Words By Claire Cunningham, Grace Curtis and Robyn Cowie
As the world turned to the arts for distraction during the first wave of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Taylor Swift created new music in an effort to distract herself from the outside world and in doing so releasing not one, but two albums, both critically acclaimed. Continuing to prove that Swift is a modern musician like no other.
Folklore and Evermore, shows Swift’s transition from pop, which we have seen with 1989, Lover, Red and Reputation. In contrast, both Folklore and Evermore are indie-folk and rely on imaginative storytelling, rather than that of Swift’s own life. Both albums, created in partnership with Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, use acoustic guitar and melodic piano to create thoughtful escapism. Both albums topped the charts, with Folklore being nominated for six Grammy Awards.
And with that, here are our personal favourite songs from each album:
If you have been a Taylor Swift fan as long as I have, since at least 2009, both Folklore and Evermore will hold a close place in your heart. The recent double album releases represent her maturity as both a person and an artist and for fans like us, the transition could not have felt smoother.
When I first heard ‘Invisible String’, the eleventh song from Folklore, I’m ashamed to admit I burst into tears. Not because I was sad really, but more because I was happy. Invisible String is a song about Taylor’s relationship with her British boyfriend of three-years Joe Alywn. Her current happiness and contentment radiate through lyrics like “isn’t it just so pretty to think…all along there was some…invisible string…tying you to me?” and “hell was the journey, but it brought me heaven”. For a long-term fan like myself, it was moving to hear Taylor exude such happiness, especially after years of sharing her pain through her anthems. We’ve all been with her through years of bad break-ups (‘All Too Well’ and ‘Dear John’), high-profile feuds (‘Innocent’ and ‘Bad Blood’) and public criticism (‘Look What You Made Me Do’). After all of this, listening to the happiness that emanates through ‘Invisible String’ for the first time nearly did me in. As tears poured down my cheeks, my older sister looked at me with disdain. “Why don’t you care this much about my life?”
My favourite song on Evermore is slightly less emotionally loaded. ‘No Body No Crime’ is a lesson in musical storytelling. Taylor partnered with friends and collaborators Haim to tell the story of a woman seeking to avenge the murder of her friend by a suspicious cheating husband. Through tongue-in-cheek lyrics like “Este wasn’t there…Tuesday night at Olive Garden at her job or anywhere”, Taylor emulates the short-form country music style storytelling of her earlier career to tell us a fascinating tale of revenge, lust and murder. This song is Taylor at her best: the lyrics are witty, the hook is catchy and a movie-length story is ambitiously told in the 3-minute running time.
For me the first track from Folklore, ‘The 1’, situated Swift within her new era of musicianship.
Swift is informing the listener that she is in a good place, “ I’m doing good, I’m on some new s***”, whilst also introducing her use of storytelling, moving past her autobiographical style. ‘The 1’ is reflective, remembering a past relationship, informing them of how their life has progressed and how they are attempting to make the most of what life has offered them, “I hit the ground running each night, I hit the Sunday matinee”. ‘The 1’ allows the nameless lead to reflect on what would’ve happened if their romantic relationship had not ended, but also allows to come to an understanding that the relationship although seemingly not right, was special, and that ultimately, “It would’ve been fun, if you would’ve been the one”.
From Evermore, the stand out song for being has to be ‘Champagne Problems’. The ballad reminds us of the mastery which Swift has lyrically, and one of her most evocative bridges, “She would’ve made such a lovely bride, what a shame she’s f***** in the head”.
The song presents a couple, meeting with different perspectives and different goals. One being to end the relationship due to their inability to cope with it along with their own mental health, whereas the partner desire’s to get married and continue their life of luxury, and yet they must go on and find someone else to live out this life with. The song examines struggles with mental health which result in her refusing a proposal, only for it to be deemed ‘champagne problems’ by onlookers. The song is considered one of her greatest to date, due to the powerful lyricism of it, “Sometimes you just don’t know the answer, ‘Til someone’s on their knees and asks you”. The ballad is a masterpiece in modern songwriting and is one which shall be hard for Swift to surpass.
Taylor Swift’s surprise album release did more than just give me a multitude of new songs to listen to during monotonous lockdown walks, they offered a point of connection. My sister and I talked incessantly about theories behind songs and my mum who isn’t a Swifty but a folk music fanatic became obsessed. Especially with the song ‘Cardigan’, and asked for it to be played over and over again in an attempt to learn the lyrics (she never did despite hearing it 1000 times).
‘Cardigan’, the lead single from Folklore, is part of a musical trilogy that showcases Taylos unique and imaginative storytelling ability. ‘Cardigan’ along with ‘Betty’ and ‘August’, narrate a teenage love triangle, from three different perspectives. Throughout the three songs, there are clues and ties to the others so an avid listener can connect them and uncover the story buried in the album. Taylor crafts a highly dramatic and emotional story of love, summer and youth. A boy leaves his girlfriend to have a summer affair with another girl, but once summer ends he is back to beg for her forgiveness. During the most boring summer of my life, Folklore was a lovely surprise that was able to inject excitement into the day to day routine and soothe the burn of missing Taylor headline Glastonbury.
While Folklore was an album that encapsulated a feeling of summer, Evermore was the perfect counterpart for winter. Her song ‘’Tis the damn season’ tells the poignant and nostalgic tale of someone returning home for the holidays and rekindling a romance with an old hometown flame. The song is a nod to Christmas and the familiarity of returning to the comforts of your “parents house”, sinking back into old routines with “you can call me babe for the weekend”. This created a viral trend for millions of Swifties, a holiday hookup anthem and the excuse to text their ex. This is just one example of the power of Miss Taylor Swift, and the influence of her heartbreaking, gut wrenching, shoe stomping, fist bumping tunes.
Taylor Swift fully embraced the ‘cottagecore’ aesthetic and in the process created two evocative, intimate albums which provided fans all around the world with something they had no idea they needed, but greatly appreciated. Evermore and Folklore in tandem are considered two of the leading artistic results of the pandemic and for the three of us at the very least made the whole experience of 2020 more manageable, as we had music which we could distract ourselves with, as it allowed us to escape into the many narratives which Swift presents throughout these sister albums.
Folklore & Evermore are available on all streaming services.