Editor’s note and trigger warning: This article contains mention of murder and violence against women.
If one good thing came out of 2020, it was Taylor Swift’s latest album Evermore. Swift released the LP full of folk songs on Dec. 11, 2020.
The collection of soft and sombre tunes is arranged in a clear narrative arc: first a story of heartbreak, then finishes with acceptance and healing.
Melancholia and nostalgia
The album begins with the ethereal melodies of “Willow” and “Champagne Problems,” two deeply melancholic songs. Rhythmic guitar strums in “Willow” open up the listener’s experience of the album through rose-coloured glasses. Soon after, we are met with the low, sober tone of a grand piano and the reflective lyrics of “Champagne Problems.”
“Champagne Problems” has quickly taken over social media and is Swift’s second most popular song on Spotify. With the tumult of today’s world, it’s no wonder the woefully peaceful song made its way into so many people’s hearts.
“’Tis the Damn Season” provides those from rural towns a sense of nostalgia of what it is like to escape small-town life and visit your home for the holidays.
“I parkеd my car right between the Methodist / and the school that used to be ours,” Swift sings. “The holidays linger like bad perfume / You can run, but only so far / I escaped it too, remember how you watched me leave.”
Anyone who grew up in a small town can picture the school Swift is talking about, returning to your empty childhood bedroom and the people you left behind in that town. We all have a different picture when listening to this song. I picture my old high school, the parking lot where everyone hung out and the thousands of trees lining the roads leading to the small neighbourhood I grew up in.
Struggle and climax
In the traditional story arc, “Tolerate It” would be the bleak point of struggle before the climax. It is a melancholic melody followed by sombre lyrics about the struggle of being in love with someone who feels utterly neutral about you.
“If it’s all in my head tell me now / Tell me I’ve got it wrong somehow / I know my love should be celebrated / But you tolerate it.”
The heartbreaking anthem about someone who is unappreciated and unloved in a one-sided relationship is incredibly beautiful. From the heart-wrenching lyrics to the soft piano, it is an incredible work of art.
The following song, “No Body, No Crime,” featuring Haim is the climax in the story arc. It is an incredibly powerful song about infidelity, how a man kills his wife to be with his mistress and how revenge will get him one day. It is the first song on the album with a more upbeat tune and one that could make anyone want to take down the patriarchy. It’s truly the current-day, amped-up version of Carrie Underwood’s song “Before He Cheats.”
A poetic resolution
Even the weakest song on the album, “Closure,” is still an incredible piece of art.
“Closure” is definitely one of Swift’s more experimental pieces. Her voice and melody are a little stiffer than her normal style and in a more stagnant melody, which feels odd at times. The lyrics are still well done and fit the album’s narrative. The song is second last on the album, which feels intentional in the best possible way.
The album ends with the song titled “Evermore” and features the vocals of Justin Vernon from Bon Iver. Perhaps an unpopular opinion: while he’s a pleasant voice on the song, I don’t think Vernon adds as much to the tune as he did in his previous collaboration with Swift (the song “Exile” on the album Folklore). In a once again intentional placement, the lyrics offer a resolution found at the end of a novel. It ties in with the overall narrative of the album, which is the process of love, heartache, self-love, nostalgia and moving on.
Overall, Evermore as an album and each of its songs are profound pieces of artwork. From the order the songs were put on the album to the heartbreaking piano instrumentals and the lyrics, an incredible story is told.
Disclosure: Hannah Bing is a member of the Dalhousie Gazette publishing board.