On Friday, Taylor Swift dropped her ninth studio album, which came with less than 24 hours notice. It builds off of the aesthetics of its predecessor, Folklore, while pushing her work to new areas. But is it any good? Our resident Swifties discuss that and much more.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Evermore?
Nora Princiotti: Upon further review she has done it again.
Cory McConnell: [Having my third Miller High Life of the night in my apartment after months of not going out and canceling all holiday travel plans] Champagne problems, baby!
Kate Halliwell: Only for Taylor and this odd, lovely album would I set aside my traditional holiday listening and head back into the folklorian woods.
Katie Baker: At this rate of production, creation, and collaboration she’s going to hit her psychedelic era well within the next decade and I, for one, cannot wait.
Michael Baumann: very good, despite being neither better than nor particularly distinct from folklore.
Alyssa Bereznak: We’re two bonus tracks away from Taylor Swift publishing a series of romantic thriller pulp fiction.
Steve Ahlman: Swift feeds us a wonderful second helping Folklore B+ sides, with three singles that are among some of her best in recent years.
2. What’s your favorite song on Evermore?
Baker: ”Cowboy Like Me,” in part because I’m a sucker for any song whose first words are “And the tennis court...”
Bereznak: “Cowboy Like Me.” I drink up country twang Taylor and a War On Drugs–ish guitar riff like a bottle of moonshine labeled with a giant X.
Halliwell: You have not heard “’Tis the Damn Season” until you’ve heard it walking around your hometown, past your childhood crush’s house, on a cold December morning. Woman down!
Baumann: “no body, no crime,” because I’m an absolute slack-jawed sucker for country songs about men who get murdered for mistreating their partners.
McConnell: “Coney Island,” which is now the second-best indie-adjacent song called “Coney Island.” Ben Gibbard is presumably furious somewhere for this overstepping, and also for not being invited to collaborate on this album.
Princiotti: “Ivy.” It combines the structure and satisfying build that’s vintage Taylor with, well, Folklore/Evermore-soothing vibes. The two-line addition in the third verse (clover blooms…) and the bridge are brilliant.
Ahlman: “Ivy” without question. I’m an absolute sucker for a high harmony and the range that song delivers. Sensational.
3. What’s your least favorite?
Halliwell: I’m happy for all of you delighted by Taylor’s more experimental tracks, but “Closure” is gonna be a lifelong skip for me.
Princiotti: “Champagne Problems.” It’s better in the context of the entire album than on its own, but she has way too many tricks up her sleeve for this to measure up.
Baumann: i listened to the album once-through, then went back twice more to give selected highlights another listen, and skipped “dorothea” both times.
McConnell: The mid-tempo melodramas “Tolerate It” and “Happiness” are a bit of a drag on an otherwise killer A-side. But it’s a testament to her consistency that on an album as long as this that there aren’t really any total clunkers. Alright, the one about Kanye (“Long Story Short”—we’re still doing this, huh?) is kind of a clunker.
Baker: To make a “Long Story Short”: eh.
Ahlman: “Gold Rush” is a tad out of place here. The chorus and structure feel as though this song was dressed down from its original, more pop-leaning form. I was constantly waiting for a hard snare and more pronounced pop beat to take over, but the theme of the project demanded quiet.
Bereznak: “Happiness” has flimsy energy on first listen, but every time I answer a “least favorite” exit survey question I immediately want to change my answer. So yeah, this is an advance apology to “Happiness.” Sorry to this song.
4. How does this album compare to Folklore?
Baumann: higher floor, lower ceiling. there’s nothing on here that got me the way “my tears ricochet” or “this is me trying” did on folklore. even on a song-by-song level, evermore is produced more conservatively and has less dynamic contrast.
Priciotti: First impression: Not quite as strong overall, but they got really creative on the back half. Might have higher highs.
