Before December of 2020, Jordan Holmes (comedian, author, podcaster) had never, intentionally, listened to a Taylor Swift song. Then began The Swiftening, where Jordan decided to review every Swift album in order. So far, he has covered Swift’s 2006 debut, 2008’s Fearless, 2010’s Speak Now, and 2012‘s Red, 2014’s 1989, 2017’s reputation, 2019’s Lover, and last year’s folklore, which we encourage you to check out if you haven’t already.
For more thoughts on this album, Fancy Boy Matt Drufke reviewed it back on December 14th. You can check out his thoughts here.
We have reached the finish line together, this is the last installment of The Swiftening. Congratulations to me for writing this and I would congratulate you for reading it, but I have seen the numbers and none of you made it through the end of the last sentence, so double congratulations to me.
Is this our last dance together? Most likely not. Taylor Swift released two albums in 2020 and I’m sure she’s gunning for releasing eight in 2021. Why? I’ve read interviews and watched blurghs and, reading between the lines, she’s bored like the rest of us so she’s making music. This is the first time I’ve felt like Swift is relatable.
See, I too am bored, and I too am creating pointless, subpar work. Swift and I are in perfect accord. In the past weeks I have relived the past and blasted through to the present. She and I have had our disagreements (obviously she reads these and obviously I have never been described as having delusions of grandeur), but here we are at the end of our journey together experiencing simpatico for the first time.
She will undoubtedly make many more albums – I assume as a personal affront – so we will be seeing each other again, but for me, this is the completion of a project and, much like Swift’s discography, I can’t wait to have it behind me.
At 9 installments, I wonder, have I listened to so much Taylor Swift that I have lost my mind? Or did I lose my mind and that is why I have listened to so much Taylor Swift? What will I do without her functioning as the dark star around which I orbit? It’s easy, isn’t it, I think, to let go of your mind and just let her narcissistic songs give you permission to forget about yourself and think about what’s really important… Taylor. God. Damn. Swift.
What I struggled to understand through this experience is why people find her songs relatable, but what I realized was that no one finds her songs relatable. They’re not supposed to be relatable, in the same way that an episode of Cribs is not supposed to be relatable. Swift writes songs for the person that we wish we were relatable to. Swift writes fan-fiction. Swift writes music the same way Erika Leonard wrote 50 Shades of Grey and at the same level of quality – which is to say she steals the outline and sucks at writing.
So I will say the same thing to Swift fans that I do to 50 Shades fans – knock it off with this weak shit and hire a Dom.
Now, onto foreverfolkloremore!
evermore, an even more obstinately lowercase’d album than the previous, successfully transcended the boundaries of the very concept of “obstinate” by rhyming at me.
Listen, I obviously deserve to be rhymed at. I have sinned. I have committed all manner of foul deeds. But torture is torture, and it pains me to be rhymed at. That I deserve.
No one deserves two albums devoid of capital letters. That hell is too cruel. What other tragedies will befall us as a species?
Track 1 is “willow” and Taylor Swift is really proud of the music video for it, despite this CG nightmare fucking up my brain forever.
It wasn’t until now that I realized that Swift actually believes she is smart and clever. You don’t write something like, “I come back stronger than a 90s trend” unless you believe yourself to be clever. Writing that lyric is equivalent to sneering at me and I don’t appreciate it.
More than anything else, though, the music video’s pretentious-theater-kid-just-discovers-allegory energy is murdering me. You’re in your 30s now, Swift, stop it with the Midsummer Night’s Dream and get high like the rest of us.
Trapped! Oh no! Forced to play for money!
True love awaits me but I dance for pennies!”
“You can’t treat me like this! I was in Cats!”
“champagne problems” yet another in the endless procession of song and album titles obstinately lowercase’d that Docs obstinately forces me to manually delete every single time I open a sentence, which I continue to do in an obstinate fashion; do you see what terror Swift wreaks upon even the most grammatically unencumbered reviewer?
“Lowercase letters wreak havoc upon the mind, body, and soul” – Thomas Jefferson (probly).
