Welcome to evermore.
Taylor Swift dropped her ninth studio album at midnight on Friday, Dec. 11, just hours after announcing the surprise record. In her message to fans, the Grammy winner called evermore the "sister record" to her beloved album folklore, which she released in July.
"To put it plainly, we just couldn't stop writing songs," the artist explained in a Dec. 10 Instagram post. "To try and put it more poetically, it feels like we were standing on the edge of the folklorian woods and had a choice: to turn and go back or to travel further into the forest of this music. We chose to wander deeper in."
"I've never done this before. In the past I've always treated albums as one-off eras and moved onto planning the next one after an album was released. There was something different with folklore," she noted. "In making it, I felt less like I was departing and more like I was returning. I loved the escapism I found in these imaginary/not imaginary tales. I loved the ways you welcomed the dreamscapes and tragedies and epic tales of love lost and found into your lives."
So, as Swift said, she just kept writing. Much like folklore, T.Swift—who turns 31 on Sunday, Dec. 13—collaborated with Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and William Bowery, which is a pseudonym for her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. In fact, the couple wrote three songs for the album together, including "champagne problems" as well as "coney island" and the title track "evermore." Alwyn even plays the piano on "evermore," which is the last song on the standard edition of the album.
In her note to fans at midnight on Friday, Swift sent a reminder that these are tales she created, so the stories are not entirely based on her real life.
Let's take a look at all of the hidden messages and Easter eggs in evermore.
"willow": The story continues with the first track on the album, "willow," which picks up right where "cardigan" left off. The music video for the song, which T.Swift also released at midnight, shows the singer—wearing her cardigan—following a single thread of gold back into her piano. "Life was a willow, and it bent right to your wind / They count me out time and time again," she sings on the track. "Life was a willow, and it bent right to your wind / But I come back stronger than a '90s trend."
Swift left an Easter eggs ahead of the music video's release on Friday, posting a photo of herself walking toward a forest. Well, as it turns out, Swift and Alwyn took a trip to Utah—where there's a Willow Lake Trail—in August and the actor posted a similar picture to his Instagram account. "willow is about intrigue, desire and the complexity that goes into wanting someone," she told fans during a chat before the premiere. "I think it sounds like casting a spell to make someone fall in love with you (an oddly specific visual)."
Taeok Lee, who plays Swift's love interest in the music video, previously danced with her on tour.
"champagne problems": As Swift noted in her YouTube chat with fans, the song "champagne problems"—which she co-wrote with Alwyn—is "not bubbly." In fact, it's actually about two people in a relationship with totally opposite plans, which leads to a proposal being turned down.
"gold rush": T.Swift told fans that her longtime pal and collaborator Jack Antonoff's favorite song on the album is "gold rush," which as she explained, "takes place inside a single daydream where you get lost in thought for a minute and then snap out of it."
"'tis the damn season": Swift actually teased the title to this track just days ago in an Instagram Story post, writing that her outfit for her Entertainment Weekly photoshoot "really screams ‘TIS THE DAMN SEASON."
"tolerate it": This is the song Swift chose for the album's track five, which has become the spot where she places some of her most heartbreaking tracks. "I sit and watch you reading with your head low / I wake and watch you breathing with your eyes closed," Swift sings on the track. "I sit and watch you / I notice everything you do or don't do / You're so much older and wiser, and I / I wait by the door like I'm just a kid / Use my best colors for your portrait / Lay the table with the fancy s--t / And watch you tolerate it."
"If it's all in my head tell me now / Tell me I've got it wrong somehow," she continues. "I know my love should be celebrated / But you tolerate it."
Ahead of the album release, Swift shared with her fans, "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."
"no body, no crime" (featuring Haim): This whodunnit track, which is likely to become a fan favorite fast, includes Swift's longtime pals Haim. The main character is named after the band's singer and bassist, Este Haim. "Este's a friend of mine / We meet up every Tuesday night for dinner and a glass of wine," the lyrics start off. "Este's been losin' sleep /Her husband's actin' different, and it smells like infidelity / She says, 'That ain't my merlot on his mouth, that ain't my jewelry on our joint account' / No there ain't no doubt / I think I'm gonna call him out."
Dishing about the song on YouTube, Swift told fans, "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." She also noted, "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."
On Friday, Swift also addressed her lyric in the song about Olive Garden. "Este wasn't there Tuesday night at Olive Gardеn," the line goes. "At her job or anywhere." What's the story behind it? "I had finished the song and was nailing down some lyric details and texted [Este], '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," Swift told Entertainment Weekly. "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.'"
"happiness": When it comes to this track, all Swift would say is, "Happiness is a very deceptive title." She also revealed that this was the last song she wrote for the album and it was done just last week!
"dorthea": This song was actually the first track T.Swift wrote for evermore...and there's a connection with her characters from folklore. As she explained in her YouTube chat, "There's not a direct continuation of the betty/james/august storyline, but in my mind Dorothea went to the same school as Betty James and Inez."
"coney island" (featuring The National): Swift wrote this track with Alwyn, Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner. "And I'm sitting on a bench in Coney Island / Wondering where did my baby go?" Swift sings. "The fast times, the bright lights, the merry go / Sorry for not making you my centerfold."
The lyrics also could be taken as a nod to Swift's past relationships. "And when I got into the accident / The sight that flashed before me was your face," a reference to the accident in "Out of the Woods" perhaps? And, "But when I walked up to the podium I think that I forgot to say your name," could be a callback to her romance with Calvin Harris. As fans may recall, in Swift's Miss Americana documentary, she reflected on winning Album of the Year at the 2016 Grammys, explaining that she didn't "have a partner to high-five."
"ivy": Though many of these songs are tales, we can't help but notice this "husband" lyric. "I'd live and die for moments that we stole / On begged and borrowed time," Swift sings. "So tell me to run / Or dare to sit and watch what we'll become / And drink my husband's wine."
"cowboy like me": The mystery singer on background vocals? Mumford and Sons' Marcus Mumford!
"long story short": Could this track be about Swift's whirlwind 2016 romance with Tom Hiddleston? "And I fell from the pedestal / Right down the rabbit hole," Swift sings. "Long story short, it was a bad time / Pushed from the precipice / Clung to the nearest lips." As fans may recall, the relationship was short-lived but made numerous headlines and is believed to have inspired Swift's song "Getaway Car," which also references the end of her relationship with Calvin Harris.
"marjorie": Track 13, Swift's lucky number, is dedicated to her grandmother, Marjorie Finlay. As fans will remember, on folklore, Swift wrote track 13's "epiphany" about her grandfather. In the lyric video for "marjorie," Swift shows personal photos and videos of Marjorie, who was an opera singer. In her note to fans about the album, Swift talked about her tribute to her grandmother, who she said "still visits me sometimes...if only in my dreams."
"closure": To whoever this song is about—she got your letter and yes she's doing better. As Swift puts it, "I don't need your closure."
"evermore": (featuring Bon Iver): Swift reteamed with Bon Iver for track 15, which is about realizing certain pain won't last forever. The duo ends the song with the lyrics, "And I was catching my breath / Floors of a cabin creaking under my step / And I couldn't be sure / I had a feeling so peculiar / This pain wouldn't be for evermore."
evermore is out now.