Despite folklore’s ink still being fresh on the page, Taylor Swift has yet to finish the story. In fact, on December 11th, the singer-songwriter announced throughshe would be releasing her ninth studio album – evermore – at midnight. In her post, she called it “folklore’s sister record”, and that’s exactly the best way to describe it. Just like its predecessor, evermore is a folk-influenced album, which combines both pop and acoustic elements in lyrical masterpieces.
Taylor has once again put her talent as a story-teller to test and crafted intricate storylines, which spread from teenage romances to infidelity to… well, murder.
Just like in folklore, the stories therein actually lay between the lines of the songs, rather than on the surface. Taylor has once again put her talent as a story-teller to test and crafted intricate storylines, which spread from teenage romances to infidelity to… well, murder.
Therefore, in order to fully comprehend evermore, you need some familiarity with Taylor’s past work, to be able to really see beyond her words. After having been a fan for 8 years – and having officially majored in Taylor Swift’s literature – I think, by now, I have learnt how to grasp the meaning of her songs. Thus, I will put my knowledge to good use and unravel the tale of evermore with you.
“Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind”
Taylor opens the album with an ode to her boyfriend – Joe Alwyn. In willow, she decants how her love began, with him coming into her life and softening her rough edges. In the song, Swift compares her life to a willow tree, which is characterized by having long delicate branches that easily move with the wind, but deep solid roots that keep it firm on the ground. However, Joe managed to bend the solid foundations of her life with his powerful love.
“What a shame she’s fucked in the head”
Through champagne problems, Taylor lets loose of her talent as a story-teller. The song tells the story of a woman turning down the marriage proposal of her college sweetheart in front of their loved ones. Furthermore, in the track Swift clearly depicts the narrator as having a history with mental illness, despite it not being taken seriously and being glossed over as ‘champagne problems’. Eventually, the guy manages to pick himself up and have a happy ending, while all the girl gets to do is watch his happiness through a glass window from the lonely outside. BONUS: Taylor wrote the song with William Bowery, i.e. the clever nom de plume of her boyfriend Joe Alwyn.
“My mind turns your life into folklore”
In the third song from evermore, Taylor sings about the jealousy of being in love with someone to whom everyone else is attracted as well. In gold rush, she confesses how she had to stop picturing herself with that person because they were wanted by everybody, despite which she still daydreams about their life together. The track moves with the typical production of Jack Antonoff – i.e. changes in tempo, beat, and the use of crescendos, which Swift wittily uses to represent the switch between daydreaming and reality.
‘tis the damn season
”And the road not taken looks real good now”
‘tis the damn season is the first chapter of Dorothea’s story, a young woman who moves to Hollywood in search of fame. The song narrates her return to her hometown for the holidays, where she runs into an old lover and old feelings begin to blossom once again.
“I know my love should be celebrated / But you tolerate it”
This song is the 5th track from evermore, which is a spot known by fans to always be reserved for the most vulnerable song of Taylor’s records. tolerate it is no exception. The song was inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and tells the story of loving someone who, instead of celebrating your love and devotion, merely tolerates it, as if you were simply a commodity.
no body, no crime (ft. HAIM)
“I think he did it, but I just can’t prove it”
no body, no crime channels Taylor’s known passion for true crime shows and creates an intricate murder mystery plot. The protagonist of the story is Este Haim, good friend of Taylor and member of the featured band – HAIM. In the song, Este is a woman who got cheated on by her husband and who mysteriously disappears. Swift is convinced he was the one who made her vanish, so at the end she… well, killed him (maybe).
“Leave it all behind / And there is happiness”
happiness is perhaps the most mature love song Taylor has written so far. In the track, she sings from the perspective of someone looking back on a failed relationship, recognizing both the highs and lows of their love. The song is deeply tinged with the bittersweet realization that both parties have to let go of their memories – both the sad and happy ones – to be able to truly move on, and find happiness after the relationship has come to an end.
