December 11, 2020
Table of Contents
Background and Release
Taylor announced evermore on December 10, 2020, after blocking out her Instagram feed with one image, as she did when she announced folklore in July of the same year. She wrote: “To put it plainly, we just couldn’t stop writing songs. To try and put it more poetically, it feels like we were standing on the edge of the folklorian woods and had a choice: to turn and go back or to travel further into the forest of this music. We chose to wander deeper in. I’ve never done this before. In the past, I’ve always treated albums as one-off eras and moved onto planning the next one after an album was released. There was something different with folklore. In making it, I felt less like I was departing and more like I was returning. I loved the escapism I found in these imaginary/not imaginary tales. I loved the ways you welcomed the dreamscapes and tragedies and epic tales of love lost and found into your lives. So I just kept writing them.”
The album announcement came as a surprise, even to insiders: While Taylor had said in interviews that she’d been writing, there was no suggestion that a new album was in the works, let alone weeks away from release. “I feel differently today than I felt the day after releasing folklore because, even the day after releasing folklore, Aaron and I were still bouncing ideas back and forth and we just knew we were gonna keep writing music,” Taylor told Apple Music‘s Zane Lowe on the release day of evermore. “With this one, I have this feeling of quiet conclusion and this weird serenity of, ‘We did what we set out to do and we’re all really proud of it’, and that feels really really nice.” Dessner shared his feelings in an interview with Billboard:
Transition from folklore to evermore
Taylor and Aaron Dessner didn’t expect to make another record so soon after folklore. As they were putting the final touches on Taylor’s album in summer 2020, the two artists had been collaborating remotely on possible songs for Big Red Machine, Dessner’s music project with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (who also dueted with Taylor on the folklore track “exile”). “I think I’d written around 30 of those instrumentals in total,” Dessner recalled. “So when I started sharing them with Taylor over the months that we were working on folklore, she got really into it, and she wrote two songs to some of that music.”
One was “closure,” an experimental electronic track in 5/4 time signature that was built over a staccato drum kit. The other song was “dorothea,” a rollicking, Americana piano tune. The more Dessner listened to them, the more he realized that they were continuations of characters and stories from folklore. But the real turning point came soon after that album’s surprise release in late July, 2020, when Dessner wrote a musical sketch and named it “Westerly,” after the town in Rhode Island where Taylor owns the house previously occupied by Rebekah Harkness and where her song “the last great american dynasty” takes place. “I didn’t really think she would write something to it — sometimes I’ll name songs after my friends’ hometowns or their babies, just because I write a lot of music and you have to call it something, and then I’ll send it to them,” Dessner said. “But, anyway, I sent it to her, and not long after she wrote ‘willow’ to that song and sent it back.” Taylor told Zane Lowe in an interview for the 2020 Apple Music Awards:
Taylor's Second Remote Collaboration
Coming less than six months after folklore, a songwriting masterclass that produced some of the best music of Taylor’s already prolific career, evermore continued the ethos of its predecessor: twinkling piano, lush strings and plucked guitar, as Taylor spins vibrant yarns about real and imagined characters. And like her last album, evermore was cowritten and produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner and Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff. Taylor’s partner Joe Alwyn also returned as a co-writer on three songs, under his pseudonym William Bowery. She said: “I would say that it was a surprise when we started writing together, but in way it wasn’t because we have always bonded over music and have the same musical taste.”
Additionally, evermore was also Taylor’s second product of remote collaboration. Prior to the pandemic, her collaborations were usually done in the same room, but the nature of the times necessitated ingenuity. Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner joined Taylor for a recorded performance of folklore, but had not been together in the months before that to craft the original album. In a similar vein, evermore was mostly constructed through virtual communication. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon features on both albums and has songwriting credits, yet he and Taylor had never been in the same room.
Writing and Recording
Lyrics and Themes
By painting evermore as mostly escapist fantasy, Taylor dispels the usual gossip hounds that slaver over her work, allowing the album to stand alone as its own weird and wonderful thing. She delights in slipping between personas: One minute, she’s reconnecting with a high-school sweetheart over the holidays, playing house at her parents’ home until she jets back to LA (“’tis the damn season“). The next, she’s haunting a small-town Olive Garden plotting revenge with the HAIM sisters (featured on the scorching “no body, no crime,” a mischievous return to Taylor’s country roots).
