Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” on Disney+

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Illustration from Disney+ Twitter account, fair use

Addison Etnier, Staff Writer

On July 24th, Taylor Swift unexpectedly released a new album in the midst of a quarantine. It became 2020’s best-selling album and is one of Swift’s most popular.

Disney+ released a documentary about the album, titled “Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions.” It shows Swift meeting up in-person with the other writers/performers for the first time; they briefly discuss the inspiration and meaning of the song before it cuts to them performing it at the Long Pond Studio, and it even includes some clips that Swift filmed as she recorded the album.

The aesthetic of the documentary is very “cottagecore” as the internet would call it. Most of the pre-music video discussions take place outside the studio (which looks more like a modern cabin) where they are surrounded by nature. Swift’s outfit is casual and the room where they perform the songs is rustic. The tone is down-to-earth and perfectly matches the tone of the album.

The thematic focus of the album is explained casually and in-depth in the documentary. Swift talks about how when quarantine started, she just started writing songs for the fun of it. Several things came together and she created an album. Her songs have a heavy storytelling focus to them, some made up while others are deeply personal. The songs are about love and trust and the human experience, ideas that for many over the course of the past year have been brought into the spotlight.

The performances of the songs were very calming. Shot like a normal studio recording session, the camera often flipped between shots of Swift and her two musical partners. The videos for each song are visually very similar, but due to the songs all being extremely unique and requiring a different emotional focus from Swift, they were all uniquely entertaining. The highlight performance for me was “my tears ricochet,” which was emotionally charged with bitterness and regret.

The music choices in the album were interesting. Most of the songs are placed in Swift’s lower range, whereas previous songs are usually higher. The accompaniments are simple yet powerful. The videos feel like lullabies, with their softer tones and steady rhythms. The new album is stylistically reminiscent of her earlier music, but with less naïveté and more serious tones.

“The Long Pond Studio Sessions” documentary is comfortable. It is deep and thought-provoking. Swift’s mid-pandemic album alone is stunning and insightful, but the documentary adds a whole new layer to the songs. It provides the listener with the backstory and its deeper meaning in an aesthetically approachable way that is casual yet artistic. “Folklore” was born out of a natural personal response to what artists feel during a pandemic while they’re left alone to themselves. “If we’re gonna have to recalibrate everything, we should start with what we love the most,” Swift says five minutes into the documentary. In a year where new artistic media has been scarce, Taylor Swift pulls through with a release that tells a genuine story, all while helping others discover their own emotions.