Every Taylor Swift song throughout history can be described as “music to braid your best friend’s hair to,” but with the surprise release of Swift’s ninth studio album evermore, finally, girls with long, creepy braids and sweet crushes on their best friends are getting the representation they deserve.
Swift announced on Instagram Thursday morning, like a shot of elderflower syrup to the heart, that she’d be following up the surprise July release of folklore with its surprise sister album, evermore, at midnight, December 11. Immediately, I returned from the haunted forest I’d been living in since July via horse and buggy seeking Wi-Fi. After a few listens, I must say, evermore absolutely fucks. If this is truly folklore’s sister, then it’s folklore’s more powerful, hulking sister. If folklore is Piper Halliwell — subtle, thoughtful, stressful — then evermore is Prue, in that her power is unmatched and she will kill you.
This album is so excellent that I’m suspicious: Did someone pry open a cursed locket and damn Taylor to an eternity of Albums of the Year? Either that or Taylor has Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner trapped in those pods from The Matrix, siphoning their woodsy power. If it’s actually the latter, nobody red-pill them — sad Swifties need this. evermore is woods-dyke excellence. Here’s my analysis of every song.
God, there are so many Easter eggs in the “willow” music video — this is exhausting. The video prominently features Taeok Lee, a dancer from her Red tour; there are numerous folklore callbacks, like Swift following a golden string toward her lover (“invisible string”); we see her wearing the titular folklore “cardigan;” a younger Taylor plays in a blanket fort (“seven”). But something that’s gone severely underlooked here is that this music video is very aesthetically similar to Lesbian Bonnet Films, which if you don’t know, is an emerging genre of depressing lesbian movies set before Penicillin existed. Between the witchcraft Taylor performs in the music video (she’s literally wearing a cloak — savagely gay) and the overall bonnet energy happening here, I think “willow” is actually a trailer for a new A24 lesbian movie that will inexplicably be written by a man.
As one of the three songs co-written by William Bowery — whom Taylor revealed to be her b*yfriend J*e A*wyn in the also-surprise folklore long pond sessions Netflix concert film — “champagne problems” is depressing as hell. The piano intro alone is enough to politely tap me over the edge. J*e also co-wrote “exile” and “betty” on folklore. As a person who deeply wishes Taylor were queer, admittedly, I’ve had trouble accepting J*e into my heart. But with lyrics like “November flush and your flannel cure,” and a tendency to romanticize the worst things that have ever happened to you, I do feel like J*e can relate to me. I’m not quite ready to spell his name without an asterisk, but these things take time. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, this song is about heartbreak or whatever.
Yes, some fans have speculated that with lyrics like “everybody wants you” and “what must it be like to grow up that beautiful,” this song is about Harry Styles, who has a song called “golden,” and is also extremely beautiful. I might have bought that … if I didn’t know that “gold” is a trigger word in Kaylorlore which opens a Pandora’s box of references to Swift’s rumored romantic relationship with former best friend Karlie Kloss. Her reputation album features numerous Sapphic “gold” references: On “Dress” and “Dancing With Our Hands Tied,” songs about loving someone in secret, Swift sings “Made your mark on me — golden tattoo,” and “You painted me golden.” Kaylors (Taylor and Karlie truthers) believe “gold” lyrics point to the night Taylor and Karlie were photographed wearing matching gold flash tattoos. So, yeah, read a fucking book.
’tis the damn season
Like folkore, evermore features anthology stories written from characters’ perspectives rather than Swift’s POV. “’tis the damn season” is tied to “dorothea,” and is about the experience of coming home for the holidays and rekindling an old flame (more on Dorothea in a bit). Given lyrics like “you could call me babe for the weekend,” “I’m stayin’ at my parents’ house,” and “I escaped it too, remember how you watched me leave” — many people don’t know this — but this song is actually written from the perspective of Riley in Happiest Season. Played by Aubrey Plaza, Riley wasn’t hung up on her hometown old flame, Harper — but she definitely should have called Harper’s girlfriend Abby “babe” for the weekend. ’tis the GODDAMN season for THAT.
Okay, “tolerate it” made me unexpectedly burst into tears the first time I heard it. In a note to fans, Taylor wrote about an “‘unhappily ever after’ anthology of marriages gone bad,” about “infidelity, ambivalent toleration, and even murder.” A lover’s “ambivalent toleration” is the most harrowing to me, personally. No one has ever been as “ambivalently tolerated” as a queer girl who is way too nice to her best friend right before realizing she’s queer. Swift basically lobotomized me with the lyric, “I know my love should be celebrated, but you tolerate it.” Just bury me. Cover me in moss and dew and lay me next to a damp log to suffer through this album.
“no body, no crime” (ft. Haim)
Right after “tolerate it” comes Dark Marriage Anthology track two, the murderous “no body, no crime,” which features a long-awaited collaboration with Swift’s besties, Haim. In a YouTube chat, Swift revealed that “no body, no crime” was inspired by her love of true crime podcasts. The song follows a woman named Este (named for Este Haim) whose husband cheats on her. Swift told Entertainment Weekly, “Long story short, I’m the 4th Haim sister now, confirmed.” Can I just say: Writing fanfic about a Haim girl is extremely fucking queer. Writing yourself in as the fourth Haim sister? That’s gay, luv. This “Goodbye Earl” derivative work also reveals that one of Este’s sisters took out a life insurance policy on the cheating husband, who Taylor Swift then killed … Okay. Scheming? A cheating husband? Being in cahoots over a life insurance policy? I’m sorry, this song is about A Simple Favor — I will not be explaining.
