Taylor Swift’s ‘Evermore’ is elegant, evergreen poetry

Photo of Evermore Album Cover
Republic Records/Courtesy

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Grade: 4.5/5.0

Only Taylor Swift would say there’s “not a lot going on at the moment” while simultaneously rerecording her masters and planning to release two surprise albums.

Contrary to her social media captions, it’s evident that Swift has been ceaselessly creating music during this time of isolation. She surprised fans Dec. 10 with her ninth studio album Evermore, arriving less than five months after her release of Folklore.

Evermore, which Swift described as the “sister record” of Folklore, neatly follows in the footsteps of its popular predecessor. The album lies at the intersection of indie, pop and folk — a snug niche that Swift comfortably settled into this past July. Listeners drift through ethereal scenery, getting lost among romances and tragedies that unfold across gentle, airy instrumentals.

Notably, Evermore is far from a hollow echo of Folklore; while Swift’s latest album does revisit themes from its predecessor, it is not a shallow or dispassionate attempt at replication. Rather, it’s a purposeful, ruminative perpetuation of her trek through poetic escapism.

Where Folklore serves as a revelation, Evermore glows as a modest celebration of its perpetuated beauty. Swift’s storytelling is as exquisite as ever: Myths are clay in her hands and her imagination blossoms across 15 tracks. She washed away her bold red lipstick and running mascara long ago, and since then, her tales of love have evolved from track lists to storybooks.

In this welcome collection of whimsical poetry, Swift continues crafting fictitious characters and intersecting storylines. In the hauntingly clever Haim collaboration “No Body, No Crime,” she composes a complex true-crime mystery. Daydreamer “Dorothea,” who exists in the same universe as Folklore characters Betty, James and Inez, returns home in “’Tis the Damn Season” for the holidays. Blurring the lines between traditional songwriting and distinguished storytelling, Swift smoothly navigates these fabricated stories with her characteristic poeticism.

Evermore clings to melancholy more than Folklore, but in this sorrow, she finds a glorious beauty. Making up for the album’s run-of-the-mill missteps such as “Happiness” and Bon Iver collaboration “Evermore,” “Tolerate It” perseveres as one of the greatest ballads of Swift’s career. She begs “for footnotes in the story” of a past lover’s life, capturing heartbreak with a perfectly devastating lucidity.

Evermore is serene and refined, and as its title suggests, the album is tinted with an enchanting timelessness. Beautiful, blithe songs such as “Gold Rush” or “Willow” sparkle with a glimmer of her past pop persona, but they’re also touched by a distinct, ageless sincerity. In the past, Swift’s songs such as “Shake It Off” or “Me!” hit the radio like fireworks, bursting colorfully but soon fading into the depths of her discography.

Yet, with Evermore, Swift embroiders a blossoming tapestry of myth with threads of love, pain and mystery. Enhanced by light percussive flairs fluttering across soothing strings and quiet piano, Swift assembles a halcyon atmosphere. She packs away her classic breakup songs, penning poignant poetry to be passed on and cherished.

Swift has perfected the art of reinvention for more than a decade. From wrecking her boyfriend’s car with a golf club to lounging in a bathtub of diamonds in music videos, her purposeful theatrics and distinct musical eras helped establish her presence in the music industry. For so long, her new records have sought to achieve thrilling change, but with Evermore, Swift falls into her folkloric artistry faithfully. She embraces it, and by making her latest record a continuation of its antecedent, the album feels like her peaceful destiny.

Although Evermore succeeds as a stand-alone album, it’s difficult for listeners not to instinctively compare it to Folklore. The albums go hand in hand with their striking similarities, and the inevitability of this comparison almost detracts from the individual beauty of Evermore. However, the albums’ close sisterhood simultaneously cultivates grace and intimacy: Like two halves of a heart, the complimentary records demonstrate Swift’s devotion to storytelling.

Evermore triumphs due to its authenticity — it isn’t a forced reimagining of Swift’s image, but a natural and true celebration of her craft. Its elegant effortlessness speaks to how far Swift has come in her storytelling, and with Evermore, she felicitously interweaves both antiquity and eternity into her music.

Contact Taila Lee at [email protected].