ivy

evermore (2020)

“ivy” is the tenth track from Taylor’s ninth album, evermore (2020). It tells the story of a married woman falling in love with a person who is not her husband, leading to an affair.
“ivy” was written by Taylor, Aaron Dessner, and Jack Antonoff, and produced by the former two. It is a folk song documenting a married women’s infidelity using several metaphors, the primary one being ivy vines growing over a stone house to convey the narrator’s deep-rooted, irresistible attachment to her lover, where inevitable consequences could possibly dwindle the happy ending to the relationship. The song is built on a ticked arrangement of banjo, picked guitar, and trumpet, with Justin Vernon’s harmonies in the background. “ivy” is part of a series of several songs on evermore depicting conflict and turmoil concerning marriage.

Background

On July 24, 2020, during the Covid-19 lockdowns, Taylor surprise-released her eighth studio album, folklore, to widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. In September 2020, she and her co-producers and co-writers for the album, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff, assembled at Long Pond Studio, located in a secluded cabin in upstate New York, to film the documentary folklore: the long pond studio sessions. Released to Disney+ and accompanied by a live album released digitally, Taylor performed the stripped-down renditions of all 17 tracks on folklore and recounted the creative process of developing the album. Following the release of folklore and during the filming of the long pond studio sessions, Taylor and Aaron Dessner continued writing songs, with Taylor penning lyrics to Dessner’s instrumental tracks.

The one physical trip Aaron Dessner made during the development of evermore was to visit Justin Vernon, frontman of the band Bon Iver who featured on the folklore standout “exile,” who ended up harmonizing playing the guitar and banjo on “ivy”. Dessner highlighted a wintry nostalgia on much of evermore and chose to play sleigh bells on “ivy” to emphasize the autumn- and winter-oriented theme of evermore compared to folklore, which was intended to have a more spring- and summer-focused aesthetic.

Composition

“ivy” is an intimate folk song depicting the affair of a married woman who is insatiably in love with a secret lover despite knowing the inevitable consequences that jeopardize the possibility of a happy ending. The song is built on the metaphor of her ivy vines growing over stone to portray her deep-rooted love. It also features several references to literary tropes.”ivy” begins with the lyric “How’s one to know? / I’d meet you where the spirit meets the bones”, a reference to Miller Williams’ 1997 poem “Compassion” in which he writes “You do not know what wars are going on / down there where the spirit meets the bone.”

Commercial Performance

Following the release of evermore, on the issue dated December 26, 2020, “ivy” debuted at No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100 alongside the album’s 14 other songs; the next week, it dropped off the chart. It debuted at No. 13 on the Rolling Stone Top 100, with 98,700 units sold and 11.9 million streams in its first week. It debuted at No. 11 on the Hot Alternative Songs chart, where it spent a total of five weeks. It achieved success internationally, debuting at No. 28 on the Canadian Hot 100 and No. 43 on both the Billboard Global 200 and the Australian Top 50 Singles chart.

Critical Reception

“ivy” received critical acclaim for its metaphorical lyrics and narrative. Callie Ahlgrim and Courteney Larocca of Insider selected “ivy” as one of the five best songs on evermore. Ahlgrim described it as “profoundly listenable and delightfully cryptic,” comparing its prevalent metaphors to fairytales traced with sinister themes, while Larocca applauded its intimacy and immersion. Sam Sodomsky of Pitchfork described “ivy” as a “stunner”, similarly comparing it to a fairytale and praising the character development that polishes “the storybook setting of Swift’s early work.” In a review of evermore published in The New York Times, Jon Pareles selected “Ivy” as an example of how Taylor expanded the fictional storytelling and character studies between folklore and evermore. Madeline Crone of American Songwriter praised the woodsy aesthetic of “ivy” and opined that the song “meticulously employs whimsical metaphors” reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm. Patrick Ryan of USA Today opined that “ivy” was one of “the most devastating love songs Swift has ever written.”

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
How’s one to know?
I’d meet you where the spirit meets the bones
In a faith forgotten land
In from the snow
Your touch brought forth an incandescent glow
Tarnished but so grand

[Pre-Chorus]
And the old widow goes to the stone every day
But I don’t, I just sit here and wait
Grieving for the living

[Chorus]
Oh, goddamn
My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand
Taking mine, but it’s been promised to another
Oh, I can’t
Stop you putting roots in my dreamland
My house of stone, your ivy grows
And now I’m covered in you

[Verse 2]
I wish to know
The fatal flaw that makes you long to be
Magnificently cursed
He’s in the room
Your opal eyes are all I wish to see
He wants what’s only yours

[Chorus]
Oh, goddamn
My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand
Taking mine, but it’s been promised to another
Oh, I can’t
Stop you putting roots in my dreamland
My house of stone, your ivy grows
And now I’m covered

[Verse 3]
Clover blooms in the fields
Spring breaks loose, the time is near
What would he do if he found us out?
Crescent moon, coast is clear
Spring breaks loose, but so does fear
He’s gonna burn this house to the ground
How’s one to know?
I’d live and die for moments that we stole
On begged and borrowed time
So tell me to run
Or dare to sit and watch what we’ll become
And drink my husband’s wine

[Chorus]
Oh, goddamn
My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand
Taking mine, but it’s been promised to another
Oh, I can’t
Stop you putting roots in my dreamland
My house of stone, your ivy grows
And now I’m covered in you
And I’m covered in you

[Bridge]
So yeah, it’s a fire
It’s a goddamn blaze in the dark
And you started it
You started it
So yeah, it’s a war
It’s the goddamn fight of my life
And you started it
You started it

[Chorus]
Oh, I can’t
Stop you putting roots in my dreamland
My house of stone, your ivy grows
And now I’m covered
In you, in you
Now I’m covered in you
In you

General Information
Albumevermore
BackupBon Iver
ReleasedDecember 11, 2020
Recorded2020
StudioLong Pond (Hudson, NY)
GenreIndie Folk
Country
Length4:20
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
Aaron Dessner
ProducersAaron Dessner
Taylor Swift
EVERMORE CHRONOLOGY
coney islandivycowboy like me
Song Certification
Lyric Video
Official Audio