What’s the best way to follow up dropping a bomb of an album that sends shockwaves across the music community and indeed the world of popular culture? Hit them with another! That is exactly what Taylor Swift has done, with her ninth studio album Evermore quickly succeeding Folklore, the latter of which being listed as album of the year by none other than Rolling Stone magazine. People had barely gotten over the surprise of Folklore dropping unannounced in July when Evermore was released earlier this month.
Swift has meandered through different chapters in her musical career, first asserting herself in the world of country music before transitioning into pop, launching herself onto the pedestal reserved for only the biggest stars on the planet. Folklore marked the start of a new, more reflective chapter, which she is obviously keen to continue.
As such, Evermore’s great opener Willow promises an album that is both distinctly Taylor Swift yet different to anything she’s done before, minus the transcendent Folklore. The track itself is based around a great guitar riff with which Swift’s vocals tie in melodically and rhythmically very well. Things quickly take a turn with the album’s second track Champagne Problems, which begins with a quintessential pop piano intro, being musically very simple, and is therefore actually more representative of the whole album. In fact, this song about a failed engagement screams simplicity, both musically and structurally, which only serves to make more powerful the painfully yet liberatingly relatable line ‘”She would’ve made such a lovely bride, what a shame she’s f***** in the head”, they said.’ Conversely, Tolerate It offers a more melodic piano intro, which makes it a shame this song about unappreciated love is somewhat lyrically weak.
As with its predecessor, Evermore is rich with collaborations and features many of the same names. Haim, The National and Bon Iver have all managed to get their names on a track for this album. Being a huge The National fan myself, it is clear to see the influence the members of this alternative band had on the songs; writing and playing on a lot of the album, but Coney Island is the only track across the two albums that features the vocals of frontman Matt Berninger. As with most music associated with The National, it is one of those songs best listened to lying in a darkened room staring at the ceiling, where its deeply evocative nature can best be appreciated.
I listened to the final song Evermore with all the anticipation that comes with finishing an album with a track featuring the fervently revered Bon Iver. It did not disappoint. Again, it starts with simple piano, but this track just feels different. Swift’s vocals entwine with the piano, forming a tight song that somehow both relaxes and induces a restless anxiousness. The song picks up as Justin Vernon’s vocals come in, but Swift’s continued presence is soothing as the music and production on Vernon’s vocals almost send you into a drunken spiral.
It is no doubt, for me at least, that the meaning of the name Taylor Swift has changed after her 2020 releases. Her name is now shrouded in a much more enticing aura that listeners will find themselves investing in and will thus surely agree with me when I say I cannot wait to see what’s next for Taylor Swift.