Taylor Swift (For)evermore
Reading Time: 3 minutes
The world thought Taylor Swift was done, but alas, she’s taken us back into the folklorian woods once again with “evermore.” Though “evermore” is considered the sister album to “folklore,” there’s something to be said about the aptness of “evermore” in the grand scheme of Swift’s entire discography. Swift has been so ahead of the curve that her albums have come full-circle and became a sphere. Country-infused tracks like “long story short” and “no body, no crime” pay homage to 2006’s “Taylor Swift” and 2008’s “Fearless.” One can hear the harmonicas and banjos shine through after being dusted off and reclaim their glory. The light, airy “long story short” and “gold rush” are reminiscent of 2008’s “Speak Now” and 2012’s “Red.” But for all this to come full-circle, Swift had to depart from her early sounds in the first place. “1989” and “Reputation” mark her snakeskin-shedding period, filled with surging synthesizers and electronic production. It was the start of her reinvention journey: gone was the nice, country girl image. “Lover,” however, was a grace period, (as the cotton candy skies suggest) the rainbow after the storm. “folklore” and “evermore” signaled her return back home.
The whimsical opening chords of track one, “willow,” pick up exactly where “cardigan” left off, unveiling more of the woodsy fairyland air evocative of “folklore.” Even with sparse instrumentation and production, “evermore” crafts a world embellished with pixie dust and gold. Fan-favorite tracks “champagne problems” and “willow” feature Swift’s classic guitar, while tracks “tolerate it” and “evermore” are backed mainly by piano. The true beauty of Swift’s songs on both “folklore” and “evermore,” however, lies in her lyricism. One can only truly appreciate the music after they’ve really understood the story Swift weaves using her lyrics. For example, “Your Midas touch on the Chevy door / November flush and your flannel cure,” (from “champagne problems”) references King Midas from Greek mythology, who turns all he touches to gold. This is a possible allusion to Swift’s partner, Joe Alywn, who she is currently in a happy relationship with. Swift often uses gold to describe her boyfriend, suggesting that their connection is pure and valuable.
The lack of sappy hooks and ultra-catchy refrains on “evermore” is what differentiates it from “folklore.” Songs like “closure” and “tolerate it” can easily become melded in the listeners’ minds into shapeless, foggy mist. This largely has to do with the absence of musical direction, as many of these tracks lack a buildup to a sweeping chorus or climax. Still, as mentioned before, Swift’s songwriting abilities more than compensate for any pacing issues, as listeners are typically too immersed into the alternate world of magic and fairies to notice.
Not only does Swift’s introspective songwriting pay homage to her older music/albums, but it also allows her to interconnect her stories to create her signature nostalgic feel. One can imagine Dorothea (a character from a track on “evermore”) at the same high school as Betty and James (from “betty” on “folklore”) while Abigail (“Fifteen” from “Fearless”) sits in their classes and Drew (“Teardrops on My Guitar” from “Taylor Swift”) walks down the school hallway, waiting to break someone’s heart. I suppose the heart is rather fond of youth.
Though these fictive characters undoubtedly bring a vibrancy to Swift’s storytelling, her most powerful lyrics are inspired by the experiences and memories with her family. They ground her narrative and help her develop the emotional maturity that is so prominent in the album. The album wouldn’t be the same without the slivers of Swift’s personal life which display a sincerity absent from the tabloid headlines in the media. Her music acts as both an encouragement and a memorial for the people she loves. This is exemplified through “Lover,” as she dedicated “Soon You’ll Get Better” to her mom, Andrea Swift, and her battle with cancer and again through “evermore” on “marjorie,” a tribute to Margaret Finley, Swift’s late grandmother.
Maturity in music is not a new concept, but the way it appears in Swift’s music is. Gone are the days when she spoke of fairy tales, the boy next door dating the cheerleader, and white horses. There’s a realization that reinvention is not a forced phase, but a natural, enduring process. It doesn’t have to be as sharp as transitioning from country to pop or calling out celebrity feuds in high-budget music videos. It’s simply realizing that “you haven’t met the new me yet” (“happiness” from “evermore”).
Long story short (pun intended), “evermore” just fits. Swift left her early sound only to come back and reinvent it to sound more mature and insightful. As she writes on “marjorie,” “What died didn’t stay dead.” I would argue that it came back even more alive.