I originally didn’t think I’d have much to say about Taylor’s re-recordings of her old music, but since she released Lovestory (Taylor’s version), it’s become clear to me that I will have much to say. And I don’t want to delve into that without having touched on her two most recent albums. So that’s right–I, a regular person and not a music journalist, am posting an in-depth review of Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore albums. What can I say? I do it for the fans. Of all the posts I’ve written, I got the most positive feedback on my post ranking all of Taylor Swift’s songs. It was a blast to write and I love engaging with people about someone who has influenced me in such a major way. Below, find my thoughts on the project as a whole, the albums individually, and each track.
Overall: folklore & evermore are the albums I always wished Taylor Swift would write and I still can’t believe they’re real. I’ve always thought her greatest strength was in her lyricism. While I loved her pop music, that genre is more about sound than lyrics. I honestly had not had a gut-punch moment listening to her music since Red came out and I wasn’t sure I ever would again. Enter folklore. I think my jaw was dropped for most of my first listen. She wrote to tracks by Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner for most of the album, which allowed her to focus fully on writing lyrics. To put this in context, that’s like telling Rainman all he has to do is count toothpicks. As her co-writers have often said, Swift is something of a songwriting savant, and on folklore and evermore, it shows. She billed these albums as being largely based on fiction or stories she’s heard from others, with a few of her own experiences peppered in. While I’m not disputing that, I do think it’s more based on her life than she’d like us to believe. I think she’s using the playground of fiction to write about her own feelings in a way that allows for privacy in her personal life.
folklore: Swift said she wanted this album to represent spring and summer. You’ve heard of Hot Girl Summer, now get ready for Sad Girl Spring. I can somewhat see this album having spring/summer themes as compared to evermore, but I find them both to be albums to turn to when you want a certain feeling rather than at a certain time of year. The overall emotional tone of this album is reflective, and sees the protagonist in each story either looking back on a past experience, or responding to a personal conflict. Swift indulged herself in rich, lush lyrics that feel like an embarrassment of riches for longtime fans.
The 1: This makes for a great album opener. She starts with the line, “I’m doing good, I’m on some new sh*t. Been saying yes instead of no.” Fitting for a release totally unlike her carefully calculated prior album promos. It reflects on a long-gone relationship when enough time has passed to give it a rosy glow. This song is for anyone who’s ever wondered wistfully about the road not traveled. I believe in my heart that this song was inspired by Harry Styles, and you can’t take that away from me. My favorite lyric: “We never painted by the numbers, baby, but we were making it count. You know the greatest loves of all time are over now.” The loves celebrated as the “greatest” are often unsustainable in their intensity. It is the quieter, unassuming love that lasts. But it can be fun to look back on the good times once you’re safe in the embrace of your soulmate, at least if your good times involved as many private jets as Taylor’s.
cardigan: The sound of heels on cobblestones in the background? It’s the detail for me. This song unpacks the feeling of finally being chosen by your love after being tossed aside by so many others. Even though the road was rocky and there were missteps along the way, in the end you’re wrapped in something warm and cozy that feels all the better for being a little worn. Dessner’s track builds perfectly to match the emotional fever pitch of Swift’s imagery. My favorite lyric: Literally every line from the start of the first bridge (to kiss in cars…) on. If I have to pick a few? “You drew stars around my scars, but now I’m bleeding.” “Tried to change the ending, Peter losing Wendy.” The “When you are young they assume you know nothing/’Cause I knew everything when I was young” juxtaposition. “Chasing shadows in the grocery line.” I really think this goes down as one of her best lyrical showings ever. She is a master at marrying the emotion in her vocal to the emotion in a lyric and runs the marathon of this performance flawlessly.
The Last Great American Dynasty: When I first saw this title on the track list, I was afraid she was back on her Kennedy b.s. When I tell you I was SHOOK at the line “And then it was bought by me…”?! My jaw literally dropped. Here Swift chronicles the history of her Rhode Island mansion “Holiday House.” She parallels her experience owning the home and being hated by the locals with that of Rebekah, the eccentric heiress who came before her. Ever the revisionist historian, she glosses over some of the more painful traits of her heroine, and re-casts a cat as a dog. But I defy any other songwriter to use the word “gauche” effectively AND make a song about their enormous mansion an enjoyable listen for us peasants. My favorite lyric: “I had a marvelous time ruining everything.”