This song is really bad and frustrating. The chorus’ three / one / three / one structure makes me angry, not least of which because, either she understands what the connotation of “champagne problems” is and is mocking all of us poors, or she is misusing “champagne problems” and is therefore trying to relate to us poors, which I find offensive. You must have at least 330 million fewer dollars to ride this roller coaster of friendship.
But, at the beginning of the bridge, describing the male antagonist (i.e., the guy who will be destroyed emotionally by Swift’s proxy, “antagonist”… sure.) Swift describes him as having a “Midas Touch”
Let’s talk a hair about King Midas of Phrygia, obviously she is referencing the famous story of King Midas and his touch of gold, wherein he attempts to out-Twilight-Zone-style, monkey’s paw wish Dionysus (who honestly just wanted to get drunk and give him a wish, there was no reason Midas had to go and make it weird, he coulda asked for a bunch of money without the ability to turn everything into gold and Dionysus woulda been like, “Fuck yea, let’s get blasted”) and then Midas metaphorically punches himself in the dick so hard we know about it thousands of years later. His self-dick punch echoed throughout the western canon.
Saying someone has a Midas touch is calling them a stupid dick puncher, for sure, how about one more story about King Midas, wherein he once again proves himself to be a stupid, selfish dick-puncher? One day, a regular ole’ Mr. Tumnus and Apollo are like, “Hey, the devil can not yet go down to Georgia, so let’s do one of those type deals first. A God and a mortal will compete for musical supremacy and whomever wins probably gets to fuck something or someone cause it’s a Greek myth, natch.” Apollo, being the literal God of music, of course beat the shit out of Mr. Tumnus – Apollo is not a massive fuckup like the Devil – and Tmolus, the God of Mountains, judged it appropriately, saying the God of Fucking Music won the music challenge. King Midas, being a shithead that loves to punch himself in the dick, says nah, Mr. Tumnus is the God of music now. So Apollo was like, yea, fuck King Midas, and transformed his ears into those of a donkey.
Congrats, now you have learned that King Midas is one of the great schlemiels in mythology, and Taylor Swift does not know that. We are now all better than her unless she reads these in which case, back to the drawing board!
Track 3, “gold rush” might as well be this joke by Paul F Tompkins in song form.
I don’t know, Swift, what must it be like?
From Genius, in regards to “‘tis the damn season”:
Every part of that is disgusting to me. First, it is so far beyond not notable that she cursed in a song title because the year is 2021 – WET ASS PUSSY IS A POPULAR SONG TITLE.
Second, this song is a Ryan Reynolds movie, so fuck that.
Third, there is nothing – nothing – ironic about this song being titled “‘tis the damn season” and it being released two weeks prior to Christmas 2020. Words need to mean things, please, I beg of you, look up what words mean!
Fourth, no xmas songs for me, ever.
100% read the title for track 5, “tolerate it”, and thought that it was a Weird Al parody of the appropriately capitalized “Legalize It”. Considering that, historically, track 5s have been the “most emotionally vulnerable” songs on her albums, in context, I would find that hilarious. Unfortunately, it is not.
Apparently, the song is based on the book “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier, and how people just had to get married back in the day and that created lots of problems that many people were very emotional about. “Rebecca” is noted for maybe having been stolen from Brazilian writer Carolina Nabuco’s “A Successora” also everyone likes it, she probably didn’t steal it and it’s ok, also for its themes having been done better, shorter, by James Joyce in “The Dead” (shorter is always better, but that’s just my personal opinion and the correct one).
As far as the song, I would have preferred a Weird Al parody of “Legalize It”.
Not much to say about “no body, no crime” other than it’s a fun little song about two connected homicides.
Wait, before you go… just one more thing.
You’ll never get away with it.
Let’s talk about this, regarding “happiness”, from Genius:
This is something important for Taylor Swift to learn: you do not have to put songs on an album. Nor indeed, do you need to publish every single song you write. My advice is to only publish good songs and not publish bad songs – especially when your album already has fourteen other songs. Many albums clock in at less than 40 minutes! Vince Staples put out some of the best music in 2018 on a 23 minute album! “happiness” alone is 1/5th the length of FM! and a complete waste of time. Try listening to 1/5th of FM!
