The release of Taylor Swift’s seventh studio album, Lover, on Aug. 23, marked the beginning of a new era for Swift: one centered around love, honesty, and her signature dreamy synth pop sounds.
A majority of the album is self-written and produced by longtime collaborator, Jack Antonoff, responsible for producing hits for Swift such as “Blank Space” and “Style”.
“I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.” These words from the 2017 hit, “Look What You Made Me Do,” signified to fans that the old Swift many of them fell in love with was now long gone. The album that song was on, Reputation, was a messy collection of vengeance laced, trap-pop songs and sappy love ballads dripping with the desperation to be back on top all sloppily thrown together. That album was largely clouded by the controversy Swift was experiencing at that time with the media focus being primarily her personal life rather than the music itself. With Lover, she wants her audience to know that she has moved past this image and grown from it. The Swift on this album is neither the “new Taylor” or the “old Taylor,” but rather a happy Taylor.
The detailed lyricism presented throughout the record calls back to Swift’s country days, focused on telling a story and getting each detail and emotion recorded and relayed rather than the simple, radio friendly lyrics we have gotten from Swift in recent years.
One of the more interesting elements of 2017’s Reputation was that it was the first time Swift explored her sexuality lyrically and Lover only mildly expands on this, albeit in a much more cohesive and mature way. On the sensual album highlight, “False God,” she coos, “Religion’s in your lips, and even if it’s a false god, we’d still worship,” showing that she has moved on from the youthful innocence of her early career.
The opening track, “I Forgot That You Existed,” has Swift addressing and briefly reviving the drama that plagued her career a few years back for the first and only time on the album. Singing, “I forgot that you existed, and I thought that it would kill me – but it didn’t,” she tells the listener that she has moved on from the melodrama and petty fights and is ready for the next chapter of her life. The song sets a nice pastel tone for the rest of the album and clues the listener in that they should prepare to hear a version of Swift yet to be heard.
The lead single for the album, “ME!”, featuring Brendon Urie from Panic! At the Disco, largely falls flat. Considering it was the first song the world heard off of Lover, Swift did an underwhelming job conveying the central theme and the emotional complexity found throughout the whole of the album. The song comes across as childish and immature, bordering on becoming a legitimate candidate for a track included in a Disney Channel original movie soundtrack. Reminiscent of Katy Perry’s “Roar,” the song does not stand up lyrically to the rest of the album. At one point, Swift and Urie chant, “Hey kids! Spelling is fun!” The song isn’t necessarily bad in itself, but both artists involved have carved a hole in music as being the gold standard for their genres and the song is a huge misfire for both of them. It focuses on self love, and while this is something listeners have come to expect from Swift, it is far too childish in comparison to the smooth and contemporary pop she has done in the past (think, “Shake it Off”).
The album feels as if it is floating on a cloud, taking the listener on a lengthy ride with it. Lover has a giddy tone, comical at times, but mature and self aware for the most part. “Cruel Summer” reflects on a newfound love during difficult times. “I Think He Knows” is the musical equivalent of a schoolgirl blushing over a boy who looked at her on the playground. “London Boy,” a silly satire about English boyfriend Joe Alwyn, is one of the album’s many love songs.
Lover is not all sunshine and rainbows. On “Death By A Thousand Cuts” she looks introspectively at a past failed relationship, asking herself, “You said it was a great love…if the story’s over, why am I still writing pages?” The album breaks away from the shallowness of Swift’s music ever since she debuted in pop music all the way back in 2014 and alternatively decides to commit to full honesty, exploring all aspects of a relationship: the good and the dark.
If Reputation represented the darkest point in Swift’s career, Lover is her daylight. The album is dreamy in production and understands precisely what listeners want to hear. If anyone deserves to sit comfortably atop the throne they have built, it is Taylor Swift.
Track by track review:
“I Forgot That You Existed”: 4/5
“Cruel Summer”: 5/5
“The Man”: 3/5
“The Archer”: 4/5
“I Think He Knows”: 3/5
“Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince”: 5/5
“Paper Rings”: 3/5
“Cornelia Street”: 4/5
“Death By a Thousand Cuts”: 3/5
“London Boy”: 5/5
“Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)”: 5/5
“False God”: 5/5
“You Need to Calm Down”: 3/5
“ME! (feat. Brendon Urie)”: 2/5
“It’s Nice to Have A Friend”: 4/5
Overall rating: 79/100