Review Summary: Like a priceless wine
Taylor Swift had already fashioned herself as the rarest breed of pop star, having pulled off a complete crossover from country to pop in one album cycle, hell in one single. But it's not hard to understand why she was so successful. Simply put, she continues to make, be it by accident or design, a case for the title of the greatest songwriter who's ever lived. And I'm readily willing to hand her that moniker. There was no shortage of prime exemplars in past albums, but with each project, she continues to punctuate that truism just a little more emphatically.
is the older romanticist, evermore
is the freewheeling rebel. While I certainly appreciate that perusal, it's not fair to underscore the ways love heightens the tensions on this record. "Willow" glides in on a level of serenity and intimacy that while, not necessarily lost on Swift in past projects, has never struck so poignantly a chord with the listener before. Taylor assures her man that she is stridently eager to follow him anywhere without hesitation, while gracefully and repeatedly exhaling, 'that's my man.' "Champagne Problems" has to be alluding to a potential engagement between her and Joe Alwyn. I don't wish to actively speculate on the matter, but the imagery and symbolism, and accompanying lyric video all solicit that impression from me. "Gold Rush" illustrates why Swift can transfix a dagger through the listener's heart like no other. While she muses in a dare I say, uneasy
way about how everyone wants her man, she weaves together a litany of deceitful sensations. "I don't like that falling feels like flying til the bone crush," Swift bewails.
"Tis The Damn Season" greets us with shimmery guitar licks that initially conjured up reminders of late folklore highlight "Peace". The lyrics paint a tale of a one night stand that's ill fated against the wishes of both parties. Taylor lets her muse know that he can call her babe for the weekend and then the song's bridge offers arguably the most emotionally devastating passage this woman has ever penned, and considering what her back catalog looks like, that's saying a lot. As the song nears conclusion, and the courtship approaches its doom, Taylor arrives at the uncomfortably tragic realization that this romance is stillborn. "The heart I know I'm breaking is my own, to leave the warmest bed I've ever known", she reluctantly admits. In a matter of minutes, this song solicited a level of connection and attachment out of me not many songs are capable of. It makes you really ache for the two lovers in the story, knowing their excursion won't last beyond the weekend. There's no happily ever after, there's no finality, there's no next chapter where you get to root for them, so the very least we can do is isolate the brief time they share together here and enjoy it for what it is.
"Tolerate It" initially led me to believe Taylor was basking in the sensations that define her relationship, but that ill-perceived precursor promptly gives way to a heavyhearted chronicle on unrequited love and not being cherished by the other person. Taylor longs to get back the spark and commitment that originally brought them together, before pondering a life of exile, away from the heartache. "Happiness" is a gut wrenching stanza on abuse that seems almost too unbearable to process as you're still reeling from the album's first half. You can hear Taylor's voice almost begin to break as this Gatsbian tragedy oscillates from the unnerving knowledge that whoever replaces Taylor may fall victim to a similar fate, to Taylor's awe inspiring ability to still feel for the abuser. "No one teaches you what to do, when a good man hurts you, and you know you hurt him too," Swift divluges.
"Marjorie" is a tribute to Taylor's late grandmother. In what easily stands as the most personal cut on this record, Taylor demonstrates how her grandmother's memory and teachings keep her spirit and legacy alive more so than ever before, and how she'll live on through Taylor. It not only serves as a reaffirmation to Taylor, but to the listener on a universal scale. Like other tracks on this record, the words are relatively open ended, and any listener can assimilate these words as a reminder to never lose your way. Marjorie herself is even credited as a background vocalist; her opera recordings were sampled and it just adds even more depth to this masterful cut. Bon Iver, who first appeared on "Exile", returns to lend a hand on the album's closing title track. This one touches on mental health and while I won't castigate Justin Vernon for his less than convincing attempt at a falsetto, I guess it's appropriate enough; it certainly mirrors his gritty baritone delivery on "Exile". Of course, Taylor's on point and the execution can't be argued with. The standard edition of this masterpiece closes on that.
doesn't merely see Taylor Swift illustrate the love on fire she and Joe Alwyn share. She weaves pure poetry, from emotionally devastating tales of lost love, to depressing allegories on abuse, even budding mystery novels in song form. We can sit here and compare cardigan sizes while discussing how great folklore
was. But evermore
puts Taylor Swift on a different plane of songwriting greatness. To release a magnum opus like folklore
and then to put out something that tops it 139 days later requires a level of genius and top tier musicianship only a select few artists in history have occupied. This record is simply flawless.