Review: Taylor Swift – evermore

This new Taylor Swift album comes at a time where life is a bit busy now, and it’s Christmas time too, and life is fast and slow at the same time, while enjoying partial lockdowns and tiers throughout Britain. This record is autumnal and wintery at the same time, hopeful, and emotional torturing, and bright, and regretful.

Her new album, evermore, comes as a sister album to her previous effort, and she manages to capture the beauty of both the similarities and differences between the 2 bodies of work. They can be enjoyed and dissected separately or together, but their impact is undeniable.

After enjoying folklore for 5 months, while my initial reaction was a bit… emotionally stunted, to say the least, I’ve come to enjoy it a lot, and my tears ricochet is still my favourite piece on it.

The album starts off with the lead single, willow. A very witchy vibe, but with promises of everlasting love, although not spoken out loud, this song is a very dancey, and the guitar delivers a very comforting, yet mysterious atmosphere. This song is not about pleading, but more like affirmations of love and standing by “her man”. Maybe not my favourite, but definitely not skippable, especially because of the level of confidence it exudes.

Wait for the signal and I’ll meet you after dark
Show me the places where the others gave you scars
Now this is an open-shut case
Guess I should’ve known from the look on your face
Every bait and switch was a work of art

The next song, track number 2, champagne problems, is a very sad delivery of a love story about two people that find themselves wanting different things in life. Echoing things of the past, and things of the present, but with different protagonists, the cadence of the piano makes it feel like every word and note is a dagger that gets shoved in your heart and taken out with the music. Some people have pointed out the possible mental health issues of the female protagonist, however I think we should also celebrate the fact that this song allows one of the parties to remove themselves from a relationship that doesn’t offer them what they want in a way that is honest, albeit a bit blunt.

One for the money, two for the show
I never was ready, so I watch you go
Sometimes you just don’t know the answer
‘Til someone’s on their knees and asks you

And then we have the only Jack Antonoff song off the album, gold rush. It’s such a pop masterpiece, filled with a loud tempo, with an almost electronic sound that effectively increases the expectations and the delivery of a very dreamy soundscape reminiscing of some of the 1989 era songs. It’s a fun song about Swift tying her love to the golden colour, as she does lately when it comes to her lover.

But I don’t like a gold rush, gold rush
I don’t like anticipating my face in a red flush
I don’t like that anyone would die to feel your touch
Everybody wants you
Everybody wonders what it would be like to love you
Walk past, quick brush
I don’t like slow motion double vision in rose blush
I don’t like that falling feels like flying ‘til the bone crush
Everybody wants you
But I don’t like a gold rush

‘tis the damn season is perfect for a December night. It’s about stumbling upon your past, and giving in, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It has a very “the one that got away” vibe, but less positive than the 1, a similarly themed song from folklore. It almost feels like a drunken choice to give in into familiarity, while knowing how wrong it is to do this, and as a fun fact, Swift was drunk when she wrote this song in one night.

We could call it even
You could call me babe for the weekend
‘Tis the damn season, write this down
I’m stayin’ at my parents’ house
And the road not taken looks real good now

My personal favourite, although it’s nothing I’ve experienced, and (supposedly, neither did Swift), it is proof that you don’t necessarily need a personal example to feel inspired. This song is about (allegedly) Princess Diana and Prince Charles, and depicts a very dysfunctional story of someone always trying to please their partner, which only tolerates their presence and efforts. It feels a bit like mirrorball off folklore, but while that song is a bit directed at the whole world, this is directed at the cruelty of our partners. Because I truly believe that it’s so much easier to be cruel to someone we love, and especially cruel with someone who loves us, and this song just further confirms this for me. The piano in tolerate it is haunting, the lyrics are just sharp knives hitting me, and Taylor’s vocals are pained with unrequited love…

While you were out building other worlds, where was I?
Where’s that man who’d throw blankets over my barbed wire?
I made you my temple, my mural, my sky
Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life
Drawing hearts in the byline
Always taking up too much space or time
You assume I’m fine, but what would you do if

I break free and leave us in ruins?
Took this dagger in me and removed it?
Gain the weight of you then lose it
Believe me, I could do it

Taylor Swift’s collaboration with her friends from HAIM is quite the fun true crime little story, but I have to admit – while I do enjoy the fun element, I still think it’s a bit too simple for Swift’s ambitions and potential. But I like this route and I support it happen again in the future. The song feels much like a typical country song, where a woman is avenged by her friends. This simplistic approach works well in telling this story, and no body, no crime presents itself as being a little unconventional and worthy to be explored by Netflix maybe.