Baker: I can’t even answer this because I’m still horrified about having written things like “lots of these songs sound the same to me,” in our Folklore exit survey. (My Spotify “Wrapped” informed me that my most-listened to song of the year was “Seven,” which I didn’t even notice or mention at the time. For shame!) Anyway, I need more angsty, long dog walks alone with my thoughts (and Taylor and Billy Bowery) before I can report back on this, but as you can tell from this response it will be a high bar to clear! Folklore has “Mad Woman” and “My Tears Ricochet!” And Jack Antonoff’s guitar-face while performing “August” during The Long Pond Studio Sessions and and and…
when Bon Iver sings “so step right out” on exile pic.twitter.com/IS2aYQ3Cu4— Bradford Pearson (@BradfordPearson) July 25, 2020
McConnell: It’s an obvious and welcome continuation of that album’s sonic palette. This one has maybe a few more instantly memorable songs, but they’ll all be lumped together forever as her woman-of-the-woods era.
Halliwell: If Folklore is a chunky cardigan from Madewell, Evermore is a thrifted vintage sweater—technically cooler, but a little scratchy and not quite in my size.
Ahlman: While I know it seems reductive to call these “Folklore B-sides” the vibe and tone carries over almost one for one with her last project. And I think for the most part it works beautifully, but in some cases I feel like Swift and her collaborators are neutering a song or two for the sake of “cozy vibes.”
Bereznak: Folklore is more complex to me, both in emotional groundwork and production value. There are moments on that album where she sounds tortured by her own nostalgia and regret. And because of that, some of the best songs on that album could be easily traced to past relationships we all read about in the tabloids. That’s the genuinely fun, but simultaneously destructive game we’ve played with Taylor’s music since the beginning.
Evermore, on the other hand, has this stripped-down sense of serenity to it, like she’s been on a music-making marathon for so long that she’s reached some kind of creative enlightenment. The lessons she’s learned from past loves are folded into country ballads, and the focus is on the ingenuity of her storytelling, not the subjects of those stories. And even though I don’t like this album as much, I’m happy for her, and also—*pulls snuggie so tight that my cup of tea fogs my glasses*—grateful for two albums in one very terrible year.
5. What’s the most memorable lyric from your early listens of Evermore?
Baker: “At dinner parties I call you out on your contrarian shit.”
“‘cause we were like the mall before the internet
it was the one place to be
the mischief, the gift-wrapped suburban dreams
sorry for not winning you an arcade ring”
McConnell: It’s not my favorite song, but the phrase “Champagne Problems” makes me laugh. It sounds like a Succession episode, or a Lil Durk song.
Halliwell: “Motion capture, put me in a bad light” is an unambiguous reference to Cats and the world is not talking enough about this.
Bereznak: “‘Cause we were like the mall before the internet / It was the one place to be / The mischief, the gift-wrapped suburban dreams / Sorry for not winning you an arcade ring.” Those four lines in “Coney Island” managed to summarize with precise detail a small-town high school infatuation.
“Watched as you signed your name: Marjorie
All your closets of backlogged dreams
And how you left them all to me”
Princiotti: I’ve been shouting “SHE THINKS I DID IT, BUT SHE JUST CAN’T PROVE IT” into a hairbrush for the last 12 hours. “Long story short he was the wrong guy-y,” is also a hilarious bit of self-parody on a really good song.
6. Taylor has gone from releasing albums every two or three years to putting out three albums in 15 months (two since late July alone). What is she trying to accomplish? Is this a streaming ploy? Is she, as some have suggested, trying to snuff out her Big Machine material?
Baumann: that’s possible, but i wonder if the explanation isn’t something simpler, like she hit that point lots of people hit in their 30s where they just get comfortable with themselves and stop feeling like they have to try so hard to make other people like them. or she just got bored and lonely during the pandemic.
Bereznak: I think her general productivity probably has a lot more to do with the pandemic than it does any revenge she’s seeking. But the re-recording of “Love Story” for that Match.com commercial was definitely meant as a “fuck you forever” to Scooter Braun.