“And if you’re ever tired of being known for who you know”
dorothea is the second chapter of Dorothea’s story. The song seems to be from the point of view of her past flame, with whom she runs into when she comes home for the holidays.
coney island (ft. The National)
“Did I paint your bluest skies the darkest grey?”
Purposefully written by Taylor to sound like a typical song by The National, coney island combines a melancholic melody with even sadder lyrics, which manage to beautifully evoke a feeling of nostalgia in the listener. In the song, the two singers have a back-and-forth conversation where they describe a failed relationship where the two lovers did not put equal effort, through alluding imagery and heartbreaking lyrics.
“My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand”
In the tenth song from evermore, Taylor tackles infidelity – just like in illicit affairs, which was the tenth song from folklore. She sings about a woman falling in love with a man who is not her husband, thus leading to an affair, and how she knows it’s wrong but she can’t stop the ivy of his love from covering her.
cowboy like me
“Forever is the sweetest con”
cowboy like me tells the story of two con artists who fall in love with each other ‘while hanging out at fancy resorts trying to score rich romantic beneficiaries’. The song describes a love that moves like a cat-and-mouse fling, which may be somewhat biographic for Taylor, who has described the beginning stage of the relationship with her boyfriend in similar ways in Lover (2019), e.g. ‘cat and mouse for a month or two or three’ in Paper Rings (2019).
long story short
“I always felt I must look better in the rear view”
In long story short, Taylor quickly narrates her life during the last four years, since the infamous 2016 kerfuffle, and how that led to finding happiness in her now-boyfriend. Over the brisk-paced beat, she tells the story of how the 2016 feud unfolded, how she tried to find solace in the ‘wrong guy’, but ultimately managed to find peaceful love.
“You’re alive, you’re alive in my head”
The thirteenth song from evermore is an ode to Taylor’s grandmother – Marjorie – who passed away in 2003. When she was alive, she was an opera singer, which Swift said on multiple instances inspired her to pursue a career in music. BONUS: the thirteenth song from folklore – epiphany – is partly about Taylor’s grandfather.
“I’m fine with my spite / And my tears, and my beers and my candles”
The song closure deals with getting over a heartbreak where the ex is trying to get closure, as they cannot stand that she’s still mad at them. However, this story could have various meanings, since there are multiple people who may seek closure from Taylor after hurting her. For instance, the song could be in reference to people involved in the 2016 feud, or in the 2019 masters situation.
evermore (ft. Bon Iver)
“This pain wouldn’t be for evermore”
To close the standard edition of the album, Taylor once again collaborates with the band Bon Iver, after their first successful duet on folklore – exile. In evermore, Taylor sings about managing to overcome a period of pain and sadness, to be able to end up in a place of hope and faith for her future.
People fall in love, they get married and live their lives to the fullest, but she’s still frozen in the moment her heart got shattered – right where they left her.
right where you left me
“You left me no choice but to stay here forever”
In addition to the 15 tracks found in the standard edition of evermore, Taylor included two more songs as part of the physical deluxe issue of the album. In right where you left me, Swift describes herself as being frozen in time at 23 – i.e. 2012, when things began to go south for her, as she became the favorite target for tabloids and their cheap rumors. To paint this image, she used the metaphor of someone getting stood up in a restaurant, which caused them to spend forever wondering what went wrong, feeling endlessly stuck in the heartbreak. People fall in love, they get married and live their lives to the fullest, but she’s still frozen in the moment her heart got shattered – right where they left her.
it’s time to go
“Sometimes giving up is the strong thing”
In it’s time to go, Taylor describes a relationship that has now turned sour, so much so that she realized it was time to give up and leave. Through its heartbreaking lyrics, Swift talks about the legal battle for the ownership of the masters to her first six studio albums, which became public knowledge in 2019. She confesses that after trying to fight for her masters, she realized the best thing to do was give up and move to better things, i.e. Lover (2019), folklore (2020) and evermore (2020).
Find evermore on Spotify here.