evermore and the wandering girls.
As Taylor Swift delves deeper into the woods that brought her folklore (2020), a new and more mature creative style and that freedom she so dearly holds on to right now, the winds of winter and change bring evermore (2020) to us. This sibling album, which was released a few hours ago so to speak, has been commented all over social media and it’s available in all music platforms.
After a very crafted releasing schedule for most of her career, she has started breaking her old set of rules –and she seems to be acting more on a passionate/creative line than on the money-making-machine line people used to so criticize. Regarding money and sales, I’m not that interesting in whether it has been an effective release or not. There is something else I’m curious about: where does it come from?
As a big fan of hers, and because I can’t be fooled by that idea, I know nothing that woman does is arbitrary. No matter if she is feeling more creative-driven or freedom induced by this new record deal, I know she is excruciating to detail with her work. I know she is a perfectionist, and that it’s precisely in spite of herself that she is trying not to be. I can tell that she has been working in a more organic way with this project, but there are still uncertainties that I know for a fact she won’t shine a light on.
I don’t need her to, I enjoy the long evenings wondering.
The coffee is warm, and the heat is on. It’s been wintery for a while, and while work is eating my brain worms and I feel decay falling over me like I already was that dead body I will be at some point, I hold this birthday gift of hers very dear to my heart. Then, why am I writing this?
That’s what I’m wondering, as I enjoy the second release of the year. I’ve listened to it on a loop, like I do with every single album of hers. I’m staring at the walls, outside the foggy windows, and I’m asking myself: why did she keep walking into the trees? She never turned around, did she? What is she trying to find? Is it solace? Is it depth? Is it something she has yet to discover how to explain? Is it a story? Maybe it’s none of it. Maybe it’s all at once.
Here’s what I know: each time she resurfaces, there is yet another set of lessons she has had to learn again, sometimes new, sometimes very old. It’s always delightful, to watch her craft another side of her narrative universe. Her motifs are never-ending, and they twist and break and grow: trust and betrayal, marriage, infidelity and the outlaw are now explored in bigger depth than ever before, while love is now a different creature and her search for an identity becomes the identity itself. The personas, the characters and the dilemmas are multiplied by ten, even when still linked to her scarred fingers.
Someone told me once that people publish their stories or put their art out in the world so they can stop editing them. As a creator, I know why one would love to shake that off their brains. They can become haunting things. I also know writing something is always a personal thing. Art is never free from intention. Whether that intention is one or another, it is always a personal driving that ends up taking us to the point where we come up with something. It doesn’t matter if that something has a certain shape. Creating a story, painting a picture or arranging a music universe, (and Swift has proved that they’re all the same to her) ends up being but the creation of a portrait of one’s own.
Swift’s new album evermore is a sibling to her latest and dearest cottage dreamland, folklore in the fact that, as much as folklore, it is filled with decay and desperation, with unexpected twists of fate; with dreading and hoping for a word that is worth it all.
Her initial fairy tales, those which shaped her initial wide dreamland filled with lovers running away, have turned into stories with different shades of light and multiple perspectives. All of them are filled with certain nostalgia, as if she knew that time has changed them from bright hero tales into candle-lit sad confessions.
And maybe it is true that, her being an endless wanderer into those woods, bearer of scars, is the thing that changed the landscape. Her voice can’t avoid that switching of sides, and it moves from one perspective to another, sometimes from a song to another, sometimes inside the same song; and it moves like the wind through that willow that virtually ties both albums. Her experiences are as circular as the albums, as the never-ending vale of woods she has wandered in. And if we were to wonder exactly what’s the aim of her sleep-walking promenade, we’d be left to believe there is absolutely no intention.
But there has to be one. At least one.
Is it that why am I writing this? Or is it else? Maybe it’s just to pour it out, out of my chest and out of my mind. And to hear that tippy tap, to hear my keyboard running and running –one that is not so different from hers, as it writes and writes and writes. I haven’t written anything that I’ve wanted to write for a month, with deadly deadlines and busy work days. So maybe there is a reason. Or maybe there are a few. Maybe there are too many reasons not to write this article, but it’s the one that pushes me to write it, the one I’m looking for.
Perhaps, that’s exactly what happened to Swift as she found herself in the middle of a forest. No one was watching, and she was enjoying the walk, so she kept walking. I do that too, as I wonder what comes next: I write a little bit, and then I write some more. Maybe we’re both just really good walkers and terrible writers, who knows?
