December 10th was a quiet and frankly normal day until Taylor Swift fans across the globe flew into a frenzy with the announcement that she’d be dropping her 9th studio album, evermore, at midnight.
I was between zooms when I got a frenzied text from a friend relaying the news, and I just about burst into tears of joy. As announced by Taylor through an Instagram post, evermore is the sister record to the acclaimed (and unexpected) folklore album, which dropped back in July. In the announcement/promotional post on her Instagram, Taylor stated that evermore was an extension of the “imaginary/not imaginary tales” she crafted in folklore. Therefore, I expected her new album to be of the same storytelling style with alternative roots, and I have no problem with that; frankly, folklore is one of my favorite albums of all time.
I stayed up until midnight (God bless Taylor for favoring Eastern time), listened to the entire album, and watched the premier of the “willow” music video. The following are my honest opinions about Taylor’s new album based on first-impression notes I groggily scrawled in the wee hours of the morning.
Disclaimer: I am by no means an all-knowing, gatekeeping, cutthroat stan. I promise I’m doing my best to get there, but as of now I am merely a healthy indulger and a big fan of Taylor. That being said, please forgive me if I’ve missed any Easter eggs or hidden meanings within the tracks.
I sat waiting for the premier of this video on YouTube, and was immediately let down by the fact that the ad prefacing it was for The Croods 2. This was disappointing but not completely discouraging, and I continued watching, though mildly irked.
The “willow” music video picks up where the “cardigan” music video from folklore leaves off—a true testament to the idea that this album is an extension of the folklore era. (As I’m writing this, the video is the #1 trending YouTube video, so I guess you could say she and her team are doing something right.) Once again, Taylor goes through the magical piano to a mystical land, and is swept into a fairytale love story, complete with a carnival, romantic era outfits, and some magical witchy ritual. There’s a lot going on, and it’s rather enchanting, but perhaps a little overwhelming. However, I commend the originality and commitment to the folklore era. The song itself harkens back to the track “invisible string” from folklore, and is relatively fresh and upbeat. 7/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “The more that you say, the less I know / Wherever you stray, I follow / I’m begging for you to take my hand / Wreck my plans, that’s my man.”
Right off the bat, I love the piano intro (her piano ballads are my favorite). The innocent and simple melody take the backseat compared to the sophisticated lyrics, which highlight a new story of heartbreak. This reminds me of “All Too Well,” and like many of Taylor’s songs, the juicy part is the bridge. After the emotion behind her voice overflows, the song settles down and ends in a little riff of a piano that somehow reminds me of piano warm ups I used to do when I was small. 8/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “Your Midas touch on the Chevy door / November flush and your flannel cure / ‘This dorm was once a madhouse’ / I made a joke, ‘Well, it’s made for me.’”
This song itches a part of my brain: the beat is considerably faster paced, and the major/minor tone shift kept me very interested. I’m not sure how to describe this song beyond this: I hate running, but I’d happily run through a field during sunset to this song. Bonus points if I got to do it in slow motion. 8.5/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “My mind turns your life into folklore / I can’t dare to dream about you anymore.”
The majority of my notes on this song were scrawled in all caps, so that should speak for itself. In AP Lit., we’re coincidentally talking about Robert Frost, and to hear Taylor echo one of his most famous poems throughout this track was equally haunting and impactful. I’m a fan of the guitar riffs, which are encaptivating but once again allow her lyrics to take the center stage. The syncopation of the drums is satisfying, and once again, ROBERT FROST. He’s everywhere. 10/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “You could call me “babe” for the weekend / ’Tis the damn season, write this down / I’m stayin’ at my parents’ house / And the road not taken looks real good now.”
The thing that intrigues me the most about this song is the constant time signature change from common time to cut time. Perhaps that’s the musician in me talking, but I believe it is captivating. It adds flavor, and makes her lyrics about unrequited love feel like a beautiful and quickly paced internal conversation. Additionally, the way she sings “I” before the chorus makes my heart pang. 9.2/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “I know my love should be celebrated / But you tolerate it.”
If you’re a fan of the conspiracy that Harry Styles and Taylor Swift killed someone in New York and helped each other cover up the murder, this one’s for you. This track is truly the love child of Reputation era Taylor and Speak Now era Taylor. It’s deliciously malicious, and somehow also playful country, and I love it. If you love the song “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood, you’ll have fun with this one. 10/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “Good thing my daddy made me get a boating license when I was fifteen / And I’ve cleaned enough houses / To know how to cover up a scene.”
English junkies will get a kick out of this one—it has its fair share of Gatsby references. It’s the longest song on the album, and with reason: it arguably has the most beautiful lyrics, and is full of lines I haven’t been able to get out of my head. The synth chords remind me of Stranger Things in the best way possible, and this song feels like a bittersweet open love letter to Taylor’s life, her ex-loves, and herself. With every listen comes new meaning. It’s a song of acceptance, and feels as though she’s coming to terms with herself as she’s singing it. 10/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “When did all our lessons start to look like weapons pointed at my deepest hurt? / I hope she’ll be your beautiful fool who takes my spot next to you.”
