Reviews by mars
Taylor Swift’s evermore review: Lighting strikes twice on the magical folklore follow-up (9/10)
“I think I’ve seen this film before,” Swift trades off with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon in the folklore duet “exile.” Now, the lyric-turned-Tik Tok trend has taken on a whole new meaning. In the less than five months since folklore’s surprise release, Swift has done it all over again and shockingly announced that the album’s “sister record” would drop with less than a day’s notice.
Evermore (released December 11, 2020), Swift’s ninth studio album - and third in a year and a half - picks up right where folklore left off. Both sonically and lyrically, evermore captures the nostalgia, heartbreak, and maturity of its “older sister,” but goes even deeper down the complex rabbit hole of adult love. The universal acclaim to folklore likely relieved many of the pre-release anxieties of deviating from her staple album rollouts and allowed Swift to continue her exploration into the depths of her craft.
“To put it plainly, we just couldn’t stop writing songs. To try and put it more poetically, it feels like we were standing on the edge of the folklorian woods and had a choice: to turn and go back or to travel further into the forest of this music. We chose to wander deeper in.” - Swift, 2020
Nonetheless, sequels historically falter when predominantly focused on keeping a spark alive rather than thematic development. Fortunately, for both Swift and listeners alike, evermore is more a “The Godfather Part II” than a “Grease 2.” And while folklore and evermore‘s lyrical and thematic parallels beautifully complement one another, the latter stands on its own as a body of top-tier work by one of this generation’s strongest songwriters.
Swift continues her journey away from the country and arena-pop that cemented her stardom with folklore collaborators Aaron Dessner of the National, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Jack Antonoff of “Cruel Summer” and “august” fame, and William Bowery (whom we now know to be the pseudonym of Swift’s boyfriend, Joe Alwyn). The folklore A-team drafts a few new friends into the mix this time around, notably Dessner’s brother, Bryce, the HAIM sisters, and some backing vocals contributed by Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons.
Evermore shines brightest where Swift’s effortless lyrical dexterity marries minimalist, yet experimental production, allowing her words to truly take center stage. Nowhere to be found is the electropop that accompanied Swift’s feminist message on “The Man” and allowed it to easily find a home on Top 40 radio. It’s evermore’s greatest strength that the breathtaking instrumentation and intricate tales shine across a variety of production styles - whether on the upbeat “long story short,” techy “closure,” or lamenting “tolerate it.”
Like its predecessor, evermore strays from diving too deep into Swift’s own love life but rather details both fictional and true stories of the past and present. On the stellar “‘tis the damn season,” listeners meet Dorothea, an LA-based megastar returning home for the holidays and rediscovering a former small-town love story. Like the parallels across folklore’s “betty,” “august,” and “cardigan,” evermore’s “dorothea” tells the other side of the story, where there is a craving for rekindling a romance despite geographic distance. As folklore’s “epiphany” draws on Swift’s grandfather and his experiences fighting in WWII, evermore’s “marjorie” is an ode to Swift’s grandmother, who passed away in 2003. This emotional eulogy flawlessly displays the pain of not knowing a loved one well enough before one’s passing, but striving to keep her memory alive. What makes this track even more special is the warm entry of Marjorie’s voice at the end of the song, joining her granddaughter on her musical journey to learn from her past and continue onward.
The 15 songs released to date (an additional two tracks can be found on the album’s physical deluxe edition) also draw on Swift’s strength of interweaving her previous work throughout both the lyrics, melodies, and visuals of her newest catalog entry. The music video for lead single “willow” picks up right where “cardigan” left off plus references to folklore’s “seven,” “invisible string,” “mirrorball,” and “mad woman.” On the gorgeous “champagne problems,” the piano intro is reminiscent of reputation’s “New Year’s Day,” and its bridge connects to that of Lover’s “The Archer.” Swift continues her homage to The Great Gatsby from reputation’s "This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things'' and “Don’t Blame Me” on “happiness,” which references Daisy Buchanan’s infamous wish that her daughter be “a beautiful fool.” A slight hint of folklore’s “peace” is detected in the instrumentation on evermore’s “long story short.” Lastly, album highlight “no body, no crime” welcomes the HAIM sisters as they join Swift in her first unofficial “Dateline” special. The country-infused murder mystery functions as a blend of Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” and The Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” and utilizes the same narrative twist heard on folklore’s “the last great american dynasty.” Yes, it’s just as chill-inducing this time around.
Evermore’s final breath leaves listeners with a sign of hope for what’s to come: “I had a feeling so peculiar / that this pain wouldn’t be for evermore.” To no one’s surprise, Swift crafts a lyric so relatable, so perfectly juxtaposed with the state of our current world. Life as it was once has been paused for almost a year. A global pandemic has uprooted mundane life and turned each new day into a mirror image of the day before. But in the midst of months-long pain, agony, and anxiety, Taylor Swift embraced quarantine and managed to create not one, but two albums that both provide a dazzling escape into a world that functions as a reminder of what once was - and what can be again.
What comes of the folklore and evermore eras are to be seen - an intimate stadium filled with fans swaying in unison to the “ooh”’s of “dorothea” when the coronavirus pandemic comes to an end or perhaps another genre shape-shift for the woman who has proven she can do it all. Regardless, evermore further showcases Swift in her most confident, boldest state, proving that both of her 2020 releases are the art she was born to create.
NY-based, 26-year-old, music-obsessed and loves to write about it.