By Flo Sillett-Scoggins |
From an artist known for her tricks, games and hidden hints, the release of the albums folklore and evermore came as both a surprise and a predictable move to the loyal fans of Taylor Swift. With less than twenty-four hours’ notice, the star thrusted her fans into united elation that to many materialised in an anticipation only comparable to a child’s sleepless Christmas eve. It soon seemed as if tis’ [was] the damn season for a Swift release run, as a mere four months after the release of the August album folklore, Swift announced the existence of its sister, evermore.
So, with two closely linked albums whispering in the undercurrent of pop music there was, of course, bound to be a dangerous dialogue that would emerge in the form of yet another controversial argument in pop culture. The eternal question of Team Jacob or Team Edward asked amongst worried groups of twenty-somethings reminiscing over their high-school love for Twilight will, no doubt, continue yet Swift’s recent albums appear to have added another point for discussion. With adorning loyalty fans are eager to interrogate unsuspecting listeners as to their position of favour, folklore or evermore, but perhaps more exciting to those of us who have been country dancing with Tay Tay since 2006, these albums seem to arise as her Getaway Car from the pop world—and we couldn’t be more excited.
Released at a time where the music industry is battling in a war to guard their territory the albums are a welcome example that the artists topping our charts have not yet surrendered to the unfortunate deterioration of the arts industries. Crippled by the ongoing push back of tour dates and the shackled struggles of virtual promotion, many artists appear to have fallen silent this past year; although a handful have admitted defeat to this new reality and have begun, as Swift did months ago, to adjust and perform. In setting up a make-shift home-studio, with soundproofing fabricated from curtains, duvets and miscellaneous material, Swift has risen above the year’s challenges to produce albums that are unlike any other.
In other words, not only do these albums emerge to redirect Swift’s genre identification, but this collection serves as a justification to her long-standing place within music. Observed through these albums is an artist that holds a defiant determination to produce a professionalism that one can only marvel at and, as such, Swift has proven her value to the careless critics and jealous rivals who have long criticised her talent; yet ironically at thirty-one years old it appears as if she no longer needs approval.
these albums highlight Swift’s evolvement into a conscious artist
Both folklore and evermore demonstrate an evolvement of maturity that grounds the growth of Swift as both an artist and a woman moving through life. Although the writing on the albums cannot be said to have progressed conceptually, given the anticipated conquering of topics related to love and its turmoil, it is this storytelling that identifies Swift’s work; therefore, perhaps an interpretation of love is unavoidable for an artist who has long profited from relationship breakdowns and illicit affairs. Most certainly, however, the narration on these two albums is far superior to the preppy, arguably shallow lyrical explorations that emerged within her pop work, and as such both folklore and evermore reveal to the listener an intimate, authentic artist that has finally succumbed to the pull of her country roots. Swift appears to have discarded her expectations within pop music to creatively reconstruct an image that appears disassociated to the music emerging from her contemporaries.
The label ‘indie alternative’ is, therefore, perhaps now more fitting for an artist that has existed within pop for almost a decade. In abandoning her desperation for acceptance within pop music, Swift has surrendered to a creative freedom that permits explicit language and dark narratives; she consequently reveals a personality far more suited to her maturity and evolvement as an artist. Described as an era, the release of these two albums introduces a new facet to Swift’s songwriting, as no longer appearing the fragile writer baring her diary for world-wide listening, Swift has developed into narrator, storyteller, and author. With the creation of characters and fictional fantasies, the writing on Swift’s recent albums materialises to mirror the fictional forms of imaginary folk songs and long-lost lullabies; as such these tales, partnered with her mystically melodic vocal tone, have the resounding feeling of her coming home.
No longer a writer in exile, these albums highlight Swift’s evolvement into a conscious artist through her embrace of a collective group of collaborators that are both surprising and unequivocally obvious. Equally removed from the blinding perfection of the pop world as the singer herself within these albums, through their authentically distant yet famed familiarity, these artists appear to suit this new era of Swift. With Bon Iver, The National, HAIM and producer and writer, Jack Antonoff making up the majority of the credits on both albums, Swift has kept her circle small and as such the albums appear tied together with an invisible string. Through the sounds and melodic patterns, a cohesive current is so clearly heard to be running through the albums, so much so that it is clear to understand the sisterhood described between them. Although the same in rural aesthetic, the albums become distinct through contrasting themes and atmospheric alterations.
Swift has encountered a musical epiphany that flourishes with her maturity
As explained by Swift herself, folklore tackles the subject of conflict resolution, with stories of confessions and truth emerging within vast soundscapes of sailing strings and gallant guitars. evermore, no different in musical style, although most certainly stronger in its exploration of varied timbres, is very much an album of closure, with the theme of endings parading throughout. Yet, no matter the theme, these albums above all appear as a collection of stories that are equally magical as they are mysterious, pure, and a delightful creation of her musical friendships.
Ultimately Swift, no longer scrutinised by ignorant idealists as the mad woman of the music industry, has encountered a musical epiphany that flourishes with her maturity, growth, and accepted happiness. Swift finally seems to have found her voice and her fans and others have, unapologetically, welcomed the beloved country star with open arms back to her home of country music.