Maybe she meant to call her new album “1979.”
Taylor Swift has unveiled three additional album covers for her October release “Midnights,” each of which is being promised as only being available for the next seven days, as a pre-sale in both vinyl and CD formats. Even more than the more permanent cover that was revealed Sunday night, these album jackets very much look designed to evoke the 1970s, sometimes subtly, sometimes more blatantly. There’s the touch-tone phone. There’s the LP jacket on the floor. (Well, that one evokes the 2020s, too, but the reckless disregard for the treatment of a piece of vinyl, left loose to collect carpet debris, is very retro.)
And most of all, as a backdrop for not just all the cover images but the Swift webstore landing page, there is wood paneling. (It’s not just for vintage VHS porn anymore.)
One other recurring motif: Swift looks fairly sullen about being stuck in the ’70s. As those of us who lived through the decade can attest, this is actually period-appropriate. In one of the new cover images, she holds her hand up to her head, in a pose of Deep Fret. This may add grist for the tweeters who thought the verbiage in Swift’s initial rollout of the album concept Sunday night leaned toward the… dramatic. But the pose is self-knowing, maybe even tongue-in-cheek. As Swift vowed in the song “Lover”: “Swear to be overdramatic… and true!“
Careful Swiftie observers pointed out that the colors of the four vinyl variants that will be released — jade green, blood moon, mahogany and midnight blue — look suspiciously familiar. In fact, they correspond with the four colors on the “Meet me at midnight” clockface that Swift posted on her website last Sunday might between the MTV VMAs (where she first announced the existence of a completed new album) and the revelation of the title (which she saved for her own media an hour later).
Although Swift did not write or say anything in her own words in announcing the new variants, she did put out a TikTok video in which she playfully poses with the three additional covers. That led some fans to figure that the vinyl has already been manufactured in advance of the Oct. 21 release date, which would represent unusual efficiency even for Swift. But the flimsiness of the jackets she’s holding suggests they are mockups.
Between the fact that there are four vinyl editions (at least), four CD editions and a cassette to choose from, and that — unlike her other recent releases — everything will be arriving on the same date, even in the supply-chain-addled LP format, “Midnights” seems destined to establish just how much physical product can still be sold in one week, considering that some hardcore fans are already committing to buying all nine of the aforementioned packages.
With three out of four variants in the CD or LP formats only being sold for the next week, it brings to mind an old political phrase that may apply here, as fans are essentially being asked to “vote early and vote often.”
Sales for the vinyl may also outstrip those for past albums because not only is it being made available day-and-date, but being able to squeeze all 13 songs onto a single LP brings the price down from her recent spate of double albums, better for those impulse purchases … and because the marbled coloring of these vinyl editions is more alluring than the drab solid colors of her other recent vinyl releases.
Does Swift still have anything up her sleeve, packaging wise? For certain: the webstore description of the products promises that each of the variants will have a different photo on the back cover as well as the front.
So get your bonnet and basket ready, because with the contents of the music being as much of a mystery as the rear-jacket art, the next seven weeks are likely to be a nonstop Easter season for the faithful.