I woke up on Tuesday morning to a text from my friend Jacqueline informing me that there was to be a new Taylor Swift doc/concert on Disney+ that night at midnight. I obviously flipped out.
Taylor Swift likes her sneaky premieres and surprises and after this post – fans thought something might be up, but most of the fan chatter was about her re-recording Red. I don’t know if anyone saw this one coming.
Like many millennials, I feel like I’ve grown up with Taylor Swift.
Her first four albums are the soundtrack to my summers at Camp Mi-A-Kon-Da. I cannot think about canoe trips without thinking about belting every word to the entire fearless album; I think about all the banquet song re-writes we did on swim staff (Mean was a particular favourite); I remember everyone piling onto my bunk in “cooks” cabin to listen to We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together the day it came out on someone’s Blackberry; and I cry every time I think about this song, these kids, and how I was so privileged to be one their counsellors:
The point here is that ‘Country’ Taylor is my favourite Taylor. I learned how to play guitar because I wanted to play Taylor Swift songs at camp. Anything that she creates that feels more stripped back always ends up being my favourite.
For the record my 1-7 order is this:
- 1 – Speak Now (SHE WROTE THE WHOLE THING!!!!!)
- 2 – Fearless (So many bangers/classics)
- 3 – Taylor Swift (The OG that started it all)
- 4 – Lover (This felt like a return to OG Taylor)
- 5 – 1989 (There are some solid hits, but also some skips)
- 6 – Red (I LOVE – All Too Well, 22, and Begin Again but honestly that’s it)
- 7 – Reputation (I think there are some bangers here that I absolutely love – but I like her stripped back stuff and this album as a whole was not that…)
BUT THEN on July 24th – the week of my birthday – she released her best album yet: forklore.
I don’t know how she does it – but she always manages to articulate how I feel about life in a way that I never could. She’s this mega-celebrity, but her lyrics and themes have always been so relatable – and by creating a quarantine album, she created the perfect soundtrack to a really difficult year.
The week folklore album came out, I must have listened to it on repeat hundreds of times. I went up to my cottage and just sat on my dock and cried with Taylor. Jacqueline and I actually spent two hours going song by song discussing every song in detail. I so desperately wished she could tour this – I’d give her all my money.
So this is why Jacqueline’s text made me flip out.
I don’t know if we’re calling it a ‘doc’ or a ‘concert film’ or really how to categorize what this is – but I don’t really care. It’s perfect. (It’s what Shawn Mendes wishes he could do…)
I’m assuming that anyone reading this has seen this, but if not – quick summary: Taylor and her two main collaborators, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff, go track by track and discuss how the song was written and then do a stripped back live performance of the song. It’s very well organized and I appreciate it 🤓.
So without further ado… I’ll follow that same format here and give you my hot takes as I had them
Intro – Of the top, the setting for this could not be more perfect. I want to move to the Long Pond Studio and sit around a campfire drinking white wine with my creative partners. I’m so glad she chose this location. What I loved most about this first chat is how they set up that this was a ‘Pandemic Album’. Taylor talks about being a person who always has a list (hello, hi that’s me!) and how the pandemic took away her purpose (again, hi, that’s me!) – which are themes I think a lot of people can relate to. I also appreciate how she understood the general mood of the world. We didn’t want an Gal Gadot Imagine, or a party album – what we all really wanted was a good cry:
the 1 – I’m really glad she’s on “some new shit” working with Dessner. I adore Antonoff – but I love that she’s trying something different and working with someone who knows how to do a quiet album. The National is an incredible band that understands how to create deeply moving, but relaxing sounds. I think Taylor needed this. If I was to give Taylor a critique – I want her to push this idea of ‘new shit’ and try working with women again! My friend Jenn pointed out that she did work with a female engineer on this, but I mean I want her to work with Liz Rose again. I’ve been asking for an acoustic album for years and this checks that box, but my second ask is to have her create an album exclusively with women. Album 9 🤞
cardigan – So like many of Taylor’s lead singles, I don’t love this song but this was a beautiful preformance.
the last great american dynasty – This was a great conversation between our three. I love this song and while this statement isn’t a huge revelation – “It’s not about you, but it’s all about you” – it’s true. In my dreams, we get a full true documentary about the life and times of Rebekah Harkness narrated by Taylor Swift.
exile (featuring bon iver) – so confession. I did not like this song. I love Bon Iver and I wanted to love it, I just couldn’t get into it. It was often a skip. However, after hearing how this song came together – it is a new favourite. We get confirmation that Taylor’s partner Joe Alwyn is William Bowery. The internet sleuths had figured this one out, but it’s interesting to hear what part of this song he contributed to and what parts Justin Vernon added. The bridge makes so much more sense now and I have such an appreciation for this song. The point – I have this on repeat:
my tears ricochet – just a stunning performance. The idea that she wrote this for people going through loss (like a divorce)… don’t mind me, my tears are just ricocheting in every direction.
