Album Review: Taylor Swift – evermore
Maddie Baker and Lauren Cowie review Taylor Swift’s latest album, evermore.
Writing as a “veteran” Taylor Swift fan, I can safely say evermore is an example of Swift’s development as an artist. She has proven herself to be versatile by experimenting with country, rock, pop, electro and now folk and alt-pop genres. Having written this article alongside my decidedly more neutral friend, we have found evermore to be a cohesive, soft and (yet another) characteristically relatable Swift album. Recorded without the equipment and electro backing of previous albums, evermore is toned-back, therapeutic listening that is reflective of our pandemic-ridden times.
The headlining record to evermore is ‘willow’. This first track acts as a flagship for the album by introducing themes of nature, anti-hero protagonists and, like folklore, myths that recur throughout the album. All of this is encapsulated in the chorus: ‘Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind’. Linking back to her earliest albums, Swift sings a ballad with both historicised romantic undertones and an acoustic instrumental that set the distinctly relaxed feel of evermore. Songs like ‘gold rush’, with its explicit reference to ‘folklore’, ‘cowboy like me’ through its traditional romantic lyrics, and ‘dorothea’, with its folky instrumental and rhythm, illustrate these respective trends in action throughout. The bookend of the album, other than the two bonus tracks, is its namesake ‘evermore’. Another collaboration with Bon Iver following folklore, ‘evermore’ continues on from ‘willow’ and much of the album in its tale of two flawed lovers, utilising nature-driven imagery of sunlight, winter and life continuing on.
One criticism of the album is the change between mellow songs like ‘tolerate it’ and others like the energetic ‘no body, no crime’. Reportedly a reference to the recently dramatised Rebecca, ‘tolerate it’ is a relaxed graduation from earlier, bitter songs like ‘Dear John’ about failing relationships. Lines like ‘drawing hearts in the byline’ are clever and illustrate Swift’s maturity and story-telling ability. Despite the mentioned change in tempo, with its creative storyline and country energy, ‘no body, no crime’ remains one of my favourite songs on the album. A duet with Haim, it is an especially creative, true crime ballad that sees Swift incrementally change lyrics to implicate adultery, murder and revenge. A middle ground between ‘tolerate it’ and ‘no body, no crime’ is perhaps ‘ivy’, which builds pace with its harmonies, lifting the song and its plot to a growing ‘burning’ fever pitch.
a typically luminous, imaginative Swift album
Another strong song on the album is ‘champagne problems’. The piano-led instrumental reminded me of ‘New Year’s Day’, which was an exception to the feisty tone of earlier album Reputation. With its melancholy defence of lesser “champagne problems”, Swift speaks to her listeners by comparing her protagonist’s rejection to an unwanted bottle of champagne, with the memorable line ‘your heart was glass, I dropped it’. One last striking song, reflecting the wintry feel of many of the songs on evermore, is Swift’s ‘tis the damn season’. On first listening, I felt it was Swift’s take on The Pogues’ Christmas classic. With its dark version of a festive tune, evermore continues its proliferation of anti-heroes and complex retellings of topics that pop up again and again in her music.
Overall, evermore is a typically luminous, imaginative Swift album. My overarching impression is that these two pared-down sister albums, released at different points of the pandemic, demonstrate the singer’s confidence and ability to move with the times. I will wait expectantly for the next iteration of Swift’s music…
Lauren Cowie 2020 Exeter Graduate
Although not a diehard Swift fan, like my co-author, I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed the entirety of both folklore and evermore. Over the years I have found the odd Swift song I would listen to, but mostly, I have been apathetic toward the release of new music. After the unabashed, theatrical pop of Lover, I was surprised to find these albums go into a deeper, more introspective direction. Of course, we still get those iconic Taylor Swift lyrics, with “coming back stronger like a 90s trend” instantly added to all self-respecting Swifties’ Instagram bios.
Taylor Swift seems to return to her country roots in this album. It has long since been tradition within the genre to use a narrative lyrical style. Swift utilises this skilfully throughout, but most evidently in ‘no body, no crime.’ The iconic Carrie Underwood song, ‘Before He Cheats’ immediately came to mind upon hearing it for the first time. Both songs defined by their catchy, country-pop sound, with a similar warning to any man thinking of committing infidelity… Although Underwood only damages a car, Swift takes revenge to a whole different level. (Spoiler: she kills him.) I was also reminded of Dolly Parton’s ‘Travelling Man.’ In both songs, the story progresses with each verse, although where Parton’s is more free-flowing lyrically, with a steady tune, Swift changes the story just by a subtle shift in pronouns – and, of course, both have a fun twist at the end.
This narrative style continues in the cyclical lyrics of ‘champagne problems’ and ‘tolerate it.’ The first-person narrative in ‘tolerate it’ gives the listener insight into their overlooked existence within their own home – ‘begging for footnotes in the story of [their lover’s] life.’ In starting and ending the song with ‘I sit and watch you,’ it makes it all the more poignant and relatable. Her storytelling can be seen throughout the sister albums, with Swift’s affinity for literary references found in almost every song, from The Great Gatsby to Peter Pan. The characters within evermore are intriguing – the rejected fiancé of ‘champagne problems’, the abandoned lover of ‘tis’ the damn season’ and the forbidden romance of ‘ivy’. This certainly aligns with the artistic direction of the music videos that accompany the album – the cinematic fairy tale aesthetic only enhancing the effect of ‘willow’.
I was consistently impressed by the way Swift’s delicate vocals were allowed to shine, against the stripped back, folk instrumentals. I particularly appreciated the use of airy harmonies in ‘ivy’, ‘champagne problems’ and ‘willow’ and the subtle, but complimentary, addition of Marcus Mumford in ‘cowboy like me.’ Whilst discussing this album I repeatedly referred to Swift as “The Queen of the Bridge” for this very reason, with the bridge catching your attention but also transitioning the listener smoothly.
Although I found it becomes weaker nearing its end with the concluding ‘closure’ and ‘evermore’. Considering the memorable ‘willow’ and ‘no body, no crime’, these songs pale in comparison. In addition, the clashing overwhelming introduction of ‘closure’ almost shakes you from the spell of the rest of the album. Despite this, lyrically, both songs remain strong.
Nevertheless, when I’ve returned to evemore, I’ve found myself putting a different song on repeat each time and it has become a staple in my listening habits. This album is undoubtedly one of my favourites from 2020. Evermore is a delightfully whimsical, escapist album and was exactly what was needed at the end of such a disastrous year.
Our top picks:
2. ‘no body, no crime’