2020 – Pop / Alternative
Following the same folklore’s patterns ― released by surprise and born from Swift’s union with Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff ― evermore appears as Swift’s most daring album, featuring atmospheric pop ballads and her first country songs in years.
The human back is a symbol of vulnerability. In a fight, for example, a stab in the back can mean cowardice for the person who attacks because he is hitting his opponent’s blind spot, not giving the same conditions of defense and fair attack. Following these same concepts, we can conclude that Taylor Swift appears vulnerable on the cover of her ninth and newest studio album. While in folklore, her eighth record, she looked at the rest of the world, appearing insignificant near large centennial trees, showing that she is not always the center of her songs and the universe; in evermore she appears with her back without any armor, open to the whole world, or rather, she appears as the most vulnerable person.
“To try and put it more poetically, 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 this music. We chose to wander deeper in.” That’s how Taylor Swift defines the creative process for her ninth studio album, which, like its predecessor, less than 5 months ago, arrives in the world by surprise, being announced just a few hours before its release. However, despite this comment by Swift implying that evermore would be something much heavier, denser and darker than its predecessor, you can see the opposite in the first few chords. Even though the lyrics, sometimes, have heavier themes, such as death and murder, in general, evermore sounds more lively, smooth and cheerful, even with sadness between the lines ― an interesting contrast, actually. In a way, we can think like that: Swift and her group continued to enter this forest, however, instead of losing more and more in it, they found an isolated village, in which they made friends, danced, cried and reflected.
All this aesthetic that can easily remind you of some romantic comedy that takes place in the Middle Ages ― you can imagine a dirt street, a wooden stage, people dancing for some music, almost a Shakespeare theater ― can be seen in the album’s opener and lead single, “willow.” The track features strings that play smoothly accompanied by drums, synthesizers, pianos and even flutes. A complex sound composition very well made and directed that progresses nicely thanks to the lyrics that each time presents an increasingly intense and strong chorus. However, perhaps the strongest point are Swift’s vocals, which, in addition to sounding sweet in the verses, shows something she never did on other albums, reaching very high and fine notes on the hook. Whenever she sings “follow” and “hollow,” you fall in love. While in the folklore’s opener you feel the tragedy, here you feel the desire to fall in love.
However, despite all the differences between the Swift’s two last albums, something similar between them is her compositions that seem to get more and more sentimental, sharp, detailed, vivid and even metaphorical. Just like in folklore that she takes on other people and sings about other lives, here she does the same. While in the hopeless and memorable “champagne problems” she becomes a woman, who denies a marriage proposal (“”She would’ve made such a lovely bride/What a shame she’s fucked in the head, “they said”), in the intelligent “ivy” she takes on a married woman who falls in love with another man, making an interesting parallel between a climbing plant and a house (“My house of stone, your ivy grows/And now I’m covered”). In both cases, Swift features stunning and wonderful lyrics.
But that didn’t seem enough for her since some tracks seem to connect here too, although Taylor herself didn’t confirm that. In the country-directed “dorothea,” Taylor takes on the role of a normal girl who sings for an old friend who became a great actress in Hollywood. She sings in the most magnificent moment of the song “Ooh, you’rе a queen sellin’ dreams, sellin’ makeup and magazines/Ooh, from you, I’d buy anything.” However, in “’tis the damn season,” she becomes a Los Angeles star who returns to her hometown and discovers an old romance. She sings, “If you don’t ask me to stay/So I’ll go back to L.A.” In this way, we can understand that, in one, Swift sings for Dorothea, in another, she becomes her. It’s kinda clever.
As noticed, evermore also features Taylor’s first country songs in years. Back in the 1989 era, she had confessed that despite being on top of the world as the most successful Pop Star in years, she still missed and liked cowboy boots and had not grown tired of country. Well, it took 6 years for her to return to her roots ― which, by the way, present the best works of her career. However, now that she has returned, she presents one of the best and sharpest country songs in years. In “no body, no crime,” alongside the Haim sisters, Swift tells the story of a woman who suspects that a friend was killed by her husband in order to him live his life with his mistress. “This wasn’t there Tuesday night at Olive Gardеn/At her job or anywhere/Hе reports his missing wife,” Taylor sings alongside guitars, drums, country usual samples and catchy harmonica solos. However, the best in this group, which also ends up being the best on the album, is “cowboy like me.” Having the most complex lyrics and the most seductive and stunning instrumental of the entire album, the song has verses that mix realistic scenes and exquisite metaphors. After mesmerizing string solos, she sings sweetly, “Like the Gardens of Babylon/With your boots beneath my bed/Forever is the sweetest con.” Something curious is that several people have been claiming that the track is inspired by the 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain. Despite no confirmation, after this theory, you can fit the movie in the song and the song in the movie.
Another positive point is the experimental and sonic freedom that Taylor realized she has and exercises. While in folklore, the most different points still seemed to be tied to some sure bet ― like the cavernous atmospheres that were also seen in “The Archer” of 2019’s Lover ― here she seems to feel freer and really bet on increasingly different things. In a way, as previously mentioned, the whole album carries a very peculiar, unique and different sound aesthetic that Swift never worked on, however, there are some points around the record where it really goes far beyond what she has already done. The most potent moment is “closure,” which starts with Nine Inch Nails-style drums and progresses nicely, thanks to an interesting contrast between industrial instrumental and piano and Swift’s soft voice and some robotic ones. Although the track sounds pretty out of tune with Swift herself, it’s still a great attempt and deserves all its merit for simply trying.
Lastly, like folklore that didn’t necessarily have a bad song, evermore follows this theory, presenting tracks that may be a point of the curve or that are not as powerful as the rest. While “long story short,” is one of them for the simple fact of not talking to the rest of the album, in addition to being a bit forgettable and much more like a discard from some of her old pop albums, “closure,” again, despite being a really good shot, is very isolated and ends up looking like an ephemeral desire among the rest. “marjorie,” lastly, despite being an important song for Taylor ― named after her grandmother who was an opera singer and has her vocals on the background of the track ― and have some interesting lines ― “Never be so kind/You forget to be clever/Never be so clever/You forget to be kind” ―, it ended up being, in general, weaker than it should. Again, they are not bad but they could be better.
At the end, you can’t forget some great lost songs. While the sweet and multi-faceted hit “gold rush” shines like Antonoff’s only production, the conflicting and sad “tolerate it” delivers one of the album’s best lines, “I made you my temple, my mural, my sky/Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life.” Meanwhile, “coney island” reinforces the fact that Swift’s collaboration with men with thick, strong voices are sure bets and “happiness” appears as the hope after the end of something good. On the last track, with Bon Iver, Swift sings about the feeling of depression that has haunted her for a while. She sings before Bon Iver appears with his voice remixed and an acceleration on the rhythm, “I couldn’t be sure/I had a feeling so peculiar/That this pain would be for/Evermore.” Even though evermore may not be so enjoyable because folklore is still fresh in our minds, that does not mean that it is bad, quite the contrary, it is yet another important piece on her discography. In the last sentence, she sings, “This pain wouldn’t be for evermore.” We only have to know if she will finally come out of this dark and gloomy forest and where she will go. Regardless of everything, we will go with her, as always, covering her back, making her invulnerable.