It all started with a cryptic Instagram post on April 27, 2020.

Which lead to the surprise release of Taylor Swift’s 8th studio album “folklore” on July 24, 2020.

Then we got this even more cryptic Instagram post on November 22, 2020.

Which led to the surprise announcement and debut of Taylor Swift’s ninth studio album “evermore” on December 11th, 2020. Long story short, it is a sister album to “folklore.” 

And there is so much to unravel about these songs from their meanings to who wrote them to featured artists and surprise background vocalists. Let’s get into it. 

Track 1: “willow”

Written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

The first single from “evermore” with an accompanying video, there is so much to dissect. 

The song was hinted at twice by Taylor. Once in the November 23rd, 2020 Instagram post where a framed picture of a willow was pictured in the background of the post. Also spotted in one of the framed pictures is ivy which is another song on the album. She also hinted at it in a tweet where she was thanking “Rolling Stone” for ranking “folklore” as the best album in 2020.

The meaning: in a Q&A during the YouTube premiere of the music video for this song, Taylor herself said “’willow’ is about intrigue, desire, and the complexity that goes into wanting someone. I think it sounds like casting a spell to make somebody fall in love with you (an oddly specific visual).” 

The video: Full of Easter eggs. She said on the livestream of the premiere: “Easter eggs: You’ve seen my co-star in this video somewhere before. One scene represents how I feel about fame. There’s a scene to represent each season throughout the journey of the video.” It turns out her co-star in the video, Taeok Lee, was a dancer during her “Red” tour. 

Taylor also said on the livestream: “Specific songs from folklore actually helped inspire the worlds you’ll see in this video, and I used a narrative plot device from a lyric on folklore to tell the story.” The specific songs, according to Swift: “There’s a scene in the video that represents the song ‘seven,’ one that represents ‘mirrorball,’ one for ‘exile,’ and one for ‘mad woman.’”

From that, here is what I gathered:

    • The continuation of “willow” from the “cardigan” video seems to be the “exile” lyric of “I think I’ve seen this film before”

    • She is holding a gold string throughout the video which is a nod to “invisible string” from “folklore”

    • When she looks into the pond, seeing her reflection like a “mirrorball” and “mirrorball” is also referenced in the scene in the music video depicting a circus from the “mirrorball” lyric “And they called off the circus / Burned the disco down.”

    • An obvious nod to “seven” with the two kids playing under a blanket fort

    • She is trapped in the glass where she was performing which is how she feels about her fame but then finds a trap door to escape — likely her time spent in England with Joe.

    • We see her in a cloak performing a ritual that is similar to a coven which is a nod to “mad woman” 

    • A poster at the circus promoting “The Python” shows a woman surrounded by a giant snake which is a look back at her “reputation” album.

    •  The ending of the video shows Taylor and her lover walking out into the daylight, a reference to her song “Daylight” on the “Lover” album.

Best lyrics: “Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind”, “The more you say, the less I know / Wherever you stray, I follow”, and “I come back stronger than a 90’s trend”

Track 2: “champagne problems”

Written by Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn

The meaning: This song tells the story of a young woman who shocks the man who was about to propose to her and also shocks their loved ones by turning down the proposal. Taylor Swift said during the livestream that one song is “one where longtime college sweethearts had very different plans for the same night, one to end it and one brought a ring.” 

Best lyrics: “And soon they’ll have the nerve to deck the halls / That we once walked through” and “But you’ll find the real thing instead / She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred”

Track 3: “gold rush”

Written by Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff

All members of “The Bleachers” played on this track

The meaning: This song is about coming to grips with the reality of waking up from a daydream and realizing that the person you’re attracted to is just like everyone else who isn’t original and just part of the uniformity of society. It touches on the jealousy of the ease at which some people have of just fitting in. In the livestream, Taylor Swift says that this is Jack Antonoff’s favorite song and that the song “takes place inside a single daydream where you get lost in thought for a minute and then snap out of it.” 

Best lyrics: “I don’t like that falling feels like flying ‘til the bone crush”

Track 4: “‘tis the damn season”

Written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

This song is the sister song to “dorothea” 

The meaning: In the liner notes of the album, Taylor says that one of the storylines is “Dorothea, the girl who left her small town to chase Hollywood dreams-and what happens when she comes back for the holidays and rediscovers an old flame”. This song is about her coming home and rediscovering that old flame and the ups and downs of that connection.

Best lyrics: “And the road not taken looks real good now / And it always leads to you and my hometown”

Track 5: “tolerate it”

Written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

The meaning: This song is about the struggle of wanting love and affection from someone who isn’t giving it to you. Taylor Swift had this to say about it on the livestream: “I decided on track 5 because of the lyrics of ‘tolerate it’ and how it’s so visual, and conveys such a specific kind of hurt.” 

Best lyrics: “I know my love should be celebrated / But you tolerate it” and “I made you my temple, my mural, my sky / Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life”

Track 6: “no body, no crime” featuring HAIM

Written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

The meaning: The song depicts a man cheating on Este Haim but Este not being able to prove it. Then, Este goes missing. Everyone close to her assumes it was the man who then moves in with his mistress. Now, Taylor is getting revenge. This song is a nod to her country roots. Taylor Swift shared about the song: “I wrote ‘no body, no crime’ by myself. It was inspired by my obsession with true crime podcasts/documentaries and I used one of my best friends’ names as the main character…The Haim sisters have been my best friends for years and we’ve played together so many times but this is the first time we’ve done a song together.” 

