Music Reviews

On EVERMORE, Taylor Swift Reminds Us That Having Feelings Fucking Sucks

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Genre: Pop Country

Favorite Tracks: “gold rush,” “cowboy like me,” “ivy,” “‘tis the damn season,” “no body, no crime”

“My mind turns your life into FOLKLORE.”

We get it Taylor, quarantine has been very “productive” for you. How very Sagittarian of her to be like, “Yeah I actually wrote two excellent albums in quarantine, but sorry you were so depressed you watched multiple REAL HOUSEWIVES franchises and gained 15 pounds.” On December 11, Swift announced she was dropping EVERMORE, her second album in five months, as a little birthday gift to herself and her fans. And what a gift it was! 15 songs that further thrust me into a depressive spiral and held a gun to my head, demanding I acknowledge my trauma.

On EVERMORE, Swift is obsessing over past and alternate versions of herself, something I suppose we’ve all done over the last few months—playing out how we could’ve enjoyed ourselves more, how we could’ve avoided major traumas that are rearing their ugly heads in quarantine. On “coney island” she revisits former flames (rumored to be very specific former flames), while on “‘tis the damn season” she muses about how good the road not traveled looks (a continuation from FOLKLORE’s “illicit affairs”). It’s all very Taylor Swift™; the key to understanding Taylor Swift can be found in a Tweet I read right after FOLKLORE dropped: “when trying to interpret any taylor swift song, it is important to remember that she is dramatic, has projection issues, and has gotten over maybe five things in her lifetime.” This Tweet opened my third eye, and ever since I feel like I’ve been able to process every Taylor Swift album in a different way. While FOLKLORE felt focused on fictional characters like Betty and Inez, EVERMORE seems to be focused on different versions of Swift, alternate endings to her current fairytale.

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EVERMORE is not “FOLKLORE b-sides,” as I’ve heard it referred to. It carries itself much differently than FOLKLORE, distinctly functioning as a sister album. EVERMORE feels like a more natural progression from her earlier albums like RED and TAYLOR SWIFT. Not only is this era focused on alternate versions of herself, it’s about alternate versions of her career. RED was a major crossroads for her musically as her country upbringing collided with her pop influences, and with 1989 she loudly chose pop. EVERMORE posits a world in which, instead of chasing the popularity of “I Knew You Were Trouble,” she developed the sound of “Treacherous” and (her best song) “All Too Well.” FOLKLORE is the “indie” cosplay of 1989 Taylor, while EVERMORE feels like a genuine evolution of her original sound.

Swift used to be the kind of artist with an extensive catalog of bonus tracks, but with REPUTATION and LOVER that changed. REPUTATION felt intentional, as if those 15 songs were all she wanted to reveal, while LOVER felt lazy and indulgent (one third of that album is skips). EVERMORE and FOLKLORE both have bonus tracks (the EVERMORE tracks have not yet been released) and are longer albums, FOLKLORE clocking in with 16 songs and EVERMORE with 15. There’s another fan theory that (not including bonus tracks) she intentionally chose those numbers because they add up to 31, the birthday she’s celebrating with the release of EVERMORE. To me this explains why there are… quite a few skips! “coney island” and “closure” leave no lasting effect whatsoever, and “tolerate it” might be one of her worst songs produced—with Swift, you know she has notebooks full of phrases she’s written down to save for later, and these songs feel like they’re comprised entirely of clunky lines that didn’t fit into previous albums.

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I love EVERMORE—I even think I like it more than FOLKLORE. It fits better into the genre she’s easing into and I think some of her best work can be found here; I’m praying someone dumps me soon so I can listen to “cowboy like me” and mourn, and I think “gold rush,” “ivy,” and “happiness” include some of her best lyrics of all time. As much as she might be trying to remove herself from the narrative, Taylor Swift is all over EVERMORE. From references to her music to employing her current boyfriend to sing the harmony on “cowboy like me,” it’s dripping with Swift. Maybe that’s why I prefer it to its predecessor–FOLKLORE feels different to the point where I’m not as engaged as I am with EVERMORE.

Sometimes I feel like Taylor Swift’s music is the only thing that can free me from my cursed feelings. Not to sound like a grandma, but in this era it’s so hard to let go, especially when I’ve been sitting in my apartment for almost a year and every crush I’ve ever had is like… right there on Instagram. But every time Swift releases an album it feels like I have permission to process and grieve free of judgment—again, she has only gotten over maybe five things in her lifetime and maybe so have I! A new Taylor Swift album is like being faced with all of your most dramatic and embarrassingly sincere emotions about trauma from throughout your life and it’s your choice to face it or not. But that’s what I’ve always respected about Taylor Swift, and what I feel like people genuinely don’t give her enough credit for. Having feelings fucking sucks—it’s in the top five worst features of “being a human.” But with every album, Swift hands you the keys to her mom’s Subaru and asks you to exorcize every demon that lives in your dumb brain. EVERMORE is the perfect soundtrack to that long drive.

Aya Lehman
Aya Lehman is Television Editor for Merry-Go-Round Magazine. As such she yells about MINDHUNTER on various social media platforms. Her passions include reading the writers of CRIMINAL MINDS for filth, the politics of the color pink, and Steve from STRANGER THINGS.

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