Taylor Swift shocked fans yet again with another surprise album. Following the release of her eighth LP, folklore in July, Swift dropped its successor, evermore on December 11, just in time for her 31st birthday. The album, which just hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 Chart, is deeply emotional, and Swift continues to craft songs built around fictional characters as well as her own personal experiences. To celebrate this new album–and all the subsequent feels listening to it has brought–I’ve decided to rank my top five most emotional tracks. Here are my picks, starting with number five:
5. “coney island” featuring The National (Taylor Swift, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, William Bowery)
Swift once again teams up with The National and William Bowery (a pseudonym used by her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn) on this nostalgic track about a theoretical break-up. Lyrically, “coney island” is one of Swift’s best songs, both on evermore and in her entire catalogue to date.
Standout Lyrics: The question pounds my head/What’s a lifetime of achievement/If I pushed you to the edge?/But you were too polite to leave me/And do you miss the rogue/Who coaxed you into paradise and left you there?/Will you forgive my soul/When you’re too wise to trust me and too old to care?/‘Cause we were like the mall before the internet/It was the one place to be/The mischief, the gift-wrapped suburban dreams/Sorry for not winning you an arcade ring
4. “cowboy like me” (Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner)
In her album liner notes, Swift describes “cowboy like me” as the story of “two young con artists who fall in love while hanging at fancy resorts trying to score rich romantic beneficiaries.” The song also pays homage to her country roots and not just because of the “cowboy” reference. Melodically, the track sounds similar to her debut single, “Tim McGraw” at times, and the “boots beneath the bed” lyric reference gives a nod to this Shania Twain tune. But perhaps the most emotional part of the song comes right at the end when the main character realizes that her lover has also duped her. “Forever is the sweetest con,” Swift as this character sings, followed by “And I’m never gonna love again.”
Standout Lyrics: You had some tricks up your sleeve/Takes one to know one/You’re a cowboy like me/Perched in the dark/Telling all the rich folks anything they wanna hear/Like it could be love/I could be the way forward/Only if they pay for it/You’re a bandit like me/Eyes full of stars/Hustling for the good life/Never thought I’d meet you here/It could be love/We could be the way forward/And I know I’ll pay for it
3. “happiness” (Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner)
Swift tells the story of a failed marriage on “happiness.” Lyrically, this one is also very impressive. (Note all the Great Gatsby metaphors). Sonically, the production is both piano and string-heavy, which adds to the song’s overall wistful tone.
Standout Lyrics: Honey, when I’m above the trees/I see it for what it is/But now my eyes leak acid rain on the pillow where you used to lay your head/After giving you the best I had/Tell me what to give after that/All you want from me now is the green light of forgiveness/You haven’t met the new me yet/And I think she’ll give you that
2. “champagne problems” (Taylor Swift and William Bowery)
Swift teams up with her beau to pen a song about a rejected proposal. This track is also piano-heavy, and Swift does a fine job of creating and telling a complex love-gone-wrong story. In addition, the track affirms that Swift knows how to write a song that’s an absolute gut-punch, whether the premise is based on her own life or not. (Listen to Swift’s recent conversation with Zane Lowe, including her thoughts on pivoting from “diaristic” songwriting here).
Standout Lyrics: Dom Pérignon, you brought it/No crowd of friends applauded/Your hometown skeptics called it/Champagne problems/You had a speech, you’re speechless/Love slipped beyond your reaches/And I couldn’t give a reason/Champagne problems
1. “marjorie” (Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner)
Swift pays homage to her late maternal grandmother, opera singer, Marjorie Finlay on this track named in her honor. Swift expresses appreciation for her grandmother, but also regret in not having had more time with her. To bring the track full circle, Swift includes her grandmother singing as background vocals. (Pro tip: Have some tissues nearby before listening to this one). Rolling Stone recently did a write-up of the song, calling it a “heart-shredding masterpiece.” I concur.
Standout Lyrics: The autumn chill that wakes me up/You loved the amber skies so much/Long limbs and frozen swims/You’d always go past where our feet could touch/And I complained the whole way there/The car ride back and up the stairs/I should’ve asked you questions/I should’ve asked you how to be/Asked you to write it down for me/Should’ve kept every grocery store receipt/’Cause every scrap of you would be taken from me/Watched as you signed your name Marjorie/All your closets of backlogged dreams/And how you left them all to me
Overall, Swift creates another emotionally versatile album with evermore. With how productive and creative she’s been in quarantine, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if she drops a third LP sometime next year.