On December 10, 2020, Taylor Swift announce that her second surprise album of the year, evermore, would drop at midnight. Not only was this a sequel to folklore, it was released less than five months after her eighth studio album dropped earlier in the year.
After my last post about her music, I doubt that it's any kind of secret that I'm a huge Taylor Swift fan. Waking up to several frantic texts from my friend Audrey that the album was coming out and then reading up on all the news about it was a great start to the morning. I agreed to stay up till midnight to be part of a listening party and donned my headphones as I watched the countdown to the willow music video.
So, with the second surprise album from Taylor this year, notably with this being part two to folklore, how exactly did I feel about the song choices and how it held up to previous albums?
In her announcement, Taylor said that she wanted to surprise her fans during her birthday week (her birthday is on December 13), giving them evermore. But it wasn't just a normal album. As the part two to folklore, these were songs written at the same time and sort of continued the narrative that began with that album. Adding the 16 songs from folklore to the 15 songs from evermore also made up 31 - Taylor's age as of her most recent birthday.
the midnight drop
I'll admit, staying up late to listen to the album drop might not have been the best decision. It was late, I'd already been up for about 16 hours, so adding two more to watching the music video drop and listen to each song left me in a tired headspace. My first impressions of the album weren't the best, but after several more listens, I think I have a good enough grasp to be able to talk about it more objectively.
Starting off the with the music video was great because I really enjoyed all the visual nods to previous songs and albums. It picks up after cardigan ends, filling the screen with numerous nods to folklore and even some of her other popular music videos.
I enjoyed the song almost immediately. It came in second in my initial ranking for the album's track list, and I still find myself enjoying it even now. As a the first song to an album, I think it's a great introduction. The upbeat guitar notes feel like a blend between her pop songs and her indie-sounding songs. For some reason, it's also giving me old Shawn Mendes vibes. Like, the music off his first album would blend really well with this, and I think that's also what drew me in because I love his style of music.
Being on a Zoom call with Audrey and a couple of her friends made the album drop even more interesting. We talked about the songs after listening to each one, although we eventually just listened to them all on our own before talking about the album as a whole. What made things even more interesting was that for almost every song that we listened to, Audrey and I had different opinions. The songs she loved were ranked low on my list and vice versa. And honestly, the only two songs that stood out to me at that point were no body, no crime and willow.
nods to old albums
In order to fairly assess my opinion of the album, I spent all of December 11th listening to it on repeat. And I have to admit that it grew on me the more I listened. It kind of felt reminiscent of my initial feelings toward reputation when that first came out, and how Lover took several listens to fully grow on me too.
One of the first things I noticed with this album is how much the lyrics nod to Taylor's previous songs. Obviously, I could be wrong, but some of my guesses were confirmed by looking at Genius.com, which has some of the most accurate information when it comes to lyrics and song backgrounds
The third chorus of willow has a line about a signal and meeting after dark, which immediately took me back to a classic Taylor Swift song that everyone knows - Love Story. The line from willow goes "Wait for the signal, and I'll meet you after dark," and to me, it goes well in line with "So I sneak out to the garden to see you / We keep quiet 'cause we're dead if they knew" from Love Story. My connection between the two songs also likely has to do with the Love Story music video taking place at night during that moment in the song.
But, the other lyric that willow alludes to is cardigan, with mentions of scars left from previous relationships. "Show me the places where others gave you scars," in an immediate callback to cardigan's "You drew stars around my scars." Honestly, you could connect this to pretty much any other song of hers that mentions relationship scars, but the fact that willow and cardigan are the lead singles off their respective albums mean there's a more significant connection between the songs.
It was easy to connect gold rush to her previous album because it literally had the word "folklore" in it. You know, just casually dropping the name of her previous album into this song.
This one isn't necessarily a real connection, but a lot of people online have put the songs together and I think it makes total sense. no body, no crime being one of many perspectives that would also include i did something bad (reputation) and You Should've Said No (Taylor Swift). It's impressive that it's taken this long for Taylor to write a full on country revenge song, but it's out there now and it ties in well with some of her older music. There are some great mashups out there that I'll link because I think they're done super well.
