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‘Tis The Season With Swift’s Secret Sister Album ‘evermore’

When I woke up at 10am on December 10th to a spam of text messages, I said out loud, “This better be an emergency.” Turns out it was because Taylor Swift was announcing another secret album, which honestly, was a good enough reason to wake me up.

I spent the next day waiting in agony to hear the new music, tweeting conspiracies with my friends. At midnight I joined the live launch of the ‘willow’ music video, (if you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it below). I then spent the next hour listening to the album, breaking down lyrics with friends online. I spent the whole next day driving around town, repeating through the songs until they became familiar. The amazing thing about being a Taylor fan since 2006 is that all of her songs feel like a safe spot immediately, and analyzing her music is actually fun, as she is the queen of subtle easter eggs. I would also like to take this moment to thank my friend, Liv Marshall, who helped me for more in depth opinions about the album, as well as texting me the entire night that the album first came out.

The best way to describe the relationship between folklore and evermore is like what Swift called them, sister albums. To me, where folklore describes the pains of relationships and falling out of love, the leaving and processing, evermore shows the aftermath, the healing, the picking yourself up and getting knocked down over and over again. But truthfully, the only way to understand how the songs are related yet different, is to listen to evermore yourself.

Just like my folklore review, which you can read here, I broke down evermore track by track while discussing my personal feelings and favorite lyrics, its relation to folklore, other theories, and more.

Track one: 'willow'

“The more you say, the less I know. Wherever you stray, I follow. I’m begging for you to take my hand, wreck my plans, that’s my man.”

The first single of the album was “willow,” and I would argue it was a great single to choose. Upbeat but personal, this song differs from the majority of the album, because it is not a heartbreak anthem, but instead it tells the story of a love that is actively being fought for. Using storytelling and folklore’s backstory as a strong base, “willow” sets a precedent upheld by the rest of the album.

Watch the official music video for ‘willow’ here:

Track two: 'champagne problems'

“She would’ve made such a lovely bride, what a shame she’s fucked in the head, they said. But you’ll find the real thing instead. You won’t remember all my champagne problems.”

The beginning of this song instantly reminded both Liv and I of “New Years Day” initially, with this soft yet strong piano. The song however is just about the pure opposite of that. In this song, Swift describes the story of a woman who struggles with her relationship and eventually denies engagement to her partner, possibly due to mental illness that gets brushed off as “Champagne Problems.” The song ends with her describing the partner getting with someone else, and her being forgotten. As someone with mental illness, this song hit hard. I also think it was a unique perspective for Swift to write of. Something I have always enjoyed about Swift music is how she shows different perspectives in relationships and is not afraid to admit when she is in the wrong (like “Back to December”).

However this song in particular also reminds me of “peace” from folklore, of knowing a relationship can’t work, never being able to provide the contentment they are asking for, despite it not really being your fault. The protagonist in this song explains she doesn’t know why she feels what she is feeling, but is still hurting. As someone who has mental illness, this song resonates hard in my soul, and the mental process that Swift describes is one that is so deeply relatable, so much so that hearing someone else say it can shatter my heart.

Track three: 'gold rush'

“I don’t like a 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. But I don’t like a gold rush.”

Where folklore had very few upbeat songs, evermore gave us some more indie-pop like beats, and “gold rush” is an example of that. Recently, it has become the song that as soon as I get into the car, I put on. This song tells the story of fantasizing about a relationship but not wanting to be in a public, sought after relationship… which if anyone knew how that would feel, it would be Swift. It reminds me of how she kept her relationship with her now partner Joe Alwyn private for most of the beginning of it. Swift describes this song as a daydream, where you snap in and out of it, which is shown by the fading intro and outro, when the beat abruptly kicks in and stops.

Also something I think is notable is this is the sister song of “august” in the aspect of Jack Antonoff’s pure love for it! Antonoff helped co-write both these songs, and Antonoff adored “august”, claiming that those who also loved it were “august heads.” He tweeted on it’s release, ‘thank you to the entirety of @bleachersmusic who all played on gold rush. that ones for my little august heads out there. my rushies. into it? i am!” Antonoff’s pure love for this song and the music he makes with Swift always brings a smile to my face as I listen along.

