After only a few hours notice, Taylor Swift surprised the world with a new album in 2020 (again), this one called evermore. Calling it a ‘sister album,’ evermore is a sequel to July’s folklore. Working again with notable artists Aaron Dressner and Jack Antonoff, the album is similar in style and theme which results in the creation of a double album released months apart. One could look at the twin albums as a whole, but this article will focus on the newest release. Keep in mind, these are subjective opinions of the writer–if you are a ‘ride-or-die’ Swiftie or you cannot stand her, that is your opinion and that is fine. But this is aiming to be a fair, unbiased, critique of the album.
Overall, the album seems to be following a recent trend in music. Chamber pop has become more mainstream since the late 00’s and more artists are beginning to dabble into new territory aiming at Brian Wilson-type harmonies that swell with plenty of reverb; as if the whole album is taking place inside of an archaic church building being refurbished for modern pop. It’s something artists like Foo Fighters experimented with in their 2017 album Concrete and Gold and it is what Swift is experimenting with in evermore. Think: lots and oos and aahs substituting for instruments. A one or two person choir that sounds like one hundred. The album takes chamber pop and combines it with Swift’s classic folk pop sound.
Everyone loves some good ear candy, but evermore leans heavier on the lyrical confections than musical. The music is mostly repetitive pieces that don’t change much while the lyrics dance around to many different places. Because of this, it feels at times as if Swift is scared to play anything other than what she started with at the beginning of the song and is trying to make up for it with her lyrics. Each song is a story that unfolds before the listener. It adds an interesting element as the brain is stimulated in a way not always touched on by pop music. To paraphrase the Counting Crows, “we all wanna be Bob Dylan,” and Taylor Swift does not seem to be the exception to that unofficial truth.
In each song, in each story, there are phrases that don’t quite match the music, which is something Swift is becoming known to do. For example, in the bridge of the album’s lead single Willow, Swift sings, “Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind/but I come back stronger than a ’90s trend.” Taylor Swift, in her past few albums but particularly this one, has elements of soundbite culture within her lyrics. One does not have to try that hard to imagine these lyrics showing up in Instagram captions or Twitter bios. The cursing throughout the album feels a bit forced at times like she is trying to prove that she curses (a note to which it is valid if she replied with a “f*** that”).
Now for the good stuff. It is safe to say the b-side of the album is stronger than the first half. The best song on the album is long story short. Not only is it the best, but it feels like it was what the entire album was supposed to be. It is a complete picture, a complete song, and a complete story. To confirm this feeling, the bridge also ends with the album’s title, “And my waves meet your shore ever and evermore.” While the final song of the album is titled evermore, it is long story short that is the soul of the album. Other standout tracks were: no body, no crime (feat. HAIM), dorothea, marjorie, and closure.
With both marjorie and closure there is more musical ear candy to listen to that draws the listener in, but both never end up going anywhere. They miss a true chorus, begging for a climax and a payoff. This leads to the final note: evermore suffers from the lack of dynamics. With each song, once the first thirty seconds to a minute has passed nothing changes in the rest of the song. While lyrics are split up into verses, choruses, and bridges; the music does not follow any such structure. Each story has a climax, but each song lies on a plateau.
In conclusion, Taylor Swift’s evermore is a perfect album for fans of podcasts. There is a lot of mental stimulation going on with the lyrics, but not much going on with music. For those that enjoy stories and enjoy music that does not get in the way of the melody, harmonies, and lyrics; then this is the album for them. It is a chill, folk pop album that does not change the game, but it does achieve it’s goal in comforting those that like to listen to other’s voices and stories. The writer gives the album three out of five stars. But that is the writer’s opinion. Stream Taylor Swift’s evermore, available on all music platforms, and judge for yourself.
(Photo Credit: Beth Garrabrant)