Halliwell: Taylor Swift has never underthought anything in her life, so I have no doubt there’s a larger plan here. But far be it from me to complain when those two albums have been so strong.
McConnell: She’s not the only pop artist to go through a creative burst in lockdown (the Killers have another album mostly written in addition to 2020’s “Imploding the Mirage,” a new Lorde album is almost surely in the ether somewhere) but she is the one who’s been the most determined to push material out this year. How much of that stems from the Big Machine controversy, well, see my later answer about Taylor conspiracies.
Ahlman: For a newly crowned fan like myself, It’s hard to see the four-dimensional chess Taylor plays with her fans and the music industry. I feel like with the past few years of music in particular, the most exciting thing an artist like Swift can do is surprise their audience with an unannounced album while acting like, “Oops, I dropped this, have a listen why don’t you.”
But if it renders a blow to her Big Machine material, I am for it, and I think this helps her further reclaim control of her catalogue and artistic legacy while experimenting and making some damn good music to boot!
Baker: While trying to come up with my grand unified theory of all of this I started visualizing a David Fincher movie about Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun and now I can’t think about anything else and neither can you.
Princiotti: The devil works hard but Tay Tay works harder. I don’t think this has too much to do with her old deal—she’s also been re-recording her old masters as a way of responding to that. She loves Joe and writing songs. Nuff said.
7. The album bears obvious similarities to Folklore. But did anything—vocally, production-wise, whatever else—surprise you?
Bereznak: Mostly just the whole two Taylor Swift albums within the span of a few months thing.
Princiotti: They play with odd time signatures on “Tolerate It” and “Closure” to really cool effects.
McConnell: Maybe it’s the presence of more stars on this album or maybe it’s subtle production choices I can’t pin down after one listen, but it does feel more poppy— the vocals are a bit more present, there are more obvious singles, and the whole thing has a slightly less vaguely “indie” feel, for whatever that’s worth.
Halliwell: The jarring time signature switches were surprising, as was pretty much everything about “Closure.”
Ahlman: This outing feels a lot more technical and dressed up than Folklore, while Folklore feels like an album that was taken down to the bare essentials in response to quarantine.
Baumann: the triplets in the bridge in “champagne problems.” that song just lolled from side to side for three minutes, getting knocked out of that groove was quite pleasant
8. Which Evermore feature works the best? (Haim, Bon Iver, the National)
Halliwell: Haim! Finally a woman (a few, even!)
Ahlman: Bon Iver. But really, every feature has been excellent and it’s been excellent on both this project and Folklore. Swift has really been stepping her game up in finding collaborators that are fantastic fits.
Princiotti: The Bon Iver feature on “Evermore” is really great but heart of hearts, I love the Haim song. It’s derivative of the kill-your-cheating-husband genre of country music in all the right ways. Campy Taylor always works for me.
Baumann: these might have been the three best songs on the whole record. “no body, no crime” was the best song but matt berninger’s basso profundo was the most effective guest entry.
McConnell: The National and Bon Iver appearances are more or less what you’d expect. The Haim song is … not. It’s by far the wildest—a Carrie Underwood/Chicks–esque murder ballad that name drops Olive Garden and Este Haim? Sure.
Baker: I was all set to auto-answer “The National” here because my love for that band was the entire genesis of my newfound Swiftdom in 2020, and also because I just finally watched 2013’s extremely hectic Mistaken for Strangers and so am extremely back on any and all Matt Berninger bullshit.
But! I can’t, because the Haim collaboration was so satisfying and good, a song I’ll most certainly spend a little bit (a lot) of time with on repeat. (This is the song that everyone pretended that the Maggie Rogers-Phoebe Bridgers “Iris” cover was; whew it feels good to say that.) I think at some point, perhaps as she re-records her old songs, we’re going to get a more overtly country album from Taylor, and this is a fun glimpse. (I loved her “…and that kin was ME!” line in The Long Pond Studio Sessions.) For some reason I could also imagine it as part of a …musical?! It’s Taylor’s fault that I’m already expecting some major production that is probably set to drop next week.