Exile: This duet with Bon Iver (?!) features a mystery co-writer named William Bowery. Until she revealed him to be her boyfriend Joe Alwyn, I was convinced Bowery was…*puts on tin hat*… Harry Styles. I’m so glad Taylor is happy while Harry is out wrecking homes, but I am finding it hard to picture a man who looks like a piece of dry toast writing some of these lyrics. Nevertheless, I love this song. A back-and-forth between a man and woman in the midst of a breakup, the lyrics show the difference in perspective on where a relationship breaks down. His “You never gave a warning sign” is echoed by her “I gave so many signs.” I can’t recall hearing a male/female duet that captures the moment a relationship is ending, and hearing the story from both sides is poignant and painful. My favorite lyric(s): “I can see you staring, honey, like he’s just your understudy.” and “So step right out, there is no amount of crying I can do for you.”
My Tears Richochet: I’m not sure where to begin. The chorus of ooh’s blanketed in just enough synth to create an eerie echo? The sheer BBSE (Big Bronte Sisters Energy) of the line “You know I didn’t want to have to haunt you, but what a ghostly scene. You wear the same jewels that I gave you as you bury me?” The howling vocal performance in the bridge? This song could be applied to the death of a relationship, friendship, or an emotional loss of any kind. Taylor’s gift is turning her pain into something that resonates with all of us. I personally think this song is about the breakdown of her relationship with her former record label, Big Machine, and their subsequent sale of her masters to a man she despises. I cannot imagine the fury of having your life’s work taken from you by two men who have profited immeasurably off your success. My heart breaks at the lyric, “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace, ’cause when I’d fight you used to tell me I was brave.” When Taylor penned her letter to Apple insisting that music has value, Scott Borchetta praised her and joined the crusade, because he profited off the sale of her music. When she used that same spirit to fight for autonomy over the very music she wrote, he turned the tables viciously. My favorite lyric, other than the ones already mentioned: “You turned into your worst fears. And you’re tossing out blame, drunk on this pain, crossing out the good years.”
Mirrorball: Did anyone else feel personally attacked by this song? There’s now an anthem for the people pleaser in all of us. This album has some of my favorite ever Jack Antonoff works, and I think his producing talent is particularly evident here. The vocals are layered beautifully, and there’s a sparkle to the track that evokes the imagery of a mirrorball. He and Taylor have a unique ability to make something sound the way it feels. I found this one remniscient of Dashboard Confessional’s “Stolen,” almost like a response from the girl their song is about. Taylor gives some rare glimpses into her world with lyrics like “You are not like the regulars, the masquerade revelers, drunk as they watch my shattered edges glisten.” All those parties she threw in that New York penthouse, and it turns out she’s just as insecure as the rest of us. Probably one of the most vulnerable things she’s ever said: “I’m still a believer, but I don’t know why. I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try, try, try.” Taylor was never the natural choice for a superstar. She was a girl who could write. She had to fake the rest until the real her got lost somewhere and she had to find it again. My favorite lyric: “I’m still on that tightrope. I’m still trying everything to get you laughing at me.”
seven: This song describes the almost savage wildness of girlhood. The lyrics detail a friendship that profoundly impacted the narrator, coming back to her mind in half-remembered images and moments. The most intriguing line, “And I’ve been meaning to tell you, I think your house is haunted, your dad is always mad and that must be why,” hints at the dark things we notice but don’t fully understand as children. The girls fantasize about running away, sure that their story will be passed down through the years. Of all the songs on the album, this one feels the most literary. I saw it compared to this Emily Bronte quote from Wuthering Heights: “I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free; and laughing at injuries, not maddening under them!” My favorite lyric (because it reminds me of one of my favorite movies, A Little Princess: “Pack your dolls and a sweater, we’ll move to India forever. Passed down like folk songs, our love lasts so long.”
