Culture

Taylor Swift's 'Folklore' Cover Is Accidentally Super Black Metal

Ihsan of Emperor notes some major similarities between the covers of 'Telemark' and 'folklore', but he's cool with it.
29 July 2020, 7:45am
Taylor-Swift-folklore-black-metal
Composite by VICE Staff

Last week, Taylor Swift shook everyone when she announced the release of folklore, a record that she made while the rest of us were leaving pepperoni smudges on our bedroom-slash-home office furniture and posting embarrassingly late _Tiger Kin_g memes. Swift recorded the album in her Los Angeles home, and she co-wrote or co-produced 11 of its 16 tracks with The National's eternally somber Aaron Dessner. 

"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," she explained on Instagram. "My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world." 

But before folklore shifted 1.3 million copies in a single day, and before it was streamed almost 115 million times between both Spotify and Apple Music, social media users deconstructed its stark black-and-white cover photo, a gauzy image of Swift standing alone in a forest. The album artwork was shot by Texas-based photographer Beth Garrabrant, but that didn't stop some music nerds from suggesting that T-Swift had borrowed the vibe from Scandinavian black metal. 

One person who clocked the resemblance was David Thiérrée, a French artist who has designed album covers and provided artwork for dozens of black metal bands including Behemoth, Nocturno Culto's Gift of Gods, Satanic Warmaster, and Warloghe. Earlier this year, he created the cover art for Telemark, the first of a series of EPs from Emperor guitarist and vocalist Ihsahn—and he very quickly noticed the similarity between his illustration and Swift's photo. 

"Well, folks, I'm not the only one to think that Taylor Swift's new visual is very Metal," Thiérrée wrote on Instagram. "Even very close to Ihsahn 's artworks I made. I could have done it for her, probably for a cheaper price than what she paid." (Not everyone was convinced: "First year photography students beware!" one commenter wrote. "Any black and white images of forests are copies!")

When the folklore and Telemark covers are placed side-by-side, they do look similar… but there are only so many ways to distinguish between deliberately atmospheric tree trunks. Regardless, Ihsahn shared Thiérrée's post, writing "So, anyone check out the new @taylorswift yet? Personally I like the design." He punctuated that with a cry-laugh emoji, because he's clearly not taking it that seriously. (I mean...he can't be???) 

Ihsahn is in good(-ish) company though. Other Twitter users said that Swift's record reminded them of the cover of both the Playstation 2 and Wii versions of Resident Evil 4. Others think she might've drawn some inspiration from For Emma, Forever Ago, the debut record from her folklore collaborator Bon Iver. And one person (perhaps just this one person) saw a lot of overlap with Storm and Grace, the third album from Lisa Marie Presley.

It's a black and white picture of a forest. It can be whatever you want it to be—except maybe a Tiger King meme. No more of those, please.