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In Defense of Taylor Swift (again), and how her second album of 2020 triumphs over her first

Graphic by Esmé ’23

I’m sure my ten devoted readers are ecstatic to see I am publishing my second Taylor Swift related column of the year, howeverI hope they can all give me a pass as we can agree that this has been anything but an ordinary year. Forgive me in advance for turning this column into a Taylor Swift fan page. While there are many reasons that 2020 was completely unforgettable and crazy, I will be focusing on a positive aspect of the year. I am, of course, referring to the fact that we received not one, but two studio albums from Taylor Swift, and if you know me well, this follow-up to my “Folklore” column should not come as a surprise. 

Last time I talked about Swift, I explained why I was such a big fan and why “Folklore” was a necessary album for her to make after the mixed reviews regarding  her seventh studio album, “Lover.” Swift’s powerful songwriting ability and brilliance as an artist were clear in “Folklore” and in fact, since my last column was published, “Folklore” has been nominated for five Grammy Awards. This is a feat Swift has not accomplished since the success of her album “1989” in 2015 (and I’m crossing my fingers that she will win for “Folklore”). Now that we are all up to speed, it’s time to get to the true purpose of my column today: I don’t think “Evermore” was simply a good album, I think it was her best one yet. 

 As the saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you. fool me twice shame on me,” and Taylor Swift did exactly that. Dropping clues in Instagram posts and interviews referencing lyrics from songs off of “Evermore” weeks before its release, fans, such as myself, who claim to pay close attention to everything Swift does, really should have seen “Evermore” coming. I was completely surprised by the album announcement, despite all the hints. However, at best, I thought this album would feel like a little sibling to “Folklore.” I assumed Swift gathered all the songs that didn’t make the cut for the first album and threw them on “Evermore” to give to us as a “you survived 2020 congrats” gift. On the contrary, “Evermore” rises above its sister album, as it keeps the new folk-inspired sound inherent in “Folklore” while bringing back more of what I like to call “quintessential Taylor Swift” in melodies, collaborations, and cohesiveness. 

“Quintessential Taylor Swift” in my mind means a blurring of genres while pushing expectations. I see a lot of this in albums like “1989,” “Reputation,” or “Speak Now.” These albums generally have cohesive sounds, but also have individual songs that can stand alone. It’s the combination of the cohesion and individuality that marks these albums as “quintessential Taylor Swift,” and  I think “Evermore” is another album that falls into this category. The album does a great job of bringing back the idea of strong individual songs as well as a combined sound across the album. Songs such as “Champagne Problems,” the second track from “Evermore,” exemplify this idea as the song was quick to find a spot in many listeners’ hearts, with comparisons being drawn between the new track and “All Too Well,” off of Swift’s 2012 album “Red,” which is widely considered as Swift’s best heartbreak song and has yet to find any comparable song in the hearts of fans until now. The dark theme of love and loss is exemplified by the lyrics, specifically those found in the bridge with phrases such as “I never was ready so I watch you go” and “She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred.” These lines and the song as a whole have hauntingly affected listeners, even those not able to fully relate to the plot, where a woman goes against her family’s wishes and rejects her potential fiancé’s marriage proposal. While this experience isn’t coming from Swift’s life, this fictional storyline is able to invoke very real feelings, not a new concept for Swift. In her 2010 album “Speak Now” the title track is about a woman breaking up a wedding to profess her love for the groom, so Swift has written about marriage before, but now producing a completely different outlook on marriage than she did in the past.

There is a sense of nostalgia throughout “Evermore” as well, as it refers to both Swift’s career and her personal life. “Long Story Short”  feels like it belongs on her 2014 record “1989,” with its style of production calling back to the synth-pop sounds off her earlier record, while the following track “Marjorie” is an emotional ode to Swift’s grandmother. The balance between heartbreaking lyrics and uplifting melodies is what makes “Evermore” so unique. One of Swift’s collaborations on the album with HAIM, “No Body No Crime,” exemplifies this perfectly, as it is one of the most upbeat songs on the album, while lyrically it explores two murders, with one of the killers being the singer, Taylor, herself. As with “Folklore,” Swift once again creates beautiful scenarios in “Evermore,” with ‘right people/wrong time’ lovers singing about their story in the songs “‘Tis the Damn Season” and “Dorothea.” However, the aspect of “Evermore” that sets it apart from “Folklore” is its ability to feel like a cohesive album without being filled with songs that are similar in sound.

I believe that Taylor Swift achieved a rare feat in “Evermore,” as she combines the past and present with a sense of maturity and nostalgia not quite met in any of her earlier albums. While I stand by my belief that “Folklore” has a much more continuous sound from track to track, the unique flow of “Evermore” allows my favorite song off of the album to be the one I am listening to in the moment. That unique attribute of “Evermore” makes it triumph as a whole over “Folklore” in my mind. There is always so much to talk about when it comes to Taylor Swift, which is why I really don’t mind turning this column into a fan page for her, especially if it’s to talk about “Evermore.” Maybe it’s cheesy, but my “Happiness” levels have definitely increased and my “Champagne Problems” have been more manageable since the release of this album. Thank you for that, Taylor, and please feel free to release all your re-recorded albums immediately, because I’m always ready for more.

Hi, I’m Lucy and while I have always been an avid writer, my interests in theater, waterpolo, and singing have stopped me from ever being able to participate in The Ultra Violet at school. I was thrilled when I got selected as a columnist as it allowed me to share my passion for writing along with my love and attention towards pop culture, specifically movies, books, music, and media, with the greater Marlborough community. Striking a good discussion or debate through my “In Defense” column has been an exciting outcome of being an Ultra Violet columnist, however please do not debate me on whether or not Taylor Swift is a good artist, because the answer is obviously that she is indeed the best. Happy reading!

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