august: This song seems to be about a love that never got the timing right. Looking back on it, you realize the person was never yours to lose in the first place. The two of you shared a moment in time and that was all you were ever going to have. Seemingly years removed from the relationship as she writes, Taylor knows this person wasn’t the one for her, but the memories they shared are still vivid in her mind. They were naive, hopeful, both going through change and trying to navigate it together. They didn’t know how they were going to beat the odds, but they knew they wanted each other and that was enough. One lyric that set my Haylor senses tingling (no I’m not dropping this): “Your back beneath the sun, wishing I could write my name on it.” Back in 2014, Harry co-wrote a song for a duo named Alex & Sierra called “I Love You,” which featured the lyric “You ran your finger down my back and you spelled out your name.” Guys…the evidence is overwhelming. My favorite lyric: “To live for the hope of it all, canceled plans just in case you called.”
this is me trying: Perhaps the most Taylor’s songwriting has ever resembled a stream of consciousness. This song seems like what you might say to yourself as you paced around your room, ultimately deciding to break the silence between you and someone you’re fighting with. Maybe you don’t know what to say and maybe you’re really going through it, but you’ve realized you miss this person and it’s time to lay down your pride. Taylor has had many songs over the years about a guy who hurt her showing up on her doorstep, so this is an interesting way to flip the script. My favorite lyric: “I didn’t know if you’d care if I came back. I have a lot of regrets about that.”
illicit affairs: Written from the perspective of The Other Woman, this is one of Taylor’s most subversive narratives to date. Is there a less sympathetic character in the literary canon than the girl the guy is cheating with? And yet these lyrics give her flesh and bone by putting us in her shoes. The sneaking around, the lying to everyone you know, the passion cooling to shame, rendering yourself invisible to fit into this man’s life. Some of her most impressive vocabulary appears in this song. Words like clandestine, illicit, and godforsaken lend a gravity that isn’t present on pop radio. (BTW, best of luck to anyone else trying to fit the phrase “dwindling mercurial high” into a verse.) The mournful background vocals and guitar licks that mimic the sound of rain make it clear, this woman is in pain. The bridge ends the song, closing with the line, “And you know damn well, for you I would ruin myself a million little times.” As the strumming fades out, one can’t help but feel like maybe she already has. My favorite lyric: The entire bridge is gut-wrenching and gorgeous, but if I have to pick one line, “You showed me colors you know I can’t see with anyone else.”
invisible string: Here we get a rare glimpse into Taylor and her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn’s story. Swift uses repetition to illustrate the winding road time took them on that ultimately brought them together. I particularly relate to this song because of how my own love story played out. Andrew and I talk often about all the dominoes that had to fall to get us in the same room at the same time. Even the tiniest twist of fate and we never would have crossed paths. Time, she reflects, curious, mystical, wondrous time, pulls us where we’re meant to be. Favorite lyric: “And isn’t it just so pretty to think, all along there was some invisible string tying you to me?”
mad woman: Do not–and I cannot stress this enough–make Taylor Swift mad. I really think this song is about Scooter Braun and co. and their attempts to paint her as crazy and vindictive for telling her side of the story. Sorry, Scooter, gas-lighting doesn’t work when you do it in front of the entire world. Here Swift seems to explore the ancient adage, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” She asserts that everywhere you find a woman who’s gone mad, you find a man who made her that way. “Every time you call me crazy, I get more crazy, what about that?” Yes…WHAT ABOUT THAT?! This is for all those times you’re having a completely healthy emotional response to something and someone tells you to calm down. She insinuates that the subject of the song is a cheater and that his wife knows, but she’s too worried about being painted as “crazy” to confront him. I honestly think she’s dabbling in witchcraft and trying to curse her masters until she gets them back. Favorite lyric: “And women like hunting witches, too, doing your dirtiest work for you. It’s obvious that wanting me dead has really brought you two together.” I am scared for Scooter’s life, tbh.
epiphany: Here Swift juxtaposes the death and destruction seen by soldiers, like her grandfather, in WWII with the death witnessed by medical personnel during the current Coronavirus pandemic. Her grandfather was never able to speak about what he had seen because it was just too horrible. That amount of death is nearly impossible to process, as it likely will be for those who have treated COVID patients in highly populated areas where death tolls have been especially high. This song is sonically very interesting to me, but I don’t ever go back and listen to it. I think it’s a beautiful piece of art that speaks to the historic event we’re going through, but it’s not a song I want to hear again and again. I don’t think it’s intended to be. Favorite lyric: “Just one single glimpse of relief to make some sense of what you’ve seen.”
