The folklore & evermore Era
Table of Contents
Becoming an Alternative Artist
Taylor had been a fan of Aaron Dessner’s long-running indie-rock band, The National, and she contacted him out of the blue as the pandemic shutdown was beginning. “One night I was just sitting at dinner,” Dessner recalled, “and I got a text saying, ‘This is Taylor. Would you ever be up for collaborating remotely with me?’ I was flattered and said, ‘Sure.’ She said, ‘Just send anything, even the weirdest random sketch that you have,’ and I sent her a folder of stuff I’d been working on. And then a few hours later, she sent that song, ‘cardigan.’”
While the rest of the world was busy baking banana bread and on endless Zoom quizzes, Taylor was secretly working on the record, teaming up with Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver‘s Justin Vernon, alongside long-time collaborator Jack Antonoff and partner Joe Alwyn (under the pseudonym William Bowery). Made from scratch in the first quarantine era, folklore was recorded at Taylor’s home in Los Angeles, and written and produced in remote collaboration. Choosing this approach may have been purely a function of circumstance, but Taylor had been due for a rebaptism for some time. Therefore, folklore is not only significant in terms of artistry, but also in terms of Taylor’s career. She was 30 years old. She had been a superstar since she was a teenager. She had done the pop thing to the absolute ultimate. And she had been trying to figure out how to continue what had been a remarkable and in some ways almost unprecedented run — eight albums with arguably no dip in popularity. Yes, reputation (2017), some people had issues with it, but it was still a massive seller and subject of conversation. And here she was at a place where very few pop artists ever get. So how does she make a turn, become more innovative, maybe, and explore different aspects of herself?
In releasing folklore, Taylor was clear and direct about her intent and her work. The album marked a conclusion (temporary or not was unclear) to her long march into the teeth of contemporary mega-pop. It was what a lot of fans had been waiting for all along: a lengthy, emotionally-wrought indie album. Its heart is folk storytelling. Its vision is a grey-blue soundscape: an autumnal album dropped in the heat of summer, the first full project of this kind from Taylor, inhabiting a truly melancholy space she had mainly hinted at in past ballads. Her new direction was clear: alternative folk. She told Entertainment Weekly in December 2020:
Supporting Independent Record Stores
The Biggest Album of 2020
folklore is the biggest album of 2020. It pulled in close to 2,3 million album-equivalent units and saw the biggest sales week of 2020 — the biggest, in fact, since her own 2019 album, Lover — and topped the Billboard Hot 200 chart for eight weeks. Beyond its 1,1 billion on-demand audio streams, folklore was the highest-selling album of the year, with over 1,2 million sales.
Taylor won “Album of the Year” for folklore at the Grammys 2021, becoming the first woman to win the award three times. She achieved this feat in three different genres as well: in 2010 with her country breakthrough Fearless, in 2016 with her pop blockbuster 1989 and now in 2021 with the alternative career highlight folklore.
The Quintessential Quarantine Album
Taylor always commemorates her December 13 birthday by doing something special: having a gigantic party, announcing a Netflix tour special, or appearing at the high-profile Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden. In 2020, however, she celebrated turning 31 with an even bigger surprise: Roughly four and a half months after releasing the critically acclaimed folklore Taylor announced its “sister record,” her ninth studio album called evermore.
The tale of how evermore came to be is the stuff of first loves, holiday rom-coms, and Taylor Swift songs. Crafting the woodsy surprise album folklore in isolation, Taylor felt the spark of something exciting and new, and knowing all things must pass, wanted to make it linger just a little longer. If the periods of hibernation between Taylor’s records once felt crucial to the drama of her returns, her music now was filled with these momentary silences and breakthroughs. After a career spent striving for the next level of stardom, she discovered a more sustainable path for evolution. On evermore, she seems at peace with her past, in a suspended moment of transition, letting the world follow along as she learned: Don’t just get settled, she told us through this bounty of material. Get stronger.