Taylor Swift swiftly tailored the music charts to her liking with her latest album, folklore. Released on Friday, July 24, 2020, folklore is Swift’s eighth studio album. She recorded it while on lockdown during the pandemic, and announced its release less than a day before it appeared. The surprise album went in decidedly alternative, indie, and folk directions, displaying her sonic versatility, known from her country roots, hip-hop influences, and pop success. The album cover, a black-and-white in the woods, signals a back-to-nature aesthetic, something to listen to on a road trip, on the way to camp.
It worked. On its first day, Swift’s folklore was one of the biggest releases this year, with 66.7M streams. In recent memory, that is second only to the late Juice WRLD’s 77.7M streams on day one of the posthumous release of Legends Never Die on July 10. Taylor Swift’s folklore is by that count the most successful debut by a living artist this summer, if not of this year. The closest comparisons were by Lil Uzi Vert, Drake, and the Weeknd, whose album debuts each raised them to 34-40M steams on the days of their respective releases in March-May.
According to Music Maven’s proprietary technology — which provides the most current and accurate data on the performance of all artists and songs in daily music charts — folklore makes Taylor Swift The Most Streamed Artist, The Highest Earning Artist, and the Most Influential Artist. The Most Influential Artist — which encompasses not only streams and revenue, but social media presence, digital downloads, and concert ticket sales — is Music Maven’s highest measure of musical excellence online. Swift’s sweep of all three categories is an overwhelming confirmation of fan approval for her music.
The song charts say the same. All of the 16 tracks on folklore are now on the top 20 Most Streamed and Highest Earning songs, led by “cardigan,” with 6.1M streams, “exile,” featuring Bon Iver, with 5.95M, and “the 1,” with 5.1M. Taylor Swift’s latest caused a decline in the chart position of almost every other song in music in only one day.
Taylor Swift finally ended the reticence of artists and records labels to release full-length albums by living artists during the pandemic and response to protests over race and justice. So far, the summer has been dominated by artists who are no longer living, as echoed in the posthumous releases of albums by Juice WRLD and Pop Smoke. DJ Khaled’s release of a couple tracks featuring Drake last week began to change this trend, and Taylor Swift’s fans confirmed it.
A series of other living artists who have not been high on the music charts lately also released music that brought them into real competition with those no longer living. Besides Taylor Swift at number one with her 66.7M streams, Juice WRLD at number two with 19M, and Pop Smoke at number five with 8.7M, Logic rose to number three, with 15.4M streams, because of the release of his final album, No Pressure. Since Logic announced his early retirement to focus on fatherhood, his finale closed the circle with his debut from six years ago, Under Pressure. After seven albums, and his recent multi-million dollar deal with Twitch, the live-streaming platform for gamers, Logic is definitely under no pressure to produce any more music. Still, his lyrical dexterity knocked most other artists off the charts for his last hurrah.
Fan demand for music is extremely high, maybe higher than ever, and it is being driven and satisfied by only a few artists, or their estates, willing to release music this summer. Only those who supply that voracious demand can hope to make any change to the music charts.