Bereznak: I love love love “Coney Island,” but Justin Vernon and Taylor clearly hit some kind of groove with “Evermore.”
9. Taylor called the album a collection of “imaginary/not imaginary tales.” Which would make for the best movie and why?
McConnell: “No Body, No Crime,” a Lifetime movie in which Taylor and the Haim sisters straight up murder a dude. There are no other correct answers to this one (“No Body, No Crime” also sounds like a Lil Durk song, incidentally).
Bereznak: “Cowboy Like Me,” a country diddy about con artists who fall in love, is just waiting to be turned into an anti-capitalist romcom starring Zendaya and Robert Pattinson.
Baumann: “no body, no crime.” we must throw este’s cheating husband in the sea whatever the cost.
Priciotti: See above but also: Taylor Swift’s last four albums have been about Joe Alwyn.
Baker: While the holiday movie circuit is pretty saturated, has anyone done a “the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving” Netflix ensemble film yet? If not, I think “’Tis the Damn Season” works, and it can feature Dorothea too. (Side note, is Dorothea the girl from Folklore’s “Seven”? Discuss.)
Halliwell: Give me the “Tis the Damn Season”-inspired Christmas romance!
10. Will Evermore do anything to quiet the “Taylor is married” truthers? I mean, look at the “Willow” video …
Baker: Joe Alwyn is a societal construct.
Bereznak: Look, the woman dodges the paparazzi by hiding in a giant suitcase. She’s perfectly capable of being secretly married for years on end. The dress is sus, but she quite clearly made the choice not to cast Joe in that video.
Halliwell: This woman is CUFFED and there’s nothing you can do to convince me otherwise.
McConnell: I know basically nothing about any Taylor conspiracies, and I am inclined to believe all of them.
Ahlman: I’m not as deep in the Swift canon as I’d like to be, so I defer to Nora Princiotti for all the Easter eggs and nuggets that I will absolutely devour.
Princiotti: This girl is married AF.
Baumann: based on these two albums i find it less likely that taylor is married than that taylor was once married but is now divorced
11. Was this album necessary? And do we run the risk of Taylor Swift fatigue with this release?
Bereznak: I don’t understand the question and I refuse to respond to it.
Priciotti: Been thinking a lot about this. There are songs on both Folklore and Evermore that I’d call filler, at least by Swiftian standards. Yet I’m glad they all exist. If the goal is to make a “perfect” album, she’s tip-toeing into overexposure and should have made some cuts. If the goal is to give people a lot of great new stuff to enjoy in a time when it’s nice to have that … you’re not going to find me turning that down.
Baker: Look, some of the Extreme Easter Egging by Taylor and fans alike is a bit much, but who am I to look a gift horse in th——
Okay Taylor, So that’s an Easter egg! pic.twitter.com/4bXzkZPTef— evermore tour (@evermoretour13) December 8, 2020
Ahlman: I think this album was necessary to establish this new form of Swift that she had been hinting at since Folklore. Longer and more established Swift fans are so embedded in her canon that it’s going to take far more than two albums in a year to start to overstay her welcome. And I love it.
Baumann: by no means was this album necessary, but i’m glad to have it nonetheless. as for taylor swift fatigue (fa-taygue?), in my experience pop culture fatigue has less to do with production than exposure. she could release a new lp every six weeks from now until the rapture and she’ll never be as big as she was circa Red and 1989. this isn’t carpet-bombing, this is settling into a groove.
McConnell: If there had been long, drawn-out album rollouts for these as opposed to the semi-surprise drops, you could maybe make the fatigue argument. But no, I suspect most of her fans are grateful for the albums and a few curious National/Bon Iver fans have jumped on the bandwagon.
Halliwell: Stop looking a gift horse in the mouth and just enjoy the vibes! Imagine complaining about *more* content in this barren hellscape of a year—couldn’t be me.