I’ve exhaustively documented my love affair with Serban Ghenea and his absences on a lot of evermore are notable because the vocal tracks are all mixed the same way and they fucking suck; the mids are cranked way too high; the dampening effect does not provide an intimate atmosphere, it’s counter-productive; the drums are muted and the tight snare is replaced by a shitty, fat snare that drags; the bassist sounds like he was just let go from a wedding band.
“dorothea” is a poorly mixed song and – say it with me – a lot of people and Taylor Swift especially need to be fired for their work on this album.
Rhyming “Dorothea” with “they all wanna be ya” is a war crime and I will see Swift at the Hague.
“coney island” made me scream, out loud, “WHO THE FUCK KEEPS PUTTING A TINY HIGH-PITCHED GUITAR IN MY LEFT EAR!? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!?” So you may have some idea of how I feel about the song already.
That said, after the ear infection that is the intro ends, it’s a fine collaboration with Swift and The National and they both really bring their respective Swift-ness and National-ness. They are aggressively themselves at each other. If you like Swift or The National, you will like everything after the first 15 seconds.
Unfortunately for them, Godspeed You! Black Emperor wrote the song about Coney Island. That guy knows what’s up. “They don’t sleep anymore on the beach” is a far better found metaphor than whatever relationship-blurgh Swift is doing for the hundredth (literally!) time.
While we’re on the subject of GY!BE and folks knowing what’s up, everything Blaise Bailey Finnegan III said on BBF3 was right on the money.
Track 10, “ivy”, is Swift’s attempt at Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and while we’re here, “Dreams” happens to be one of the single best produced songs in human history.
Taste in music is subjective, you can absolutely despise “Dreams” and I will not fight you. But if you tell me that the snare is not perfectly captured, if you tell me that the contrapuntal between the rhythm guitar on your left and the backup vocals on the right is not balanced to the point of ecstasy, if you tell me that Stevie Nicks doesn’t just fucking kill it, if you tell me the bass, the drums, the steel guitar, the slow crescendo of backup singers until she sings thunder and is answered by a thunderous tom-tom are not all in perfect sync, if you tell me this is not one of the best recorded songs of all time, you are wrong, objectively.
Songwriting, hooks, etc., and how you appreciate those elements are all subjective. You can absolutely hate Mozart and think it’s overblown bullshit. Swift’s lyrics and tunes may all touch you in a personal way that Mozart can’t, cool! That’s true of everyone in some way or another!
I cannot tell you that Swift is good or bad, because I am not you. When it comes to songs, if you think something is good or bad, you are correct. 100% of the time. That is my most deeply held belief.
If you think Swift is good, you are correct. If you don’t, you are also correct. Music is my favorite thing in the world. I believe music to be maybe the only thing that proves humanity is worth something. Music exists for itself, only and always and it is always better to have music than not.
Example? I hate more than anyone on Earth the Youth Pastor With A Guitar, but if it were him or be trapped in silence, I would choose to sway in time to the Christ-ified version of “Lean on Me” forever and ever.
Despite how much I shit all over Swift’s entire catalogue, know that I have tapped my toes and sung along with nearly every song. I loved it!
What I can tell you, authoritatively, is that “ivy” is mixed too fat. People asked me what I would think if she were to remaster her earlier albums, prior to these last two, I thought maybe it was a good idea, because the first albums were mixed poorly. But after listening to evermore and forevermoremost, I cannot believe she should be allowed anywhere near a mixing board. The guitars are too sharp, and everything else is too fat, too low, or is a stand-up bass that sounds like it’s trapped in a closet. That is true, objectively.
Get Sounwave back in here!
“cowboy like me” belongs on one of those duet albums aging country stars do with newly ascending country stars. It is not good.
According to Genius, “‘long story short’ is a brisk-paced overview of the public demonizations that Taylor has experienced since her feud with Kanye West in 2016.”
