BY PAIGE MORSE//
Taylor Swift has yet again captivated the world with her ninth studio album, evermore, released two days shy of her 31st birthday. Swift’s July release of her eighth studio album, folklore, came as a surprise to longtime fans like me who knew the old Taylor as very calculated about album promotion and releases. Fans found out about folklore’s release the day of, leaving little time to speculate what this new era in Swift’s career would sound like. The album artwork revealed a clear diversion from her 2019 poppy pastel album Lover. evermore carried the same element of surprise, but Swift was more explicit in stating that the album would echo themes explored on folklore, calling evermore the “sister album” to folklore. evermore has lived up to its predecessor, and then some, with an eclectic mix of emotional ballads and starry-eyed professions of love.
The album opens with the dreamy, rhythmic “willow,” that follows some of the same tropes that haunt folklore’s heartbreaking track “august” – expensive wine and ruined plans – yet “willow” feels warmer. You can almost see her blushing as she declares, “That’s my man.” The motifs of trains and ships first appear on “willow” and lingers throughout many of the tracks on evermore. “willow” also evokes nostalgia that is revisited later in the album in “dorothea” and “coney island.”
Following “willow” is the piano ballad “champagne problems,” which echoes the chords of Red’s “All Too Well” but follows a previously unexplored narrative for Swift. A woman who struggles with mental health rejects a proposal from her longtime partner and becomes the gossip of the town. Lyrics like, “‘She would’ve made such a lovely bride / What a shame she’s fucked in the head,’ they said,” are unforgettable. Swift’s first-person narrator assures her ex-beau that he will find “the real thing” after he heals from the rejection. The song ends on a new proposal to a new woman who will say yes.
One of the highest peaks of the album, “gold rush,” is laced with cheeky, gushing lines about the narrator’s partner. The subject of the song is desired by many people around town – “I don’t like that anyone would die to feel your touch / Everybody wants you” – and Swift laments that she doesn’t like a gold rush of competition. Her admiration for her partner shines through beautifully crafted lines like, “What must it be like to grow up that beautiful? / With your hair falling into place like dominoes.” It is hard to miss the direct reference to folklore with the line “My mind turns your life into folklore,” and indeed Swift is self-aware of her ability to craft seamless fairy tales about her relationships. I was immediately sold on this song, but it pushed me over the edge with the line about her Eagles t-shirt hanging on the door. An easy way to win me over is to reference a 1970s rock band, and Swift does not misstep. “gold rush” feels so personal, but somehow it is relatable to every person who hears it. And that, my friends, is the magic of Taylor Swift.
Another high of the album, “‘tis the damn season,” is not the holiday tune you’d expect, instead capturing such a specific yet universal experience of returning to your hometown for the holidays and hooking up with someone from your high school who is familiar to you, maybe even an ex. The two characters are each others’ everything for the weekend (“You could call me ‘babe’ for the weekend”), yet the reunion is temporary because the narrator will return to LA. The beginning of this song is reminiscent of the underrated folklore masterpiece, “peace,” but “‘tis the damn season” shares lyrical similarities to “illicit affairs,” also from folklore. Swift sings, “The road not taken looks real good now” in “‘tis the damn season,” paralleling the line, “Take the road less travelled by / Tell yourself you can always stop” from “illicit affairs.”
Swift reconnects with her country roots in “no body, no crime” and “cowboy like me” in the same breath as “betty” from folklore. “no body, no crime,” featuring pop rock band HAIM, is unmistakably in the spirit of the Dixie Chicks, who Swift dueted with on Lover. The catchy, foot-stomping song carries the ship motif – “Good thing my daddy made me get a boating license when I was fifteen” – and perfectly paces the album as the sixth track, sandwiched between two heavy ballads, “tolerate it” and “happiness.”
“happiness” is to evermore what “All Too Well” is to Red: a gut-wrenching tale of trying to move on from a relationship. Swift executes this song perfectly, with soft piano playing that doesn’t distract from the sorrow of the narrator. The Great Gatsby references are abundant in this song, as they have been for Swift’s past three albums. The poignant chorus, “There’ll be happiness after you / But there was happiness because of you / Both of these things can be true / There is happiness,” rings true at the end of any relationship. Swift is accepting that this person was not the one, and that is okay. Even though the wound is raw, she knows she will be able to find happiness again, as she expresses in folklore’s opener, “the 1.” Swift acknowledges her mistakes in the relationship with the lines, “No one teaches you what to do / When a good man hurts you / And you know you hurt him, too.” Her previous songs like “Back to December” and “Afterglow” claim ownership of her actions in a similar vein.
“ivy” continues the examination of an affair that Swift explored in “august” and “illicit affairs” on folklore. Instead of showing emotional exhaustion like its predecessors, the song carries a sweetness that portrays the affair as an escape to happiness for the narrator. Like Romeo and Juliet in “Love Story,” the woman in “ivy” is sneaking off to explore a forbidden love that fulfills her and relieves the pain of her marriage (“My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand / Taking mine, but it’s been promised to another”). This affair is not exempt from complication, as Swift sings, “So yeah, it’s a war / It’s the goddamn fight of my life / And you started it.”
Track 12, “long story short,” is woven with the same energy as the beloved “Holy Ground” from Red, but is more of a lyrical reflection of “Death By A Thousand Cuts” from Lover. Swift describes a relationship that is so emotionally draining that the narrator basically clawed her way out, barely surviving. “Long story short, it was a bad time,” Swift sings nonchalantly, as if she is explaining her trauma in simple terms to her new lover. She assures her new partner, “Now I’m all about you,” as she is able to move on from the ghosts that haunt her, whether she is referring to her past celebrity feuds or romantic relationships.
“closure,” contrary to what its title may suggest, is brushing off an ex’s offer to grant the narrator closure. Swift sings in more of a talking voice, “I’m fine with my spite / And my tears, and my beers and my candles.” Despite her ex-partner’s numerous attempts to grant the narrator closure – through letters, asking to be friends, etc. – Swift snarkily replies that she doesn’t want it nor does she need it. The song is a liberating track for anyone who is moving on from a relationship.
Swift’s evermore may surpass folklore in lyrical themes and musical structure, but only time will tell as the new album sinks into the minds of fans. folklore has consistently been ranked the best album of the year, but Swift may have outdone herself. If anyone can drastically improve their own virtuosity in a matter of months, it is Taylor Swift.