Good thing my daddy made me get a boating license when I was fifteen
And I’ve cleaned enough houses to know how to cover up a scene
Good thing Este’s sister’s gonna swear she was with me („She was with me dude”)
Good thing his mistress took out a big life insurance policy

Track 7, happiness, is a weird song. Sounds like it belongs in a funeral, but it’s about love. And I think here Swift explores again the delicate nature of love and breakups. And as much as I love loud love, this song gives me “fingertips touching your skin, promises on the beach, warm bowl of soup when you have a cold” vibes, and I am here for this.

There’ll be happiness after me
But there was happiness because of me
Both of these things I believe
There is happiness
In our history
Across our great divide
There is a glorious sunrise
Dappled with the flickers of light
From the dress I wore at midnight
Leave it all behind
And there is happiness

Next track is dorothea, a very folkish sounding song, I feel the 70s in this song, and it’s so much fun because of this. The piano and the guitars blend so well, and if you ask me, I don’t know what the song is about, while I know all the lyrics.

The National team up (finally!) with Swift on track 9, to sing about Coney Island. Even for someone like me, who hasn’t visited New York, this landmark is a staple in all dramatic scenes in all the romantic movies. The story is so cruel and sweet at the same time, reminiscing about this partner that was a perfect match, but who the protagonist chased away because of their own demons. Taylor’s sweet vocals with Berninger’s low tone make this song feel like forgiveness and frustration at the same time, and I don’t think there’s a better way to feel when you hear this song.

The question pounds my head
„What’s a lifetime of achievement?”
If I pushed you to the edge
But you were too polite to leave me
And do you miss the rogue
Who coaxed you into paradise and left you there?
Will you forgive my soul
When you’re too wise to trust me and too old to care?
‘Cause we were like the mall before the Internet
It was the one place to be
The mischief, the gift wrapped suburban dreams
Sorry for not winning you an arcade ring

Another love song, ivy, is a beautiful metaphor about the pains caused by a lover, and how the marks people leave on us are visible or not, but we can still feel them. The lyrics are pure poetry, and the song is so simple, yet so encompassing of how it feels to be in love!

And the old widow goes to the stone every day
But I don’t, I just sit here and wait
Grieving for the living

Oh, goddamn
My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand
Taking mine, but it’s been promised to another
Oh, I can’t
Stop you putting roots in my dreamland
My house of stone, your ivy grows
And now I’m covered in you

Another very country sounding track, cowboy like me, smells like whiskey and cigarettes, but also like home. The theme is so simple, being about finding a like minded individual that can offer you hope and new life. This love seems wild, but feels like home, and the paradox of it all blends with the melody perfectly.

And the skeletons in both our closets
Plotted hard to mess this up
And the old men that I’ve swindled
Really did believe I was the one
And the ladies lunching have their stories about
When you passed through town
But that was all before I locked it down

A change of pace comes with long story short, and Swift is back at her usual pop sound. Feels like a very open shut case, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The fun, upbeat tempo delivered with the lyrics that depict a very bad time, makes it seem like less impactful than it clearly was.

Past me
I wanna tell you not to get lost in these petty things
Your nemeses
Will defeat themselves before you get the chance to swing
And he’s passing by
Rare as the glimmer of a comet in the sky
And he feels like home
If the shoe fits, walk in it everywhere you go

Swift’s tribute to her grandmother, marjorie, is a very sweet song filled with advice from another life, and memories that bring up nostalgia. I love this song so much, mainly because it reminds me of my own grandmother.

