by Claire Jones
Well, she did it again. In December, Taylor Swift dropped her second album of the year as a surprise to fans for her birthday. Evermore, the sister album to folklore, was just as beautiful but rather more hopeful. Taylor dropped evermore with as little warning as she gave us with folklore. I had just finished taking my last final and was in no way prepared to handle the rollercoaster of emotions inherent in experiencing any of Taylor’s albums. Nevertheless, the next day I shut myself in a room by myself to listen to evermore. Once again, Taylor seemed to know exactly what I needed even when I didn’t. Although evermore was less painful to experience, it was no less emotionally draining.
Folklore had been the start of the grieving process for me. Through Taylor’s words, I was able to identify and process the emotions I had been feeling since quarantine and lockdown became my reality. Evermore was the start of the healing process. In this album, I was able to finally start to find a sense of who I was in a new normal. I was able to grasp hope and happiness in a way that I hadn’t been able to since March of 2020. The process was not painless by any means, but it was progress that was worthwhile.
Folklore was the knife in a surgery: excruciatingly painful but utterly necessary before healing could take place. Evermore was the needle used when stitching up the incision after the surgery, the start of the true healing. But I had to start on the operating table. The first bonus track “right where you left me” was the memory of the injury, fittingly so, since it is a song about being trapped in a memory. My favorite lines from the song are the beginning of the second verse. Taylor sings “did you ever hear about the girl who got frozen? / time went on for everybody else / she don’t know it.” For me, this came closer to encapsulating the true horror of the pandemic than anything else had. I was trapped, cognizant of time moving on, but not in it. I watched the seasons change outside my window, but I wasn’t out in the world. Because nothing was happening, it was hard to process the progression of time. Even now in 2021, it still feels like I never really moved past spring break in March of 2020. I’m still frozen. However, that feeling is slowly—terribly slowly—starting to fade. I am starting to thaw out, as the initial shock and horror begins to dissipate. It only took a year and two Taylor Swift albums in the end.
Another song that I found extremely impactful was “happiness”, track seven on the album. In the first verse, Taylor sings “I was dancing when the music stopped, / and in the disbelief, I can’t face reinvention / you haven’t met the new me yet.” This is an adequate depiction of the way I felt throughout the summer lockdown. Reinvention is necessary. The world will never be quite the same as it was before March of 2020. There will be a new normal eventually, but it will be different from the old normal, and we must change with the times. However, that does not make it easy to do so. In fact, the amount of change necessary to fit in is extremely intimidating. I haven’t put together all of the pieces of the new me yet. At times, I still find myself reeling in disbelief at just how big the changes I must make are. Nevertheless, the new me is slowly starting to emerge.
My favorite lyrics in “happiness,” however, come from the chorus. Taylor sings “There’ll be happiness after you / but there was happiness because of you / both of these things can be true.” I think that this is one of the most beautiful lyrics from the whole album. And also one of the most comforting. Sometimes, in the middle of the fear and misery brought on by a global pandemic, it is hard to find any happiness, and harder still to believe that happiness will come again. I have been there and fought that battle. But there is happiness. Not only will there be happiness again after the end of the pandemic, but there is also happiness in the middle of the mess that Covid created. That is so strange to realize, but it is true. Despite all of the struggles that lockdown brought about, I was able to spend more time with my family than I have been able to since I began college. There was happiness in baking cookies with my little sister, or watching football with my brothers, or talking with my parents. When Covid is behind us, there will be happiness again with our friends, with the freedom that we will have again, with the lifting of fear. However, neither of these types of happiness contradict or cancel each other. They are both true. That knowledge is perhaps one of the greatest gifts that Taylor has ever given me.
The last song that really impacted me was “evermore,” the final track on the album. All of Taylor’s genius in song writing is on display in this song. Just like “this is me trying” was the song I picked to encapsulate all that I was feeling from folklore, “evermore” was the song I would pick to most aptly sum up my evermore experience. Right from the start, when Taylor sings, “Grey November, I’ve been down since July,” I felt something in me still, as if to say, “listen up, this is important.” The holiday season was hard. My family usually travels to see my grandparents at Christmas, but we chose not to this year for safety reasons. While as an introvert I enjoyed the quieter Christmas, I also really missed my grandparents. It felt like all the progress I had made had vanished. Taylor goes on to sing “I replay my footsteps on each stepping stone / trying to find the one where I went wrong.” That sums up my winter break. I kept wondering where I went wrong. How did I end up back in that place where I was wondering if good things still existed? The worst part was that I couldn’t find a reason. There was nothing I did. Regression is just a necessary part of healing. That didn’t make it any easier to endure.
In the chorus, Taylor sings “I was catching my breath / staring out an open window / catching my death.” Poetic, but the underlying meaning holds true. I had frozen over again. Whatever measure of happiness I had found over the course of the semester slipped away when we went back online. Taylor adds, “and I couldn’t be sure / but I had a feeling so peculiar / that this pain would be for evermore.” She zeroed in on my problem. The end of the year had come and no real end was in sight. It had begun to feel again like the pain was going to be there forever, emotionally at least. Logic had nothing to do with it. After all, it was a peculiar feeling.
Taylor continues in the second verse with “hey, December, I’ve been feeling unmoored / can’t remember what I used to fight for.” During the last month of the year, I tend to look back on the year as a whole and try to see what I’ve learned from it. looking back at everything from 2020, however, was pretty depressing. Unmoored is a good word for what I was feeling. I was adrift without an anchor. It wasn’t so much a feeling of purposelessness, which was what I had felt in the summer, but it was rather a feeling of being lost. I knew that there was still good, still beauty, still happiness in the world, but I didn’t know how to feel it. I didn’t know how to turn knowing into belief.
However, Taylor doesn’t end the song there, and my journey didn’t end there either. In the bridge—always the best part of a Taylor Swift song—she sings “when I was shipwrecked I thought of you, / in the cracks of light I dreamed of you / and it was real enough to get me through.” I wasn’t alone. I was lost, but I wasn’t alone. There were cracks of light, and in those moments there were people I clung to who helped me through. My mom was one of them. A couple of my best friends helped as well. My sister was always there for me to vent to and to comfort me. There was happiness, and it was real enough to get me through the sense of being lost in a world of never-ending pain.
Taylor flips the last chorus, something she is known for doing, bringing a new perspective that shines light on the problem she has addressed the whole song. She sings “I couldn’t be sure / I had a feeling so peculiar / that this pain wouldn’t be for evermore.” Once again, when everything was too dark to get through, she provided the light. As December passed and my life steadied again, I began to believe that the pain and grief would end someday, even someday soon. With the announcement of a vaccine, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. We’re not out of it yet. It will probably still take months or even years to get there, but there is happiness waiting. “This pain wouldn’t be for evermore.” What a wonderful way to end a beautiful album. What a wonderful way to end 2020. I do believe that is true. I hope that anyone else still struggling can find this as encouraging as I do.