betty: Another co-write with Joe Alwyn aka William Bowery (eye roll), this is written from the perspective of a teenage boy apologizing to a girl whose heart he broke. Tough sell for me to feel sorry for a guy who lost the girl he liked because he slept around, if I’m being honest. AND YET, this song makes me absurdly happy. I love the harmonica, the storytelling, the key change, and the way she rhymes “cardigan” with “car again.” Favorite lyric: “Will you have me? Will you love me? Will you kiss me on the porch in front of all your stupid friends?”
peace: Here we get a very honest glimpse into what goes through Taylor’s mind as she navigates her current relationship. She can never give her significant other a “normal” life. Her public image will always rise and fall. Paparazzi will always camp outside her house(s). “Would it be enough,” she asks, “if I could never give you peace?” I’m not in love with this one sonically, but I think a lot of us relate to the fear of never being good enough for the person you love. Fearing that they’re settling by choosing you and that there’s some better life they could be living if you weren’t holding them back. Those are the types of lies insecurity tells us in our low moments. It’s comforting to know that even global superstars have those moments, too. Favorite lyric: “And you know that I’d swing with you for the fences, sit with you in the trenches.”
hoax: If your mental state is in any way fragile, I must advise you not to listen to this song. Lyrically, this is a collection of some of her most powerful couplets. If I had a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you what this song is about. Did she write as if Joe had left her? Is it about Karlie Kloss’ apparent betrayal? Is it about Scott Borchetta? Is it just a bunch of sad lyrics she had in a note on her phone? WHO HURT YOU, TAYLOR?! I love this song for the way it shows off her ability to knock the wind out of you with words. I love the hook, “Your faithless love’s the only hoax I believe in.” It’s hard to single out just one lyric because there’s not a low point anywhere, and it changes each time I listen. For now, favorite lyric: “My only one, my kingdom come undone.”
the lakes: I don’t like this song so I kind of just pretend it doesn’t exist. *plays “I Forgot That You Existed”*
evermore: Folklore’s sister album represents fall and winter. I loved folklore but I’ve found myself going back to evermore over and over. It feels like what she dipped her toe in on folklore, she dove into headfirst on evermore. At the same time, it’s hard for me to fully separate them as they feel like two sides of one album.
willow: Taylor described this track by Aaron Dessner as a witchy incantation designed to get someone to fall in love with you. I find the “90’s trend” lyric jarring because the song as a whole feels so timeless and immersive and that lyric takes me out of it a bit. I really do picture a witchy woman in a colonial coastal town meeting a pirate who came in on his ship one night. In terms of sound, this song reminds me of “Safe & Sound,” which I love and always wished she would have explored more. She starts high in her falsetto, and gradually moves down in both range and volume until the repeated “that’s my man” in the outro is little more than a sultry whisper. The vocal feels to me like a story she brings to a satisfying conclusion by the end of the song. Favorite lyrics: “Show me the places where the others gave you scars.” & “Every bait and switch was a work of art.”
