Until evermore, there hadn't been a truck in a Taylor Swift song since her eponymous debut. On Taylor Swift, she spends a lot of time in trucks. The lost love of her first hit record "Tim McGraw" is "Just a boy in a Chevy truck / with a tendency of gettin' stuck / on back roads at night," with the song's speaker "right there beside him all summer long." In "Picture to Burn," Swift's first spurned-lover song, the speaker tells her ex she "hate[s] that stupid old pickup truck / you never let me drive." And in "Mary's Song," her first happy-ending romance song, the speaker recalls "two a.m. riding in your truck / and all I need / is you next to me."

So for a deep-cut, back-catalog-loving Swiftie like me the sudden reappearance of trucks on evermore is a little jarring. Trucks turn up in both "'tis the damn season" (where "time flies / messy as the mud on your truck tires") and "no body, no crime" (where the "brand new tires" on the murdering boyfriend's truck provide a clue to his guilt); and there's a Chevy in "champagne problems" which is also surely a truck. After all, it's hard to imagine Taylor invoking, say, a Malibu or a Volt.

I've been thinking about trucks lately. (Full disclosure: I own a truck, though it's small and foreign made). Since the election of Donald Trump, I've watched the ubiquitous pickup trucks in the rural area of Michigan where I live become increasingly menacing. Before Trump, you might encounter the rare, but occasional pair of "truck nutz" dangling from a trailer hitch. But since Trump, it's American flags, and Blue Lives Matter flags, and Gadsden flags, and Trump-as-Rambo flags. Rather than expressions of enthusiasm or mere political preference, these flags unfurl in a way that is deliberately aggressive; they're intimidations, provocations. They occupy the road and the visual landscape like a manspreader on a cramped airplane. Recall, for instance, the notorious "Trump Trains," those caravans of flag-bedecked trucks, some full of armed men, that appeared at protest events around the country and, in a now-notorious incident, dangerously harassed the Biden-Harris campaign bus on a Texas freeway.

All of which makes this return to trucks feel complicated. On Taylor Swift, trucks signal the album's countryness in a conventional sort-of-way: teenage Swift learning to deploy the conventions of her genre. It's therefore tempting to think of evermore's trucks as a sign of her so-called return to her country roots, as any number of reviewers observed after the release of folklore (and a single, "betty," that hit the top ten on the country charts). "'tis the damn season" might even seem to make this explicit, as the truck tires in that song are associated both with the passage of time and with homecoming (if only "for the weekend"). And evermore is, if anything, even more countrified than folklore; all of its best songs "dorothea," "no body, no crime," "ivy," and my favorite, the exquisite "cowboy like me" are its most country-tinged. Others, like "willow" or "marjorie," are just a banjo, a twangy guitar lick, or a little honky tonky piano from country-adjacency as well.

But the truth is that Swift's roots never really were country; she's the child of stock brokers who grew up nearer the Philadelphia side of Pennsylvania than the Appalachian. Hers has always been primarily a pop sensibility. Even 2008's Fearless, which swept virtually every possible country award the year of its release, features some of Swift's pop-iest songs: "Love Story," "You Belong with Me," and the under-appreciated "You're Not Sorry." I've always had the impression that Nashville was never so much Swift's Mecca as it was her college, the place where she learned to hone her craft. And at this point in her career, after 1989 and reputation and now the new sister albums, it ought to be clear to anyone that Swift can write great songs in any genre.

What I mean to say is that just as Swift isn't really country in the way that, say, Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton are country she also isn't a truck person.1 That's why the characters on evermore keep their distance from those trucks. Swift's return to country is paradoxically a rejection of a certain version of it. She is winking at the trucks on Taylor Swift and winking at the trucks that all the chart-topping country dude-bros, the Toby Keiths and the Kip Moores, love to sing about. Here we arrive at what I think are the politics of evermore (and, to a lesser extent, of folklore), the release of which coincides with Swift's awakened political consciousness: her public opposition to Trump, her support of Black Lives Matter. evermore represents Swift's explicit rejection of chest-thumping masculine pickup truck aesthetico-politics. She aligns herself instead with the anti-country dude-bros: those sweet, artsy, sensitive, melancholy guys from The National and Bon Iver.

If folklore felt like the COVID album, an unexpectedly welcome, dreamy respite from the general world weariness of 2020, evermore feels like the post-Trump album, its quiet, beautiful songs of failure and disappointment the sound of something coming, mercifully, to an end.

Jeffrey Insko (@jeffreyinsko) is Professor of English at Oakland University. He is the author of History, Abolition, and the Ever-Present Now in Antebellum American Writing (Oxford University Press, 2019).


  1. On her 18th birthday, Taylor's record label gave her an ostentatious pink truck, which Taylor promptly donated to charity. []