Label: Republic Records
Release Date: 11th December 2020
"With its stripped-back folklorian flair, the sheen of 1989, and the storytelling embellishments of Red, evermore may not be remembered as a grand reinvention in her discography, but another relic of what made Taylor Swift a songwriting supernova."
Throughout the meteoric rise of her pop contemporaries (Ariana in 2018, Billie in 2019 and Dua Lipa this year), Taylor Swift has remained a constant megastar. Since debuting in 2006, she has achieved admirable acclaim, several streaming records and a longevity that’s extremely rare for a female artist in the music industry.
When she released her mesmeric masterpiece, folklore, last summer, Swift yawed into new territory. A country-pop protégée turned international pop icon, folklore wasn’t as much a revelation, but a reaffirmation of Swift’s talent in spinning stories into songs.
Now, less than five months after releasing an album that’s already topped some publication’s end of year lists, Swift drops another surprise record with a kindred stylistic and sonic palette. evermore, her ninth studio album, may not be exactly the same as folklore, but it’s definitely the sequel - the lighter, looser, little sister. Chronicling similar themes of love and loss, memory and mythology, it will undoubtedly, and perhaps rightfully, be eclipsed by its towering landmark prequel.
Accompanied once again by Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver, Swift and her new musical family have made a concerted effort to delve deeper into their enchanting, atmospheric soundscape. We see once again, that each song serves as a singular thread in the album’s narrative tapestry. ‘ivy’, ‘marjorie’ and ‘dorothea’ join the ensemble of characters in Swift’s ever-expanding fantasy universe. The latter of which recalls the teen love triangle on folklore; it itself marries ‘tis’ the season’ in a story of two hometown friends finding solace in each other’s arms once again, one out of love, the other out of lust.
evermore has fewer standout songs, but in its subtleties, it sparkles. ‘gold rush’ is a polished, pulsating ballad and notably the only song entirely co-written and produced by Antonoff, compared to the seven on folklore. This less is more approach is harnessed delicately on lead single ‘willow’ and the simmering ‘long story short’. Both songs have hooks that, if amped up by Max Martin’s production on 1989, could have been wrung out into soulless stadium blockbusters. On the gorgeously subdued ‘happiness’, one of the album’s lyrical highlights, the heartbroken narrator finds closure in letting in the past before finally letting it go.
Whilst both folklore and evermore have a wistful, rootsy charm to them, it’s needless to say that the latter wouldn’t feel as compelling without the former. The title track ‘evermore’, another intimate collaboration with Bon Iver, unfurls into layered harmonies but the payoff isn’t as satisfying as folklore’s ‘exile’. ‘no body, no crime’ is, at first, a campy romp but quickly becomes a case of style over substance, a story with no stakes and a song that demotes guest features HAIM to backing singers.
Whether she was the country girl-next-door (Fearless), the damsel in distress (Red) or the femme fatale (reputation), Swift has often succumbed to her role in the public eye. Each album rollout has been attached and advertised by an ongoing scandal - famous exes, serpentine defamation, bids for music royalties, etc. Yet in both folklore and evermore, Swift is less interested in the fanfare of her drama and more invested into the fabric of her storytelling. Above all else, this is, and always has been, Swift’s holy ground: needling post-breakup pangs into pop perfection.
With its stripped-back folklorian flair, the sheen of1989, and the storytelling embellishments of Red, evermore may not be remembered as a grand reinvention in her discography, but another relic of what made Taylor Swift a songwriting supernova.
Words by Matthew Rogan.
13th December 2020.