Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’: The Risk and Rewards of a Pandemic Album

Hello and welcome to, I dunno, day 139 of the Covid-19 lockdown. March 152nd. Revolution is in the air, and celebrities—the people who would normally be playing festivals or releasing big summer movies right now—have been left to their own devices. For many, that means subjecting themselves to awkward Zoom interviews and Instagram Lives; for others, it’s spending far too much time on social media. For Taylor Swift, it means writing and recording an entire album in just a few months and executing an out-of-nowhere record release, complete with cardigans.

Yes, this morning Swift (presumably) picked up her iPhone, cracked her knuckles, and gave the people what they want—nay, need—announcing on Instagram and Twitter that her eighth studio album, Folklore, would be available at midnight Eastern. Fans, naturally, freaked out. It’s been only one year since Swift released her last album, Lover; typically the wait for fresh chum from the singer is at least two. Not only that, the album features collaborations with Bon Iver and the National’s Aaron Dessner. It seems as though Swift—after three albums of pure pop—is pulling a reverse-Dylan, unplugging and returning to her Red roots. This is big.

But there’s something even more fascinating than the surprise drop. Those have been around for a while, and there’s still no one who can pull them off better than Beyoncé. What’s interesting is the screenshot press release Swift included in her post.

“Most of the things I had planned this summer didn’t end up happening, but there is something I hadn’t planned on that DID happen. And that thing is my 8th studio album, folklore. I wrote and recorded this music in isolation but got to collaborate with some musical heroes of mine,” she wrote. “Before this year I probably would’ve overthought when to release this music at the ‘perfect’ time, but the times we’re living in keep reminding me that nothing is guaranteed. My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world. That’s the side of uncertainty I can get on board with.”

Pandemic art has been around for as long as there have been artists and pandemics; Edvard Munch literally has a painting called Self-Portrait After the Spanish Flu. But the idea of the pandemic album feels somewhat new. While filmmakers are frantically trying to figure out how to make movies without touching, musicians have a little more leeway to create while in quarantine (although it’s not necessarily easy). Swift’s collaborator Bon Iver did it before it was cool. And according to Dessner, the Covid lockdown might’ve made Swift’s album happen even faster. In a tweet accompanying the album announcement Thursday morning, the National guitarist revealed that not only did he not hear from Swift about the project until April; they were able to finish the 11 songs they worked on for Folklore in rather rapid succession.

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/story/taylor-swift-folklore-album-date-release-pandemic