In November, Grayson Perry was criticised for implying that Covid19 would trim “dead wood” from the art world, however, Taylor Swift has proved that it might have done the opposite.
A few months ago, I wrote an article speculating why Taylor Swift’s folklore might have been a slightly tactical move from everyone’s favourite lyricist. Chiefly, my point was that Taylor could not have realistically continued to churn out the poppy, relatable hits she had been doing up until folklore for a variety of reasons, mostly because she’s thirty now and diarist music has to dry up at some point.
So, she had to rebrand, dropping the big record label style pop and picking up Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver to collab with in secret, producing folklore, released in mid-July.
However, I don’t think anyone expected a second ‘companion’ album to come out five months later, released in exactly the same way as the first – with a prior announcement just hours before release. I mean come on, even the name is basically the same.
I have one question… why?
Now, I am one of the biggest Swifties you might meet – she was my top artist on Spotify Wrapped this year and probably would have been most years if I had bothered to check. But just because you love something doesn’t mean you can’t hate the way it’s executed.
The question rattling around my hollow brain when evermore popped up on my Spotify was quite simply; why?
This is why I was compelled to write an article about evermore. The timing feels off, but more importantly, the whole thing just feels sub-par. I would genuinely believe that evermore was a B-side if Swift hadn’t iterated (almost desperately) that this is a ‘Sister’ album to folklore. What does that even mean, anyway?
Evermore doesn’t flow, it meanders, hiding behind aestheticism
The biggest problem I have with the album, and the reason I felt so compelled (in the musical sense) to write about it, is the general flow of it all – even if Taylor had released a dodgy set of songs, I would always expect them to be written well and have a couple of banging tunes. But no, we didn’t get that, we got a bucket of strangely executed tracks dumped on us just before Christmas, leaving reviewers clamouring to get something out before the holidays. Thanks, Taylor.
As someone who has had to grin and bear the horrors of text-setting in A level music, I thought I’d take the time to explain what this concept is and why it is so important to lyricised music.
Text-setting is the art of assigning words to melody. It is imperative to songs which include any type of lyric and a task that even the great Bach himself had to undertake when writing his chorales.
You can hear two broad types of text-setting; melismatic, which assigns more than one note per syllable, and syllabic which would be a syllable sung per note. The vast majority of songs use a variety of these two techniques, especially music which is inherently ‘sung’ melodically.
Text-setting isn’t easy. If you have the words of a song but no melody in your head when you write it, the danger is producing a song without flow, which is probably one of the worst crimes when writing popular music.
With many of her tracks, Swift falls short of well-set lyrics. The content of many of them is not awful – I particularly enjoyed ‘no body, no crime’ with its punchy story-telling, probably saved by the fact that there is a solid drum part so we know where the notes should be in the context of the beat. Yet, the titular track ‘evermore’, is a swirling, amorphous mess. It overuses the piano and switches between stasis and dynamism with the conviction of an atheist singing a hymn; it just doesn’t feel polished or considered at all.
Experimentalist? More like opportunist
Many of the reviews I have read regarding evermore have labelled it as ‘experimental’, which I wouldn’t disagree with or necessarily criticise – I would always encourage pushing the envelope, especially when we’re talking about an experienced artist. However, we all know that Taylor will be making millions off the back of evermore, and this is where issues arise.
“To put it plainly, we just couldn’t stop writing songs,” claimed Taylor, in an Instagram post announcing the release of her album, implying that evermore is not a product of any separate project, it is an extension of her earlier efforts with folklore, released purely because there was more content to use.
But just because you have more content to release, doesn’t mean you should. Being one of the most influential and quite frankly famous individuals on this great earth requires a certain level of commitment to what you produce, and evermore falls so short of being a studio album that I wouldn’t hesitate to call it a cash-grab.
To put it plainly, I feel manipulated. The content I expect from Taylor has gone down in my estimation substantially and I hate the idea that someone is making big money off what is essentially an experimental B-side.
That being said, as always, I love Taylor – I will be anticipating her next album, not only because I love to hate them, but because I will always be a Swiftie at heart.