Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard that Taylor Swift released yet another surprise album on Friday. evermore is the 15-track sister to the folklore gothic storybook, and while some are still gaping at how the Pennsylvania-native wrote two albums in the wackiest year of our lives (while also re-recording her entire song catalog under her new label), others are beginning to hunt for evermore easter eggs. Because unlike Swift, we actually don’t have a lot going on at the moment.
It’s safe to say Swift loves a good symbol or cipher, like releasing 31 songs (sans deluxe tracks) in her 31st year, or wearing her hair in the evermore cover shot style on social media leading up to its release. She often leads fans down the forest path by scattering letter capitalizations in album booklets or using identical Instagram captions before announcing both of 2020’s releases. Lyrically, Swift uses albums as maps and songs as alidades to hint at storylines that are either based on fact or folklore. Call these clues a glowing piano beckoning us in. The fall down this rabbit hole is truly unending. So, at the risk of sounding like a true Swiftie conspiracy theorist with nothing else to do, here’s a quick study into uncovered parallels between folklore and evermore.
Track listing patterns are the easiest to spot if you’re a seasoned Swift investigator. folklore’s track 10 “illicit affairs” spells out clandestine meetings as evermore’s adjacent track “ivy” is a love song for your furtive liaison. folklore’s track 13 “epiphany” references Swift’s grandfather at Guadalcanal, while evermore’s track 13 names Swift’s late grandmother “marjorie.” “coney island” mentions neglecting to say a name at a podium; an awards podium or a graduation podium, who’s to say? But it reminds us of “betty” in all its high school dances and long gone youthful romances. Also, who can ignore the lyric about frequenting malls when folklore’s “august” requests a rendezvous behind one? “peace” bears the truth of never finding it while “long story short” reveals in the end it’s been found. “gold rush” literally name drops with “my mind turns your life into folklore.” folklore’s “cardigan” and “invisible string” continue with evermore’s “willow.” The latter’s music video picks up where “cardigan” left off, Swift following that now visible connector back into a mythological forest of witches and claustrophobic carnivals.
We’re really deep into it now so might as well continue. evermore reaches back even further to build bridges to older albums. “coney island” talks about shattering something “delicate” – a nod to reputation’s single of the same name that outlines the fragility of love on unstable terrain. The Haim sisters provide haunting harmonies on “no body, no crime” for a backcountry murder plot featuring mistress, sister, and woman slighted. Similar instrumentals send us back nearly 15 years to a familiar narrative in “Should’ve Said No” from Swift’s first album; escalating things from jaded girlfriend to body-dumping wife. How about reputation’s final track “New Year’s Day”, where Swift sings: you and me forevermore compared to lyrics of evermore’s final track This pain wouldn’t be for/Evermore.
Style wise, evermore is an obvious continuation of folklore, but the production is more Dessner than Antonoff with new orchestration, subtle guitar, and Swift’s beau’s piano (although we still get a light 80’s pop bop in “gold rush.”) The unique lyrical identifier is the abundance of symbols of water. Unmoored ships, tossing waves, and welcome shores; the sea is a dangerous unknown and a medium of fate’s doing. Storytelling has always been Swift’s strongest trick up her sleeve- slipping us a lyrical key when we least expect it. Much like dropping an album out of nowhere – again. folklore spins tales of created characters and fantastical towns, slipping into another’s perspective being a trademark Swift move only briefly played on other albums. evermore draws more personal influence into the myth (speculation, of course), but this leads me to be of the unpopular opinion that evermore is the deeper, darker, and more thorough sister. As Swift said of the album, they travelled further into the woods.