Last year, Taylor Swift was spotted getting off a plane with the Haim sisters, Lorde, and her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. Or, allegedly spotted — the entire group covered their heads with black umbrellas to avoid being recognized by the paparazzi, effectively getting more attention in the process. Haim had opened for Swift in 2015, off their impressive debut, Days Are Gone; by the time those photos were taken, in July 2019, they were getting ready to release “Summer Girl” and start the long rollout for their third and most ambitious album, Women in Music Pt. III. And in those four years, they developed the close sort of bond by which the Haim sisters would shove their heads into umbrellas for their friend.
So Swift’s first-ever Haim collaboration, “no body, no crime,” is rooted in a deep friendship with Este, Danielle, and Alana, even if the song — and much of Swift’s new album, evermore — draws on the same fictions she found so fruitful on July’s folklore. On first listen, “no body, no crime” doesn’t blend in with the rest of the hushed sounds on evermore and folklore, instead drawing on Swift’s country roots and fundamentals to attempt a classic revenge song. She dipped her toe into a country return earlier this year by performing “betty” on the Academy of Country Music Awards stage, but that song was more Dylan than Dolly. “No body, no crime” is the twangiest Swift has sounded in nearly a decade, since the flickers of country on her pop crossover masterpiece Red. (Notably, it’s the only evermore song Swift wrote solo and one on which she shares production duties with folklore key player Aaron Dessner.)
The song falls into a clear lineage of violent country breakup songs. Fans quickly pounced on comparisons to the Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” and Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”; Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” and quite a few of Miranda Lambert’s hits also fit the bill. “Good thing his mistress took out a big life-insurance policy,” Swift sings as she sets up the final act. For all the sexist jabs Swift has suffered about her breakup songs, she has always tended toward the devastating rather than the vengeful in chronicling her heartbreaks — with a few notable exceptions, of course, like the rollicking early standout “Picture to Burn.” But the thread running through the Chicks, Lambert, and even “Picture to Burn” is a fire, often literal, at the center of the songs. They’re the sort of thing you sing along to, with abandon, a few shots into a post-split night out with friends.
“No body, no crime” isn’t just missing that fire but the intimate details of Swift’s more intimate breakup songs like “All Too Well” and “Back to December.” Instead, Swift doesn’t just reference Este Haim by name, she added the song’s Olive Garden reference after asking her friend about her favorite restaurants. Her newfound flair for the literary has yielded gifts like folklore’s teenage-love-triangle trilogy, but on “no body, no crime,” Swift has fallen so deeply into characters, plot, and literalism that her talent becomes muddied. Not that you can’t make a great fictional breakup song — Lambert had barely been burned by the time she wrote “Gunpowder and Lead,” which was based on stories from her private-investigator parents. But “no body, no crime” merely conveys drama rather than providing catharsis. It’s better suited to soundtrack an episode of a soapy TV show than any heartbreak.
Haim brings a bit of a groove to “no body, no crime,” making it a welcome shakeup in evermore’s static pacing. But it still can’t stack up to anything off the band’s intricately constructed, emotionally bare WIMPIII. That’s barely the sisters’ fault — they only sprinkled some backing vocals on the track, and only two of them did (Alana is curiously absent from the credits). If nothing else, “no body, no crime,” is a testament to the stakes of Swift and the sisters’ friendship: They’d hide under umbrellas for her; she’d help cover up a murder for them. They surely had fun making it. If only that came through.