Did you know Taylor Swift released an album today? If not — how are things, living as you do under a seven-ton rock inside your mossy cave in Xilitla?
Swift’s 18-track Lover dropped at midnight Thursday, yet the record has been undergoing a months-long slow release — à la the most complexly engineered of drugs — leading all the way back to the start of the year. Her all-out pre-drop promotion this time around can be attributed, in part, to a sea change in record-company strategy — labels’ marketing for new albums these days is “all about throwing out content,” Savan Kotecha, a songwriter for the likes of Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, recently told Rolling Stone — but the intensity of the social media campaigns, corporate partnerships, and media teasing makes her stand out even from other megawatt stars. On Wednesday, Republic Records chairman and founder Monte Lipman said Lover had already sold 1 million copies before release. No wonder: Below is only a cursory summation of the tireless carpet-bombing promotion blitz that Swift has employed in the run-up to this moment.
December 31st: Taylor Swift’s Netflix tour documentary, Reputation, comes out as the capstone to that album’s cycle.
March 6th: Elle publishes an essay detailing Swift’s “30 things she learned before turning 30,” in which the pop star reflects on her career thus far from her shroud of forthcoming-new-album enlightenment.
March 14th: Swift appears at the iHeartRadio Awards adorned with butterfly motifs and pastel tones, teasing the style we’ll see all over the internet for months to come.
April 13th: Blinding diamonds, hearts, and the fairly unambiguous “4.26” pepper Swift’s social media.
April 17th: Swift is featured on the cover of Time, somehow bending even the background color of the magazine to cohere with her pastel aesthetic, as one of its 100 most influential people in the world.
April 25th: Swift takes a quick trip to Nashville to pose in front of a massive butterfly mural in a parking lot, which will draw mobs of people for weeks to come. (I personally witnessed 25 people huddling in the rain to await their turn to Instagram the mural in the second week of May.) She also announces on ABC that her new single “ME!” will drop the next day, featuring Panic! at the Disco frontman Brendon Urie.
April 26th: “ME!” drops.
May 1st: Swift and Urie perform “ME!” at the BBMAs.
May 31st: Swift, who’s been apolitical for most of her career, posts a missive on social media to her fans about LGBT rights. “I’ve decided to kick off Pride Month by writing a letter to one of my senators to explain how strongly I feel that the Equality Act should be passed,” Swift wrote. “I urge you to write to your senators too.”
June 13th: Swift releases the album name and cover of Lover. A second single, “You Need to Calm Down,” drops.
June 17th: The video for “You Need to Calm Down,” featuring foe-now-friend Katy Perry, drops. Alongside drag-queen versions of Lady Gaga and Cardi B, among others, the clip features cameos by Adam Lambert, Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Reynolds, RuPaul, and Laverne Cox, among many others.
June 30th: Turmoil erupts when Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine, Swift’s label for her first six albums, is sold to music mogul Scooter Braun; Swift publicly decries the deal as her “worst-case scenario” that gives the “bullying” Braun undue control of her masters and alleges she has not been given the chance to buy her catalog back. “All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years,” Swift wrote.
July 10th: Swift takes a break from feuding with business counterparts to headline Amazon’s alternate-universe invite-only Prime Day concert. It is then broadcast to Prime users.
July 23rd: Swift releases “The Archer.” She also reveals four (!) different Target-exclusive deluxe versions of Lover.
July 26th: Capitol One and Swift enter an “exclusive partnership” involving a commercial and merchandise album bundle for people who have Capital One cards. Swift stars as a waitress in an ad for the credit-card company as part of the multiyear agreement.
August 3rd: Amazon starts mailing items to customers in Lover-swathed packaging.
August 8th: Swift takes over the cover of Vogue.
August 16th: Swift releases “Lover,” her title song, along with a mildly inscrutable track list.
August 19th: Swift’s animated lips appear in Amazon Music ads running on the NFL Network.
August 20th: Swift drops a Spotify “enhanced album experience,” which delivers “audio love letters” and other personalized touches to fans on the streaming platform. Her Love, Taylor playlist boasts a welcome video from Swift, a handwritten note made with the Canvas tool, and some of Swift’s favorite love songs, including Nicki Minaj’s “Come See About Me,” Dixie Chicks’ “Easy Silence,” Blondie’s “Maria,” and Liz Phair’s “Why Can’t I?” After the album’s release, Swift unveiled more fan messages and stories behind the songs.
August 22nd: Swift performs on ABC’s Good Morning America — and revives the mysterious Braun ordeal by saying she plans to rerecord her previous albums next year to wrestle back control of her masters. Elsewhere, YouTube also hosts an event to unveil Swift’s Lover merchandise collection with designer Stella McCartney. Elsewhere-elsewhere, Apple and Swift announce a partnership that will have the singer highlighted in the tech company’s in-store “Music Lab” sessions, which offer Apple store visitors a glimpse into the making of Swift’s album.
August 23rd: Lover officially drops, and we are finally free, unshackled from the exhausting chiffon-and-candy prison of Taylor Swift’s new album. That is, until the next one.