Maybe the reason is walking through it all, with our hands in our pockets, until this terrible and cruel winter is gone.
evermore features a long list of old motives with new perspectives: love, marriage, loss, pain and hope. All of these come back stronger than 90’s trends, of course (he, he, he). They are as universal as ever, now down in her ink, in her new sound. They’re nostalgic and anachronistic, old and new. Again, in this woods, nothing ever ends. Time is a loop and each story begins as it ends. So, who cares?
The album features seventeen new songs, two of them still secret to us. As promised, they are all interconnected. James and Betty don’t seem to make a comeback, so we have no insight to that ending she so dearly proclaimed in her latest documentary. Even when she broke the promise she made during Reputation (2017), in which she said she’d never explain her songs again, she has once again given new hints to reinforce some readings over others. Right before the video release, she offered some new information for those who asked in the chat box, too.
We’ve meet new characters and found ourselves staring at old dilemmas. Some of them live short stories. Some others feel like old ghosts we’ve met before. So far, Dorothea is my favourite creature. Not only is she (to me) the voice behind that delightful folklore track, mirrorball, but I also sense her being the same musing entity behind The Lucky One and other stories like tis the damn season or this is me trying. You can hear her essence in Gold Rush again, or in Gorgeous. She is both Taylor Swift and other old personalities that are now long gone. They’re one and many, if that’s possible; and they’re all going back and forth in their own tracks.
All I’m doing is sit here and watch. Again, curiously enough, I’m enjoying the mentions of external biographers and books being written about them all; the watchers, the curious creatures that live in the dreamland where all of this is real but none of it is. And I know we started right here, and we’ve made it back by a really weird happenstance.
Past the ambiguous and supposedly non-biographical aspect of her newest creations, Swift keeps going over her old stories and connects both albums to the rest. Since her oldest albums are now also ‘stolen’ (since they’ve been sold away, as one would already know if reading this article) the motif of the circus and the siren that appears in her video makes it all the more obvious that this change has lots to do with her growth and her getting old by the deceiving parts of her own career. She has escaped, and she has survived, but the scars are still there.
Another incredible track is Happiness, which answers to a similar motif to the one seen in Daylight. Her sententious “in the disbelief, I can’t face reinvention”, her Gatsby references, her voice changing as the piano grows. She is changing inside of the same song, which leaves me smiling and hanging on the emotion of contempt that creates; the closure that comes in waves and in stranding away from the pain. Rebirth, growth and repetition are one and the same in the song, and so they are in the album, too.
The whole album is a testament to all of that. It is a testament to her love for music, for entertainment, for the story-telling and her own universe. They’re as hurtful as nurturing, as irreverent and incoherent as needed. They’re as new as they’re old. This new broken mirror is, too, a piece of art as it is. And so, she keeps leaning closer to it, pointing out a new perspective in the cracks and in the refracting of that light she can’t seem to stop looking for.
I can’t stop thinking about these new songs, and I know they’ll stay for as long as I need them to. I also have the feeling I will eventually have to let them go. I’m still sitting by the window like Wendy Darling does, staring at my phone lovingly.
Does she ever turn around in the new promotional pictures? Sometimes she does. Sure. But she never walks back to me, does she? Well, maybe sometimes.
The album, however, does feel like closure. It does feel like saying goodbye again and again, in some weird and twisted way. But, what are we saying goodbye to? To her? That’s not likely. But whatever we’re greeting and saying goodbye to, do we ever stop saying goodbye to it?
Never mind. Am I reading too much into it? And does it matter, if I do? Does it matter if I take this album and shape it into a thing that will tell me all of these stories again, until they’ve changed so much they feel new again? I’ll memorize them and ask the bard Swift has turned into to sing them all again to me when in despair.
I keep on staring at the window, really. I’m trying to make sense of the music, and of the feeling it brings right before a very strange Christmas time –probably not the strangest, though. And I’m laughing a little, too. I can imagine many people are just shrugging, saying it’s just music and thinking the writing is just writing. And it is: it is just music, and it means just as much. It’s all the same. I’m cackling because this is just Taylor Swift playing one of her most beautiful tricks so far, and again, on me. And I know.
As she turns 31 today, I’m raising a glass of wine and sending this long ass letter into internet oblivion. Happy Birthday!
Perhaps, the core to it all is the fact that writing and creating means absolutely nothing at all, right? But I’m here thinking means everything to me too, Taylor.
So here’s to you, to me, and to the wandering girls we’re becoming. So that it all goes back to our rooting forests of imagination, but only once we’re done with them.
See you next time!