Taylor Swift Makes a Triumphant Return To Her Roots in ‘evermore’
She declares it explicitly in ‘willow’ that she was meant to return anyway, and yet flees to the woods for a much-needed, well-deserved escape all at the same, brilliant time
This serves as a public service announcement that Taylor Swift has returned home: home to her country roots that is in her ninth album evermore. It is not to discredit folklore, its eruditely melancholic predecessor, as the signal that she has landed on familiar shores, but she declares it louder here. She declares it explicitly in "willow" that she was meant to return anyway, and yet flees to the woods for a much-needed, well-deserved escape all at the same, brilliant time.
Admittedly, folklore was a stronger record in terms of storytelling, mainly because the recall of the tracks were much stronger than here in evermore. But coming from the happier and technicolor Lover, it took some getting used to. I could describe folklore as a feeling of sinking into a comforter after a long day, sipping on a glass of gin and tonic while watching the flames flicker from the fireplace. But for all its well-intentioned despondency, it was a slow welcome for me to really fall in love with folklore, unlike evermore which had me falling for “‘tis the damn season” right away on the first listen.
Word of advice before we dive in deep: watch the “willow” music video to appreciate the track. As many would agree, "willow" was underwhelming on the first listen but when you couple it with the video, it was a stronger lead single than "cardigan" was. It was the sequel to folklore’s "invisible string" where she muses about her love being tied to her by an invisible gold string (a symbol of what she regards as the color of love: no longer blue but gold from Daylight of Lover lore). Taylor shines best when she talks about romance, and she displays both the fascination and the denial of such in gold rush. In the track, she sings, “I don’t like slow motion double vision in rose blush / I don’t like that falling feels like flying till the bone crush,” which is basically "La Vie en Rose" coupled with the crumbling, crushing consequences of loving someone. How did she describe a song and the cycle of processing feelings? Taylor apparently could.
The stripped accompaniments coupled loudly with the messaging, and her vulnerability is best captured here. This is not to say that her pop eras were of less quality, but there is a strength that Taylor gains when she plays with silence rather than noise, because her storytelling gets the spotlight this time. She illustrates this perfectly with tolerate it, where she writes about a despondent wife who pulls all the stops for her emotionally detached spouse to tolerate it, only for the spouse to return with less than the love she gives. In coney island, she puts the yearning on blast as she croons with The National, “And I'm sitting on a bench in Coney Island wondering where did my baby go?” The echoes only grow louder and the sighs are just as painful. She also speaks of the longing of a couple entwined in an affair in "ivy", one of my personal favorites as well on the album because of its imagery.
On evermore’s launch day, Taylor explains the reason why she fell in love with the escapism of storytelling. While she tells of a great return rather than a departure, this era is where she dabbles into storytelling that is other than her own. Swifties know that Taylor does not explicitly state about whom her songs are about, but folklore and evermore is where she tells these stories. In folklore, there were “betty”, “cardigan”, “august”, and “illicit affairs”, episodes, which talked about the eponymous Betty and her boyfriend James who cheated on her over the summer. In evermore, "dorothea", "'tis the damn season", and "marjorie" existed as separate tracks rather than being tied together. There was a girl who wanted to chase her Hollywood dreams and the man who missed her, ex-sweethearts who got together one night, and Taylor’s grandmother.
She also delivers with champagne problems, a throwback to her “Blank Space” of the 1989 era, where she talks about a couple who meant to spend the rest of their lives together, only to end tragically. On the other hand, "no body no crime" was a deliciously crime-filled murder song that could have had its own podcast a la Serial if permitted, though I wish HAIM had more co-vocal opportunity other than peppered voice-overs.
Long story short, she combines her 1989 tracks “Wonderland” and “New Romantics” for this fun track about shortening the story for a straightforward line: “long story short, it was the wrong guy.” She no longer wants to hold on to the past, and she does this with ‘closure,’ where she says, “Yes, I got your letter / Yes, I'm doing better / I know that it's over / I don't need your ‘closure.’”
The ending of the album is eponymous and she brings in Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (whom she sang “exile” with over in folklore), where she writes about a pain that was once but no longer.
With this, I would like to say that although evermore was my favorite versus folklore in terms of first listen, the former cannot exist without the latter. In both these albums, she writes about pain that runs deep and her catharsis in seventeen tracks, and at the same time returns to what she does best. But in between all that sifting through, she lets go with that now visible gold string tucked into her pocket towards the daylight.
How’s that for ‘not a lot going at the moment?’
Lead photo from @taylorswift