“Exile” was released on Swift’s new Billboard 200-topping album Folklore and features Bon Iver, the musical project of Justin Vernon, on vocals.
The song marks Swift’s first foray onto a Billboard rock radio chart. Comparatively, she’s charted 36 titles on the Country Airplay chart (where fellow Folklore single “Betty” concurrently leaps 60-52). She’s sent 33 entries onto the Pop Songs airplay ranking (where Folklore‘s “Cardigan” rises 27-22); 32 onto Adult Pop Songs (where “Cardigan” jumps 26-15); and 31 on Adult Contemporary (where “Cardigan” lifts 19-18).
Bon Iver, meanwhile, lands its first title on a Billboard airplay chart. Previous singles were promoted to adult alternative radio, with some having bubbled under the Adult Alternative Songs chart, such as “U (Man Like)” and “33 ‘God’.”
“Exile” also sports production from The National‘s Aaron Dessner, whose band has made four Adult Alternative Songs appearances, all since 2017, including the two-week No. 1 “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” that August.
Multiple programmers at the format feel that “Exile” fits sonically. “It is funny because, while most of our listeners have heard of Swift, many are probably very minimally familiar with her music,” Brad Savage, WAPS Akron program director, tells Billboard. “But, our audience does know Aaron Dessner and [fellow Folklore producer] Jack Antonoff, and we have played several songs by Bon Iver. It is fun to think our audience is more aware of what Bon Iver sounds like than Taylor Swift. In some ways, it is like he’s saying, ‘It’s OK, guys, she’s with me!,’ to those who might be skeptical of her pop or country background. In fact, Lightning 100 [WRLT Nashville] recently got a tweet from a listener saying that exact phrase; I can’t take credit for it myself!
“I believe American radio is too based on niche formats and what each station does not play,” Savage adds. “In most English-language pop music formats across the globe, the playlists are more inclusive and wide. There’s an old adage in adult alternative that says, ‘A mile wide and an inch deep.’ There can also be a ‘way too cool’ factor among some of our format’s stations. The truth, in my view, is that most listeners just want to hear good songs and they trust us as a filter or curator for that experience. There’s no question that Taylor’s new record deserves its exposure.”
Nate Campbell, who programs adult alternative KVYN Napa Valley, Calif., says, “We are quite supportive of pop artists who cross over to our format. This track from Taylor and Bon Iver is blending quite nicely into our daily mix. Our listeners in Napa like Taylor and more eclectic artists, as well. So it’s not too difficult playing ‘Exile’ on our station, just as we play ‘Watermelon Sugar’ by Harry Styles.
“We hope for more tracks like this, “Campbell says. “This kind of mixture of music, we believe, is how most people listen now in the world of Spotify.”
In its second week on Billboard‘s multi-metric Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart, “Exile” ranks at No. 5, after debuting at No. 2. That said, its second-week percentage drop in overall activity is the smallest of any Swift song on the chart (including “Cardigan,” which drops to No. 2 following its No. 1 launch). That, plus its budding airplay, could bode well for “Exile” in terms of chart longevity.
Folklore, meanwhile, spends a second week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, with 135,000 equivalent album units earned. It soared in with 846,000 units, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, the best bow since Swift’s own Lover last year.