In 2020 – the year most will say has been the worst of their lives, the year when my greatest accomplishment some days is taking a shower – Taylor Swift released not one, but two, full-length studio albums.
Several years back, I blogged about why I hate Taylor Swift, which, spoiler alert, I don’t really. Basically, I was admitting to the world (or the 5 people who read my blog) that I was jealous of her ability to produce “words on paper.” Good words, too. I struggle so much with wanting to write, with having my head full of words, but those words never making it to the page.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m always taking on other obligations rather than devoting time to my own writing. Maybe it’s because I’m tired or lack motivation. Maybe it’s because I have ADHD (I got sidetracked this morning watching woodpeckers outside my window for way too long). Maybe because I don’t put enough value on my writing time or always relegate it to the end of the to-do list.
So here we are in a year that has forced us to stay home more often than not and what do we have to show for it? By we, I mean me, of course. I’m sure some have used this time to master a new skill, learn a new language, or something else uber-productive (this reminds me of that David Tennant-Michael Sheen video making its way around social media) while others haven’t.
*Obviously, we’re in a pandemic. It’s not like we’re on vacation. There’s a lot of mental and emotional anguish that has accompanied this year, and that pressure hurts productivity. Certainly, someone who’s experienced trauma or difficulties as a result of the pandemic shouldn’t be expected to accomplish more during this time. But, knock-on-wood, my family’s been pretty lucky/blessed to not get sick or face major setbacks as a result. Essentially, we’re just home all the time, and, as a homebody, I sort of feel like I’m thriving right now. Well, except for my writing.
When Folklore came out in the Summer, I swore I needed to write about it. I would sit on my back deck in the evening sun and write in my head as the music lingered in my ears. But those words never made it to paper.
I know there’s been loads of coverage about Taylor’s second album this year; I even saw something the other day to suggest these might be part of a trilogy (!). I also know some are sick of hearing about her; I saw a post on social media saying all the songs were the same, with a few curse words thrown in for shock value. But the songs are not all the same, and she’s really doing something amazing here with words and music.
Folklore, released on July 24, 2020, contained 16 songs plus a bonus track. Taylor released Cardigan along with a music video, which she directed. She also announced that it was part of a trilogy of songs about a teenage love triangle, one song from the perspective of each party, and confirmed that the other two were Betty, and August. Cardigan tells the story from Betty’s perspective; Betty, from James’ perspective; and August from “the other girl’s” perspective (maybe Inez? though she could just be the gossiper). Other tracks that sparked attention included Exile (feat. Bon Iver) and The Last Great American Dynasty, which tells the story of Holiday House, the house Taylor bought in Maine. Seven is based on Taylor’s childhood in Pennsylvania and is my favorite of the whole album, probably because it reminds me of Anne of Green Gables.
Of course, I’m a writer and I like words; so I could highlight my favorite lines from each of the 17 songs (I hyperfocused this morning and wrote them all down). Instead, I’ll just tell you the most cohesive song and the best line of the whole album:
Most cohesive song: My Tears Ricochet
Best Line: "They told me all of my cages were mental / So I got wasted like all my potential / And my words shoot to kill when I'm mad / I have a lot of regrets about that" (This is Me Trying)
Sadly, I think, these might be the songs many skip on the album because they’re not as catchy or upbeat. But when you slow down and listen, they’re worth the time.
Evermore, dubbed Folklore‘s sister album and released on December 11, 2020, contains 15 songs and a digital booklet in which Taylor writes, “we just couldn’t stop writing songs.” The knife in my jealous heart turns.
The opening number, Willow, is the first single and, like Cardigan before it, comes with another Taylor-directed music video that literally picks up where Cardigan ended. The Evermore stories span from the dark yet fun – like No Body, No Crime – to the heart-wrenching — like Marjorie, a tribute to Taylor’s grandmother.
Most cohesive song: Ivy
Best Line: "I made you my temple, my mural, my sky / Now I'm begging for footnotes in the story of your life" (Tolerate It).
Right now, Ivy is the obvious frontrunner for my favorite, though I am having a tough time choosing just one. Of course, that just means I need to sit with the whole thing some more. So, I’ll let the music linger in my ears some more, as I peer out windows into the cold and watch the woodpeckers congregate in the trees.
Featured Image Credit: Evermore Album Art