9. “Forever Winter”
Ahlgrim: “Forever Winter” is best understood as a spiritual relative of “Renegade,” the better of Swift’s two collaborations with Big Red Machine, released in July 2021.
Both songs explore a tenuous relationship with someone who’s falling victim to late-night doom spirals, as well as the toll that’s taking on Swift’s own mental health. “I call, just checking up on him / He’s up, 3 am, pacing,” she sings in the former. “I tapped on your window on your darkest night / The shape of you was jagged and weak,” she sings in the latter.
Unfortunately, because we heard “Renegade” first, I can’t help but feel that “Forever Winter” is lacking. It doesn’t contain the same gut-punch revelations or keen-eyed observations, instead casting Swift as a kind of happiness tool at a man’s disposal, desperately pleading to be the “summer sun” to thaw his sadness.
Larocca: If you’re going to center yourself in someone else’s suffering, chances are you’re going to rub some listeners the wrong way. As someone who is self-aware enough to know I’ll never be someone’s summer sun forever, I relate more to Swift’s subject here, and it bugs me that she talks about him instead of to him in the verses.
I can tell Swift is trying to be empathetic and understanding, but without this direct action, it feels like she sees him as a problem she needs to solve, and that maybe she’s talking about him to someone else behind his back. The song is strongest in the choruses, however, when she’s singing directly to the person.
I much prefer “Renegade,” because she’s in conversation with her subject the entire time. While “Renegade” is personal and recalls a tough-love conversation with somebody who really needs it, “Forever Winter” sounds like Swift is recruiting opinions and asking everyone she knows, “What are we going to do with him?”
No one I know likes to be the person that their friends were brainstorming an intervention for behind the scenes.
The horns are nice though.