“Evermore”: A Professor Reviews Taylor Swift, Album #9

… but is this really Album #9, or Album #8b? In her social media post announcing Evermore, Taylor was quite clear that it’s a continuation of the Folklore era. And although that’s abundantly clear in the album’s songwriting and musical tone, Evermore nevertheless distinguishes itself though more mature themes and, somehow, an even deeper sense of sadness and loss. Listeners may disagree on whether that’s better or worse than the sister album, but which do I prefer? Well, I think that’s clear in the reviews below.

Evermore (released 2020)
“Oh, can we just get a pause? To be certain we’ll be tall again?

“Willow” (7.5/10): The opening guitar is great here, and although it doesn’t reach the heights of Taylor’s best work, it effectively opens the album.

“Champagne Problems” (7.5/10): This tale of a proposal gone wrong contains a confident and soft beauty, and although I’m not as enthusiastic about it as are some, I can see why some Swifties think it’s the breakout song on the album.

“Gold Rush” (8/10): One of the few Antonoff-powered tracks, the music provides a jolt of energy even if the lyrics are mushy (but I do really like the line, “My mind turns your life into Folklore…”).

“‘Tis the Damn Season” (5.5/10): Taylor Swift may not feel like she’s a natural (see “Mirrorball” over on Folklore), but she’s at her best when her music and lyrics feel effortless; here, it feels like she’s pushing too hard to craft a compelling story that, in the end, I don’t find very interesting lyrically or musically.

“Tolerate It” (6/10): It’s a poignant and heart-wrenching tale, but doesn’t quite achieve the level of pathos (or musical inspiration) as other Track 5s.

“No Body, No Crime” (8/10): It aspires to be the next “Goodbye Earl” or “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” and it can be forgiven for not quite attaining that status, because it’s still a rocking country tune that contains some of the best storytelling on the album.

“Happiness” (4.5/10): There’s just a sense with tracks on Evermore of “yeah, I guess this song is OK,” and I feel that here; the song feels ponderous and I wonder if it would benefit from an increase in tempo (and maybe a shorter running time).

“Dorothea” (6.5/10): The swinging style of the music complements sweet lyrics about friendship; I’d be curious to hear more songs about friendship from Taylor.

“Coney Island” (8.5/10): I know, I tend to be a fan of Taylor’s duets with men, and this no exception; the spare instrumentation, the hazy lyrics, and blending of Taylor and Matt’s voices creates a magical atmosphere that too often eludes this album.

“Ivy” (7/10): With no disrespect intended to Aaron Dessner, Evermore could’ve used a bit more Jack Antonoff, and this song brings a nice burst of energy, although the focus on marital infidelity (which is too much of a theme on this album, in my opinion) limits my enjoyment of the song.

“Cowboy Like Me” (4.5/10): If Folklore‘s “Betty” sounded like it belonged on Fearless, this almost sounds like it belongs on Taylor Swift; your mileage may vary on whether you think that’s a good thing or not, but for me this slow country song just doesn’t quite do it.

“Long Story Short” (8.5/10): This delightfully self-referential song contains some of the clearest evidence of personal growth in any Swift song, and it’s good advice: “Past me, I want to tell yourself not to get lost in these petty things; your nemeses will defeat themselves before you get the chance to swing; and he’s passing by, rare as the glimmer of a comet in the sky…”

“Marjorie” (7.5/10): Throughout its music and lyrics, this song is a beautiful tribute to Taylor’s grandmother that exudes both passion and honesty.

“Closure” (4.5/10): Maybe the strangest song in her catalog, filled with discordant synthesizer noises in the background, it just doesn’t “work” and feels like it is just trying too hard to be novel and cool.

“Evermore” (9.5/10): Exquisitely paced and deliciously emotional, it transcends song and expresses the raw cry of the pandemic era: “Can’t not think of all the cost, and the things that will be lost; oh, can we just get a pause, to be certain, we’ll be tall again?”

“Right Where You Left Me” (6.5/10): A bonus track that feels more like a leftover than a special surprise, it nevertheless brings a rolling beat and a sense of fun.

“It’s Time to Go” (6/10): Whereas Folklore ended with tale of longing for peace and beauty, Evermore ends with a song about respecting boundaries and sigh Scooter Braun; I know Taylor’s frustrated with him, but he’s just a bit too present across these two albums.

