns throughout the piece of not just escaping, but having someone important enough to escape with. Taylor Swift thought that Hoax was an interesting song to end on. However, The Lakes brought an overarching sense of completeness to the album.
The Folklore Long Pond Studio Sessions was an overall interesting documentary. It was an amazing look into the creation of Swift’s new album and all of the thought that went into it. Its main themes were uncertainty and how you can feel different ways about different situations and people, and how love always powers through and overcomes. As her Folklore album song, Seven, says, “Passed down like folk songs, our love lasts so long”.