Only a few days ago, the black and white woodlands area taking inspiration from folklore pitched a sign awaiting the arrival of its neighboring dipped-in-color evermore. For a sister album born months afterward, one would think it stayed in the frozen waters of high school tales, yet it sounded more adult. While it still spoke of infidelity, there was a notion of returning home to oneself, having learned the lessons that transpired between those years where the first lot of events happened. Taylor Swift is an artist built on songwriting, and as she goes into her ninth album, we couldn’t help but dissect along.
When Swift’s glittered pen takes to paper much like an author, she’s painting out all the vivid details of the world we’ll hang out in for three and a half minutes. It’s in the intricacies: what would one see? How would it smell? Is it twisted into heartbreaking angst or as in tune with “willow” where from the second we hear a violin’s siren call, we can imagine ourselves walking through a beige tent’s door into a circus-like atmosphere that’s visceral and whimsical? The story takes root reminiscent of “the 1,” the elusive notion of the person who got away except this time she’s claiming him. What’s more telling in this number is that it portrays her relationship with fame. Couplets such as “Life was a willow, and it bent right to your wind/Head on the pillow, I could feel you sneakin’ in” present her lover tip-toeing into the fishbowl she’s trapped in.
If there’s a melody sitting right beside one’s birthday, then it’s the wedding anthem; the collective slowed beats echoed around a church’s pews as a bride walks up the aisle. This is what the slow unraveling of a should’ve-been-perfect love story does through “champagne problems,” except it’s also almost like a rewind time machine. It’s what makes it more poetic if we’re not taking any notice of the lyrics, the juxtaposition. One doesn’t truly work out the full story until the song continues, and we’re left with the final chorus. It’s depleted, forgiveness ridden, wanting her ex-lover to find someone who can give him everything that she couldn’t. Swift decoders worked out that its chords have the same rhythmic pattern as the long-term breakup tune favorite “All Too Well.”
What must it be like to grow up that beautiful? That’s what Swift asks in the entrancing “gold rush.” She says she doesn’t like a gold rush, that everybody wants them—the perfect world of dreams, a fantasy world full of happiness. The track ends the same way it begins, describing this perfect person, “Gleaming/Twinkling/Eyes like sinking/Ships on waters/So inviting/I almost jump in.” You can easily tell by Swift’s voice how in love she is, but every time she says she doesn’t like the gold rush, she gets slower, almost trying to stop herself. Perhaps not every perfect person should be the one for you. Additionally, “My mind turns your life into folklore” is a subtle way of connecting evermore to sister record folklore.
“’tis the damn season”
For every warm, contented feeling the holidays bring you, “’tis the damn season” is the opposite. Truly an anti-holiday masterpiece, Swift’s poignant lyrics envelop you in the bittersweet pining for the person that you didn’t end up with. Visiting home is like stepping through time into our old selves, and Swift perfectly encompasses wondering about “the road not taken,” the one that always leads to your hometown and to that person. As adults, they could “call it even/ You could call me ‘babe’ for the weekend.” Be it a fling or just riding around together, the joy it could bring is juxtaposed with the reminder she’s leaving again anyway. The desperation and anger of it are found in small moments like “if it’s ok with you/ it’s ok with me,” all but begging to be asked to stay. There is no “happy ending,” though it feels incredible to hide away in their company for a moment. ‘Tis the damn season.
Track five on every one of Swift’s albums is known as a heartbreaking one or one that means the most to fans and Swift. The significance of evermore’s track five, “tolerate it,” hasn’t changed. This song tackles Swift watching what the person does: breathing with their eyes closed, waiting by the door like she’s a kid, noticing everything they do and don’t do. “My love should be celebrated, but you tolerate it.” A love that could be so powerful it may make you feel unseen. Swift’s soft vocals make it clear she’s in pain, emotionally. It’s like she doesn’t want to be in love, but she is, even if it hurts her.
