Coming off of folklore, it was hard not to expect too much from Taylor Swift. In December, however, she surpassed everyone’s expectations when she announced the midnight drop of a new album, evermore. Even now, after the dust has settled and the evermore era is making way for Swift’s re-recordings, it is hard to say how Swift’s unique album release strategy, which has consisted of announcing her latest two albums hours before their releases, will affect her future works. Still, now is the perfect time to reflect on evermore before the new version of her sophomore album, Fearless, comes out next month.
Swift’s latest album draws natural comparisons to folklore — they were both surprise albums, for one, and they both offer distinct departures from Swift’s country and pop ventures of the past. However, evermore is a much more diverse album in terms of sound and style. From “champagne problems,” whose masterful bridge connects it to tragic ballads such as “All Too Well” and “Dear John,” to “no body, no crime,” which echoes Swift’s country roots and female-driven revenge anthems like Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” no two songs sound exactly the same. This is a welcome change from folklore, which had the same indie style throughout, with a few notable exceptions such as “betty,” which had more in common with earlier Swift hits.
The strongest songs on evermore undoubtedly include “ivy,” “champagne problems,” “cowboy like me” and “gold rush.” As mentioned earlier, the strength of “champagne problems” lies in its powerful build to its bridge, as well as its intricate, compelling narrative about a woman who has unexpectedly refused a proposal. “Ivy” and “cowboy like me” offer some of the strongest lyrics of Swift’s career. Standouts include “my pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand” and “so yeah, it’s a war, it’s the goddamn fight of my life, and you started it” from the former and “now you hang from my lips like the Gardens of Babylon” from the latter. “Gold rush” is notable for its potential as both a dance song — its fun, upbeat notes are practically asking people to play it with their friends — as well as a sad reflection. “What must it be like to grow up that beautiful?”
Not all of the songs on evermore are flawless, however. Swift should stop collaborating with male artists; their voices never add anything of interest to hers, and I was left wondering how much better the songs could have been without them. The title track, “evermore,” is a perfect example of this problem. It is a beautiful song until about its halfway mark when Bon Iver enters with a strange, offputting vocal affectation he did not have on “exile,” his collaboration with Swift on folklore. “Coney island,” which features the National, is better, but it still cannot match the strength of Swift’s solo tracks. As for those, “dorothea” and “happiness” are probably the weakest. “Dorothea” has become something of a fan favorite, but apart from its notable subtext and sweet message, it offers little intrigue or variation. It is just that — sweet, and nothing more. “Happiness” is just, for the most part, a worse version of “tolerate it” and the other excellent sad, slow songs Swift has written.
All this being said, most of the tracks on evermore are superb, and it is absolutely one of her strongest albums. After sitting with both folklore and evermore for months, I have come to the conclusion that I slightly prefer folklore. However, this boils down to more personal associations for me, and I love evermore, too. As someone who has followed Swift’s career since Fearless, I cannot wait to see what she puts out next. Even for those who are not particular fans of Swift, country or pop music, listening to evermore is highly recommended.
According to speculation, Swift will release Fearless (Taylor’s Version) on April 9, the first in a series of re-recordings of her older albums. Though Fearless was not originally her first album — that honor goes to her self-titled debut — it was her first “big break.” She already released “Love Story (Taylor’s Version),” the first single on the re-recording, on February 12. Though much about the release and the nature of these new versions of old songs is unknown, fans believe she intends to re-release most of her old albums in the same way this year, along with previously unreleased songs that did not make it on the original track lists. Given Swift’s much-publicized conflict with Scooter Braun over the ownership of her music, these new and more personal versions have special meaning for her. It is hard to imagine how Swift will follow up evermore with a new album, but the re-recordings will tide her devotees over in the meantime.