Track four: ''tis the damn season'

“So I’ll go back to L.A, with the so-called friend who’ll write books about me, if I ever make it. And wonder about the only soul who can tell which smile I’m fakin’. And the heart I know I’m breaking is my own, to leave the warmest bed I’ve ever known. We can call it even, even though I’m leaving, and I’ll be yours for the weekend, ‘tis the damn season.”

This song reminds me of how I felt when I first heard “the 1” (from folklore), like I was punched in the gut with reliability. It was one of those moments where I thought that maybe Swift actually had a copy of my journal. I think the timing of publishing this song was perfect, as Swift describes the feeling of being home for the holiday and missing the lovers that you left there. This song was an instant first listen favorite, and I will be continuing to play it on repeat until I leave my home after the holidays, and probably even after that.

Track five: 'tolerate it'

“I know my love should be celebrated… but you tolerate it.”

The infamous track five breaking my heart once again, as Swift describes the heart wrenching feeling of being in a relationship where your love is unappreciated and seen as a burden. The song tells the story of her being broken down time and time again, questioning if she should leave, and how belittled she feels about her lover. If I’m being completely honest, I think this is the saddest Track 5 yet, (yes, even sadder than “All Too Well”) and I look forward to the many tears that I will inevitably cry to this song.

Track six: 'no body, no crime (feat. HAIM)'

“She thinks I did it but she just can’t prove it! No body no crime, I wasn’t letting up until the day he died.”

Finally, after nine albums, Swift gets her obligatory “murder your husband” country song. Comparable to “Two Black Cadalliacs” by Carrie Underwood, Swift writes a vehicular manslaughter murder mystery, and it is an absolute jam. Although it is not her most lyrically in depth song on the album, it is a completely enjoyable one. It is one of the most upbeat and catchy songs on evermore, as well as it has more of a folk story feel than the others, which I enjoyed immensely. It is also stuck in between a few of the sadder songs on the album, providing a nice break in between the heartbreak.

Track one: 'happiness'

“There’ll be happiness after you, but there was happiness because of you. Both of these things can be true, there is happiness.”

A song of healing, “happiness” is one of the most raw songs of this album. Still using her woodland imagery, Swift takes us through what can be one of the hardest parts of a breakup- accepting that there were good times as well as bad times, but that there is still happiness to be had. Something else I enjoy a lot about this song is Swift admitting her confused emotions due to the fact that her relationships are double sided and she cannot just make the villain out of every heartbreak, especially when it is caused by a “good man.” Not a lot of songs show that sort of feeling, but Swift describes it elegantly. The story of acceptance and personalness in “happiness” makes it a must-listen, especially after a grueling heartbreak.

Track eight: 'dorothea'

“And if you’re ever tired of being known for who you know, you know, you always know me.”

If I had to choose some of my favorite things in life, Taylor Swift singing narratives about girls would be at the top of it. “dorothea” is related to “betty” (from folklore) in the way that this is Swift continuing to use the narrative plot of having characters sing about other characters. Swift says that Dorothea is not directly related to the plot of “betty/james/inez” plot that occurred in folklore, but that they do all exist in the same universe, and in her mind, the same school. All of that aside, “dorothea” is a beautiful, catchy song about longing for someone who left and moved on, wondering if you ever cross their mind.

Track nine: 'coney island (feat. The National)'

“Were you waiting at our old spot, in the tree line, by the gold clock. Did I leave you hanging every single day? Were you standing in the hallway, with a big cake, happy birthday. Did I pick I paint your bluest skies the darkest grey? A universe away. And when I got into the accident, the sight that flashed before me was your face, but when I walked up to the podium I think that I forgot to say your name.”

A song specifically written about Swift’s lost loves of exes and heartbreaks… co-written by her current boyfriend, Joe Alywn. There is much to love about “coney island,” but my personal favorite is the lyrics highlighted above, where Swift lays out all of her motifs and themes that were connected to her exes. From the car accident with Harry Styles to the birthday party Jake Gyhnnehall wasn’t at, this bridge holds it all, and holds it powerfully. This is proof of Swift’s song writing ability as she is able to convey a message that specifically stands out to her fans without naming names. I also just like to picture her and Alywn sitting at the piano trying to find the best way to hint her exes, because if anything, that shows the strength of their relationship.

