‘Folklore’, a word that up until July solely meant “the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth,”, created a new pathway to the vulnerability of fictional storytelling for Taylor Swift. Life changed and so did she. No longer does she rely on purely autobiographical accounts but rather a way of expressing her emotions and memories through the motion of tales. In order to bring this record to life Swift has taken the idea of a live stream and has replaced it for a Disney Plus special.
After a quick intro, the special starts to play and there we see Swift sitting with Aaron Dessner (The National and co-writer on ‘Folklore) and Jack Antonoff (Bleachers and long-time collaborator of Swift). A setting so natural that one could mistake the viewer for intruding a sacred happening. The trio laugh, talk and provide a comfortable atmosphere. Swift quickly laughs whilst mentioning, “Turns out everyone needed a good cry just like us.” And that is how the hour and 46 minutes special begins, a cottage in the middle of the woods so vulnerable that one might think we’d gotten transported to a fairy tale world.
‘The Last Great American Dynasty’ is what Antonoff describes as the ultimate ‘Folklore’ track. The duality of using the symbolism of the mythology of the socialite and previous homeowner of Taylor Swift’s “Holiday House” in Rhode Island, Rebekah Harkness and the comparison of Swift’s own reality that gets linked in the last verse. Whilst performing the 30-year-old’s sly smile and eager eyes create the perfect mystique that lifts it to a whole other level.
Right before Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver appears on our screen to sing a version of ‘Exile’ Swift reveals that co-writer William Bowery is her boyfriend Joe Alwyn. A fact that was already known by her co-writers, even if Antonoff plays the bit of a surprised collaborator left in the dark. As quickly as this revelation makes us swoon and get lost in a romance trance, the realisation of her explanation of ‘My Tears Ricochet’ hits. “In all the superhero stories the hero’s greatest nemesis is the villain that used to be his best friend,” is how Taylor Swift describes the heart-breaking track that references the betrayal of former record label boss Scott Brochetta. A betrayal that is still current as Swift’s eyes translate the intensity of the situation by painful longing and a slight underlying hatred apparent through her stares into the camera. She even adds the lyrics “Look at how my tears turn into your tears,”, and takes a deep sigh when the last pair of words leave her mouth.
Swift’s 8th album is compounded of a wide emotional spectrum, one that more often than not leans towards the sadder end whilst trying to lighten the sombre mood with complicated love triangles between three teenagers. In her mind, Betty ends up with James but “he really put her through it” and goes on to say that “The notion that there is a villain girl is a total myth.” The storytelling of these three songs ‘Cardigan’, ‘August’ and ‘Betty’ lives in a ‘50s retro-film world where everything is beautifully melancholic.
The infiltration of a cosy cottagecore aesthetic alongside deep-insightful conversations with Antonoff and Dessner makes this docu-concert unlike any other. This new direction Swift has taken has provided a new level of eternalness and made her levitate above what was once known as the pop-sphere she belonged to. The fragility of ‘Folklore’ is the underlying power that is felt throughout but the positivity this trio possesses makes the emotions flow in together and therefore exhilarates it to everyone who lays their eyes on this production.
This combination of power and emotions all gets mixed together in the last song ‘The Lakes’. And as the world closes in, the studio disappears in the distance and the last notes are playing we wonder if Taylor Swift might actually follow her lyricism that has been staggering her song writing since she was 20 or if the peace of disconnecting in her mind will be enough for her to keep writing and performing her wonderful, magical music in the public eye forever.
Text by: Lauren Dehollogne