Taylor then told Entertainment Weekly: “Working with the Haim sisters on ‘no body, no crime’ was pretty hilarious because it came about after I wrote a pretty dark murder mystery song and had named the character Este, because she’s the friend I have who would be stoked to be in a song like that. I had finished the song and was nailing down some lyric details and texted her, ‘You’re not going to understand this text for a few days but…which chain restaurant do you like best?’ and I named a few,” she recalled. “She chose Olive Garden and a few days later I sent her the song and asked if they would sing on it. It was an immediate ‘YES.’ Long story short, I’m the 4th Haim sister now, confirmed.”

Best lyrics: “No, there ain’t no doubt / I think I’m gonna call him out” and “No body, no crime / But I ain’t lettin’ up until the day I die” 

Track 7: “happiness” 

Written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

The meaning: Finished only a week before the album’s debut, “happiness” is a deceptive name for a sad song. It depicts going through the worst of a heartbreak but acknowledging that there were good aspects and moments of the relationship even though the overall relationship was toxic. Though morose, the song is ultimately hopeful to find that happiness again that is more pure and without the toxic environment. 

Best lyrics: “And in my disbelief, I can’t face reinvention / I haven’t met the new me yet” and “There’ll be happiness after you / But there was happiness because of you / Both of these things can be true”

Track 8: “dorothea” 

Written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

The meaning: The first song written for the album, the song was written, as Taylor previously said “Dorothea, the girl who left her small town to chase Hollywood dreams-and what happens when she comes back for the holidays and rediscovers an old flame” but this song is from the point of view of said “old flame”. Taylor Swift has clarified that Dorothea is “not a direct continuation of the Betty/James/August storyline, but in [her] mind Dorothea went to the same school as Betty, James, and Inez.” 

Best lyrics: “The stars in your eyes shined brighter in Tupelo” 

Track 9: “coney island” featuring The National

Written by Taylor Swift, Joe Alwyn, Aaron Dessner, and Bryce Dessner

The meaning: The song seems to be depicting the realization of the end of a relationship.

Fans are speculating that the song references many of her ex-boyfriends:

      • John Mayer (“Did I paint your bluest skies the darkest grey” which sounds a lot like a lyric in her song “Dear John”)

      • Jake Gyllenhaal (“Were you standing in the hallway, With a big cake, happy birthday” which is reference to when Taylor allegedly cried in the bathroom at her birthday party when Jake didn’t show up)

      • Harry Styles (“And when I got into the accident” which is a reference to Harry Styles infamous snowmobile accident)

      • Calvin Harris (“But when I walked up to the podium I think that I forgot to say your name” which could be a nod to when Taylor Swift publicly thanked Calvin Harris at an awards show and he failed to return the favor whenever accepting awards).

And it should come as no surprise that Coney Island is located in Brooklyn’s 13th District. 

Best lyrics: “If I can’t relate to you anymore / Then who am I related to?” and “‘Cause we were like the mall before the internet / It was the place to be”

Track 10: “ivy”

Written by Taylor Swift, Aaron Dessner, and Jack Antonoff 

Background vocals from Justin Vernon from Bon Iver.

The meaning: The song depicts the love a woman feels for someone who is not her husband, this leading to an affair. The song begins with the mention of a widow grieving at the stone (a grave). Then the song ends by saying “my house of stone, your ivy grows” like the house the woman is in is the grave. 

Best lyrics: “I’d meet you where the spirit meets the bones” and “I’d live and die for moments that we stole / On begged and borrowed time”

Track 11: “cowboy like me” 

Written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

Background vocals by Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons

The meaning: Taylor Swift has mentioned that she has a song about two con artists who fall in love and this one is it. It details their emotional game of tag “while hanging out at fancy resorts trying to score rich romantic beneficiaries. 

Best lyrics:You’re a bandit like me”

Track 12: “long story short”

Written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

The meaning: Taylor Swift has gone through many public character assassination and seems to be a song for her long time boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, as a follow up to her song “peace” from her album “folklore”. She met Joe the same night she met Tom Hiddleston. Taylor expresses how she feels she rebounded with the wrong guy. The song finishes beautifully with a sign of relief and acknowledgment that she is on the other side of the drama and at peace with her life as it is now.

Best lyrics: “Long story short, I survived” and “Your nemeses / Will defeat themselves before you get the chance to swing”

Track 13: “marjorie” 

Written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

Background vocals from Justin Vernon and Marjorie Finlay

*Marjorie Finlay is Taylor Swift’s grandmother who was an opera singer. Recordings of her singing were put in as background vocals to signify the two singing together.

The meaning: A moving tribute to Taylor Swift’s opera-singing grandmother Marjorie Finlay, the song pays tribute to the woman who inspired and encouraged Taylor’s love and passion for music. Marjorie unfortunately passed away in 2003. Taylor sings about feeling her presence, her love, and imagines her grandmother singing along with her. 

Best lyrics: “I should’ve asked you questions / I should’ve asked you how to be / Asked you to write down for me”, “‘Cause every scrap of you would be taken from me”, and “I know better / But you’re still around”

Track 14: “closure” 

Written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

The meaning: The perspective of the song is someone addressing their ex-partner or maybe even a former friend who wrote them a letter about receiving closure about why they fell out. The person who received the letter (the narrator of the song) doesn’t feel the need to have closure. They don’t want to give that person the satisfaction of responding and allowing that person to think everything is okay now. 

Best lyrics: “And seeing the shape of your name / Still spells out pain”, “I’m fine with my spite / And my tears, and my beers and my candles”

Track 15: “evermore” featuring Bon Iver

Written by Taylor Swift, Joe Alwyn, and Aaron Dessner

The meaning: A sad duet depicting the end of a relationship but the ending is one of hope. It is very “mental health” centric and that’s what makes this piece so emotional. It alludes to all of the struggles Taylor Swift went through after many attempts at character assassinations. 

Best lyrics: “Writing letters / Addressed to the fire”

Caroline C.
FFL Cabinet Member
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