The autumn chill that wakes me up
You loved the amber skies so much
Long limbs and frozen swims
You’d always go past where our feet could touch
And I complained the whole way there
The car ride back and up the stairs
I should’ve asked you questions
I should’ve asked you how to be
Asked you to write it down for me
Should’ve kept every grocery store receipt
‘Cause every scrap of you would be taken from me
Watched as you signed your name Marjorie
All your closets of backlogged dreams
And how you left them all to me

Something unexpected hits right after marjorie, and that’s closure. I absolutely love this song, for everything that it stands for. It’s a very repetitive beat for Swift, looking like she wants to distance from a former lover that wants to offer closure and asks for forgiveness and understanding. It’s about gaining the power of not waiting for others to offer you closure, and accepting the anger and the spite that come with a breakup. There is power in being bitter, afterall.

Don’t treat me like some situation that needs to be handled
I’m fine with my spite
And my tears
And my beers and my candles
I can feel you smoothing me over

Yes, I got your letter
Yes, I’m doing better
It cut deep to know ya
Right to the bone
Yes, I got your letter
Yes, I’m doing better
I know that it’s over
I don’t need your closure

The closing track of evermore is evermore, another collaboration with Bon Iver. As always, Swift’s and Vernon’s voices blend together to create magic. This will forever be a winter song, regardless of when I will be listening to it. Less dramatic and heartbreaking that their previous collab, exile, evermore is here to heal unspoken wounds, to offer relief and hope and growth. Bon Iver’s part is the most Bon Iver part of the song, and it makes evermore more indie than anything else on this album, while Swift’s vocals kind of remind me of Safe & Sound.

Hey December
Guess I’m feeling unmoored
Can’t remember
What I used to fight for

I rewind the tape but all it does is pause
On the very moment all was lost
Sending signals
To be double crossed

The whole album is full of unskippable gems, and it honestly solidifies Taylor Swift’s dominance of the charts and the music industry. With collaborators like The National and Bon Iver, with people like Paul McCartney supporting her, with her amazing songwriting skills, I think it’s safe to leave the “Taylor Swift is a bitch” narrative in the past. She can be enjoyed beyond her country albums, beyond her pop albums, beyond her over produced ones, and she is magnificent.

Review: Taylor Swift – folklore

Life’s too short to pretend Taylor Swift is (still!) a guilty pleasure for some people. Ever since I met her (metaphorically speaking, of course), probably 12 years ago, I used to think she’s just a harmless pop princess, the one that won’t go awry with bad habits, drugs and alcohol.

Little did I know, she would embark on a journey in the spotlight to try and defend herself in very gruelling situations, some of which no one could ever think of before the internet. Heavily scrutinized because of her dating life and her (supposed) inspiration from her relationships, I think she was always assumed to be the whiney, mean girl, always playing the victim and yelling “wolf” when things didn’t go her way.

I also realised she’s a crafty wordsmith, with interesting ideas in terms of artistic expression, so she moved from ‘unphased pleasure’ to ‘fun pleasure’, ‘quirky moments’, and, in later years, ‘pop icon’ status.

On 24th July 2020, Miss Taylor Alison Swift has released her 8th album, and oh boy… where do I start?!

Nothing like her previous albums, but effectively smelling, tasting and feeling exactly like Swift’s poetry, which in itself is a phenomenon in her field, folklore manages to gather around her lyrics the faint feeling of love you’re feeling in the pouring rain, when you’re walking barefoot in the forest, when you’re dreaming under the stars, and when you’re remembering things from centuries ago, without the added weight of anxiety and shame. Shameful to say, but I wouldn’t know what to do if I had Swift’s ability to write poetry in such a natural way.

Because we’re talking about Taylor Swift, the track list is an Easter Egg on its own. Starting with the 1, the album sets the tone for this new Swiftian era. the 1 is that story you wish you’d share with an ex love that you always thought it would be the one who got away. Starting from a more mature point, past her usual pettiness, Swift masterful word crafting gets her towards imagines of the ‘roaring 20s’ and penny tossing, reminiscing about someone who could’ve been fun for her. Given her current situation, I’d say this is just a revisit with nostalgia glasses, pondering what could’ve been if only one thing would be different. The song itself is a different beast from Taylor Swift’s catalogue, having some electronic accents, on top of a trickling piano and with minimal percussion. The whole song feels like summer afternoon in a small town, somewhere in the mountains, and I am so happy in a very calm way about it.

