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marjorie

evermore (2020)

“marjorie” is the 13th track off of Taylor’s ninth album, evermore (2020). It is a tribute to her late grandmother Marjorie Finlay.
As a tribute to Taylor’s maternal grandmother and opera singer Marjorie Finlay, the song depicts Marjorie’s advice to her granddaughter and Taylor’s guilt over not knowing her maternal grandmother to the fullest. It incorporates slow-burning synthesizers, strings, and samples of Marjorie’s operatic vocals.

Background

Like its sister album folklore (2020), evermore is an album full of ghost stories and haunted houses. The most heartbreaking moment is “marjorie,” Taylor’s tribute to her late grandmother Marjorie Finlay, an opera singer who passed away in 2003. When she announced the album, she wrote: “My grandmother, Marjorie, still visits me sometimes…if only in my dreams.”

Writing and Production

The song’s lyrics are structured like chants, composed of life lessons Taylor learned from Marjorie, including: “Never be so kind, you forget to be clever/ Never be so clever, you forget to be kind”. Taylor brings in Marjorie’s voice at the end of the song, when she confesses, “If I didn’t know better/I’d think you were singing to me now.” In this moment, Marjorie’s soprano voice is singing along with her. The song also depicts the grief and guilt Taylor felt over the memory of her grandmother.

“marjorie” was the precursor to “peace“, the fifteenth track on folklore; the drone in “peace” is a sample of the drone in the bridge of “marjorie”. Aaron Dessner, Taylor’s producer and co-writer, developed an instrumental track which Taylor used to write the song. She provided Aaron Dessner with Marjorie’s old opera recordings, which he sampled on the final portion of the song. Aaron’s twin brother Bryce Dessner orchestrated it, with vintage synths and strings, with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon on background vocals. Aaron Dessner said the following on the song:

«It’s interesting, because with 'marjorie,' that’s a track that actually existed for a while, and you can hear elements of it behind the song 'peace.' This weird drone that you hear on 'peace,' if you pay attention to the bridge of 'marjorie,' you’ll hear a little bit of that in the distance. [...] In a weird way, it’s one of the most experimental songs on the album — it doesn’t sound that way, but when you pick apart the layers underneath it, it’s pretty interesting.»

Aaron Dessner

Connection to folklore

Just as evermore is a sister album to folklore, this is a sister song to “epiphany,” the stark ballad of her grandfather Archie Dean Swift and his World War II combat experience on Guadalcanal. Like “epiphany,” “marjorie” is placed at Track 13 — a number near to Taylor’s heart. Dean was her father’s father, Marjorie her mother’s mother. But they both inspire their granddaughter to visit some scary places creatively. They’re both songs about living with the dead as you grow older, and feeling their spirit in your bones.

Lyric Video

Taylor made a video for “marjorie,” full of family footage featuring Marjorie. In one scene, she shares a piano bench with her granddaughter; Taylor is just a toddler, but Marjorie is already showing her where to place her hands on the keys. It is a powerful image, especially when you consider all the songs Taylor would go on to write with these hands. It makes you imagine the conversations she’d have with her granddaughter as she made a life in music, the kind of life Marjorie could only dream about. But she didn’t live long enough to see her become a star. As Taylor sings, she died with “All your closets of backlogged dreams/And how you left them all for me.”

Commercial Performance

In the United States, “marjorie” debuted and peaked at No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also peaked at No. 16 on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart, staying for three weeks, and it peaked at numNo. 56 on the Rolling Stone Top 100 chart. Internationally, it reached No. 66 on the Billboard Global 200. Elsewhere, the song peaked at No. 57 on Australia’s ARIA Singles Chart, No. 48 on the Canadian Hot 100, and No. 94 on the UK Streaming Chart.

Critical Reception

The A.V. Club critic Annie Zaleski lauded “marjorie” for its heart-wrenching lyricism and “anguished” production, and named it one of Taylor’s best songs to date. NME writer Hannah Mylrea thought that the song effectively depicts the grief and the complex guilt that is tied with it. Maura Johnston, writing for Entertainment Weekly, opined that the song’s whirring synthesizers, strings, and Marjorie’s “fluttery” soprano add life to Taylor’s emotional vocals. Chris Willman of Variety claimed that “marjorie” will “leave a dry eye only in houses that have never known death”, and the faint audio samples of Marjorie’s vocals is the “pièce de résistance” of the song’s poignancy.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Never be so kind
You forget to be clever
Never be so clever
You forget to be kind

[Pre-Chorus]
And if I didn’t know better
I’d think you were talking to me now
If I didn’t know better
I’d think you were still around

[Chorus]
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, you’re alive in my head
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, so alive

[Verse 2]
Never be so politе
You forget your power
Nevеr wield such power
You forget to be polite

[Pre-Chorus]
And if I didn’t know better
I’d think you were listening to me now
If I didn’t know better
I’d think you were still around

[Chorus]
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, you’re alive in my head
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, so alive

[Bridge]
The autumn chill that wakes me up
You loved the amber skies so much
Long limbs and frozen swims
You’d always go past where our feet could touch
And I complained the whole way there
The car ride back and up the stairs
I should’ve asked you questions
I should’ve asked you how to be
Asked you to write it down for me
Should’ve kept every grocery store receipt
‘Cause every scrap of you would be taken from me
Watched as you signed your name: Marjorie
All your closets of backlogged dreams
And how you left them all to me

[Chorus]
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, you’re alive in my head
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, so alive

[Outro]
And if I didn’t know better
I’d think you were singing to me now
If I didn’t know better
I’d think you were still around
I know better
But I still feel you all around
I know better
But you’re still around

General Information
Albumevermore
BackupMarjorie Finlay
Bon Iver
ReleasedDecember 11, 2020
Recorded2020
GenreAlternative
Indie Pop
Length4:18
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Aaron Dessner
ProducersAaron Dessner
Taylor Swift
EVERMORE CHRONOLOGY
long story shortmarjorieclosure
Marjorie Finlay
Song Artwork
Lyric Video
Official Audio