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happiness

evermore (2020)

“happiness”, is the melancholic seventh track on Taylor’s ninth album, evermore (2020). It channels a stream of consciousness, in which the narrator contemplates their divorce and affirms happiness will be found again eventually.
With the opening lyrics, “Honey, when I’m above the trees,” “happiness” ties back to the seventh track on evermore‘s sister album, folklore (2020). That song, which is appropriately titled “seven,” starts with the lyrics, “Please picture me in the trees.”

Background and Release

Taylor created her eighth studio album, folklore (2020), as a set of mythopoeic visuals in her mind, a result of her imagination “running wild” while isolating herself during the Covid-19 pandemic. She surprised with the album’s announcement on July 23, 2020, and released it the next day. To satiate her craving to explore more of the “folklorian woods” she visualized in her mind, Taylor immediately developed another album as a conclusive counterpart to folklore, titled evermore. “happiness” was written roughly a week before the album was supposed to be mastered. Producer and co-writer Aaron Dessner had been working on the composition of the since 2019, thinking it would be a Big Red Machine song; Taylor, however, admired its instrumentals and ended up finishing its lyrics, which was also the case with “right where you left me”. Aaron told Rolling Stone in 2020:

«The music for 'happiness' is something that I had been working on since last year. I had sang a little bit on it, too — I thought it was a Big Red Machine song, but then she loved the instrumental and ended up writing to it.»

Aaron Dessner
The last few weeks of recording evermore overlapped with the recording of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) [2021] — Taylor’s first re-recorded album; she recorded “happiness” and “You Belong With Me (Taylor’s Version)” on the same day.

Lyrical Theme

Despite its title, “happiness” is fundamentally a breakup song that captures post-split emotions. The narrator is addressing their former spouse who has revealed themselves not to be all they thought they were. The narrator is understandably furious, but rather than giving vent to their bitterness, they take the high road and gives their former spouse the “green light of forgiveness.” Taylor explained the song as follows:

«[It is] the realization that maybe the only path to healing is to wish happiness on the one who took it away from you.»

Taylor Swift
It’s ultimately a hopeful song — what was bad was also good at times, and there are good things still to come.

References to The Great Gatsby

“happiness” contains several references to the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic novel The Great Gatsby. Just like Gatsby and Daisy’s ill-fated romance, the song ruminates on the end of a relationship.  There are allusions to the novel woven throughout the lyrics.

I hope she’ll be your beautiful fool / Who takes my spot next to you: This couplet references Daisy’s hope for her daughter that “she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

All you want from me now is the green light of forgiveness: This is a reference to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock in The Great Gatsby. The light represents Gatsby’s yearning for Daisy, a signal that’s always just out of reach.

In our history, across our great divide: This line could also connect to the novel’s setting of West and East Egg.

“happiness” isn’t Taylor’s first time incorporating The Great Gatsby into a song. In 2017’s “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” she sings, “Feeling so Gatsby for that whole year.”

Commercial Performance

Upon evermore‘s release, all of the album’s tracks debuted on both the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs and the all-genre Hot 100 charts; “happiness” entered at No. 52 on the Hot 100.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Honey, when I’m above the trees
I see this for what it is
But now I’m right down in it, all the years I’ve given
Is just shit we’re dividin’ up
Showed you all of my hiding spots
I was dancing when the music stopped
And in the disbelief, I can’t face reinvention
I haven’t met the new me yet

[Chorus]
There’ll be happiness after you
But there was happiness because of you
Both of these things can be true
There is happiness

[Post-Chorus]
Past the blood and bruise
Past the curses and cries
Beyond the terror in the nightfall
Haunted by the look in my eyes
That would’ve loved you for a lifetime
Leave it all behind
And there is happiness

[Verse 2]
Tell me, when did your winning smile
Begin to look like a smirk?
When did all our lessons start to look like weapons
Pointed at my deepest hurt?
I hope she’ll be your beautiful fool
Who takes my spot next to you
No, I didn’t mean that
Sorry, I can’t see facts through all of my fury
You haven’t met the new me yet

[Chorus]
There’ll be happiness after me
But there was happiness because of me
Both of these things, I believe
There is happiness

[Post-Chorus]
In our history, across our great divide
There is a glorious sunrise
Dappled with the flickers of light
From the dress I wore at midnight, leave it all behind
And there is happiness

[Bridge]
I can’t make it go away by making you a villain
I guess it’s the price I paid for seven years in Heaven
And I pulled your body into mine
Every goddamn night, now I get fake niceties
No one teaches you what to do
When a good man hurts you
And you know you hurt him, too

[Verse 3]
Honey, when I’m above the trees
I see it for what it is
But now my eyes leak acid rain on the pillow where you used to lay your head
After giving you the best I had
Tell me what to give after that
All you want from me now is the green light of forgiveness
You haven’t met the new me yet
And I think she’ll give you that

[Chorus]
There’ll be happiness after you
But there was happiness because of you, too
Both of these things can be true
There is happiness

[Post-Chorus]
In our history, across our great divide
There is a glorious sunrise
Dappled with the flickers of light
From the dress I wore at midnight, leave it all behind
Oh, leave it all behind
Leave it all behind
And there is happiness

General Information
Album evermore
Released December 11, 2020
Recorded December 2020
Studio Scarlet Pimpernel (UK)
Long Pond (Hudson, New York)
Genre Alternative
Adult Contemporary
Length 5:15
Label Republic Records
Songwriters Taylor Swift
Aaron Dessner
Producers Aaron Dessner
Taylor Swift
EVERMORE CHRONOLOGY
no body, no crime happiness dorothea
Song Artwork
Lyric Video
Official Audio