Track ten: 'ivy'

“Oh, God damn, my pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand. Taking mine, but it’s been promised to another.”

A common storyline in folklore was the tale of a cheating relationship, that was told throughout “betty” “august” “cardigan” and “illicit affairs.” That plot returns here in “ivy,” which is about an affair between a married woman and man. The upbeat rhythm is very much in the style of Jack Antonoff who co-wrote this. The imagery and storytelling along with the general catchiness makes “ivy” a must listen on the album and a favorite to many of my fellow Swifties.

Track eleven: 'cowboy like me'

“And the skeletons in both our closets plotted hard to fuck this up, and the old men that I’ve swindled really did believe I was the one. // I’ve had some tricks up my sleeve. Takes one to know one, you’re a cowboy like me.”

Swift in this song describes the story of someone who has been heartbroken multiple times. This is a narrative she has explained before in songs like “Blank Space” and “I Did Something Bad.” However, in “cowboy like me,” it ends with a tint of hope, that there are others who understand her, and that the hope of true love still exists.

Track twelve: 'long story short'

“And I fell from the pedestal, right down the rabbit hole, long story short, it was a bad time. Pushed from the precipice, climbed right back up the cliff, long story short, I survived.”

This song stands out to me from the rest of the album, as its pop beats reminded me of some of her older music, but it also was a first listen favorite. Swift describes what is essentially her life story of being stubbed and knocked down, until she finally found herself and her now lover, Alwyn. In the bridge of this track she refers to her past self, likely Reputation era Taylor, and encourages herself to stay out of the drama and that better times are ahead. I have already listened to this song on repeat many times and it is definitely in my top five of evermore tracks!

Track thirteen: 'marjorie'

“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. Watch as you signed your name Marjorie, all your closets of backlogged dreams, and how you left them all to me.”

I am not normally a fan of songs about family, but I think “marjorie” is an exception. About Swift’s late-grandmother, “marjorie” is the sister song to folklore’s “epiphany,” where we heard the story about Swift’s grandfather. The feelings Swift describes of feeling her grandmother is still present despite her passing is one that I feel familiar to. What I think makes this song so unique though, is what Swift revealed in an evermore interview. Swift shared in her Apple Music interview that the background vocals is actually her grandmother singing with her. She took old records of her grandmother’s singing and clipped them in the background, so when she says “if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were singing to me now,” Marjorie joins her in the background. This unique addition brings chills to me each listen now, and shows Swift’s musical genius.

Track eight: 'closure'

“I know I’m just a wrinkle in your new life, staying friends would iron it out so nice. Yes, I got your letter, yes I’m doing better. I know that it’s over, I don’t need your closure.”

Closure may be an important part of the healing process, but sometimes it would cause more harm than good, and that is what Swift writes of in this track. She describes the hurt and betrayal she has gone through with this person and how she does not want to humor them by giving them the pleasure of her friendship. This is quite different from the relationship she described in her previous tracks and I have to suspect it has something to do with the celebrity feuds that have occurred in her past. The angst and emotions she has captured here are often not spoken of so eloquently, but as always, Swift changes that game.

Track fifteen: 'evermore' (feat. Bon Iver)

“And I was catching my breath, floors of a cabin creaking under my step, and I couldn’t be sure, but I had feeling so peculiar, that this pain would (not) be for evermore.”

The title track of the album is the final track, and it leaves us with hope. In the beginning of the song Swift describes the hurt that is consistent and persistent and never ending. But through the song she works through the motions and then, after a beautiful duet with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, she leaves us with the hope that the heartache ends. Capping off the standard version of the album, “evermore” gives us all the emotions that we could ask of a Taylor Swift song.

evermore was a groundbreaking album that very few of us suspected. The fact that Swift was able to write such beautiful, personal songs during such a difficult time while also rerecording her past studio albums truly shows her talent. I appreciated how this album held more than just one particular sound, instead, she captured the many genres that she has covered throughout her years of being a musician. Now that I am finally familiar with all of the tracks on evermore, I will be anxiously awaiting my copy of the deluxe album to get the two bonus tracks; or better yet, perhaps Swift will release the secret third album we’ve heard so much (so little) about? Either way, I am so enthused to be able to spend my holiday season with new Taylor Swift music to listen to, and new merch to buy as well!

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