champagne problems: Reader, this song DID something to me. I could honestly write a dissertation on this song alone. I cannot explain it, but as soon as I heard it, I had this overwhelming feeling like I knew the story she was telling. I can see it all playing out in my head like a movie. I don’t know if it’s because the characters remind me of F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, (who I love and whose work & lives I’ve studied) or if she just told the story so well I got swept up in it. To me this is where she absolutely nails the thing she set out to do with these albums. She creates a character, letting her songwriting out of its cage by removing the parameters of real events. The details are so visceral and there are so many subtle moments that create a wealth of story. The lyrics and Taylor’s own comments set up the narrative as follows: College sweethearts attend a party together. He proposes, she rejects him. The song is narrated by the young woman speaking to the young man, comforting him in the pain she has caused. My interpretation is that this woman suffers from a mental illness, but no one takes her struggle seriously because she’s a beautiful rich girl and people assume her problems are trivial (the metaphorical use of champagne problems). Her boyfriend truly loves her and is prepared to spend the rest of his life with her, but in the moment she finds herself unable to accept his offer. He had told friends and family, preparing for an engagement party afterward (a literal use of champagne problems). Instead he finds himself taking the train home alone, presumably reading a letter from the woman who has just broken his heart. For me the other layers of the story come in the repetition of the last line, “You won’t remember all my champagne problems.” Up until that point, it’s clear she has been reassuring him that he’ll move on, he’ll forget about her, and he’ll go on to have the happy ending he’d hoped for with someone new. The repetition of the line is key, because the first time she’s clearly saying it to him. When she repeats it after a pause, I think it’s a realization she’s having herself. She’ll be forgotten. He’ll move on, but where does that leave her? It calls into question WHY she’s rejecting this proposal. Is it because she really doesn’t love him and want a life with him, or is it because she’s trying to spare him a life of dealing with her illness? She knows he’ll find someone new, but will she? Is she ever going to find anyone again who will be willing to take on the baggage she’s carrying? Is she ever going to be capable of accepting and reciprocating a love that would require her to let someone in to see what she’s struggling with beyond the beautiful façade? She knows everyone will take his side and label her “crazy.” Is she truly following her heart, or is she sacrificing her own happiness for his because she thinks he’ll be better off with someone who’s not sick? I honestly could unpack this song forever. I think it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard and it’s certainly one of Taylor’s greatest songwriting accomplishments. Favorite lyrics: “Your Midas touch on the Chevy door, November flush and your flannel cure.” & “One for the money, two for the show, I never was ready so I watch you go.”
gold rush: This Jack Antonoff collaboration takes place inside the fleeting moments of a daydream. I love this concept for a song. It’s original but so universal. I’ve said before that the magic of her and Jack together is their ability to make things SOUND the way they FEEL and that’s certainly on display here. You can almost feel yourself looking wistfully off into the distance. She waxes poetic over how attractive the subject of her admiration is, plans a whole future together, and then concludes she doesn’t actually want to be with that person. The production builds perfectly to carry you off into the daydream, pulsing quickly through it, fading back out, and ending abruptly as she snaps out of it back to reality. The hook “I don’t like a gold rush” comes from the notion that this person is someone everybody wants. One of those ridiculously beautiful people no one can help being attracted to. Everyone flocking to the same place hoping to score. She knows better than to throw her hat into the ring, but she lets her mind wander for just a moment. Favorite lyric:“I don’t like that falling feels like flying ‘til the bone crush.”
’tis the damn season: Another Dessner track, this one talks about returning to an old high school flame when you come home for the holidays. It’s a sort of resigned, depressed admission that they both know it’s not going anywhere, but the feelings are still there and they might as well hook up while she’s home. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. I like how it starts in the middle of a conversation. On her end of things, she feels like he knows the real her as compared to her shallow, fake friends in LA. She sometimes wonders about the road not taken, admitting that it looks good when it’s standing right in front of her. But she also knows she’s never coming back to this small town and wouldn’t trade her success for the warmth of a familiar bed. On his end, there’s some hinted-at resentment that she left in the first place. We get the first mention of a truck since she left country music. I find this to be one of the more relatable dynamics she’s written about, especially recently. Favorite lyrics: “We could call it even, you could call me babe for the weekend.”
tolerate it: A heartbreaking look into a relationship where nothing major is wrong, but instead of being loved and celebrated, the woman is merely tolerated. Taylor said she drew inspiration for this character from her own experiences of “Trying to love someone who’s ambivalent.” (*cough* John Mayer *cough*) She delivers a trademark gut punch with the hook, “I know my love should be celebrated, but you tolerate it.” She’s loving him with everything she’s got, making them a beautiful home, looks the other way when he’s unfaithful, admiring him and always painting him in the best light. (I found the “use my best colors for your portrait” line to be one of many richly narrative metaphors she uses on this album.) In return, he simply tolerates her existence. I think the saddest part of the song is when the opening line is repeated, in present tense: “I sit and watch you.” She didn’t leave. This whole monologue has taken place in her head as she sits there watching him read, remaining silent and invisible. Favorite lyric:“But what would you do if I break free and leave us in ruins, took this dagger in me and removed it, gain the weight of you then lose it…believe me I could do it.”