But we were something, don’t you think so?
Roaring twenties, tossing pennies in the pool
And if my wishes came true
It would’ve been you
In my defense, I have none
For never leaving well enough alone
But it would’ve been fun
If you would’ve been the one

Next song, cardigan, sees Swift putting on her folk/soft rock jacket on. This piano ballad is again filled with literary references, because Taylor Swift likes to poke fun at herself, and her army of dedicated fans. The song talks about young, innocent love, plagued by battle scars, lack of confidence and bitterness. cardigan is the lead single, and it does a good job in setting the expectations high for this new work of art. It’s also worth noting that this is part of the ‘young love trio’, along with august and betty.

And when I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed
You put me on and said I was your favourite
A friend to all is a friend to none
Chase two girls, lose the one
When you are young, they assume you know nothing

the last great american dynasty lets Swift borrow from urban legends on a pop track. Here we see Swift telling the story Rebekah Harkness, the woman previously owned Taylor Swift’s home in Rhode Island. Because this album is supposed to be a collection of stories, more or less based on reality, we witness Swift’s talent in full glory – building stories from nothing, and romanticizing them and making them work to her favour. Although not a favourite song of mine, the song has a certain appeal, especially because of the brazenness of the lyrics.

There goes the most shameless woman this town has ever seen
She had a marvellous time ruining everything

Bon Iver is a guest on the fourth track, exile, and I think there are very few people who can actually deny the greatness of this music dialogue. Adding Justin Vernon’s deep baritone next to Swift’s breathy vocals proves to be a very successful mix, and drawing comparisons to The Last Time, from Taylor Swift’s Red album. The song is imagined as a dialogue between two exes, but no one seems to be listening. Over the piano and the dramatic strings, the vocals manage to create to such a build-up, taking the song to a different plane.

All this time
I never learned to read your mind (Never learned to read my mind)
I couldn’t turn things around (You never turned things around)
‘Cause you never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)
So many signs
So many signs (You didn’t even see the signs)

As fan favourites go, the 5th track of a Taylor Swift album is usually the best song off the album. My personal favourite, my tears ricochet, is a hauntingly beautiful song mourning a past relationship. The POV of the story is that of a deceased lover, reflecting on the toxicity and tension. The funeral imagery of the lyrics, on top of the instrumentals, give the song the gravitas to carry the message home. And if it’s to be believed, this is a message to be delivered to Swift’s former record label. And even if it’s not, I can guess we can all rely on the lyrics in various situations.

We gather stones
Never knowing what they’ll mean
Some to throw
Some to make a diamond ring
You know I didn’t want to
Have to haunt you
But what a ghostly scene
You wear the same jewels
That I gave you
As you bury me

I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace
And so the battleships will sink beneath the waves
You had to kill me, but it killed you just the same
Cursing my name
Wishing I stayed
You turned into your worst fears
And you’re tossing out blame
Drunk on this pain
Crossing out the good years
And you’re cursing my name
Wishing I stayed
Look at how my tears ricochet

mirrorball talks about being a reflection of others, rather than being yourself, and damn, isn’t that sometimes the truth. This confession is scary and dangerous, as Swift’s music was oftentimes scrutinized by the media due to the personal nature of her lyrics, when all she wanted was to be relatable and to be able to give her fans honesty and a deep connection.

I want you to know
I’m a mirrorball
I’ll show you every version of yourself tonight
I’ll get you out on the floor
Shimmering beautiful
And when I break it’s in a million pieces

Reminiscing about a childhood friend, seven is the – you guessed it, 7th track. Packed with queer hints, the story unfolds about two friends who enjoyed their time together, but with one of them living in a possible abusive home, the dark tones of the song cannot be missed. Still revelling in the innocence of kids at 7 years old, when you’d dream you can go anywhere, seven captures that freedom of being who you are when you’re still young and not yet moulded into a useful member of the society.

