Five months after the release of her critically acclaimed album, folklore, which earned a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, Taylor Swift is echoing its narrative mythmaking with her newest album, evermore.

For Swift, 2020 characterized a phase of unburdened songwriting where she abandoned her diaristic approach. This newfound creative freedom started in folklore and grew in its spiritual sister record, evermore. Together, these explorations of artistic liberty awarded the songstress Apple’s Songwriter of the Year. 

With Evermore, Swift explores the emotional toll of crumbling relationships, creating her saddest album yet and mirroring this year of social inquietude. Leaping out of the well-trodden forest of folklore and entering the enchanted gate of evermore, Swift paints Narnia-esque gothic-folk visionaries that brim with her innermost musings. If folklorewas spring and summer, then evermore acts as the fall and winter companion.

Evermore is the first album to combine Swift’s previous genres—country, pop, and alternative—and boil them seamlessly into one harmonious work. The result is a vivid, painful, and poetic manifestation of the artist grappling with her own future. Its themes are deeply personal yet completely detached from the singer, who released evermoreto commemorate her 31st birthday. 

While folklore and evermore have given Swift a platform to escape her previous diaristic approaches to songwriting, coincidentally, both records retain personal touches. She recorded both works alongside contributor William Bowery, a now-confirmed pseudonym for her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. Ironically, the young couple have produced the saddest breakup songs of Swift’s entire career, with tracks such as “exile,” “champagne problems,” “evermore,” and “coney island.”

Evermore continues the immense success of its predecessor as the biggest debuting album in history, ranking first on Billboard 200 for most popular album, while her lead single “willow” simultaneously topped Hot100 for most popular song. Swift remains the only artist to accomplish this feat, and she has done so twice this year with both albums. 

The main distinction between both albums lies in the maturity of her storytelling. Folklore encompasses conflict resolution surrounding teenage love. Evermore experiments with the notion of endings­—rejected proposals, lost loves during the holidays, infidelity, and murder.

Despite both albums containing heart-wrenching lyrics, each cater to different artistic priorities. Folklore, the more monotonous album, lets Swift dive headfirst into the foreign realm of indie music while, unhindered by the apprehension of embarking on a new genre, evermore allows her to realize her most emotionally cognisant piece.

The variety of evermore contributes significantly to the album’s success. Its standout songs coo different genres, showcasing Swift’s unwillingness to be defined. Instead, she combines various dimensions to fulfill a comprehensively moody atmosphere: breathy ballads, colourful pop sequences, and her first country-kissed songs in years.

The country-tuned, murder ballad, “no body no crime,” depicts a woman vowing to catch her friend’s killer with scathing clues and the perfect crime. “Gold rush,” a fantastical impressionistic pop track, is detail-rich and flavoured with the vulnerable jealousy of love. Equipped with sombre piano, “champagne problems” is literal and metaphorical, a song about a woman’s rejected proposal and the stigma she faces surrounding her mental health and the bottle. Through these tracks and others, escapism permeates evermore as Swift jumps in and out of the lives of her captive characters, documenting them at critical points of no return.  

Elsewhere, “marjorie” is a memorialisation of Swift’s grandmother, Marjorie Finely, an opera singer who passed away in 2003. This climactic eulogy is an excruciatingly pensive centerpiece, paired alongside pulsing keyboards and fragmented lyrics composed from Swift’s memories and regrets. Perhaps the saddest lyric, “And if I didn’t know better/I’d think you were singing to me now,” catalyses the lush background orchestration, soaring violins, and an archival recording of Finely’s real-life singing.

Evermore, which could’ve coasted on its elder sibling’s tidal wave of success, overcame it with varied genres that culminate to a devastating conclusion. Swift’s restless imagination smooths over the occasional lows of folklore, stretching her creative capacity to produce an album of powerful storytelling and mythology.

With quarantine loneliness dissecting romantic relationships, Swift has released an album hell-bent with themes just in time for winter. As folklore and evermore contain unfinished storylines, people believe a third sister album, woodvale, to be in the works. It might act as another confessional piece for Swift, who continues to pluck the strings of her meandering emotions as she, and her characters, still have more to say. 

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