This week Taylor Swift premiered a special presentation of her latest album, ‘Folklore’, on Disney+. Filmed at Long Pond studios in upstate New York, which is essentially a Pinterest-friendly cabin in the woods kitted out with instruments and microphones, the special features her performing each track on the album with co-writers and producers Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner.
As well as blessing us with her beautiful vocals, the show features Swift talking through the writing process and production of each song, giving the audience some incredible insight into how Folklore was born. The album, released in July, was created entirely in quarantine from Swift’s house.
If you don’t have a Disney+ membership or just can’t be bothered to watch, here’s everything we learned from folklore: the long pond studio sessions.
Taylor’s boyfriend co-wrote two songs on Folklore
When the album first dropped, fans noticed that someone named William Bowery was credited on the songs ‘Exile’ and ‘Betty’. Some people thought this could be a pseudonym for Joe Alwyn, a British actor and Swift’s boyfriend of four years.
But honestly, we don’t know much about him and their relationship, and certainly didn’t think he was interesting enough to pen two of the best songs on the album.
But in the Disney+ special, Swift confirmed that William Bowery is, in fact, Joe Alwyn. She says she heard him singing the chorus of ‘Betty’, fully-formed, from another room.
“I came in, and I was like, ‘Hey, this could be really weird, and we could hate this, so because we’re in quarantine and there’s nothing else going on, could we just try to see what it’s like if we write this song together?’,” she said.
She (maybe) wrote a song about ex-friend Karlie Kloss
While Swift didn’t confirm this by naming names, many fans think that Swift’s explanation for the song ‘Hoax’ makes it seem like it’s about Karlie Kloss.
The pair were BFFs until they suddenly stopped hanging out around 2016, when Swift had her infamous ‘Snapchatgate’ showdown with Kanye and Kim.
In conversation with Aaron Dessner in the special, Swift said that ‘Hoax’ is about three different relationships, including “a sort of relationship that I consider to be family, but that really hurt”.
She references the line “you know it still hurts underneath my scars from when they pulled me apart”, adding “anyone who knows anything about my life knows who I’m talking about there”.
“You let someone in, and they get to know you, and they know exactly what buttons to push to hurt you the most.”
Again, it’s all speculation, but it could be about Kloss, considering the pair were so close then never spoke again.
Taylor built a studio in her house
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Swift couldn’t record any of her songs at real recording studios. So she built one in her guest bedroom, as she revealed at the beginning of the special.
She says that she had to keep the door open while recording because her cats kept wandering in and out of the room. In the album’s liner notes, it’s credited as being recorded at Kitty Committee Studios.
Taylor named the ‘other woman’ in the Betty/James love triangle
When Folklore was first released, Swift revealed that three tracks –– ‘Cardigan’, ‘August’, and ‘Betty’ –– were all linked, providing three different perspectives of a teenage love triangle. We knew that two of the teens were named James and Betty, thanks to lyrics, but the ‘other woman’ was never named. Swift admitted that in her head she’s been calling her Augustine or Augusta.
She says that she thinks Betty and James end up together in the end. “In my head, she ends up with him, but he really put her through it,” she explained.
The bridge of ‘Mirrorball’ references her 2020 shows being cancelled
In the special, Swift reveals that the song ‘Mirrorball’ is about the concept of celebrity. “We have people like that in society,” she said. “They hang there, and every time they break, it entertains us. When you shine a light on them, it’s this glittering, fantastic thing, but then a lot of the time when the spotlight isn’t on them, they’re still there up on a pedestal, but nobody’s watching them.”
She added that she wrote the bridge of the song –– “I’m still trying everything / To keep you looking at me” –– after her Loverfest tour was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Swift said she felt she still had to do something to entertain people.
Swift has been wanting to write about Rebekah Harkness since 2013
‘The Last Great American Dynasty’ is a song about the eccentric socialite and oil heir widow, Rebekah Harkness, who owned Swift’s Rhode Island mansion in the 1950s.
Swift said that she’s been wanting to write a song about Harkness for years, but never found a way to fit it onto any album.
“I’d never found the right way to do it, because there was never a track that felt like it could hold an entire story of somebody’s life and move between generations,” Swift explained.
She likened the track to classic country songs which seemingly tell a story about someone else, before looping back around to reveal they’re actually about the artist themselves.
Taylor’s record label had no idea the album was coming
Swift made Folklore in secret, over video call with Antonoff and Dessner, over the space of a few months. She recorded the album, made lyric videos and did photoshoots for the album art before even telling her record label about it.
When she approached them with the finished product, less than a week before releasing the surprise album, she was nervous that they’d have issues with it. But “it was amazing,” she revealed. “My label was like, ‘Whatever you wanna make, we’re down.'”
Considering how much money she makes them, it’s not all too surprising they were keen.
Most of the album isn’t about her
Swift says that by writing songs about fictional characters and situations, she relieved a lot of pressure from herself: “I think that’s been my favourite thing about this album, is that it’s allowed to exist on its own merit without it just being, ‘Oh, people are listening to this because it tells them something they could read in a tabloid.'”
‘The Lakes’ really captures the whole vibe of the album
The album’s bonus track, ‘The Lakes’ is about wanting to escape to the Lakes District in England, a place she visited years ago with Alwyn.
She explained: “It kind of is the overarching theme of the whole album, of trying to escape, having something you want to protect, trying to protect your own sanity, and saying, ‘Look, they did this hundreds of years ago. I’m not the first person who’s felt this way.'”
“I think the idea of getting away and figuring out how to remove the things that are not working in one’s life is the story of this [pandemic],” Jack added.
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