Something about Taylor’s voice in this song carries a country twang, and the melody is sweet, upbeat, and catchy. It’s a cute song, and feels happily nostalgic. I can’t help but feel as if there’s a deep profound meaning, or at least some complexity that I’m just not picking up on… 7.7/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “But are you still the same soul I met under the bleachers?”
I enjoy the distinct beat of the intro, and though I have nothing against this song, at this point it feels slightly repetitive. What differentiates it is that this track takes a tone of wistful apologeticness versus nostalgic acceptance. Matt Berninger’s voice adds layers, and a distinct point of interest is when he references that accident… (see “Out of the Woods.” Taylor we know this is about Harry) 7/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “And when I got into the accident / The sight that flashed before me was your face / But when I walked up to the podium I think that I forgot to say your name.”
This song feels very on brand for the folklore era, and transports me to an enchanting, abandoned castle in the woods. There’s a hint of fiddle and harmonica in the background, which is a sweet nod to the country roots. The male backing vocals add an earthy element of interest. For some reason whenever she sings “Oh” it reminds me of the “Kung Fu Fighting” intro which to me is very entertaining. 7/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “I’d live and die for moments that we stole / On begged and borrowed time.”
This may be a song about cowboys, but it’s nowhere near as rowdy. The little guitar riffs are vibrant, the singing on the offbeats is satisfying, and the melody reminds me slightly of “exile.” I can see myself sauntering away from a saloon in the desert to this song, shaking my head and laughing sadly. 7.5/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “Now you hang from my lips / Like the Gardens of Babylon… Forever is the sweetest con.”
The melody takes off, which I was not expecting. This track is probably the most upbeat, and this song is the easiest on the album to dance to. It’s an effective and fun contrast from the heavier slow songs, and reflection behind the lyrics feels joyful. 8/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “I always felt I must look better in the rear view…”
Out of all the songs on this album, this is the only one that brought me to tears. Not just a single tear, but several ugly, heaving sobs. Like the 13th (her lucky number) track on folklore which was devoted to her grandpa, this 13th song is an ode to Taylor’s late maternal grandmother, Marjorie. (Marjorie herself is even listed in the credits of the video for the backing vocals.) This song carries the weight of love and pain that comes from missing someone you’ve lost, and presents many insightful inverse lyrics. “Marjorie” goes beyond your classical pining love song: It’s a love song that aches for childhood, family, and dealing with that longing as you traverse life. Listening to it now in such a time where so many people are losing so much hurts in a new way. 9/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “I should’ve asked you questions / I should’ve asked you how to be / Asked you to write it down for me / Should’ve kept every grocery store receipt / ‘Cause every scrap of you would be taken from me.”
This is a new angle. There’s a lot going on in the background, and it seems to be in 5/4 time which results in it taking an alarmingly brisk and unique pace. It’s chaotic, it’s angry, it’s bitter; yet, every time it feels like she’s going to full out rage, she restrains herself. To be frank, it’s nothing like I’ve ever heard from Taylor, nor any other artists. It’s a mental wrestling match, and I love it. 9.5/10.
My Favorite Lyrics: “Don’t treat me like some situation that needs to be handled / I’m fine with my spite / And my tears / And my beers and my candles.”
“Exile” is probably my favorite song on Taylor’s folklore album, and I was ecstatic to see that she would be doing another song with Bon Iver. I will admit that “exile” had a greater impact on me upon my first listen, but this song took on meaning of its own. “Evermore” seems to be the falling action of this saga, and takes its own arc in which the narrator’s true healing and reflection occurs. My favorite part of the song occurs with the tempo change, when Justin Vernon begins to sing. After the song slows again, Taylor ends the folklore era on a positive note with the notion that “this pain won’t be for evermore.” 7.5/10 for the slow portions, 10/10 for the quicker bridge.
My Favorite Lyrics: “And I was catching my breath / Floors of a cabin creaking under my step / And I couldn’t be sure / I had a feeling so peculiar / This pain wouldn’t be for evermore.”
Truth be told, I do not believe evermore carried through with quite the same shock value that folklore did, but that’s expected seeing this is no longer a new facet of Taylor Swift. One could argue that it’s repetitive, but at the end of the day, it’s a strong album full of stories to analyze—after all, following folklore that’s what her listeners wanted. Besides, who am I to complain? The woman gave us two whole albums within a sixth month window. In her Netflix documentary, she talked about how she’s always been pressured to reinvent herself with every new album—this is the first time she hasn’t done that, and within that there’s immense power.
If you are looking to ponder the chapters of life as you go on yet another quarantine drive, evermore is for you. The lyrics are artful, haunting, and honest-—the album feels like a long conversation between you and the narrator about profound love, life, and loss. With evermore, Taylor Swift once again runs off with our emotions and our ability to overthink, and capitalizes on the beautiful, painful, potent love that makes us human.
Featured Image Credit to the Variety and Taylor Swift.