Album evermore established as another Swift success
TUES. | 2-09-20 | ENTERTAINMENT
Midnight on Friday, Dec. 11, I sat anxiously in bed awaiting evermore by Taylor Swift to be available on Spotify. The moment it showed up, I binge-listened to the entire album. In the past month, 90% of all the music I have listened to has been from this album.
As the sister album to folklore, evermore has been able to extend the stylistic principles of folklore while still having merit as its own album. folklore’s unexpected release on Friday, July 24, 2020 provided many with comfort for months and months — myself included. Thus, I was shocked to see Swift swiftly drop her ninth studio album, evermore, five months later. Truthfully, I was still processing folklore and could not fully appreciate evermore as a sister album when it came out; I initially preferred folklore, but I have grown to be obsessed with evermore, as it has built upon the stories and motifs of folklore.
Just to give you a better idea of how obsessed I am with evermore, I went to Target ten days after the album was released to purchase a physical deluxe copy for my car. Yes, in the age of Spotify and Apple Music, I bought a CD. In my defense, though, I was able to enjoy the bonus tracks before they were publicly available on streaming services; it was not
Photos by Lexi Karaivanova
until Thursday, Jan. 7, that “right where you left me” and “it’s time to go” were released on Spotify. All seventeen songs on the deluxe edition of evermore are phenomenal in their own right, but I will only take an in-depth look at seven of my favorite tracks.
The second track on the album,“champagne problems,” highlights Swift’s storytelling abilities, as well as beautiful lyricism. The song has a woman narrating her own story including her rejection of her college sweetheart’s marriage proposal, the gossip that ensues and how her mental health was weaponized against her. The story is accompanied with a simple piano instrumental, adding perfectly to the mournful mood.
It begins with the man wallowing on a silent train, unsure whether the silence was better than the “bustling crowds'' at the family party he left. It is at the party that the woman rejects her partner’s proposal. Once this occurs and it is publicly known, “no one's celebrating” and the man is left speechless. The song’s narrator defends herself by saying “Sometimes you just don't know the answer / 'Til someone's on their knees and asks you,” but the town still shames her.
The depiction of mental illness in “champagne problems” portrays resilience through vulnerability and making hard decisions. In the bridge of “champagne problems,” the narrator recounts a time in college where she joked that “This dorm was once a madhouse…. Well, it's made for me,” — which is one of my favorite lines — leading to how the town would weaponize her mental illness to say "She would've made such a lovely bride / What a shame she's f*cked in the head” for rejecting her college sweetheart. As the song reaches its end, the narrator envisions her college sweetheart finding the right woman who would “patch up your tapestry that I shred,” giving a Disney-like happy ending. Purely based off of how much I can write about this song, “champagne problems” is lyrical storytelling at its finest.
Skipping ahead, track five, “tolerate it,” is the song I listen to whenever I want to cry. I will freely admit that I have sat in my car, screaming the lyrics to “tolerate it” with tears streaming down my face. The song tells the story of someone with childlike excitement and love not having their partner reciprocate the same feelings. Swift even uses the first chorus to compare the relationship to a kid waiting by the door and painting with their best colors excitedly, but being ignored and not getting validated. This hits close to home for me, as I do cherish being validated and can take it personally when I am ignored.
Further in the first chorus, Swift portrays the denial and doubt that can come from being tolerated; “If it's all in my head, tell me now / Tell me I've got it wrong somehow.” The desire to be wanted was so deep that the Swift says “Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life.” That line is my favorite on the track, and it is the point where my eyes fill up with tears. Footnotes are usually afterthoughts and not necessary to understand a book or paper. Personally, I have used footnotes to include information that I deem not worthy of taking up the word count of my research papers, making the next lyric sting: “Always taking up too much space or time.” To be dismissed and minimized in such a way — that you’re not deemed as an important part of someone’s life story — is heartbreaking. With all this anguish, it reaches a point that the song’s narrator is partaking in mental gymnastics to be worthy and loved in this relationship, which is not how anyone should ever feel.
In the next track, “no body, no crime,” there is a more vengeful mood and tells a true-crime-inspired story that sounds like the perfect plot for a movie. The song fits into the subgenre of country music in which women sing about killing their cheating husbands. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, think of Carrie Underwood’s “Two Black Cadillacs,” and click on this link.
Swift, along with the girl group HAIM, sing the story of a woman who’s best friend Este suspects her husband is cheating on her. Este states “That ain't my Merlot on his mouth / That ain't my jewelry on our joint account" and the song’s narrator says it “smells like infidelity.” It is hinted that Este confronts her husband, and that she goes missing afterwards. The narrator suspects the husband of killing Este, granted he changed his car tires and had his mistress move in, but she “just can’t prove it.” The loyalty the narrator has for Este leads her to kill the husband, citing her house cleaning skills and boating license as how she pulled it off. The mistress “took out a big life insurance policy,” leading people to believe she did it. But, yet again, no one can prove it. As awful as this is to admit, I love songs about infidelity and revenge. There’s something weirdly exhilarating every time I sing along to “no body, no crime” — other than the initial anxiety I get from the cop sirens that begin the song — that brings me back, time and time again.
