“Take Me to the Lakes…”

Taylor Swift captivates her audience with a new concert film on Disney+.

After+the+change+of+plans+for+her+original+schedule+for+2020%2C+singer+and+songwriter+Taylor+Swift+worked+to+find+a+way+to+still+connect+with+her+fans+amidst+the+COVID-19+pandemic+since+she+was+unable+to+tour.+One+solution+was+to+produce+a+concert+film+for+Disney%2B%2C+which+was+released+on+Nov.+24.

Courtesy of Taylor Swift's Twitter

After the change of plans for her original schedule for 2020, singer and songwriter Taylor Swift worked to find a way to still connect with her fans amidst the COVID-19 pandemic since she was unable to tour. One solution was to produce a concert film for Disney+, which was released on Nov. 24.

Since I was around three years old, Taylor Swift’s music has been a significant source of comfort for me as I grow up and go through life. Her latest album, “folklore”, came out at a time when I felt so lost, alone, and scared and having that source of familiarity really helped. Through the poetic lyrics and unwinding instrumentals, it felt almost like an old friend hugging me and telling me everything was going to be okay. Thus, it quickly became one of my favorite albums that she has created (“Speak Now” will never be topped in my opinion).

Even though I have been a fan for 14 years, I’ve still never been able to see Taylor Swift in concert due to a variety of reasons. However, with the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, more and more music artists have used them to their advantage to upload documentaries and concerts so fans can have easier access to seeing performances, this includes Swift. Between her “Reputation” concert on Netflix and the “City of Lover” concert that was formerly on Disney+, she has been able to provide me and millions of other fans the ability to experience what used to only happen in our dreams. So on Nov. 24 when she announced she would be releasing “folklore: the long pond studio sessions”, a concert-like, behind-the-scenes film focused on “folklore” that night at midnight pst, it’s safe to say I was pretty excited. So with my cardigan on, at 2:00am, I pulled up the film on my phone and clicked play.

The film started with a little bit of a background information on “folklore”, an album that was a complete surprise to everyone. Taylor Swift wasn’t supposed to release an album this year, but she was so inspired by the books and movies she had been consuming during quarantine that she constructed an album full of stories of people that she had created in her own mind. This is something she references a few times throughout the film.

On July 23 Taylor Swift posted this photo on her social medias along with a short message announcing the release of her eighth studio album “folklore”. The album dropped at midnight that night (est) and came as a complete surprise. (Courtesy of Taylor Swift’s Twitter)

The bulk of the film was Swift doing a rundown one-by-one of each of the songs on the album and explaining the meaning and story behind them before playing an acoustic version of the songs with her co-producers, Aaron Dessner (The National) and Jack Antonoff (Bleachers). In general, I love hearing what artists and authors were inspired by when creating their work, so all of these anecdotes and messages really made me look a little bit closer at the songs I already loved and made me appreciate the ones I was a little more wary on more. Hearing Swift speak and confirm what each song was about was especially important because unlike her previous albums, the overwhelming majority of the songs on “folklore” were not based on her life, so you couldn’t just find the information in a tabloid. 

Some of the meanings behind the songs were a little bit surprising. For me, I’ve always thought of the song “seven” as sort of past-tense lovesong between childhood friends, one of which in an abusive home. Especially with the sort of hushed sound and the second half of the song having lines like “…I think your house is haunted, your dad is always mad…”, “…I think you should come live with me and we can be pirates then you won’t have to cry…”, and “…we’ll hide in the closet…”, this seemed to be a pretty obvious interpretation. In the film, however, Swift stated that the song was actually inspired by seeing children through temper tantrums in grocery stores and a thought process leading from that visual of “When does that mindset stop?”

I’m not mad at that, though, it was just a bit surprising as I thought the abuse interpretation was a clear intention. That just goes to show how hearing the backstories of music can change perspectives and how everyone interprets music differently. That’s why films like this one are so interesting, they provide clarity you otherwise wouldn’t get unless you went to a concert.

Another fun aspect of this film is the fact that all the music is performed acoustically. In the studio album, you can hear several string instruments in the backgrounds of some songs and in others a little bit of synths, but in the film recordings the only instruments are acoustic guitar, piano, and a little bit of percussion. The limited amount of instruments combined with the raw emotion of Swift’s voice really brings the album to a whole new level. In all honesty, I prefer the acoustic version of some of the songs over the studio versions for the emotional aspect of them alone. In an album filled with so much storytelling, emotion can really add a new element that can enchant the listener. And with Swift’s breathtaking lyrics, the combination is so powerful.

One small detail many viewers might miss if they turned off the film when the credits started (if you did you missed out on some cute videos of her cats) is that the film was produced by Taylor Swift Productions. That’s right, she has her own production company now. It’s something so little but makes me smile so wide because of how much Swift’s said owning her own work is important to her. With everything that’s happened in the past year with her former record label and Scooter Braun, seeing her not only be the producer of her own music but also music videos and films makes me so proud to call myself her fan. She’s truly changing the music industry for the better and this film is only a little part of that.

Overall, I feel like this film was very well executed. The scenery and style of performance fit the tone of the album well and there were a lot of great discussions between swift and her fellow musicians. It was really nice to be able to hear live performances of “folklore” too since that feels like an album that she most likely wouldn’t tour for or would have a very small amount of seats available for a tour venue. That’s why I’m so appreciative of artists like Taylor Swift, they understand that concerts and tours may be inaccessible for a lot of fans and this film is a prime example of her trying to fix that. 

 

Click here to watch the trailer for “folklore: the long pond studio sessions”.