Lyrical Storytelling: Taylor Swift's Album evermore
This past Friday, Taylor Swift released her ninth studio album, evermore.
This past Friday, Taylor Swift released her ninth studio album, evermore. Similar to its sister album, folklore, which Swift released earlier this year, evermore explores the stories of different fictional characters that she developed. Swift's music has always contained vivid lyricism, helping her listener dive deep into the lives and emotions of these characters. Unlike her past albums that leaned towards country and pop, folklore and evermore represent a new era for Swift's music as she explores genres like indie, alternative, and folk, which are relatively new sounds to her fans. Not only is evermore's aesthetic sonically pleasant, but also the album, once again, showcases her admirable songwriting skills and ability to weave metaphors and double entendres into her lyrics.
Throughout folklore and evermore, Swift explores the grey area between reality and storytelling by using real events and real people as her main sources of inspiration. In folklore, Swift's fictional characters Betty, James, and Inez were inspired by the real children of American-Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds. The characters are the subject of a love triangle that she references multiple times throughout the album. For evermore, Swift took character inspiration from true crimes such as the 1938 missing-persons case of Marjorie West, and from her own friends such as Este Haim. She further connects these individuals to those in folklore.
By blurring the lines between fiction and reality, Swift not only created a universe in which her characters interact and build off one another to create an overarching narrative, but also indicates that her stories of heartbreak, abuse, toleration, and even murder, are potential realities.
Throughout evermore, Swift specifically details 17 somewhat-connecting stories of toxic relationships and failed marriages of her characters. She tries to uncover the nature of love by exploring how her characters navigate relationships. Several songs in the album, such as "'tis the damn season" and "dorothea" reference a relationship that goes haywire when the girl is either too devoted or not invested enough. They describe the journey of a girl returning home from pursuing her Hollywood dream and the rekindling of a past relationship. Each song depicts a different perspective of her return: One tells of Dorothea's perspective, while the other shows that of her ex-lover. Swift's narratives allow her to explore the complexities of her own past relationships by connecting herself to these characters.
In addition to imaginative story-telling, the lyrics are compact with compelling analogies and wordplay. For example, in the song "ivy," Swift sings, "Oh, I can't stop you putting roots in my dreamland; my house of stone, your ivy grows and now I'm covered in you." Here, Swift tells the story of a woman who cheats on her husband for someone with whom she develops an obsession. Her obsession eventually causes her own death, while her husband moves on and continues to grow, like an ivy plant. Through vivid lyrics, Swift is able to clearly convey her thoughts upon universal issues such as infidelity and deceit. Her attention to detail is especially impressive, considering this is her second studio album over the course of a mere six months.
The album flows well as stories build off each other to create an overarching narrative, but a few songs could be removed without affecting its delivery. For instance, songs like "willow" and "marjorie" do not add substance to the album's stories, and "gold rush" is lyrically repetitive and bland.
This new era contains mostly indie music with certain songs, such as "no body, no crime," exhibiting her country roots through bluegrass instrumentals, a genre derived from the 1940s Appalachian region. These musical choices prompt many to criticize evermore for being slow compared to her previous pop albums, but the slowness actually adds to the gravity of the social issues addressed. Rumors abound that a third sister album may be in the works and that her current era is not over just yet. If these rumors are true, her listeners will surely be excited to see how her stories and sound continue to develop.