When everything is falling into place for Taylor Swift, the risk is that she goes too far and overloads the public’s appetite. In Folklore’s “Mirrorball,” she sings, with admirable self-awareness, “I’ve never been natural / All I do is try, try, try.” So when I woke up yesterday to the news that at midnight he was going to repeat the trick he did with Folklore in July: surprise release of an album of remotely-recorded moody pop-folk songs quarantined with National’s Aaron Dessner as well. like his longtime producer, Jack Antonoff, he was concerned. Would it fall back into the pattern of overexposure and backlash that occurred between 1989 and Reputation?
However, hearing the new Evermore doesn’t feel like a threat. A better parallel might be that of the “Side B” albums that Carly Rae Jepsen released after Emotion and Dedicated, arising simply from the mutual enthusiasm of the artist and her fans. Or, closer to Swift’s own urges, publishing an author’s storybook shortly after a successful novel. Lockdown has been a big challenge for musicians in general, but it freed Swift from the near-perpetual touring and publicity grind she’s been on since she was a teenager, and from her sense of obligation to produce music that speeds up the crowds of the stadiums and radio programmers. Swift has always seemed more herself like the precociously talented songwriter; the pop star’s side is where her outstanding student discomfort emerges most. The quarantine came as a period of time to focus mainly on her maturing craft (she turns 31 on Sunday), in the workshop and in the woodshed. When Evermore was announced, she said that she and her collaborators, clearly mostly Dessner, who co-writes and / or co-produces all but one of these 15 songs, just didn’t want to stop writing after Folklore.