But it is the elegant simplicity that makes Taylor’s songwriting so continually astonishing, planting daggers in your heart with tossed-off turns of phrase. “willow” and “tolerate it” are lyrical standouts about falling for less-than-stand-up guys, while “ivy” ranks among the most devastating love songs Taylor has ever written. Other highlights of the more-than hourlong album include “marjorie,” a tribute to Taylor’s late grandmother, and “champagne problems,” co-written by the once-mysterious William Bowery. The latter song delicately recalls a rejected marriage proposal, and features an all-time opening line: “You booked the night train for a reason so you could sit there in this hurt.” It’s the kind of lyric that many songwriters would spend entire careers trying to write, telling us all we need to know about this character’s emotional state. That it comes so effortlessly to Taylor is the least surprising thing about evermore.
evermore was met with widespread acclaim upon release, with several critics admiring its kinship with folklore and Taylor’s expansion of her musical boundaries. Distinguishing her as an unrivaled songwriter, Brodie Lancaster of The Sydney Morning Herald found evermore traveling deeper into Taylor’s fictitious narratives, and praised the depth and variety of its characters. In congruence, American Songwriter designated folklore as the “archetypal older sister — a careful, yet hopeless romantic” whereas evermore is the “bold, scrappy younger one”, with the latter being a yuletide evolution of the former’s sound. Spin critic Bobby Olivier thought that the “career-redefining” album finds Taylor at her prime, joining “the pantheon of songwriters who consistently deliver despite unimaginable expectations”. He and several other critics regarded evermore as an even stronger work than folklore.
By the time Taylor unveiled the album, most publications had already issued their year-end best albums lists for 2020. evermore was included on lists published after December 11, 2020, topping those by USA Today, NJ.com, and Variety critic Chris Willman.
Republic Records reported evermore sold one million copies in its first-week worldwide, marking Taylor’s third album in 16 months to do so, and her eighth consecutive studio album to achieve it. Aided by evermore and folklore, Taylor was 2020’s top streamed artist on Amazon Music across all genres. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) named her the best-selling soloist and female artist of 2020, and second overall.
evermore debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and topped the chart for four weeks. Unavailable in physical copies during its first week and supported only by digital music and streaming platforms, the album opened with 329,000 units, consisting of 220.49 million on-demand streams and 154,000 pure copies; it earned the biggest sales week for an album since her own folklore, as well as since bundles and concert ticket offers stopped factoring. evermore is Taylor’s second number-one album in 2020 and eighth consecutive number-one debut, making her the third woman with eight number-one albums, behind Barbra Streisand (11 number-ones) and Madonna (9). Alongside folklore at No. 3, Taylor became the first woman in the chart’s history to simultaneously have two albums in the top-three. The gap between the number-one debuts of folklore and evermore was 140 days, breaking the Guinness World Record for the shortest gap between two chart-topping albums by a woman on the Billboard 200.
All of the album’s 15 tracks entered the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously, generating five top-40 hits. evermore became Taylor’s third album to chart all of its standard tracks together, after Lover (2019) and folklore. “willow” landed at No. 1, scoring her seventh number-one single in the US, second number-one hit in 2020, and the third number-one debut of her career. Despite its availability for the last two weeks of 2020 only, evermore became one of the top 10 best-selling albums of 2020; its sister record, folklore, was the top best-seller of 2020.
The album scored its fourth week atop the Billboard 200 in June 2021, when it rose 73 spots to No. 1 with 202,000 units, following its vinyl release. 192,000 of that sum were pure sales, surpassing her own Fearless (Taylor’s Version) for the largest sales week of 2021. It marked the 53rd chart-topping week of Taylor’s career, extending her record as the female act with the most weeks at No. 1 in Billboard 200 history and the third-most weeks overall, only behind the Beatles and Elvis Presley. evermore sold 102,000 vinyl copies in the same week, breaking the record for the biggest sales week for vinyl albums since MRC Data began tracking sales in 1991. As a thank you, Taylor wrote:
|Released||December 11, 2020|
|Studio||Long Pond (Hudson, NY)|
Scarlet Pimpernel (UK)
Ariel Rechtshaid’s house (LA)
TAYLOR SWIFT CHRONOLOGY