Many of us used our time in lockdown to rediscover an old skill or perhaps to hone a new one. Nearly everyone baked. Some knitted, others took to Tiktok. Taylor Swift used her down time to write music, which, considering Folklore is her eighth studio album and she’s only 30 (but 31 next week!), it seems song writing is pretty much her default setting.
I have never considered myself a Taylor Swift fan but have really come to appreciate and admire her for her business savvy and her musicianship. Like a lot of us, both her job and her creativity were tested and inspired by being more restrictive in movement but more free with time. We had to find new ways of doing old things, and even Taylor Swift was not immune. But she didn’t let that stop her.
Over long distance, she not only wrote songs, but collaborated with longtime producer Jack Antonoff and new friend Aaron Dessner (of The National), recording separately, even putting up an impromptu recording studio in her own home for vocals. With others also cooling their heels, she also snagged a duet with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, which is good enough to make a fan out of anyone, I’d bet. Clearly there is a great deal of musical chemistry happening between these talented folks, making for an album that is different from Swift’s usual fare. This one’s a little more pulled back, telling stories from a more macro point of view rather than the personal, confessional stuff she usually writes (and believes fans expect), as she explores some indie and alt rock sounds.
In this Disney+ documentary, Swift, Antonoff, and Dessner are finally able to get together together and perform their new songs together, at the studio where they were mixed. Sitting fireside, Swift opens up, giving us insight into how each song was conceived, what her influences her, and who her muses were. One surprise collaborator turns out to be boyfriend Joe Alwyn, who apparently plays piano and has a lovely voice, but appears on the album under a pseudonym (look for “William Bowery”).
If you’re not a fan of Swift’s yet, well, that’s just it – you’re not a fan yet. But it’s getting harder and harder to resist.