mirrorball – ok I LOVED the conversation around this one. Much like exile, I was meh about this song – but I have a new appreciation for this song after this conversation. Again Taylor – how are you able to articulate how I feel so well. I’m not a sit back and do nothing person – I get it. Confession – I actually found myself getting jealous of her ability to create something meaningful during this crazy year. I also want to not sit back and do nothing – I wish I could “write an album” (for me – it would be producing a documentary) that resonates with my generation. She is just incredible and this song is just that much more meaningful now.
seven – “When did I stop being so outraged that I would throw myself on the floor and throw the cereal at my mom?” GREAT question Taylor. There are have been so many times this year that I’ve wanted to do that (but like… maybe not at my mom but at certain politicians…).
august – this has always been my go to song on this album. I spent all of August listening to august and I cannot think of a better summer 2020 song. It’s very Summertime Sadness if you know what I mean. But the real joy here is watching Antonoff play guitar… he’s just SO into it:
this is me trying – The everyday struggle, trying really hard – I think there are a lot of people who needed this song this year. It’s been so rough and it’s such a great song to again articulate this. I really think conversations about mental health are so important and having someone at Taylor’s level talk about how hard things can be is so critical. This conversation also hit a cord with me, when she shifted and started talking about achievements after school and how it’s hard to get that ‘gold’ star. Big fan.
illicit affairs – When she talks about watching movies and books and being inspired – I kept thinking about how wonderful Death By A Thousand Cuts was and how that song was inspired by a movie (Someone Great). Then I switch into my own head and start thinking ‘How cool would it be to create something that inspires someone like Taylor to make something like this’ and then I have to spend a good amount of time talking myself out of tears for not yet achieving that feat. Because the keyword here is yet… 😉
invisible string – I love this song so much. Really nerdy guitar chatter here – which I enjoyed. I have more questions about this 1950s guitar…
mad woman – Well hello Sc**ter… Sc*tt, I wondered when we’d be hearing about you. I think Taylor has a lot of reasons to be mad and I’m 👏 here 👏 for 👏 it 👏. Drag them.
epiphany – I fully sobbed through this whole conversation. I think because Taylor is only two years older than I am, many of her life experiences are universal to people in our generation. For example, with epiphany she talks about her grandfather in the war – well my grandfather was a WWII vet as were many of my great uncles. One of my great uncles was killed in the war when he was 19. In 2014, I went to Oxford and visited his grave and it was a deeply moving experience for me. I get it Taylor. It’s a lot. Then to have this battle analogy brought into 2020 with the battle against Covid-19 – well. Cue the tears. Just sobbing. Just give this girl her Grammy already!
betty – I remember the first time I heard this song. I think I texted multiple friends ‘THE OLD TAYLOR CAN COME TO THE PHONE RIGHT NOW!!!!'”. I love this song. But really – I should have texted “Joe can come to the phone right now.” My jaw was on the floor. I was never into the theory that this was from her perspective – and I love that this is a song from a male perspective. Now I just want to go to summer camp and hear the senior boys play this song at ‘closing campfire’. But in the meantime – this cover by New Hope Club will do the trick:
peace – obsessed. Dear John is one of my all-time favourite Taylor songs – probably because I actually love John Mayer’s music and the electric guitar is perfect. So – I love the tone of peace, because the bass is just perfect. But really what this song’s conversion illuminated is Dessner’s genius. I think his vulnerability in this conversation was so refreshing. I really hope that after this, all the Swifties move over and support him and his projects.
hoax – If anything, this conversation just reaffirmed how impressive her lexicon is. It’s the way she talks about the word ‘hoax’ and the ‘x’ sound. This full project showed the depth of her lexicon – but I think she really brought home that point with this ‘last’ track.
bonus track: the lakes – I wondered why this was a bonus track and not a part of the full album and while I get it, I really wish it was on the main album. Mostly because I just love the lakes and wanting to go to the lakes – because that’s what I did this summer. I got out of town as much as possible and lived on a lake. I could be someone who lives in the woods – so Taylor tell me what rustic town we’re re-establishing a creative enclave in and I’ll be there. Very happy to contribute to that community – you can get in touch with me here. I’ll follow up haha.
Overall – this project is so smart, well put together, and an instant classic.
I’ve already watched it three times, but I feel like I’ll come back to this and put it on when I need something on in the background. It is going to be something I’ll watch hundreds of times.
The way I’ve been describing it is ‘relaxing’. It truly is a glass of white wine after a long day curled up near a fire. Kudos Taylor + Team. You deserve all the love coming your way.
Here’s to you beating Justin (and by extension Sc**ter) at the Grammys.
folklore: the long pond studio sessions is now streaming on Disney+