Here’s the thing – before 2020 I had never heard an entire Taylor Swift album.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean that I hadn’t heard her songs. Because I had. Swift is one of those artists whose music is everywhere, and it can be near impossible to escape it.
But this year, when folklore was announced I decided that I would listen to the entire record. Everything about it appealed to me. The people she was collaborating with, the way it was announced, and even the cover. And I was not disappointed. It flew past all my expectations. So when it was announced that she was releasing another album, I was hyped!
Swift is a master storyteller. And with evermore, her songwriting prowess is on full display. Produced by Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff, and joined by some new collaborators, they push further than they did before. Experimenting with her vocals, and producing sounds that you have never heard before on a Taylor Swift album. Weaving stories gloriously, which seem both like personal confessions and folktales. It feels like she has gathered us all around a fire and is regaling us with her tales. It’s cozy. It’s intimate. It’s warm. And though she breaks your heart often, by the end she manages to mold it back together too.
The album starts on a pretty optimistic note, and though it doesn’t stay that way for long, the transition between the songs is smooth. I am a big fan of the piano and loved that this record is more piano-heavy than the previous one. From small, delicate chords to the big, fast-paced sounds, it has Dessner written all over it. And though there are some songs reminiscent of her older stuff, there’s still plenty that left me pleasantly surprised.
I love a good murder mystery, and I love when songs don’t take themselves too seriously. And ‘no body no crime’ featuring Haim is a perfect combination of both. There’s a country flair through and through, and though I am not a fan of country music, it’s so fun that I didn’t mind.
The longest song on the record, ‘Happiness’, is the most vulnerable song on the album. The song is about closure, making peace with someone who has wronged her, and even acknowledging the love shared in the past. This is a very honest song. She is laying in words her regrets, her pain, bitterness, and letting them go. It takes a tremendous amount of grace to let go of resentments. To be the bigger person. But with eyes on the future, and her back to the past, Swift does exactly that. It is one of my favourite Taylor Swift songs.
Dead doesn’t mean gone, and 17 years after her death, Swift has brought her grandmother back to life with the song ‘Marjorie’. I didn’t expect a Taylor Swift song to bring me to tears, but these are strange times, and it did. (No joke, after listening to this song, I immediately called my grandmother.) Marjorie is credited with background vocals on the track. You’ll have to listen closely, but you can hear her haunting vocals at the last minute of the song. I had chills all over. It’s a very beautiful track.
It does pain me to admit it, but the last song of the record, and Swift’s second Bon Iver collab ‘evermore’, is my least favourite song on the record. The transition from Swift’s vocals to Justin Vernon’s caught me off guard the first time I heard it. And though it has grown on me a bit since, on an album as stellar as evermore, it does stick out. I can appreciate the honesty and beauty of the lyrics, but it sounds like two different songs put together. Beautiful on their own, but don’t quite gel together all that well. It’s an apt finisher though. There’s closure, acceptance, and disbelief. It’s the perfect place to let go.
On ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ from Swift’s 2017 album reputation, she boldly declared that the old Taylor is dead. Now, more than three years later, it looks like that might not exactly be true. Swift has grown, she has shed her insecurities and moved past her fears and hurt. But a part of the old Taylor still resides within. And we are all the better for it. It has taken time, it has not been easy, but it finally seems like the peace that has evaded her for so long is finally within reach.
Words by Rihaab R Malik