no body, no crime: If you’ve even casually listened to country music over the last few decades, you know the satisfaction of the “He cheated on me so I killed him” song. On a tier above that is the “He’s a wife beater so I killed him” song. Now, here to claim supremacy once and for all, is the “He cheated on my best friend AND killed her, so I killed him and framed his mistress” song. Backing vocals by the HAIM sisters add a menacing, sultry contralto layer. I think this is a song Taylor’s been wanting to write for a long time; her vocals seem to relish each word. (Also why do I feel like Scott Swift absolutely did make her get a boating license when she was fifteen?) This isn’t the only song on the record that hints at Taylor dipping her toe back into country music. I am here for it, honey! I don’t have particularly strong feelings toward this song, but it does check a lot of boxes for me. A fascination with the macabre, mandolin and harmonica, women helping women dispose of violent men…check, check, check. Favorite lyrics: “No body, no crime. I wasn’t letting up until the day he died.”
happiness: Just when you think she’s written a song for every possible situation, Taylor goes and writes a song about divorce. I love how she opens in the middle of a thought and dives right in. The narrator is sifting through the confusion, anger, hurt, and disbelief of her circumstances. There’s a “The Great Gatsby” reference with the use of “I hope she’ll be a beautiful fool.” This song examines how our feelings ebb and flow with time. Two seemingly conflicting things can be true at once. Sometimes what we know intellectually doesn’t feel true in our circumstances. I also love how the narrator of the song goes through such a range of emotions as she speaks. It’s really a song that’s processing something, and I have no doubt many people have felt seen when they listen to it. Favorite lyric: “There’ll be happiness after you, but there was happiness because of you, too. Both of these things can be true.”
dorothea: I kind of didn’t need Dorothea because I already had Betty. In this world Taylor has created, Dorothea is written from the perspective of the lover in “‘Tis the damn season.” I mean what a moment for Tupelo! This isn’t a Taylor song that will become part of the fabric of my life in the way so many others have, but it’s good and it fits well on this album, which I can’t always say about the songs I’m not crazy about. Favorite lyric: “Well damn, Dorothea, they all wanna be ya, but are you still the same soul I met under the bleachers?”
coney island: I think one thing Taylor set out to do with this project is to silence her songwriting critics once and for all by proving that she can write anything. That should be obvious by now but there are still people who dismiss her. She can write a country chart topper. She can write a platinum pop album in an era when albums were dying. She can write arena rock. She can write a John Mayer guitar lick over a breakup ballad. I could go on and on. In her now-extensive collaboration with The National, she’s proving she can dominate the most elitist of musical genres, Sad White Boy Indie Pop. In my head, Folklore is set on a farm in the late 1800’s. Evermore is set in the 1920’s. The imagery of Coney Island, of something that was once grand but is now bleak, provided the backdrop to a relationship that ended because one person took the other for granted. The lyrics are a bit non-sequitur and remind me a little of The Killers. I have to be in a very specific mood to listen to this song, but I find something new each time. Favorite lyric: “Did I close my fist around something delicate, did I shatter you?”
ivy: Another tale of infidelity, which has emerged as a theme in her recent work. This is the only song where I felt her cursing was a bit gratuitous; like once she decided she was okay with an explicit rating she was trying to make up for lost time. The imagery in this one is particularly compelling. A woman who’s engaged to one man and in love with someone else compares the hold her lover has on her to ivy growing over a stone house. This one is spooky, and leaves open to interpretation whether the husband ever did catch them and burn the house down. I don’t listen to this one a ton because I have a toddler and cannot play this in front of her for obvious reasons, but it has stuck with me more than a lot of others on these two albums. Favorite lyric: “Your touch brought forth an incandescent glow, tarnished but so grand.”
cowboy like me: I love how subtle the backing vocals by Marcus Mumford are, but I want more Taylor + Mumford and less Taylor + The National/Bon Iver. This narrative is about two con artists in a transient town who meet their match in one another. Like several songs on this project, it starts in the middle of a thought. Just like in a con, there’s a bait and switch. You think the narrator got duped by a fellow con artist, only to discover by the end that the line “I’m never gonna love again” is because they’re found their forever. Favorite lyric: “Now you hang from my lips like the Gardens of Babylon, with your boots beneath my bed, forever is the sweetest con.”