“no body, no crime” (feat. HAIM)
“no body, no crime“ features the voices of the sister group HAIM, who opened up for Swift on the 1989 World Tour in 2015. The beginning starts off with sirens and a repeating of “He did it.” Swift goes on to tell the story of Este, how she’s been losing sleep because her husband has been acting differently, not letting up until the day she dies. Este then winds up missing, and the husband’s mistress moves in. The bridge, however, tells a different story, going into the fact that she did it. This song tells an intricate murder mystery story, giving a whole theatrical performance by the song’s end. Swift’s vocals, combined with HAIM and the instrumental country, mix well with the story, almost creating a movie. At the very end, alongside the whisper of “died,” the lower crescendo makes it seem like the story could still be continuing.
Would it be an evermore song if the title was exactly what it promised? Called “happiness,” the song is not that. Rather, it’s a heartbreaking look at the grief following a breakup. With a haunting melody, Swift takes us through those stages of grief and into the metamorphosis that such raw pain forces upon us. Only Swift could sing gut-wrenching lyrics like “Past the curses and cries/Beyond the terror in the nightfall,” “When did all our lessons start to look like weapons/ Pointed at my deepest hurt?,” and interlace them with equally uplifting lyrics in the same song. As much pain as these lyrics portray, we’re reminded, “you haven’t met the new me yet” and “there’ll be happiness after you.” Alternating the darkest moments in her lower register with the hopeful chorus in her upper, it’s a vocal and lyrical triumph. Swift understands the pain and promises there is happiness in what comes after, so hold on. You haven’t met the new you yet.
Similar to “betty,” Swift is telling this tale of “dorothea,” someone who might have left. It could be told from a friend’s perspective, or perhaps from a lover. “Making the lark of a misery” suggests that Dorothea has made an impact on Swift, or whoever is telling the story. It’s a more uplifting tale while sad at the same time, telling stories about prom, going to the park, but is she still the same? “I guess I’ll never know.” “But it’s never too late/To come back to my side.” The combination of Swift’s use of her lower and upper registers makes “dorothea” so powerful. It is an example of how not everyone you meet lasts in your life forever, and not everyone stays the same.
“coney island (feat. The National)”
By now, folkeloreland can be found deep in the Google Maps archives, stamped as a real place where its schools festered with foolish lovers sit next to a neighboring town sparked by an evermore sound. However, if we were to move back to the technicolor city of autobiographical lyrics grounded in Swift’s life, then “coney island” featuring The National would be the one to do it. Her life is the tangled dream board we all wish to be living, intertwined with various career achievements that have made her a household name for over a decade. Yet sitting on that park bench, she contemplates: “What’s a lifetime of achievement If I pushed you to the edge?” The masterful bridge dueted with Matt Berninger drops details to all the public tidbits of how her ex-lovers’ downfalls began. “Were you standing in the hallway/With a big cake, happy birthday,” clueing to Red‘s “The Moment I Knew” to the Harry Styles period in “Out of the Woods.” As much as she chose the wrong person in the past, she also made her own terrible choices. Apologizing to all those left behind, placing the life she’s always wished for as the focus rather than merely making them her centerfold.
Reminiscent of “illicit affairs,” Swift weaves a tale of forbidden love and already promised hands. Ever the wordsmith, “Oh, I can’t/Stop you putting roots in my dreamland/My house of stone, your ivy grows/And now I’m covered in you” gives the vivid mental image of an all-encompassing love despite her already being married. The upbeat music lends a dreamlike quality to the song that’s filled with beautiful natural references as the two steal away: “Clover blooms in the fields,” “Crescent moon, coast is clear.” But it’s not all precious stolen moments, as their story is filled with fear of discovery and the painful visual of that ivy-covered house catching fire if her husband realizes her indiscretion. But Swift does lay the groundwork for them to run away together: “So tell me to run/Or dare to sit and watch what we’ll become.”
