Folklore vs. Evermore
2020 could be dubbed as the quarantine year, with many individuals spending time at home with little to do. However, throughout the time of the quarantine, American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift was hard at work as she shocked fans as she released not one, but two surprise albums within five months of each other. Titled Folklore and Evermore, the albums took the charts by storm, broke numerous records, and ended up atop many year-end lists. As listeners have been able to sit with the albums for a few months, it is worth comparing the two and deciding which is arguably better.
The two albums, dubbed as “sister albums” by Swift, each portray a different atmosphere. Both albums deviate from her previous pop albums as the albums take a more folk, cottagecore direction. While Folklore represents spring and summer, Evermore represents autumn and winter. These stylings demonstrate Swift’s finesse in creating a majestic atmosphere for her albums, meriting praise. The albums quickly became her top two best-reviewed albums by critics following their respective releases.
Swift is often known for her witty and impressive lyricism. These two albums are perfect examples to demonstrate her skill. The two albums differ from her previous work as numerous songs were told from third-person perspectives. Folklore’s highlights lyrically include the creation of a love triangle in three different songs: “August”, “Betty”, and “Cardigan”. The album’s other striking narratives include “The Last Great American Dynasty”, where Swift tells the tale of Rebekah Harkness, the former owner of a house she owns in Rhode Island, and “Illicit Affairs” which discusses infidelity and heartache. Evermore also touches upon this narrative storytelling, with linkages between songs such as “‘Tis the Damn Season”, “Dorothea”, and “Tolerate It”. One of the most impressive stories told on Evermore is in the sixth track, “No Body, No Crime”. The chilling song is told from the perspective of a vindictive individual who seeks murderous revenge after having suspicions about infidelity and the death of a friend, Este. In the thirteenth track, Swift recalls her late maternal grandmother in “Marjorie”, where she writes emotion-packed lyrics. Swift produces a complex narrative on Folklore and Evermore by weaving multiple songs together, forging lyrical masterpieces. Personally, although there is clever juxtaposition in Folklore with the songs creating a love triangle, Evermore only narrowly edges out Folklore on a lyrical level as the imagery and emotion generated through Evermore’s lyrics are more vivid.
The two albums are a new style for Swift. This new style is most likely due to her new collaborator on the albums, Aaron Dessner, a member of the band The National. The albums’ instrumentation differs greatly from her most recent work. Songs from Lover, Reputation, and even 1989 utilize more traditional pop structures and instrumentations. In these two albums, Swift opts for a more stripped-down, acoustic feel with no synths, bass, or modern musical clichés. The usage of soft drums, acoustic guitars, raw pianos, and orchestral-like strings create a wistful listening experience. While the albums do have distinctly similar sounds, one album does take the cake in regards to having better sonics. Although Folklore has standout songs such as “The 1”, “Exile”, and “Cardigan”, Evermore’s instrumentation shines brighter on tracks such as “Willow”, “Champagne Problems”, and “Long Story Short”.
Folklore has been nominated for a few awards in the upcoming Grammys. If Evermore was released at a different point of the music release cycle, it definitely would have as many, if not more, nominations as Folklore. While both albums have great lyricism, narratives, and sounds, Evermore is marginally better than Folklore. These albums are a peak for Swift’s career, justifiably so. These two albums by Swift make a common Swiftie remark ring true: Taylor Swift isn’t just a musician. She is the music industry.