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Taylor Swift Surprises Us All Again

Just months after Taylor Swift's surprise quarantine album folklore, the genre-defying 2020 side of Swift is back with a second installment of sorts. evermore is folklore's "sister album," as said by Swift in her recent Instagram post about the new release. The team behind folklore was an all-star lineup: Swift, longtime producer and collaborator Jack Antonoff, and Justin Vernon of Bon Ivor as a featured collaborator. evermore boasts the same production team, and even more featured artists, including The National and fellow Grammy nominee HAIM.

With a year like 2020 discouraging touring and in-studio collaboration, it seems Swift has been anything but bored. evermore comes at the most interesting point in Swift's career. After finally being freed of Scooter Braun’s hold, many fans believed she was busy re-recording her old songs. And while a brand-new Red album is surely not off the table, no one expected an entirely new album in addition to that prospect. Swift keeps fans excited for the future at the end of her statement on the surprise album, however, stating, "I have no idea what happens next."

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Sonically, evermore follows folklore in its folk and indie leaning tendencies. Songs like "willow" and “ivy” reflect the more complex guitar licks and slide work characteristic of “invisible string,” “seven” and “betty” from folklore. The piano tone that is signature to Swift's slower tunes returns in songs like "champagne problems," playing like a dark "New Year’s Day." Though fans may find her further departure from booming bass and sweeping synthesizers jarring as they did with folklore's release, some welcome the change in instrumentation and genre influence. This genre-bending is especially evident in songs including "cowboy like me" and "no body, no crime," which are closer to Taylor's country roots than her more recent projects pre-folklore

Lyrically, Swift continues to pursue storytelling in a dark, lost-in-the-woods, introspective tone. Breakup songs like "happiness" boast more lyrical depth and maturity than ever before shown by Swift. She sings over muted piano of the better things to come, but the still present joy she's giving up: "There'll be happiness after you // But there was happiness because of you Both of these things can be true." And in the devastating song "tolerate it," she outlines a relationship with unbalanced effort. Lyrics like, "If it's all in my head tell me now // Tell me I've got it wrong somehow," strip the song of any usual lighthearted consolations regarding a negative relationship—this is Swift at her truest form, exposing the rotten core of a fundamentally flawed romance. 

If fans were excited by Justin Vernon's contribution to "exile" from folklore, they'll be delighted at the friends Taylor brought along for her newest songs. On "no body, no crime," the HAIM sisters provide haunting backing vocals on a song about murder. Fans of The National will recognize Matt Berninger's vocals on "coney island," as Bon Iver followers will be treated yet again to Justin Vernon's voice on the titular track "evermore." 

Though folklore and evermore will continue to miss out on the usual treatment of Taylor Swift eras—packed stadiums and global tours—perhaps that's best for the stripped-down albums. Instead, folklore has received an entire documentary for it on Disney+, and evermore is an unsolicited treat in itself. No matter what Swift has planned for these collections of songs, the fact remains that we are lucky to hear them at all.

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Maddie Stults is a first year psychology student at Florida State University. She is passionate about mental health and volunteers for NAMI Tallahassee in her free time. When she's not writing or studying, she loves playing guitar, tennis, listening to music, and re-watching Parks and Rec on Netflix.
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