And I’ve been meaning to tell you
I think your house is haunted
Your dad is always mad and that must be why
And I think you should come live with
Me and we can be pirates
Then you won’t have to cry
Or hide in the closet
And just like a folk song
Our love will be passed on

The eighth song had to have Swift poking fun again, because the track is called august. Tasting like summer, this pop rock ballad evokes young love again, with a hint of sadness. Singing about love you can never attain, and yet being so intertwined with feelings of belonging to someone who doesn’t belong to you. It’s Swift poetry, and Swift guitar, and Swift anguish, and it should be trademarked. Also, it’s part of the ‘young love trio’, with cardigan and betty.

‘Cause you were never mine
Never mine
Do you remember?
Remember when I pulled up
And said „Get in the car”
And then cancelled my plans
Just in case you’d call
Back when I was living for the hope of it all
For the hope of it all
„Meet me behind the mall”

this is me trying reveals even darker moments, talking about feeling alone when it becomes too difficult to cope with the insane standards you put for yourself, struggling with mental illness, alcoholism. Probably the most insane lyrics belong to this song – I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere.

They told me all of my cages were mental
So I got wasted like all my potential
And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad
I have a lot of regrets about that
I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere
Fell behind all my classmates and I ended up here
Pourin’ out my heart to a stranger
But I didn’t pour the whiskey

illicit affairs is another favourite of mine, its subject so simple, yet such a compelling study material. Finally we see Swift becoming more mature, more understanding to the prospect of a trio, not pointing blame on the third person anymore, but rather trying to be understanding and empathetic.

And that’s the thing about illicit affairs
And clandestine meetings
And stolen stares
They show their truth one single time
But they lie and they lie and they lie
…a million little times

In a very innocent switch to the more romantic side of things, invisible string is a verbal painting of Swift’s current relationship, and includes references to past life, songs and places. Built on an acoustic guitar, the song is a very childlike, candid glimpse of Swift’s current universe.

Mystical time
Cutting me open, then healing me fine
Were there clues I didn’t see?
And isn’t it just so pretty to think
All along there was some
Invisible string
Tying you to me?

Sarcastic Taylor is at it again, with mad woman. Bringing back the torches and lighting them and going against the ones who come after her, Swift brings fire over the piano keys in the gentlest way possible. Aimed at her old record label, this song is her fight song against the people she feels wronged by.

Now I breathe flames each time I talk
My cannons all firing at your yacht
They say „move on”
But you know I won’t
And women like hunting witches, too
Doing your dirtiest work for you
It’s obvious that wanting me dead has really brought you two together

And because Taylor Swift isn’t here to sing only about old boyfriends, current boyfriends and her old label, epiphany exists. Paralleling World War II atrocities with the COVID-19 pandemic, her lyrics speak about the trauma of trying to fight on the front, be it invisible or not. Trying to explain how difficult it is to continue serving after fighting death day after day, epiphany sounds more like a hymn than anything.

Crawling up the beaches now

Sir, I think he’s bleedin’ out

And some things you just can’t speak about

Coming back to young love, betty is folksy track based on a harmonica, with a pretty upbeat rhythm, but continuing the cardigan-august story. Probably the least creative of the three, or maybe because of that, betty sounds like a song that Bruce Springsteen himself could sing, and I’m not sure that’s too bad.

You heard the rumours from Inez
You can’t believe a word she says
Most times, but this time it was true
The worst thing that I ever did
Was what I did to you

An ode to her current love, peace sees Swift confessing her vulnerability in front of her loved one, and her fear that sometimes her love is not enough. Despite her being such a high-profile celebrity, Swift manages to keep her love under wraps, and as normal as possible, but also worries about not being able to give her boyfriend the normality they both crave.

But I’m a fire and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm
If your cascade ocean wave blues come
All these people think love’s for show
But I would die for you in secret
The devil’s in the details
But you got a friend in me
Would it be enough
If I could never give you peace?

Easily forgotten, hoax tells the story of a toxic relationship, where the resolution is to keep whatever unhappiness you have rather than start anew. Not necessarily my preferred method, but hey. When I’ll write better music, I’ll let you know.

My only one
My kingdom come undone
My broken drum
You have beaten my heart

Don’t want no other shade of blue
But you
No other sadness in the world would do