By J1 Reporter Reagan Rosenbaum
Folklore: the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth. Folklore comes in all forms including folk tales, folk songs, and fairy tales.
But in recent years, Folklore has been defined as music artist Taylor Swift’s eighth studio album. On July 23, 2020, Swift announced on social media that she would be releasing Folklore, an album full of songs that range from fictional stories to songs about her own personal experiences.
Swift explained that she began writing the album during the lockdown that followed the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This album came as a big surprise to fans, featuring a whole new sound that was completely different from the country and pop albums fans were accustomed to.
Along with the album, Swift released a film titled “Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions.” Since the album was released during quarantine, she never had the opportunity to perform the songs live. By releasing the sessions, it gave her the perfect way to share such a special album with her fans.
When I first started listening to Swift’s music in April of 2021, I was not aware that she had made the film. I had never been much of a fan before her re-recording of her 2008 album Fearless came out; not even a casual listener. So when I discovered I could listen to one of my favorite albums live, I was ecstatic.
The film opens with Swift explaining how she was making the record; she had never recorded an album without actually being in a studio before, it was all very new and uncertain for her. The scene then changes and the camera pans across Long Pond Studios, located in upstate New York. The scene changes again and then the audience meets the creators of the record: Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner.
The intimacy of this film is something that you don’t typically see when watching a concert on television. I almost felt as though I was sitting there with the three of them having a conversation about the album and unraveling what the songs are about.
Hearing the songs live versus hearing the recorded version felt like I was listening to the album all over again. I also really enjoyed the way Swift decided to change how she sang some of the notes in the live versions. I saw it as a way to make the experience that much more special for listeners.
Between each song, Swift would sit down and talk with Antonoff and Dessner about the inspiration for that certain song and sometimes the route they took to create it. One of the things I loved the most about these explanations is that Swift revealed this is one of the first albums she felt like she didn’t have to make 100% autobiographical. To me it was her way of saying that she is tired of following the narrative of “someone broke my heart and I wrote a song about it.” She has definitely started to take control of what she wants and not what others want from her; it’s inspiring.
After the explanation for a song was done, the scene would change to the three of them actually in the studio performing said song. The whole way the show was filmed made me feel like I was in the same room as some of the brightest minds in music today. I found myself smiling a lot during the film, specifically when she sang “Mad Woman.”
Swift revealed that this song is about someone who she felt was gaslighting her. She said: “oftentimes when we [women], in our enlightened state…respond to bad male behavior, or somebody just doing something that was absolutely out of line…that response is treated like the offense itself.”
Since Swift has never outright said who her songs are about, fans have speculated that this song is about Scooter Braun, her previous manager whom she accused of being a manipulative bully. For important background, Scooter Braun’s company, Ithaca Holdings, acquired Big Machine Label Group. Big Machine owned all of Swift’s masters, otherwise known as the original recordings, from her first six albums. This meant that by purchasing Big Machine Records, Scooter Braun now owned all of her work.
Swift was outraged over this, betrayed. She had always wanted to own her work; it was one of her conditions on joining her current record label, but Braun beat her to it. This is the entire reason she is re-releasing all of her old work; she wants it to be hers. The funniest part of the whole situation is that Braun didn’t think she would actually do it. But if there is one thing that I know about Taylor Swift, it is that you can never underestimate her.
This is why it made me so happy to see her singing this song the way she did. To me it felt as though she was finally gaining the upper hand over Braun, she isn’t afraid anymore. I started laughing when she looked straight into the camera and sang a certain part of the song. I could feel that she meant every single thing she was singing, and I admire that about her.
When the final song was performed, I found myself wanting more. It was one of those things that I never wanted to end. Because of it, I really enjoy the times I have been able to go back and rewatch it. One of my hopes has been that she would release a “Long Pond session” for her other album, Evermore, which was created the exact same way Folklore was. But, we have yet to see any concrete sign that it might be coming.
Overall, watching this film was one of the best experiences I have had. The run time is 1 hour and 45 minutes, it is rated TV-14, but every single minute is worth it. While this film is only available on Disney+, if you have the ability to watch it, I highly recommend you do. I honestly believe it helped me fall in love with her music more than I thought I could.