By Sarina Patel (ig/twt: ptlsarina)
By Sarina Patel
There’s a common truth among songwriters: if you can’t let the listeners relate to what you’re saying, then invite them into your mind and show them what you’re thinking. Taylor Swift, who is no stranger to inviting listeners into her home, now invites them into her head to explore the tranquil meadows of her ninth studio album evermore.
But standing on her welcome mat, watching Swift reference details with relative pronouns such as “that specific table” in tolerate it, we are gently reminded of our place: listeners, spectators, guests to her fairytale. In a world where the boundaries between fan and celebrity are becoming increasingly blurred, Taylor Swift reasserts the listener’s position behind the line. evermore, Swift wants us to know, is not ours. It is hers. This does not shred the album’s intimacy, but sustain it.
Swift’s greatest strength is historically proven to be her superb songwriting. Nowhere is that more evident than on evermore. Swift’s predilections for dramatics fare well here. Domesticity is never boring or toneless, but interestingly portrayed as a struggle to consolidate her loss of power in a relationship. Life is all about holding on, she insists, but it is also about little deaths. In showing us what she is not willing to relinquish — a lover’s smile, sitting on the beach, these B-sides to folklore that were never originally intended for Swifties’ consumption — Swift defines her love as war and peace, both worth fighting for.
Despite the quiet isolation this year, the album glows with a warm communal spirit — never quite matching the magnetism of folklore, but bringing with it a mysticism that is delightful. Chasing happiness through a forest of isolation, Swift can feel stumped, or eluded. But never once does Swift feel alone.
Opening track willow is a glittering ode to Swift’s career-long devotion to the chase. “Wherever you stray, I follow,” she sings, over pulsing guitars. Meanwhile, on no body, no crime, Swift and girl band HAIM gleefully heighten Southern macabre and mystery to Carrie Underwood levels. The singers escalate frighteningly over each verse. Did they, didn’t they? You almost don’t want to find out.
Later in the album, happiness presents itself as an interesting turn from Swift. “There’ll be happiness after you. But there was happiness because of you. Both of these things can be true,” Swift hums, both enamored and exhausted. She usually isn’t this clunky at confronting the duality of her musical personas, but the calm firefly-glow of the track compensates. Elsewhere, the production on evermore breathes new life into its tracks — dorothea swoons and preens in doo-wop fashion, a sparkling middle-fingered salute to the transformative powers of fame as Swift plays a man jilted by a celebrity lover. “If you’re ever tired of being known for who you know, you’ll always know me,” she cackles, and it’s a delightful flipping of the script from the girl who ten years prior scorned the bullies that witnessed her own rise to fame in Mean.
Swift’s willingness to play new characters in evermore demonstrates appreciable versatility, but she truly shines when her joy for her craft is unrestrained by pretense. On long short story, Swift positively gallops. “Now I’m all about you,” Swift yells from the hilltops, charitable and grandiose, absolving herself of nemeses in the arms of her lover. It’s not her finest handiwork, but you wouldn’t be blamed if you believed it. Swift has always sold the idea that love is capable of transformation through imagination — but unlike its predecessors (like reputation, which was so consumed with public reinvention), evermore gives that idea enough space to just breathe.
That’s the proof of artistic growth — Swift has built a fifteen-year career on articulating every aspect of being in love: talking it, walking it, kissing it goodbye. She on this album attributes a unique physics to love: giving it simultaneously more time and less matter, by way of thinking it through…down to the very last detail.
On the gorgeous cut that is gold rush, Swift highlights a domestic kind of territoriality that seldom could pull off. “Everybody wants you, everybody wonders what it would be like to love you,” Swift muses, quietly confident as she twirls amidst lush orchestral meadows. The implication is clear and well-deserved: they’re not her. It’s the kind of song you belt in the car, when the windows are down — dizzying and golden, euphoric and triumphantly possessive.
Count the breaths taken between each track, and see where evermore thrives: on the hesitation between visible and invisible romance, on the flirtation between opaque and transparent, on the translucent seduction of its listeners. Swift is not perfectly content to navigate the unclear, but the candidness with which she does so is compelling. And damn, if we aren’t compelled.
Swift’s voice glides more than carries — like footprints in the dark or a whispered secret at a slumber party. This is where evermore soars: when no one is watching, and everyone is listening.