Favorite Track: "no body, no crime (feat. HAIM)" Least Favorite Track: "gold rush"
Despite being one of the biggest stars of the 2000’s, the esteemed Taylor Swift generally keeps to herself. She doesn’t go on personal tangents on Twitter, or post a large amount of gossip-inducing relationship pictures to her Instagram; instead, she seems to use her platform as a means of promoting her work, plain and simple. This sentiment reinforces her artistry, but also makes the explorations of her personal life in her music feel so much more gratifying, as we tap into the deep, mysterious happenings of one of pop’s biggest stars.
With the release of her folk-tinged surprise album folklore, Taylor seemed to open up a multitude of doors into her relationships, mental health, and personal life in general on tracks like “the last great american dynasty” and “cardigan”. With the lauded reception of folklore, Taylor seemed to be drawing a new kind of fan. People far and wide who appreciated artistic growth above all else seemed to be drawn to her transition, as Taylor not only seemed to be taking a new approach sonically, but producing the best lyricism we had ever seen from her as well. This new combination of intimate song structure and consistently enjoyable lyricism left people wondering: what is Taylor capable of, and what will she do next?
Less than 5 months later, Taylor offered a blunt rebuttal to these questions in the form of her second 2020 release, evermore. Not only is this album a spiritual successor to folklore in terms of its instrumentation, but it also offers a wider variety of genres and even better lyricism. For every one step that folklore took with the pop-tinged folk style, evermore takes three. Take the openers of each album for example. folklore begins with “the 1”, a sweet ballad about missed love opportunities and the sadness that can come from them. The sentiment is sweet but melancholic, embodied in the lightly played piano chords and finger-picked acoustic guitar. Taylor’s lyricism is lovely and incredibly mature, recounting where past relationships went wrong while still acknowledging that there was nothing else to be done. evermore’s opener, “willow”, feels like a sequel to “the 1” in a lot of ways, reflecting on a current relationship instead and the happiness that comes with it. The sentiment of the track is sticky-sweet and crisply produced while gorgeously vibrant guitars and light auxiliary percussion create a sense of pure folk bliss.
My biggest problem with folklore to this day is that it feels a tad inconsistent, mixing together clear-cut pop tunes like “mirrorball” with purist folk tracks like “the last great american dynasty”, and then throwing in random piano ballads like “exile (feat. Bon Iver)”. While none of these tracks are bad, per se, they don’t feel as though they work together cohesively, and it makes the album’s full-scale experience a bit rickety. evermore, on the other hand, is remarkably consistent, despite drawing from multiple influences and genres. A common theme of acoustic guitars and wonderfully low-key vocal performances from Taylor courses through evermore, making even the lowest points of the album like “gold rush” and “coney island (feat. The National)” feel important in the context of the greater tracklist.
In the few places that evermore does falter, it feels as though the duds in the tracklist run a common theme of being slightly underwritten. “happiness” covers themes of mental health relatively well, but fails to hold enough substance in the instrumental or the lyricism to warrant it being the longest track on the record. “gold rush” has adequate vocal melodies at parts, but in general the lyricism is a bit dry, with the chorus running quite repetitive as well. The track is an interesting exploration of envy and jealousy, but it really leaves me wishing that the most tension filled track on the album lyrically garnered a bit more of a climax instrumentally.
The highlights on the record, however, are so consistently great that they overshadow nearly every lackluster moment on the album. “no body, no crime (feat. HAIM)” is my favorite track on the album, and easily one of the best tracks I have had the pleasure of hearing in 2020. The story driven country tune about Taylor’s friend Este dealing with her husband’s infidelity is cool, calm, and collected, telling the story with a slightly tongue-in-cheek and totally mischievous attitude. “closure” is another easy highlight, pulling together an enthralling and wholly original instrumental that can only be described as “industrial-folk”. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Taylor Swift album without a few simple love songs, and on that front, she delivers with ease as well. “‘tis the damn season” is simple, cute, and rivals some of Taylor’s best love songs, the chorus displaying some great lovesick lyricism and tongue-in-cheek vocal melodies.
Taylor Swift, despite being one of the most famous people in the world, somehow manages to be incredibly relatable and accessible as a songwriter on evermore. At no point on the record do I feel as though Taylor is a multi-millionaire, someone who consistently fills every arena on a tour with no problem at all. Instead, she portrays herself as down to Earth, like an easily understandable person exploring her ideas of what it means to be a flawed human being; the type of special artist you would find at an open mic at your local coffee shop. On the album’s 13th track, “marjorie”, Taylor talks about her late grandmother, someone who she makes apparent that she looked up to greatly. In the song, it seems as though she is recounting things her grandmother said to her at one point or another. One piece of advice Taylor sings about is “Never be so polite you forget your power, never wield so much power you forget to be polite”, a sentiment that seems to run clear through evermore. Taylor remains polite, humble, and simple, while still understanding the impact she has on her listeners; something I think is the mark of a true artist.