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Taylor Swift uses powerful storytelling in her introspective album 'evermore'

With only a 16-hour notice given to fans beforehand, Taylor Swift released her ninth studio album, "evermore," on Dec. 11, 2020, less than six months after releasing her summer project, "folklore."  – Photo by Taylor Swift / Instagram

Taylor Swift decided that in 2020, she could, in fact, come to the phone. The singer released another surprise quarantine album titled, evermore, on Dec. 11 as the sister album to her blockbuster summer release, “folklore." While “evermore” continues the same mythological storytelling style of “folklore," it carries a different tone both thematically and musically.

Similar to "folklore," Swift has forgone her typical album release practices, like waiting for the perfect time to release an album or creating stadium-friendly pop bangers. In an interview with Zane Lowe, the singer shared why.

According to Swift, in her previous projects, she would force herself to stick to a checklist. But since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic began, Swift has used music as an outlet for escapism and rule-breaking, which means dropping albums with a 16-hour notice.

Venturing further into the woods with Aaron Dessner from the indie rock band, “The National,” longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and William Bowery (also known as her boyfriend Joe Alwyn), Swift crafted a nostalgic and heart-wrenching masterpiece.

Building off of her last album, Swift continues telling small-town love stories against wispy musical arrangements, honoring lost friends, lovers and family that still lingers in people’s hearts.

The opening track, “willow,” and its matching dreamy, Disney-like music video, is an upbeat ode to Swift's lover and quickly became a fan-favorite. With lyrics like, “I come back stronger than a '90s trend," the singer proves that she hasn't outgrown her ability to make a classic one-liner.

Another track that is drawing considerable chatter is champagne problems." Accompanied by a melancholic piano, Swift steps into character as a woman who breaks up with her college sweetheart on the night he plans to propose, subsequently crushing their friends and family due to her "champagne problems."

She laments in a self-deprecating tone and ultimately screams in the bridge, "'She would’ve made such a lovely bride/what a shame she’s f***ed in the head,' they said." Undoubtedly, Swift’s ability to tell fictional stories through shared emotion is one of her strongest suits on “evermore.”

One of my favorite songs on the album is “'tis the damn season." The track is narrated by an aspiring actress named Dorothea who returns to her hometown during the holidays and reconnects with a former flame. Swift sings with a mixture of bitterness, longing and pain for a relationship that is lost by time and ambitious dreams. This song exhibits ultimate wooden cabin vibes.

In “dorothea," Swift provides listeners with a tale told from the perspective of a childhood friend whose only access to her is through a small screen. Swift masterfully captures the feeling of wondering if you’re still remembered by the people who are no longer in your life. 

But Swift switches gears to a country, murder mystery plot in “no body no crime." From featuring a character named after HAIM Sister Este Haim to shouting out her favorite food chain Olive Garden, this song is unlike anything Dessner has previously worked on, an ode to his and Swift’s commitment to artistic exploration.

tolerate it” is the fifth track in the Swift canon, in which the narrator tells of how her arduous efforts in a relationship are met by perfect indifference from her partner. This is one of the most heartbreaking songs Swift has written, the sharp pain in her voice piercing through the speakers.

A notable element on this album is the processing of heartbreak, evident in “happiness” and the bonus track “right where you left me." "happiness,” which Swift wrote a week before the album dropped, deals with the idea that pain doesn’t erase happiness and explores the nonlinear journey to forgiveness. “There'll be happiness after you /But there was happiness because of you," sings Swift against a somber melody.

Meanwhile, in “right where you left me," Swift is more confessional, singing about being trapped in a moment of heartbreak — possibly relating to fame or loss of a friendship — and watching others move on with their lives without her.

In contrast, a more upbeat, almost euphoric take on past struggle is “long story short," another song that instantly became one of my favorites. In this track, Swift reflects on a time in her life when everything crumbled (i.e., 2016) and how she fell from the wrong arms into the right ones. Describing her lover as “Rare as the glimmer of a comet in the sky," Swift yet again marvels at the way fate had brought them together.

Listening to “evermore” resembles escaping into a movie or novel, moving through the story as the main character. Swift probes the complexity of people, how they come and go in your life and leave lasting imprints. The album is littered with moments of deep reflection, but also hope. In a year where everyone was forced to grapple with heightened uncertainty and personal struggle, Swift carried her way through music, throwing us a lifeline or two.

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