Track seven, “happiness,” is one of my favorites for the way it juxtaposes its meaning with the instrumentals. Like the song “peace” on folklore, the title of “happiness” has a positive connotation, but the lyrics provide a more nuanced view that challenges that connotation. Instrumentality, “happiness” is very simplistic and calming. Lyrically, the song thinks about a past failed relationship, showing the hurt that came along with happiness.
The chorus of “happiness” explores that there was happiness because of her ex, but there is happiness in the present without them as well — from both Swift’s perspective, as well as from her ex-boyfriend’s. What’s special in the chorus, though, is the admittance that “Both of these things can be true,” even if the happiness is varied. Swift expands on the relationship by saying “No one teaches you what to do / When a good man hurts you / And you know you hurt him too,” showing the duality of hurt and not putting all the blame on one person. In true Swift style, there is a sign of personal growth in embracing every emotion: “I hope she'll be a beautiful fool / Who takes my spot next to you / No, I didn't mean that / Sorry, I can't see facts through all of my fury.” That last line is my favorite on this track, with the “fact” it is referencing being that “there is happiness.” In admitting to fury, Swift does not minimize her own feelings, which I find to be crucial in getting over someone or something.
While “happiness” resembles “peace” on folklore, the thirteenth track “marjorie” relates to “epiphany.” “epiphany” paid homage to Swift’s grandfather and a World War II battle that he fought in, while “marjorie” is all about her grandmother. “marjorie” is much more vulnerable and provides comfort that “what died didn't stay dead.” Swift’s grandmother, opera singer Marjorie Finlay, is even featured in the track singing soprano after Swift says “And if I didn't know better / I'd think you were singing to me now.” That portion of the song is so heart-wrenchingly beautiful in how it is able to exemplify that those who have passed can always be with us. Each time I listen to “marjorie,” it reminds me to save every note written to me — even if it just says “dirty clothes?” or a coffee order — to keep every little memory alive.
In the first verse of “marjorie,” Swift imparts insightful wisdom that I have been referring to since the first time I heard the song: “Never be so kind / You forget to be clever / Never be so clever / You forget to be kind.” As someone who enjoys rhetorical analysis (and geeks over anaphoras), this verse gives me so much joy. That joy only grows with the second verse when Swift reuses that sentence structure: “Never be so politе / You forget your power / Nevеr wield such power / You forget to be polite.” There is something so powerful in how Swift does this, and it makes “marjorie” stand out in an already amazing album.
Now, to the bonus tracks. It was definitely worth the wait for the deluxe version because “right where you left me” and “it’s time to go” were instant favorites.
The sixteenth track, “right where you left me,” starts off with a country vibe/accent as Swift sings “Friends break up, friends get married / Strangers get born, strangers get buried.” The song goes on to highlight how everyone is moving on, while a younger version of Swift is stuck in the past because of a breakup. Swift paints a scene of a dim-lit restaurant booth, with shattered glass and dust — this is where the breakup happened. Young Swift remains seated at the booth with ruined mascara. The pre-chorus goes on to say ”Help, I'm still at the restaurant / Still sitting in a corner I haunt” — everyone has moved on, but Swift remains paralyzed in that exact moment of heartbreak (i.e., “I’m right where you left me”).
Similarly to “champagne problems,” people around Swift begin to gossip and provide unsolicited commentary: "they say “What a sad sight"” & “Did you hear about the girl who lives in delusion? / Break-ups happen every day, you don't have to lose it.” While “champagne problems” is from the perspective of someone who initiated the break up, “right where you left me” balances it out by offering the opposite perspective. In both songs, though, it is notable that the women are shamed for their reactions. Swift often utilizes her music to highlight double standards, so “right where you left me” is able to build off “champagne problems” to provide that underlying feminist message.
Onto the seventeenth (and final) track of evermore: “it’s time to go.” As the title may suggest, “it’s time to go” is about leaving. Leaving cheating husbands, leaving unhappy marriages and leaving toxic work environments. Musically, this song is chilling in how emphatic and sporadic the piano chords are played. Lyrically, the examples it uses are incredibly depressing, yet also somehow liberating
The first example Swift uses in “it’s time to go” is a cheating husband: the husband denies everything, but the wife’s sister proves that he was wrong for “insisting that friends / Look at each other like that.” The next example is nepotism in the workplace: “20 years at your job / Then the son of the boss gets the spot that was yours.” The final example is two people “trying to stay for the kids / When keeping it how it is will only break their hearts worse.” After establishing these examples, Swift gets to the heart of the song. The chorus conveys that “Sometimes giving up is the strong thing / Sometimes to run is the brave thing / Sometimes walking out is the one thing / That will find you the right thing.” While giving up and walking out are typically connoted as a sign of weakness or laziness, “it’s time to go” challenges this preconceived notion. With all the judgement in the world, I find it very important that Swift offered this perspective to her wide audience.
A huge motif in evermore is this idea of unreciprocated love and rejecting commitment, as seen in over half the album… and every song (other than “marjorie”) that I wrote about. Swift uniquely shared so many stories with this album. The nerd in me has loved being able to review evermore in depth for its lyrical and thematic mastery. With the obsession I have for this album, everyone can go ahead and bet money that songs from evermore will make their way into my Spotify Rewind of 2021.