A Lyrical Masterpiece: An Analysis of ‘Evermore’ by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift successfully explores new terrain in her most recent album, solidifying her position as one of the music industry’s biggest artists.

Taylor Swift announced the release of Evermore on December 10th, 2020 through an Instagram post.

Taylor Swift / Republic Records / Wikimedia Commons Fair Use

Taylor Swift announced the release of ‘Evermore’ on December 10th, 2020 through an Instagram post.

Surprise album releases are something that most artists approach with caution. Intricate album rollouts usually consist of the long-awaited announcement of a lead single, then the release of the full album in the months following. This is a useful tactic to generate support, anticipation, and publicity for an album. This systematic order of release has long been a standard in the music industry, astandard that Taylor Swift has now rejected twice in her career.

Swift first deviated from the norm with the surprise release of her eighth studio album, ‘Folklore’, which she announced on an Instagram post on July 23rd, 2020, months into the Coronavirus pandemic that had left many people, including her, isolated with more time on their hands. Then, she released her ninth studio album, ‘Evermore,’ five months later, which she described as the “sister” album to ‘Folklore.’

Surprise releases are not the only new approaches that Swift welcomed in 2020. She also took a different route with her music style, embracing a more indie/alternative sound that diverged from her previous use of pop and country sounds (albeit, there are country influences in songs such as ‘cowboy like me’; the country sound is inherent to Swift’s style regardless of how much it fluctuates and evolves). 

Longtime fans of Swift such as Ahona Rana ’22 valued this change of sound. Rana said, “I grew up with Taylor Swift and I continue to do so. ‘Evermore’ is exactly what I — and so many others — needed. Although her older songs are more upbeat and much appreciated when we were younger, the songs in ‘Evermore’ are soft, slower, and more mature.”

Swift’s change of genre also managed to make ‘Evermore’ a magnetic force that would attract new fans. Chanel Richardson ’22 said, “I haven’t listened to her other albums entirely, but compared to her classics, ‘Evermore’ definitely goes in a direction that I would not have foreseen. She went in a new direction, in the best way possible.”

It is not just the melodies that make ‘Evermore’ a distinct standout in Swift’s discography but also the lyricism. “I believe that Swift is one of the best lyricists of our generation, and I love her extended use of metaphors and romantic language,” said Allison Errico ’22.

From a narrow-minded point of view, some might say that Swift does not seem to present any new themes and continues to exclusively explore ideas of love, heartbreak, forgiveness, and family. But, an extensive dive into Swift’s lyrics reveal that she does not present these themes generically but rather highlights and honors their complexities by providing wide-range accounts of love in just fifteen tracks.

For example, in ‘dorothea,’ Swift writes through the perspective of someone telling his now-famous ex that she is always welcomed to come back home if she ever gets bored of being famous. Whereas in the next track, ‘coney island’ featuring The National, Swift writes through the perspective of someone remorsefully meditating on a failed relationship that they blame themself for, constantly apologizing throughout the song. 

The tones of these two songs are strikingly different. So why would she put them back-to-back? Swift purposefully juxtaposed the two songs to emphasize how two people can struggle to move on after a relationship in very different ways.

Although there is a popular narrative that Swift only writes songs about her past romantic relationships, that is far from the truth, especially in this album where she brilliantly writes about the beauty of friendships and family in several songs.

In ‘no body, no crime’ featuring HAIM (who Swift collaborated with again recently on ‘gasoline’), Swift tells the fictional story regarding a friend’s abusive and unfaithful husband. (The song resembles the topic of the hit song, ‘Goodbye, Earl’ by The Chicks.) Disappointingly, HAIM is severely underutilized in the song only having a few, short lines. However, Swift makes up for it by providing such a cohesive storyline that it almost feels like you are living it with her.

In ‘tolerate it,’ Swift sings about the dreadful feeling of being underappreciated by someone you love. The song represents a feeling that is present in all types of relationships, whether it is with a friend, romantic partner, parent, or boss. 

In ‘marjorie,’ Swift leaves her storytelling realm and showcases her vulnerability while singing about her grandmother, Marjorie Finlay. She expresses regret over not spending their time together wisely. This is not the first time that Swift has shared personal stories of her family. In ‘epiphany’ from ‘Folklore,’ she writes about her grandfather’s struggles in the military. (Both songs are the thirteenth track in their respective albums which further demonstrates the relationship between the albums. Swift has called the thirteen her “lucky number” because she was born on the thirteenth of December and has had significant career events tied to that number.) In ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ featuring The Chicks from ‘Lover,’ Swift sings of her mother’s battle with breast cancer. 

The album’s impressive range of several topics begs the question: How did Swift manage to make it feel cohesive?

The answer lies within the last track — the title track. ‘Evermore’ featuring Bon Iver ties everything together. (This marks Swift and Iver’s second — and hopefully, not last — collaboration. Their first was ‘exile’ on the sister album, ‘Folklore.’) Throughout the album, there is a lingering sense of wanting closure and the ability to move on. 

‘Evermore’ (song) addresses this exceptionally well. In the middle of the song, there is a change of tempo in which the melody speeds up and Bon Iver joins. Swift and Iver go back and forth in the song, similar to what they did in ‘exile’. Iver’s character is numb from good memories that urge him to stay in the past and not move forward. He asks: Oh, can we just get a pause? While Swift’s character pushes forward, declaring, in the final line of the album: This pain wouldn’t be for evermore.

‘Evermore’ is a powerful album that ensures that most people will be able to form a bond with at least one track. The risks that Swift took in this album leave you excited to see what other risks she will take in the future.

An extensive dive into Swift’s lyrics reveal that she does not present these themes generically but rather highlights and honors their complexities by providing wide-range accounts of love in just fifteen tracks.