During the time period from 2016 to 2021, Taylor Swift nearly doubled her wealth to $360,000,000. I am sure it was a very bad time. So many public demonizations. Oh no.
Seems like the “public demonizations” of one Taylor Swift have not damaged, perhaps even have enhanced her fame. Hmmm… someone may have contributed to this woman being famous, possibly even to a great extent.
Track 13, “marjorie” is whatever. Apparently it’s a song about her grandma and track 13 on the last album was about her grandpa and hey isn’t that cute, ugh fuck off.
Track 14 is “closure” is a shittier version of TV On The Radio’s “Ambulance”, and they disapprove.
They can’t be mad, though, as only they say, “TV on the Radio killed the Radio on the TV”.
Thoughts on the final track, “evermore” the titular track of evermore, the 9th and final album of the Swiftening:
- What? Zero references to The Raven? Zero?! We’re just gonna accept ZERO references to THE RAVEN!
- You can do another take on “peculiar”. My first voice teacher was a stickler for enunciation because she cared about music.
- Wait, wait, wait, wait we’re going real fast through “I rewind the tape, but all it does is pause / on the very moment all was lost” uhhh… what? The Fuck. Does that mean? She says that real fast like I’m supposed to be like, ohhh, yea, of course, the thing you feel when you rewind a tape but it’s also playing and then pauses but then… uhhh… nope. I. Refuse. That. Metaphor.
- Oh Damn! Justin Vernon with the steal, he dishes it out to Bon Iver on the sideline, but Swift gets back on defense fast. These are two titans battling it out in the paint. Vernon’s got the height, but Swift keeps her center of gravity low and refuses to bite on Vernon’s pump fakes. Great defense! Vernon is forced into a low percentage turnaround jumper and… he misses!
- This interlude is legitimately breathtaking. Fuck yea, duets! I love duets now!
- Ok, see? This is what catharsis leads to after a crescendo! It’s fucking sexy!
- NO. Don’t sing together.
- This isn’t a musical. This isn’t a musical. This isn’t a musical.
- Ugh. This… this is how it ends?
Yes. That is how it ends!
What have I learned from this experience? How do I feel about Taylor Swift now, after consuming her entire catalogue? Having written the equivalent of one J.D. Salinger novella – as annoying, too – do I feel like it was worth it?
In short, in order: nothing, the same, yes.
In long, rambling: I’ve loved writing these. The character of the cranky reviewer who must shit on anything popular at all costs is fun to inhabit. I won’t pretend it’s a completely alien character. Like most of what I do performatively, it’s me, but bigger. I speak music snob, but I would like to think in real life I am reformed, having renounced the ways of The Eye Roll and The Snort.
My penance was the ritual murder of a Well, Actually.
To be honest, I’ve learned nothing about music, I’ve learned nothing I didn’t already suspect about Taylor Swift, and I didn’t learn the answer to “why does Taylor Swift have so much fucking money”, but that’s just a matter of era. I reformed before I met Swift.
For all of my grinchy insults, I could make similarly impassioned arguments in her favor – were I inclined to write something boring. Many of the glowing reviews I’ve read, as well as the more measured, I agree with wholeheartedly.
It is absolutely worth it if I can communicate one thing – music cannot be better or worse. Production values can be better or worse, creative choices can be successful or unsuccessful, mistakes can be made, all of these things are true. But no music is better or worse than any others. Jazz isn’t better than Country, but not just that, Britney Spears isn’t better than Katy Perry, Charlie Parker isn’t better than Britney Spears, Mozart isn’t better than Charlie Parker, Korn is the exception insofar as they are better than Mozart (just Mozart), but overall, music is just good.
Love your music, I love mine, and it’s all incredible.
Jordan Holmes is a Chicago comedian, author, podcaster, and one of the twenty best humans of all time. We love him very much. Every Monday & Friday, you can hear him on a new episode of Knowledge Fight, a podcast devoted to exposing the lies of Alex Jones. You can read (or listen) to his debut novel, The Quiet Part Loud, by going here.