I did not expect to wake up to the news that Taylor Swift is releasing a brand new album before 2020 is even over. It hasn't even been six months since folklore, and I'm only finally starting to break into just how much I love that album. I don't know how to process that we're getting a new Taylor album tonight at midnight called evermore. It is 15 songs long on the standard version coming to streaming. There's an additional 2 bonus tracks for the physical album (I'm sure, like "the lakes" they'll hit streaming in a couple weeks). Currently, Taylor isn't selling the physical albums yet. Her entire store is just a link to buy the digital edition of evermore which comes with a 16 photo, exclusive, digital booklet. If you want the digital album, you can click here.
Diving into that avenue for a moment, I'd been wondering how Taylor's marketing machine, almost as fascinating as her creative mind, would cope with Billboard's new, stricter rules. I've written about those Billboard changes here. One of the big ones is that digital downloads can't be bundled with physicals or merchandise. The buyer has to intentionally put all the items in the cart separately to count. Now, most people probably don't want an individual digital download, but by making the only thing on her store to buy into the evermore universe at the moment and promising exclusive photos, she's generating far more sales than she would on the digital if she immediately sold physicals. Also physicals have to ship release week to count as sales. This means that she needs to have them ready to ship out as soon as she puts them on sale, something that has challenged every merch company. I have a feeling the physicals will drop tonight with the music video for "willow" and the album.
Beyond the lack of physicals, this surprise role out looks similar to folklore. A photo of Taylor's back, with her hair in a braid, is the announcement photo. Instead of black and white, she's in color, and this time she's staring into the woods instead of standing in it. I've seen people theorizing this could tie to the themes of "Out of the Woods". Maybe evermore is the happier side of folklore that has made it out of the woods.
When I first saw all her posts, I was pretty sure it was some joke. But my Twitter feed is a wall of people freaking out, so there's no way that I'm making it up. I had noticed that Taylor had been far more active than she's been in years on Twitter. I chalked it up to being part of the Grammy campaign. Instead she had a whole album brewing?! I'm still confused about the fate of folklore era, though. The era felt so unfinished, and now it feels like it'll totally forgotten. I still want music videos for so many songs. I wonder if the Long Pond Sessions was meant to cap off the era like the stadium tour usually does. It feels similar to the Lover Paris show wrapping that era a few months before Taylor announced folklore. Still, Lover got a complete era of videos. I hope folklore doesn't get prematurely left behind.
This announcement didn't come with the typical album essay introducing it. Everything has a more informal feeling and makes me think she truly does mean it's simply extending the folklore universe instead of creating a brand new album cycle. She's just adding a chapter. In the first sentence of the announcement she writes, "I’m elated to tell you that my 9th studio album, and folklore’s sister record, will be out tonight at midnight eastern." Taylor went on to say that she wasn't able to stop after folklore. She kept writing and wanted to continue exploring the world with her collaborators. This makes sense considering how freeing Taylor has found the writing experience of true storytelling. She finishes writing, "I loved the escapism I found in these imaginary/not imaginary tales. I loved the ways you welcomed the dreamscapes and tragedies and epic tales of love lost and found into your lives. So I just kept writing them."
In the next post, she released the tracklist and explained more about the release date. She wanted to give us all a holiday gift to hopefully make this hard December a little easier. Explaining her logic behind marking her birthday, "Ever since I was 13, I’ve been excited about turning 31 because it’s my lucky number backwards, which is why I wanted to surprise you with this now. You’ve all been so caring, supportive and thoughtful on my birthdays and so this time I thought I would give you something!"Taylor has always been a fan of birthdays, so I'm not surprised she's dropping a birthday related album.
Finally, the last reveal was that, much like "cardigan", the album would be released with a singular music video, this time for "willow". I'm assuming that "willow" will be the new single, though I don't know how much that counts for since these aren't radio records.
Diving into the track list, we don't know what's explicit and what's not, but we do know she's collaborating with new and old features. The named features are Haim, a group Taylor has loved and supported for years, Bon Iver, who featured on "exile" on folklore, and The National, a band headed by Aaron Dessner who has been collaborating with Taylor the entire time on these records. It seems like we should know what to expect sonically since the sounds are being filtered through the same lens of Taylor, Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner, and Bon Iver, and William Bowery (otherwise known as Joe Alwyn). The form the story will continue to take is the big question mark.
Track List and Theories:
This is the one I have the fewest theories for. I honestly don't know what to think about "willow" other than that it must be good because it's the opening track and the one getting the music video. Breaking her usual pattern on folklore, she chose truly one of the best songs on the album, "cardigan" to give single status, so this must be good. If anything, it's giving me "seven" vibes.
2. champagne problems
This is a phrase I like quite a bit. It's a good mix of imagery and irony. The first place I went when I heard this one was "last great american dynasty". It has that same rich, old world, Gatsby vibes. She's either going to lean into the sad glitz and glamour of that world or she's going to turn it in on herself. Expanding into other artists, "champagne problems" gives me major "Affluenza" by Conan Gray vibes.
3. gold rush
Again, not sure where she's going with. With the prairie feeling of all the folklore imagery, she could be telling the story of a literal gold rush. More likely, she's probably delving into a metaphorical gold rush. It gives me very similar vibes to "champagne problems", and I think there's a reason they're positioned next to each other. Both songs also remind me of "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" off Rep.