Swift told her fans that “happiness” was the last song written on evermore, and was actually written last week in a Madewell. Okay that last part isn’t true, but as a white woman shaped like a rectangle, I can make Madewell jokes. “happiness” contains numerous references to The Great Gatsby, like “All I want from me now is the green light of forgiveness,” a possible allusion to the green light at the edge of Daisy’s dock, and “I hope she’ll be your beautiful fool.” In Gatsby, Daisy says her hope for her daughter is that she’ll be a fool: “That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” Swift has alluded to Gatsby in the past, like her “roaring 20s” lyric in “the 1,” or “Feelin’ so Gatsby for that whole year” on “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” This title is deceptive, as it’s actually quite heartbreaking, and is about literature, which feels somewhat exclusionary because gay people can’t read.
Much like the folklore track “betty,” “dorothea” is written from a male perspective. At this point, I’ve had enough time to grow and mature past believing that writing a love song about a girl but insisting it’s from the male perspective is quite gay. I’m actually not mad about it anymore and feel really good about this. In a note to her fans, Swift said Dorothea is “the girl who left her small town to chase down Hollywood dreams.” Tied to “‘tis the damn season,” this song is written from the perspective of the old flame from Dorothea’s hometown, a man who will no doubt teach his Big City Girl the importance of Christmas Cheer, which she likely traded in for a lifeless, spiritless, atheist existence in the Big City (which is freezing). Honestly, Dorothea needs to leave this Christian flop behind and go back to being a lifeless atheist. Christmas Cheer?? A hometown b*yfriend who is probably Republican??? In this Great Depression????
“coney island” (ft. The National)
Unfortunately this song features many men (although I do feel that in writing about it, I am queering this space): Aaron Dessner’s band The National, vocals from Matt Berninger, and a co-writing credit from William Bowery a.k.a. J*e — okay fine, I’m choosing to show growth here — Joe Alwyn. The song is a teary ode to a lover who passed away. It also features a reference to my favorite Taylor song ever, “Delicate,” a song about that fraught early-dating period when the relationship is still so fragile. She sings, “Did I close my fist around something delicate? Did I shatter you?” And then I shattered so quickly and so violently that I became gay sand.
Sagittarius Season is upon us, folx. Taylor, noted Sag, says she released evermore to celebrate her 31st birthday, which is December 13. As a Sag myself (my birthday is the day after Taylor’s, not to brag), I feel comfortable saying that the “ivy” lyric “I wish to know the fatal flaw that makes you long to be magnificently cursed” is the most Sagittarius lyric ever. The drama! The belief in extreme literary phenomena like “fatal flaws!” The use of the word “cursed!” Also, “ivy” is the third song in the Dark Marriage Trilogy, and Swift left “ivy” and “willow” Easter Eggs within her evermore announcement Easter Egg. Again, exhausting. I cannot read nor do math — just give it to me straight.
“cowboy like me”
This song is about “two young con artists who fall in love while hanging out at fancy resorts trying to score rich romantic beneficiaries,” according to Swift. “cowboy like me” features background vocals from Marcus Mumford, a guest feature that was alluded to in an Instagram from inside his studio. The song features the magnificent lyric, “Perched in the dark, telling all the rich folks anything they wanna hear like it could be love, I could be the way forward, only if they pay for it.” So, “cowboy like me” is about scamming rich people — something we can and should do.
“long story short”
Reportedly, this is the most autobiographical song on evermore. In Swiftlore, it’s well known that Taylor met Joe Alwyn during a lull in her life, on the same night she met Tom Hiddleston, whom she briefly dated, then dumped and got together with Joe. “long story short” is about picking the wrong guy, but in this song, she ends up with the right guy (Joe). So, some fans think it’s a Hiddleston allusion, a Hiddleusion. Swift also sings, “But we live in peace,” a reference to folklore song “peace,” which is also allegedly about Joe. This song prominently features the word “misery,” which may or may not be a reference to 1990 Kathy Bates psychological thriller Misery — the original “mad woman.” I’m joking (barely).
I love wholesome grandparent content. On folklore, the 13th track is about Swift’s grandfather. On evermore, track 13 eulogizes her grandmother Marjorie Finlay, who was an opera singer. Finlay’s background vocals are actually featured on the track, which, for the record, is the correct way to honor a late family member — not by Frankensteining together a spooky hologram, @ Taylor’s nemesis K*nye W*st!!
So, given that “closure” is about things ending terribly with someone (a friend, an ex, a malicious and megalomaniacal music manager), the song could be about any number of public beefs Taylor Swift has had (K*m and K*nye, C*lvin H*rris, S*****r B***n). Honestly, I respect a woman who beefs. Remaining friends with an ex is a very popular phenomenon within the queer community — and it’s great most of the time — but there’s something to be said for a woman who knows her worth and is firm about it. “Yes, I got your letter, Yes, I’m doing better, I know that it’s over, I don’t need your closure” is my new morning affirmation. This whole album is Taylor just absolutely mad with power, swinging her strap around post-Grammy noms.
“evermore” (ft. Bon Iver)
“evermore” is co-written by William Bowery (Joe), who also plays the piano on the track. It’s nice that she lets him do things now. She’s like, “Oh, you want to be a musician? Ok not now, mommy’s busy. Go play with your li’l piano and make beep beep.” The title track has a very similar vibe to folklore’s “exile,” in that it also features Bon Iver and a William Bowery writing credit, but also in its stench of wintry death. “evermore” is brutal. It’s a pandemic depression anthem. The lyrics “Gray November, I’ve been down since July” and “Hey December, guess I’m feeling unmoored” resonate. It’s exactly how I’ve felt since folklore mowed down my mental health like a snowplow pushing a bunch of grey slush into a ditch. Taylor is sad-baiting here — profiting off a community of people who are sad — which is fine, because she’s clearly sad too, and as the ole saying goes, “it’s nice to have a friend.”