Once again, Taylor Swift fooled us all.

Less than four months after the release of folklore, Swift’s surprise quarantine album and arguably her best piece of work to date, and only weeks after the release of the accompanying concert movie folklore: the long-pond studio sessions on Disney+, Swift surprised the world once again by releasing folklore’s “sister album”, evermore

This “birthday present” that Taylor has given her fans on the eve of her 31st birthday (13 famously being Swift’s lucky number) recovers the same lyricism and escapism of folklore, while arguably leaving behind a piece of herself on the way.

If folklore feels like sitting on a campfire while hearing Taylor’s various tales, evermore is the part of the evening where everybody else joins in to tell stories and folktales until you forget how the conversation began in the first time. It’s a perfect companion to folklore, but also one that won’t overshadow it.

Swift did it again. She certainly took advantage of the media’s obsession to talk about her private life: with a title like evermore and promotional pictures of her in what really looked like a wedding dress, the internet spent the hours leading up to the album’s release speculating on Swift’s marital status and even suggesting on the album being some sort of public wedding announcement. Even though Taylor made clear in the Miss Americana Netflix documentary that she isn’t ready for children and that she is happy exactly where she is in her relationship, since Swift dropped her seventh studio album Lover last year, fans and the media alike have been feeling the wedding vibes and even spreading marriage rumors. Songs like Paper Rings and lyrics like the Lover bridge, playing on wedding vows, have been at the core of these theories. Instead, she fooled us all and delivered something totally different instead.

After all, if there’s any album in Taylor’s discography that has less of Swift’s life in its lyrics, it’s this one.

Beyond the song dedicated to her grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, (which includes background vocals from Marjorie herself) and the subtle mentions to a treason that might be a reference to Taylor’s dispute with Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun regarding ownership of her masters, the new surprise record lacks the connections to her life experience that one could find in songs like the last great american dynasty, invisible strings, peace or my tears ricochet. 

The music video for willow, evermore’s first single, opens right where folklore‘s cardigan ended, with Swift looking at the camera after having held on to music to overcome all of the difficulties in her life. Taylor then begins a new adventure, following a shiny golden string that reminds every Swiftie of invisible string. Arguably the most striking image of the video is that of Taylor in a wedding dress trapped in a glass cage for the whole world to look at. It’s quite an appropriate metaphor for her life in the limelight and how each of her vulnerabilities has been exposed by the media.

[Image Description: Taylor Swift in a wedding dress looking down.] via Republic Records
[Image Description: Taylor Swift in a wedding dress looking down.] via Republic Records
In willow, Taylor sings about a complex (and I would say perhaps even toxic) relationship. The singer has said that “willow is about intrigue, desire and the complexity that goes into wanting someone.” If you asked me, willow is about the desire to be successful in the music industry, and how businessmen in the industry make promises to young girls of fame and fortune that hardly often come true.

If folklore represented a cohesive escapism, evermore is a fun adventure, where Taylor becomes much more experimental with her music, exploring new sounds and styles, as well as many more different stories. It’s not just about one love triangle like the Betty/James/Augustine story, but seventeen different stories that vaguely connect to one another.

Two con artists who fall in love when they’re looking for new patrons, a famous woman who comes back for the holidays and reignites an old flame, someone drowning in a loveless marriage, a woman who breaks up with her boyfriend after he proposes, a true-crime worthy story, and much much more. The lyricism and the storytelling continue to be there and the stories draw you to a different dimension. However, I still think that the connections and the musical version were stronger in folklore. 

If there is something that doesn’t fail to disappoint in evermore, it’s the collaborations.

Swift reunites with Aaron DessnerJack AntonoffJustin Vernon, and William Bowery – who we all know to be the one and only Joe Alwyn (Taylor’s beloved partner). However, while folklore only had one external artist feature in the songs, evermore includes a full-fledged feature with The National (coney island), backing vocals from Mumford & Sons’ Marcus Mumford (cowboy like me), a track featuring the sisters HAIM (no body, no crime), and what seems to be exile 2.0 in another collab with Bon Iver (the eponymous evermore). These were some of the strongest songs on the album,  for their different sounds and its original stories, which you could picture as if you were seeing them on a screen.

Personally, my favorite songs were Dorothea, no body no crime, coney island, and champagne problems although, as with most of Swift’s albums, I will need several more listens before settling on an official top three. I would also give a special mention to closure, particularly if, (should rumors be believed) it’s a message to Borchetta and Braun.

The Great Gatsby references in happiness, the wordplay with previous songs such as in coney island or gold rush, the whole of evermore is uniquely original and ubiquitously Taylor. She has opened a new era without having to close the preceding one.

The whole album is a perfect continuation of folklore, with the same ambiance, the soothing sound and the brilliant lyricism. However, it is not one that will outshine her first quarantine album, nor its incredible success. folklore sold two million copies in its first week globally and broke the Guinness World Record for the biggest opening day for an album by a female artist on Spotify. It’s has been nominated for 5 Grammy Awards, and it’s predicted to win several of those.

evermore is not a greater album than folklore, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s its perfect companion, and the best Christmas present she could’ve given us, and the best way to end 2020.

But.. is it the end? When presenting evermore, Swift said that “the story continues” not that it “ends”. For this and other clues, Swifties are currently theorizing that there might be a third part to the folklore and evermore saga, that could even be called woodvale. Who knows? There might be another review very soon… sooner than we think.

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  • Beatriz Valero de Urquía

    Beatriz Valero de Urquia is a historian, writer and journalist. She graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2020 and spends her time between Spain and the UK reading, listening to musicals and writing her first novel.