4. tis the damn season
Is this a Christmas song, Taylor? Another one? Or is it a song set at Christmas? Or does it have nothing to do with that and she's changing the meaning of the phrase? As everyone here knows, I'm Christmas music hater #1, but I'm intrigued. The "damn" really changes the game and adds an eye roll that I enjoy quite a bit. The song can't be too holiday entrenched if it's sitting in the middle of an album though. Taylor hinted at this song in an Instagram story while promoting her Entertainment Weekly shoot. She's so sneaky.
5. tolerate it
Of all of these, this is the song I'm most intrigued by, and if we're claiming songs, I guess I'll take this one. I feel like this is either a break up song or if its a sad, resigned, stuck in a bad relationship song. Like the moral is either that she's not going to tolerate it anymore or it's a song about all the things she's been forced to tolerate, which you'll recognize if you've watched Miss Americana. Also, Track 5 is infamously good.
6. no body, no crime (feat. Haim)
This Haim collaboration might be an extension of "mad woman"? I don't think it'll be that dark, but I think it might be about body autonomy and have some kind of feminist edge. I think this production will be light and floaty feeling to it. It's cool that Taylor and Haim are finally collaborating after all these years.
This song is either going to be really happy or really sad, and I'm going for really sad. It makes me think of "peace", and Taylor has talked about how "peace" has such a calming sound, but she felt like it would be too on the nose to sing about some peaceful thing. I think this song will be a really intense mediation on happiness.
So we're meeting new characters here. It looks like the new trio might be the name songs? Maybe this is like "Betty" or "August". But, also, Dorothea is such an old timey name that I feel like this could be another Rebekah situation. Do we know if Taylor owns any other old houses with cool backstories?
9. coney island (feat. The National)
There's always a New York reference in Taylor's albums regardless of where she's living in the world, and this is probably the most overt since 1989's "Welcome to New York". I'm so excited about this song. I think it could be bright and fun, but also the National is on the track, and they don't scream bright and fun. Also, I could see this being some kind of historical or fictional story about something that happened at Coney Island.
Ivy is a plant, but I'm guessing the more likely answer is that Ivy is another girl in this triangle. Beyond the fact that I think she's definitely a new character in the folklore universe, I don't have a ton of other thoughts. It'll be interesting to see if any of these new characters link back to Betty, James, Inez, or Augustine.
11. cowboy like me
This is totally a story song of some kind of fictional origin. I feel like it could be a metaphor for how Taylor is always moving around and doesn't really have a solid home just like how cowboys were always wandering. I feel like this will have to have more of a country twang. My first thought when I saw the title went back to Harry Style's "Canyon Moon".
12. long story short
This is a phrase I also love, and I can't wait to see where Taylor is going to take this idea. I feel like this could be a ballad that kind of summarizes her life up to this point or uses the "Last Great American Dynasty" country format she loves to bring the lens onto herself in the end. This is probably my second on the list of songs I'm most interested in.
And our last named character. Taylor seems to really love naming songs after characters now as it's a main motif of the album. They all haver super old feeling names. I wonder if this time, instead of a love story, Taylor might try to explore a friendship/friendship break up story. I feel like those stories are just as emotionally resonate but so often left out of music.
This is the other one my eyes jumped out for right away. I might have to claim this one over everything else because closure is such a deep topic. There are so many places that could go. Looking for closure, finding closure, never getting closure. I'm hoping that the song will explore an amazing point she made in her recent Entertainment Weekly interview when talking about "august". She said, "As humans, we're all encouraged to just be cool and just let it happen, and don't ask what the relationship is — Are we exclusive? But if you are chill about it, especially when you're young, you learn the very hard lesson that if you don't define something, oftentimes they can gaslight you into thinking it was nothing at all, and that it never happened. And how do you mourn the loss of something once it ends, if you're being made to believe that it never happened at all?". It hit me so hard hearing her say it that I don't know what I'd do with a whole song full of that, but that's my hope for "closure". Beyond that, the title is giving me "Clean" vibes.
15. evermore (feat. Bon Iver)
Outside of folklore, every Taylor album has ended on a somewhat hopeful note on the standard album. "hoax" is just devastating flat out, but "the lakes" gives the album that true Taylor ending. I have a feeling "evermore" will be a return to form. It's the closer and the title track, so it's obviously significant to the overall album. It's also her second duet with Bon Iver. "exile" is a devastating yet perfectly done break up song about miscommunication. "evermore" as a word almost feels like a wedding to me. I have to imagine the songs are connected, and I'm guessing this is Taylor giving that couple a hard fought happy ending.
If I'm being honest, the bonus tracks seem like some of the best parts of the album. I love both of these titles, and I really don't want to wait months to hear them.
16. right where you left me
This sounds like the resolution to a break up song. Like immediately I imagine Taylor standing in an empty room and a person walking in and Taylor going, "I'm right where you left me" in the most gut wrenching way. I think it's about not moving on from a break up, but it could go in so many different directions.
17. it's time to go
What a way to end the true title track. I just hope this isn't Taylor's way of revealing that she's leaving us. Hopefully, it's just a goodbye for now. It almost feels like a child having to leave Wonderland.
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