The world’s biggest star has been busy during lockdown: Taylor Swift has announced she will surprise release her eighth album, Folklore, at midnight tonight.
The move is in stark contract to Swift’s usual modus operandi, which involves high-profile singles and media appearances before the release of an album. Record-breaking sales then usually follow.
Other big stars have used the surprise-drop tactic in the past, but most big releases have been pushed back while the world is on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. It's another clear sign of how Swift's deal with Universal's Republic Records is giving her more freedom than during her Big Machine days.
Writing on Instagram, Swift herself noted the change in approach.
“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 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.”
Nonetheless, there has clearly still been a fair degree of preparation for Folklore. Eight different deluxe CDs and eight different deluxe vinyl editions will be available, along with plenty of merch bundles.
That will offer a much-needed boost to the physical retail sector, under pressure since the lockdown closed record shops all over the world. And a surprise release from Swift could also be a contender to break streaming records as she goes head-to-head with the new album from her old adversary Kanye West, with his album Donda also due to drop tomorrow.
The album looks likely to be a departure from Swift’s recent all-conquering pop style, although her previous album, Lover, also featured several acoustic songs. The title and woodland pictures posted on Instagram suggest a folkier sound, backed up by her “musical heroes” collaborators on the album.
The National’s Aaron Dessner has co-written or produced 11 of the 16 songs, while Bon Iver has co-written and sings on one. William Bowery is a co-writer on two and Swift’s regular songwriting partner Jack Antonoff (who Swift described as “basically musical family at this point”) also features. The album was engineered by Laura Sisk and Jon Low and mixed by Serban Ghenea and Jon Low. It all suggests that, this time around, Swift may have, to paraphrase We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together written an indie record that’s much cooler than anyone else’s.
Swift’s post said the album will feature songs written and recorded in isolation that she “poured all of my whims, dreams, fears and musings into”.
The record is a rapid follow-up to smash hit Lover, which has sold 221,654 copies in the UK to date, according to the Official Charts Company.