Taylor Swift’s ‘evermore’ stands out with elaborate storytelling

January 11, 2021 — by Angelina Chen

As I watched the surprise music video for “willow” by singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, I was surprised to see the cabin from Swift’s previous music video, which was for her last album, “folklore” released in July. 

Mirroring the release of her previous album, Swift took to Instagram on Dec. 10 to announce that she would release another surprise album, “evermore,” on Dec. 11, alongside the music video of the lead single.

In her post, Swift said “evermore” is a sister album to “folklore.” Indeed, the former contains similar ambient sounds with piano lead-ins and background harmonica but stands out with an emphasized theme of storytelling; all 15 songs tell elaborate stories whereas 14 out of 17 songs from the previous album did. 

“evermore” also includes three duets with Bon Iver, an indie folk band that also appeared in “folklore”; The National, a rock band; and HAIM, a pop rock band of three sisters.

Though “evermore” fulfills my mystical storytelling desires, it falls short in these duets. As much as I enjoyed the rich storylines of the album, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed with the featured artists. 

In “no body, no crime,” it was almost impossible to hear HAIM beneath Swift’s vocals. If the band wasn’t listed in the song title, I don’t think I would have even realized there was an entire separate band singing with Swift. 

Similarly, in “coney island,” The National felt out of place as lead singer Matt Berninger’s deep voice abruptly appeared in the middle of the track. And in the song “evermore” featuring Bon Iver, Iver felt just as out-of-place, unlike in “exile,” a track from “folklore” where he fits in by singing in a call-and-response style with Swift.

Still, Swift compensates for these off-sounding duets with romantic lyricism and guitar-centered sounds. Compared to “folklore,” “evermore” is definitely up to the mark, and on first listen, sounds like a smooth continuation from “folklore.” 

The songs, mostly rooted in the third-person perspective, describe a wide range of stories. Her starting track and lead single, “willow,” describes the complexity and intrigue that goes into wanting someone.

My personal favorite, however, is “champagne problems.” This track paints a solemn scene of two college lovers and a proposal that goes wrong. The lyrics imply that the protagonist has a history of mental illness that leads to alcoholism, which explains the title of the song.  

Swift’s ability to tell an entire love story — pun unintended — with much depth and despair in a 4-minute song is astounding. Similar tragic stories are detailed in “tis the damn season,” “tolerate it,” “ivy” and “happiness.”

The singer-songwriter also touches back on her country days with the song “cowboy like me.” This track, however, is more complicated than her previous country songs, telling the story of two swindlers who fall in love through a cat-and-mouse fling. Swift describes it on the album’s inside cover as two young con artists hanging out at fancy resorts trying to score rich romantic beneficiaries.

Even with three misses, “evermore” was as pleasant a surprise as “folklore.” You’ll definitely find me pressing repeat on “champagne problems” to mirror the pandemic blues between homework assignments.