Greetings! The perceptive reader will notice that this is the first time I, the co-Editor-in-Chief of our publication, am being published this year on a solo article. After two long years of editing, I’ve decided to return to my roots and write an article, and for good reason. Dec. 11, 2020 marked the release of Taylor Swift’s 9th studio album, evermore. This came as quite a shock to the musical world, as Swift released her 8th studio album, the critically acclaimed folklore, just months ago on July 24, 2020. The album announced the morning of its release, even Swifties as devout as I were not aware of this surprise album. Ms. Swift has truly blessed us this year, and her music glimmers as a beacon of light in the midst of the darkness cast by the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, did you know that Taylor Swift has released more albums this year than Americans have received stimulus checks? Thus, in honor of Taylor’s second album of the otherwise terrible 2020, I’ll be doing a comprehensive review of evermore. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
I have been a Swiftie since her Red album of 2012, which many critics mark as the start of her “pop” career. Having grown up with the “new” Taylor, I can safely say that this album is the best one she’s produced since her transition out of country music. Now, I’d even argue that evermore is just as good as if not greater than Speak Now or Fearless, but, alas, this is an article, not a Marsh research paper, so I’ll refrain.
Let’s start with the contextual significance of this album. With so many people suffering from the death and despair caused by COVID-19, evermore could not have come at a better time. What folklore started with songs like “epiphany” and “peace,” evermore finishes with “happiness” and “marjorie.” The themes of solitude and solace run deep through the lyrics of her songs, touching the hearts of millions who have been affected by the loneliness and melancholy of this utterly depressing year. When Taylor invites us to move “[p]ast the blood and bruise / past the curses and cries,” in “marjorie,” we have no choice but to do just that. A stark contrast to other 2020 albums like Positions by Ariana Grande or Eternal Atake by Lil Uzi Vert, which seem to provide nothing of substance to the average listener, evermore, through its sound and lyricism, humbles Taylor, emitting the feeling that she’s at our bedsides mourning with us. A crucial element that separates evermore from her other albums is how disconnected she is from it, which ironically makes it all the more personal to us. Notorious for writing songs that reveal perhaps too much of her life, Taylor has taken a noticeable step back from her self-absorbed songwriting. In her Disney+ exclusive concert, folklore: Long Pond Studio Sessions, she admits to relinquishing that need to make every song about herself, and it’s clear she continues that tradition in evermore. She adopts the role of a storyteller in songs like “champagne problems,” “coney island,” “gold rush” and “no body, no crime” which all talk about different but relatable struggles of life. “champagne problems” and “coney island” are about disappointing relationships, “gold rush” is about jealousy and “no body, no crime” is a murder-mystery-like tale about infidelity. All are themes of life applicable to many, making the tracks so much more personal and familiar to us.
Next, let’s talk about the diversity of the album—and I’m not just talking about the song genres. The music video of “willow,” the record’s opening track, features Korean-American Taeok Lee as its male lead. At a time when Asian representation is so scant in popular culture, Swift casting Lee, who was also a backup dancer for her Red tours, is groundbreaking. This comes a year after Taylor’s Lover music video starred Christian Owens, a black dancer, as its male lead. When it comes to representing the marginalized of society, Taylor has been the queen for years.
And of course, the range of her genres is worthy of mention. While many were delighted by Taylor’s sudden transition to folk/indie pop in folklore, others—notably country Taylor apologists—were dissatisfied with the lack of country in the album. Fear no more, country Taylor conservatives, for evermore features one distinctly country song, and three borderline ones, many more than the sole country song “betty” in folklore. “no body, no crime” (my second favorite song of the album) is a very different, yet nostalgic echo of albums like Fearless and Speak Now. Narrating the macabre tale of a woman named Este, who was presumably murdered by her husband after unveiling his affair, Taylor brings us on a trip down memory road with her unmatched songwriting ability to deliver a classic storytelling country song that ends with a major plot twist. Not to mention the immaculate feature by the legendary band of women, HAIM, which makes the song so much better. The other three, “ivy,” “dorothea” and “cowboy like me” are more difficult to categorize as country. While they certainly do contain distinct country characteristics like a subtle twang and, as mentioned before, the classic storytelling that makes Taylor sound almost like she’s just speaking, these three songs are a mix of other genres like folk, alternative and pop-rock as well.
Finally, the last thing to note that makes evermore, in my opinion, the best Taylor album of this decade, is its guest artists. The most loyal Swifties know that Taylor is not known for featuring many artists on her songs. We had Colbie Calliat on “Breathe,” Gary Lightbody on “The Last Time,” Ed Sheeran on “Everything Has Changed,” Ed Sheeran (again) and Future on “End Game,” The Chicks on “Soon You’ll Get Better” and Brendan Urie on “ME!” With the exception of “Everything Has Changed,” all of her songs with guests are forgettable, and perhaps even downright bad (Neither “End Game” nor “ME!” became the next big pop collab Taylor envisioned). However, this curse was lifted in folklore when Taylor featured Bon Iver on “exile,” a very popular track from the album and my personal favorite. The band’s lead singer Justin Vernon showcased his incredible range hitting bass notes that contrasted Taylor’s mid-range vocals perfectly, and the harmony of his baritone timbre with Taylor in the second half of the song produced a sound that can only be described as ethereal. Now, in evermore, Bon Iver makes a return on the closing track “evermore,” where Vernon reaches even higher into his range to spotlight his famous falsetto. So far, Bon Iver is 2/2 on features, but the latest album does not stop there. Not only does it feature the aforementioned HAIM, but it also includes a verse from The National on “coney island” and even backing vocals from the renowned Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons on “cowboy like me.” Both guest appearances complement Taylor incredibly well, serving similar vocal roles to Vernon in “exile” as the bass that blends perfectly with Taylor.
And with that, my review of evermore is concluded. It is one of the most complete albums Taylor has ever released, and it has been the only saving grace of this otherwise gruesome and painstaking finals week for seniors. As a holiday gift to the student body, I’ll include my personal ranking of the songs on the album. Happy Holidays everyone!
- no body, no crime
- coney island
- gold rush
- ‘tis the damn season
- tolerate it
- cowboy like me
- champagne problems
- long story short