Just when we thought we’d finally recovered from the surprise release of folklore this past July, Taylor Swift made us emotionally unstable again by announcing the release of yet another surprise album, evermore. She dropped the 15-track album, which she called “folklore’s sister record,” at midnight on Dec. 11, just a couple days before her 31st birthday.
The record opens with “willow,” whose upbeat string accompaniment introduces a Renaissance-meets-Greek mythology vibe right away. In this song, Swift confirms that she is indeed in love — not that she hasn’t already *cough cough, Lover*. The accompanying music video is just as fun and cute, pulling us into a whimsical world filled with flowing white dresses, glowing bonfires and, of course, willow trees.
But the next track, “champagne problems,” co-written by Swift’s boyfriend Joe Alwyn under the pseudonym William Bowery, replaces any lingering happiness with sadness. The soft piano introduction, similar to “New Year’s Day” from reputation, sets the stage for a story of lost love from the perspective of a woman who rejects a proposal. The heart wrenching music and lyrics make this song the perfect addition to anyone’s designated sad playlist.
A few tracks later, in “tolerate it,” we hear from someone who feels unappreciated and downtrodden in their marriage, highlighting Swift’s powerful choice to continue the theme of broken relationships she introduces in “champagne problems.” With beautiful metaphors like, “Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life,” and gentle piano in the background, Swift takes us through feelings that everyone will likely experience at some point in their life.
Swift also carries on her tradition of intertwined storylines from folklore. This time, instead of the love triangle of “cardigan,” “august” and “betty,” she tells the story of Dorothea, a small town girl who goes to Hollywood to chase big dreams. In “dorothea,” an upbeat ballad, Dorothea’s hometown love sings about their memories together in a nostalgic manner reminiscent of folklore’s “seven.” “’tis the damn season,” which has a festive touch, brings us Dorothea’s side of the story, giving us a glimpse into how she rekindles her old relationship while visiting her hometown for the holidays.
evermore’s standout track is undoubtedly “no body, no crime” (feat. HAIM). Swift goes back to her country roots with a driving melody complete with guitar and accordion. For three minutes, she immerses us in a riveting murder mystery involving a woman who avenges her friend’s cheating husband. Nobody except Swift could use the phrases, “Olive Garden,” and, “life insurance policy,” in a song and make it sound this good. “no body, no crime” will be my new go-to song to belt with friends in the car.
Another personal favorite is “coney island” (feat. The National), which is to evermore what “august” is to folklore. With wistful lyrics like, “Sorry for not making you my centerfold,” and, “Sorry for not winning you an arcade ring,” Swift and The National’s Matt Berninger evoke unmatchable nostalgia.
If you’ve dealt with loss, “marjorie” will also hit you right in the gut. Swift dedicated the song to her grandmother of the same name, singing about their memories together and expressing regret in an utterly heartbreaking way. Track seven, “happiness,” is similarly bittersweet, with Swift singing about a past relationship that she misses but also exploring the process of healing, moving forward and finding happiness.
With “gold rush” and “long story short,” Swift takes a more upbeat route. In “gold rush,” which is presumably about Alwyn, she sings about jealousy. The juxtaposition of the music stands out — she transitions between ethereal, dreamy verses and a straightforward, syncopated chorus before coming to an abrupt end. In “long story short,” she describes picking herself up after the drama she faced in 2016 with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Calvin Harris. Although neither track is mind-blowing to me, their driving melodies make them perfect to play while cruising down the highway.
To me, “ivy,” “closure” and “cowboy like me” are the least dazzling tracks on the album. “ivy,” where Swift sings about a love she longs for despite consequences, sounds slightly similar to “willow.” “closure” is the perfect angsty post-breakup track, but it personally didn’t stir much emotion. “cowboy like me,” the story of two con artists who fall in love set against country-folk instrumentation, is relaxing and cute but relatively ordinary. But even though these three tracks fall flat, they still highlight Swift’s overall vision for the album and her talented lyricism and production.
“evermore” (feat. Bon Iver), the last track of the album, is where the tears really start to flow, if they haven’t already. It opens with a simple piano melody, then launches into heart-wrenching verses about Swift losing herself after negative media portrayals and personal struggles. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon intensifies the song when he comes in with a driving bridge. The album ends on a hopeful note as Swift sings, “This pain wouldn’t be for evermore,” giving us all something to hang onto during this rocky time.
Concluding a year filled with ups and downs, evermore captures almost every existing emotion, from regret to anger to nostalgia to healing. Sonically and metaphorically, it’s an extension of folklore. However, Swift also brings an incredibly unique sound to the table that distinguishes this album from any of her past work. Once again, she leaves us simultaneously awestruck and wanting more.
After this surprise work of art, we can only wonder what Swift has in store next. For now, evermore will be on repeat as we feel all the feelings and wait for her next masterpiece.