“cowboy like me”
We know nothing good starts in a getaway car, but a covered tennis court? Color me surprised. “cowboy like me” has Swift revisiting her country roots with its distinct sound and vocals. The rich backup vocals add depth to the song, and if they sound familiar, it’s because it’s none other than Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons! Two swindlers find their perfect matches in each other, suddenly interested in more, but both carry some heavy baggage. Knowing they both run cons of love on the wealthy, they are bound to have trust issues, “And the skeletons in both our closets/ Plotted hard to fuck this up.” But they fall for each other and end up together, “With your boots beneath my bed/Forever is the sweetest con.”
“long story short”
If there’s another splash of color acting as a sign that Swift’s ready to return home after making herself the royal Queen fairy of the woodland creatures, then it’s “long story short.” Not purely because its garage band clashing of various instruments would be the perfect track of a coming of age movie as the screen melts into its closing black, but it lets us know she’s okay, it’s alright. The book encased by a snakeskin representing the various emojis that once decorated her Instagram posts by passing users’ comments has closed by meeting another starring character, her British boyfriend of four years, Joe Alwyn. Even more so, scattered between is the lesson that those who put knives in her back will get their own karma. Rather than acting on revenge, she was inspired to do so back when she was younger. Now, her only duty is to keep the new book that she’s in bubble-wrapped.
While mystified recounts about those people we return to after years have passed and hairs are coated with grey spark a distant nostalgia, “marjorie” is the front row seat to a tribute montage to those who that have passed on yet remain as the presence on our shoulders. It speaks of one’s mortality, how we might not know we will never be able to insert ourselves into the memory again until the opportunity presents itself where we’re forced to. From that point forward, we turn life’s radio dial and see things differently; the lucid imagery lives on in our heads. They’re alive every day through their teachings, their favorite things, and those few objects that are still tangible. It doesn’t quench the longing we have for them, but it makes it a little more bearable. Swift’s grandmother Marjorie, who acts as the song’s main character, is also the backing vocals for a spine-chilling addition.
“closure” is all about an ex from a toxic relationship. To signify that, the backtrack at the beginning of the song is messy, all over the place, while the perspective is confused whether he or she needs to give closure to an ex who caused toxicity in her life. The flow of the song is also over the place, like how a toxic relationship is. However, when Swift gets to the first pre-chorus, as she’s figuring out she doesn’t need that closure, the music gets put back together. When you realize that a relationship you were once in was bad, all you need to know is that you have yourself; it’s over. The closure isn’t always the best thing for you. What is, is looking forward and never looking back.
“evermore” (feat. Bon Iver)
When Swift announced she’d be teaming up with Bon Iver for an evermore track, we were all anticipating how they could top “exile.” It’s clear now that the artistry soared beyond our wildest expectations. The slow and steady piano and string instruments match the deeply personal lyrics as Swift recalls retreating from the glitz of Hollywood into the wild woods that created the folklore/evermore era, “I replay my footsteps on each stepping stone/Trying to find the one where I went wrong.” She spent time catching her breath, hiding away in the cold where she felt close to catching her death. Just as we settle into the rhythm, Justin Vernon’s bridge arrives to shake up the trajectory with a faster pace in a higher register and key, uplifting the song. “Oh, can we just pause?/To be certain, we’ll be tall again.” A beautiful bridge follows with Vernon’s same words against Swift’s new ones “And when I was shipwrecked/ I thought of you,” “It was real enough/To get me through/I swear/You were there.” It’s the pace change that alters Swift’s perspective in the final chorus from “this pain would be for evermore” to “this pain wouldn’t be for evermore.” She’s caught her breath, the cabin has healed her, and she steps forth out of that pain.
It’s telling Swift chose evermore as her title track for this sister album and continuation of folklore. She went away to the wild of the woods, feeling shipwrecked and lost. But rather than hide in it, Swift chose to run headlong into those woods and unleashed her full creativity. In it, she wove ethereal tales of forbidden love, heartbreak, murder, introspection, and ultimately found herself again. It’s clear that Swift can and will always intuitively know exactly what her fans long for, and she’ll continue to gift us with it for evermore.