One of the connections that Taylor herself talked about right when evermore came out is that in her mind, the girl from dorothea goes to the same high school as Betty, James, Ines, and the girl from august in folklore. It's adding to a growing theory online that various songs off her albums can be connected as different stages of different people's theories. Currently, one of the favorite theories online is that Dorothea grows up to be the actress Taylor sings about in The Lucky One. Personally, I think it makes sense. Though I doubt that all her albums are connected like the wider Pixar universe, it does stand to reasons that over the course of her career, her songs will overlap and reference each other.
Another sly reference happens in long story short nodding to wonderland as she references "Alice in Wonderland" for the second time. Most of this song reflects on the past few years of her musical journey, going as far bad as her 1989 album (2014). To me, long story short also alludes to Look What You Made Me Do, both having lines about keys that relate to gates and kingdoms. The line of "At the gates they once held the keys to" (long story short) reminded me of "I don't like your kingdom keys, they once belonged to me" (Look What You Made Me Do) and how her career started going downhill due to media pressure. Actually, in a sweeping gesture, it's easy to connect this whole song to her journey with reputation, especially knowing that the album was written out of frustration, anger, and bitterness that she felt from constantly facing negative media criticism no matter what she did.
In her earlier albums, Taylor wrote songs about her family and life as a kid. Most popular out of all those is probably The Best Day or Never Grow Up, and she returns to that with a song about her maternal grandmother, Marjorie. The use of her grandmother's vocals in the song that's named after her is a sweet homage to the woman who inspired Taylor's own career in music. I mean, with a grandmother who toured as an opera and concert singer, it's hard not to imagine Taylor herself becoming a musician. The song honors Marjorie's passing and all the things she passed to her granddaughter, making it a sweet nod to the close Swift family.
Lastly, I noticed a connection between coney island nodding to The Moment I Knew and Dear John. Because all these songs focus on unequal relationships, it's easy to see the similarities. But the ones that stood out the most are that coney island talks about blue skies turning grey and standing in a hallway with a birthday cake and no one showing up. The first part ties into Dear John where she sings about her significant other painting a blue sky then turning it to rain. And the second part is a clear reference to the time Taylor was left to celebrate her birthday without her boyfriend at the time and knew that it was the end of the relationship.
Was it necessary for me to go through all the connections that stood out to me? Not really. But I wanted to show how careful Taylor's writing is. She cleverly connects her music to create or emphasize storylines across different albums. And if it's not a show of how masterful she is as a singer/songwriter, I don't know what else can indicate that. I mean, how many other people use their ninth album to call back to their first?
Because this was announced as the sequel to folklore, I was expecting this album to continue with the indie vibes. It's not everyone's style, but I loved the indie feel because it of how much I loved Safe & Sound. All of folklore felt like that song, and it made me super happy. And when evermore wasn't that, it took me by surprise.
This album is a return to her earlier albums, mixing genres as each song calls for it. There's pop, indie, and country, just the way her first three albums were. Of all of her other albums, this feels most like a blend between Speak Now and 1989. It's something I can appreciate as I've listened to it more and more, but it was a huge shock to album rotated through so many different styles so quickly. Having gotten used to her recent albums being mostly pop, it wasn't something I was expecting.
Where other people complained that folklore sounded too similar, I loved it for that reason. It felt like a long series of stories that were being told to me in a way I could easily enjoy all of then. The uniformity of that album also worked well as I had it on in the background while reading Six of Crows. And while I will be listening to evermore while I read Crooked Kingdom, I don't think they'll gel together as well as the former did.
Do I wish it was a little more like folklore? Yeah. But I know that album wasn't for everyone and this one was incredibly well-received by all the people who didn't enjoy her eighth album as much.
where does it stand?
Personally, it doesn't rank high for me among her albums. There are some songs I really love, like no body, no crime, willow, and marjorie, but the rest of the songs kind of fall flat for me. I'm gaining enough familiarity with the album to be able to sing along to several of the songs, but this isn't an album I'd put on repeat often.
My rankings for all her albums are:
- Speak Now
- Taylor Swift
Yeah...unfortunately, this album is in my bottom three. It's kind of disappointing because I was so excited about this when the announcement came out, but there's still a chance that it can move up as more time goes on.
I think my love for the indie vibe of folklore just overshadows the music of this album. The three songs that I mentioned are probably the only ones I'll be listening to on repeat, but the rest of the album will likely go untouched. It saddens me a lot, but things like this happen when an artist has this many albums out.