long story short: How I wish we’d had this instead of “I Forgot That You Existed.” A Spark Notes version of Snakegate and the ensuing fall from public favor Taylor went through a few years ago, this one tells us everything we need to know. (You hear that, Taylor? We don’t need any more songs about how sad it made you to not be everyone on the planet’s favorite person.) This is the only song that could arguably have fit on a different album better, like Lover, for example. Tom Hiddleston is once again paid dust, and we get another small peek into what was going on in Taylor’s mind during that whole mess. The overall message of this song is one we can all relate to. Some things you go through in life seem so important at the time, but as you grow you realize you get to decide what matters to you, and the things that used to kill you seem petty in hindsight. Favorite lyric: “And he’s passing by, rare as the glimmer of a comet in the sky. And he feels like home, if the shoe fits walk in it everywhere you go.”
marjorie: The OG Taylor fans will remember early mentions of Taylor’s grandmother, Marjorie, being an opera singer. When Taylor first came on the scene, a lot of interviewers asked questions about where someone so young got their musical abilities. The answer always referenced her grandmother, who had a modicum of success as a performer, but always harbored dreams of stardom. This song is a beautiful tribute to her, and maybe one of the most personal songs Taylor’s ever released. Marjorie died right as Taylor’s career was starting, before Taylor could share any of it with her. Taylor’s mother has often said that Taylor’s resemblance to Marjorie is eerie, down to the mannerisms. You can tell she feels some guilt for getting to live out the dreams Marjorie had but gave up for family–the very choice that allowed for Taylor’s existence. Marjorie even left her performance dresses to Taylor, which she describes as her “closets of backlogged dreams.” Anyone who has felt the presence of a loved one even in their absence will find this song beautiful. Favorite lyric: “What died didn’t stay dead, you’re alive, so alive, in my head.”
closure: I could take or leave this song, I think I’m just sort of over the whole “Taylor has to get the last word in every conflict” thing. Like girl please let SOMETHING go. I would, however, love to know who this is about. This is a song with a bit more real-world application than some of the more deeply fictional tracks on these albums, and I think a lot of people can probably relate to it. Some people can’t stand to be held accountable and want you to pretend things are OK between you even though they haven’t really owned their side of it. Favorite lyric: “I know I’m just a wrinkle in your new life. Staying friends would iron it out so nice.”
evermore: I’ve come back to this song again and again. Of the two Bon Iver duets, I prefer Exile, but I love Taylor’s part on this one. Some people seemed to interpret it as being yet another song about her Sad Times circa 2016, but I thought it was about a breakup or loss of a friendship. It takes you on the journey from when you’re in the thick of the sadness, feeling like you’re going to feel that way forever, to when you’ve started to heal and you can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Favorite lyric: “I was catching my breath, floors of a cabin creaking under my step. And I couldn’t be sure, I had a feeling so peculiar, this pain wouldn’t be for evermore.”
right where you left me: If you look me in the eyes and tell me this is not about her final breakup with Harry Styles, you are LYING. She’s still TWENTY THREE inside her fantasy? Taylor was 23 when she and Harry were still on again/off again. We’ve all heard Style. All the mentions of hair pins and pinned up hair send it back in time and sort of give it A Rose for Emily vibes. This song could be at home on a country album, which I think is a direction shes hinting at deliberately to make Scott Borchetta sweat. I haven’t sat with this song a lot because it took forever to show up on streaming so I didn’t get to digest it with the rest of the album. But I really like it and I think it will stick with me. Favorite lyric: “If our love died young, I can’t bear witness.”
it’s time to go: A song about how you know deep down when it’s time to end any type of relationship. The unknown of leaving is scary, but you’re only holding yourself back by staying. Having the strength to walk away is the only way to allow what’s really meant for you to come into your life. This has more of an obvious application to her real life than many of the songs on this project, and I hope it will be the last where she feels the need to reference the break with Big Machine. As she continues to forge success without being shackled to them, I’d love to hear her explore more themes now that she knows fans will go anywhere she takes us. Favorite lyric: “Sometimes walking out is the one thing that will find you the right thing.”
I’m so glad we got these albums before the re-release of her old music really gets underway. They were a perfect illustration of her undying songwriting talent and something I don’t think she ever would have done were it not for a pandemic rendering the tent-poles of pop stardom (touring & marketing) pointless. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to mentally prepare myself for Breathe (Taylor’s Version) and would appreciate your thoughts & prayers.