Evermore mean = 6.82 (standard deviation = 1.51)

So what’s next? Well, why not rank all of the songs, including those not on the main albums? Ratings are one thing, but rankings reveal the best (… and worst…) Swift songs of all time. OF ALL TIME!…

“Folklore”: A Professor Reviews Taylor Swift, Album #8

I commented that, during Lover, Taylor seemed to be throwing musical ideas to the wall to see what sticks. Not so on Folklore, which features perhaps the most cohesive tone of any of her albums (even more so than the sequel Evermore). Here Taylor launches her artistry in new, chill directions, while both capturing the sad weariness of the pandemic era yet crafting a work that seems destined to live far beyond that moment in time. Even if some tracks miss the mark, the lofty heights here merit the album’s wide acclaim–an acclaim that now includes the Grammy for Album of the Year. That’s an honor shared with Fearless and 1989, which puts Folklore in rarefied company.

Folklore (released 2020)
“Isn’t it romantic how all of my elegies eulogize me?

“The 1” (6.5/10): Taylor doesn’t tend to lead off an album with her strongest songs, and this is no exception, although it does effectively set the reflective mood of Folklore.

“Cardigan” (8/10): This song does so many things so well, filled with regret and pain and passion and also an easy sense of ‘chill,’ all at the same time.

“Last Great American Dynasty” (9.5/10): Taylor’s storytelling emerges in full force here in a breezy, beachy tune that brings an important punch of positive energy to the album.

“Exile” (10/10): Taylor’s duets with men tend to turn out somewhere between ‘great’ to ‘awesome,’ and for my part, I think this expansive, powerful song is (so far) the best duet she’s ever done.

“My Tears Ricochet” (8.5/10): This follows the Track 5 tradition of highly personal, emotionally resonant songs that also serve as album standouts.

“Mirrorball” (10/10): There’s a moment in this song when the instrumentals fade to almost nothing and we’re left with Taylor, describing herself spinning on her tallest tiptoes, and to me it’s one of the most powerfully beautiful moments in any Swift song.

“Seven” (8.5/10): This is an achingly beautiful reminiscence of childhood, filled with equal parts sweetness and melancholy, and laced with beautiful imagery throughout (yes, I was tempted to give it a 7/10, but that’s definitely too low!).

“August” (9/10): Like “Last Great American Dynasty,” it’s a song with a breezy/beachy vibe, and it’s one of the more memorable songs on the album; when Taylor really gets into the song on the Disney+ Long Pond Studio Sessions, you can tell it’s one of her favorite Folklore tracks.

“This is Me Trying” (5/10): “I was so ahead of the curve that the curve became a sphere” is a cool line, but I’m sorry, the reverb/echoing just doesn’t do it for me on this one, especially when combined with the slow pace of the song; the Disney+ Long Pond Studio Sessions is a much improved version.

“Illicit Affairs” (7.5/10): This morality tale strives for greatness, particularly in the bridge-that-becomes-an-ending, but doesn’t quite get there.

“Invisible String” (9/10): I’m a sucker for self-referential Taylor, and this is self-referential Taylor that spans her entire career to date; it’s also an unabashed love song, which is a welcome change from the breakup-heavy themes on much of the rest of Folklore.

“Mad Woman” (4.5/10): If there’s a consistent weakness on Folklore, it might be the tendency for the lyrical ambitions to outpace the quality of the music, and that weakness is on display in this mediocre entry.

“Epiphany” (3.5/10): It sounds as if Taylor wrote this one after listening to one too many sappy pandemic car commercials back in April 2020.

“Betty” (8.5/10): Revisiting her country style was a bold choice, and it works; this is an instant classic (but sorry, James, I don’t think showing up at a party unannounced and insulting Betty’s friends is likely to win you many points, and “Cardigan” suggests it probably didn’t).

“Peace” (5.5/10): There’s artistry in the spare use of instruments, and the lyrical sentiment is sweet, but I also just can’t get too excited about this one.

“Hoax” (3/10): And by this point, if you’re going to serve up another slow, somber song, I’m sorry, it better be amazing; this one isn’t.

“The Lakes” (8.5/10): In a rich synthesis of lyrics and music, this song so beautifully and hauntingly embodies a deep sense of longing for beauty and nature, shared with someone you love.

Folklore mean = 7.35 (standard deviation = 2.26)