Taylor Swift’s second album of 2020, evermore, is a beautiful yet more diluted continuation of her earlier record, folklore.
Whilst 2020 may have been a horrendous year in many aspects, Grammy Award-winning pop icon Taylor Swift found herself spurred on by an imagination “run wild”. Lucky for her fans, a collection of songs and stories that “flowed like a stream of consciousness” led to her first surprise album: folklore.
Released back in July of this year, folklore was Taylor Swift’s venture into indie-rock land. This successful digression from bombastic pop earned her five Grammy nominations, including Album and Song Of The Year. But folklore did not remain her only surprise album of the year. Last Friday, her second one, evermore, dropped with just as much notice.
Given to the world as a present for her 31st birthday, evermore is a further result of this genre experimentation. In a post on social media, she explained that she (alongside collaborators Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner, Justin Vernon, and William Bowery), “just couldn’t stop writing songs.”
“It feels like we were standing on the edge of the folklorian woods and had a choice: to turn and go back or to travel further into the forest of music,” she described. “We chose to wander deeper in.”
For Taylor, her albums have always existed by themselves in separate eras, yet, she explained: “there was something different with folklore. In making it, I felt less like I was departing and more like I was returning.”
If folklore was a trepid step into the woods of indie-rock, evermore is a wonderful embrace of the genre.
Taylor Swift has this uncanny ability to be able to lift pages from your secret diaries and eloquently sing your experiences back to you. It’s this skill that launched her to fame with her 2008 record Fearless and has kept her at the top of the charts for over a decade.
folklore and evermore are just the same, except that they both revel in subtlety and let Swift’s voice croon the kind of lyrical masterpieces that make her work so special. Whilst youthful acuity proliferates folklore, its sister record seems increasingly tainted by the harshness of life and love. Offering up rich character studies and tracing narratives of divorce and the process of moving on, no stone is left unturned on evermore.
For a hint at the ‘old Taylor Swift’ that once boasted about her “London boy,” one simply needs to turn to the lyrics of willow and gold rush. The former possesses the twinkling sentiments of Love Story, except that the once youthful excitement of first love has matured from “So I sneak out to the garden to see you/We keep quiet, ’cause we’re dead if they knew” to “Wait for the signal, and I’ll meet you after dark/Show me the places where the others gave you scars.”
The concept of scars also appears in folklore’s lead single cardigan, when Taylor reflects: “You drew stars around my scars/But now I’m bleeding”. It’s a motif which hints at a new understanding of true love, one which embraces the scars of someone’s past – and leaves you still wanting them all the same.
gold rush is certainly cheekier but its lyrics aren’t quite as magical as willow‘s. The line “Your hair falls into place like dominoes” feels clunky and out of place amongst the painful sadness of “I don’t like that falling feels like flying ’til the bone crush.”
champagne problems, happiness, and closure feel like a trilogy that someone who has just gone through a heartbreak might wallow over. Depicting that awful moment when both parties in a relationship realise they aren’t headed for the same direction, champagne problems is that gut-wrenching track that forces you to remember the moment you foolishly saw a future and they saw an ending.
happiness and closure are the perfect accompaniments to this tale, the lines “In the disbelief, I can’t face reinvention/I haven’t met the new me yet” and “Seeing the shape of your name/Still spells out pain” are reminders of how difficult it is to build yourself back up after a break up you never saw coming.
Perhaps the best story of evermore is the tale of Dorothea and her lover. ‘tis the damn season shines brightly, although dorothea is a somewhat underwhelming finish to this almost-perfect story. Capturing that universal tale of falling into bed with a past crush from your hometown when returning for Christmas, ’tis the damn season paints vivid images with lyrics like “there’s an ache in you put there by the ache in me” and “the road not taken looks real good now/And it always leads to you and my hometown.”
Meanwhile, dorothea‘s lyrics fall short next to its predecessor with lines like “Are you still the same soul I met under the bleachers?” and “If you’re ever tired of bеing known for who you know/You know, you’ll always know me.”
Ironically, the songs that boast impressive features – coney island with The National and evermore with Bon Iver – feel the weakest on the record. On these tracks, the lyrics can come off too repetitive and not quite up to the mark, unlike the impressiveness of the Haim collaboration, no body, no crime.
Taking cues from The Chicks’ Goodbye Earl, no body, no crime is a fun rendition of a woman’s justified murder of her best friend’s husband – after all, who hasn’t wanted to remove that awful partner your best friend just can’t see through?
If evermore was the record of any other artist, it would be rightly glorified. But for Taylor Swift, this album, at times, risks feeling like a compilation of songs taken from the cutting room floor of folklore. Swift’s talent doesn’t quite exemplify itself in comparison to her earlier album, and whilst evermore is stunning in its own right, it doesn’t quite live up to the same spectacular heights as its pretty much perfect older sister.
evermore is out now, grab your copy here.