Taylor Swift’s seventh album is a far cry from her work spanning the past decade: it’s dominated by fairy-tale romance and happy endings, and I hope that Swift has finally found hers.
It’s been almost two years since Taylor Swift’s last album Reputation was released, and that means it’s been almost two years that I’ve been waiting, sometimes patiently and sometimes not, for new music. In preparation for the release of Swift’s seventh studio album Lover, I stocked my car high with her past albums and played them through, cover to cover and over again, one by one, until every song sat renewed and refreshed in my mind, and then I waited some more. And so here it finally is: Lover.
The opening track I Forgot That You Existed establishes the new age of Taylor Swift: an age of forgiveness and new beginnings, and it’s all wrapped up neatly in this stripped back and casual track. Her breezy voice is accompanied by gentle piano and the rhythmic clicking of fingers that keep her within the beat, and the excellence of this track really lies in the simplicity of it all. Lines like “I thought that it would kill me but it didn’t” give a clear and relatable message to her audience, and sets the bar for a happier, more care-free artist.
Cruel Summer sounds so flowery and bright that I almost feel rude for not listening to it while running through a grassy meadow in a flowing white dress. It’s a serious summer party song and is equal parts exciting and chilled, and it reminds me of the 2012 song Holy Ground. Lover, the third track and this album’s namesake, has an underling wistfulness to Swift’s slow voice, and there’s a dreamy quality to the gentle beat of the drums and the acoustic guitar. Her confession of “I’ve loved you three summers now but, honey, I want ‘em all” warms me, and this, I realise, is a happy Taylor Swift, and this is her celebration.
The fourth track on Lover is The Man, and if anything, it’s a statement piece. Swift performs on a quick-paced track that tackles the double-standards and sexism that is rife within the music (and every other) industry. “They’d say I played the field before I found someone to commit to and that would be OK for me to do”, she sings in one of the most powerful lines from the track, in a clear reference to her past and the criticism she’s come under from the media for her past relationships. Further on she sings “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can, wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man” and “It’s OK that I’m mad”, some of my favourite lines from the whole album. Swift may be singing from the top of the celebrity pile but these experiences are translatable to all women in all industries, and that’s where the power of ‘The Man’ lies. It’s political and bold, cuts no corners, and delivers Swift’s feelings clearly and directly, and it’s tied up in a lively pop-beat that showcases the softer and more resounding notes of her voice.
Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince took me a few listens to feel like I understood what was going on, but it only took 20 seconds for me to decide it was my favourite song on the album. Instantly I was reminded of 2014 classic Style – a heart-breaking song I’ve never quite got over – but there’s far more too this than first meets the eye. With its whispered vocals, quick and clever rhymes, and High School imagery, this track could easily be the theme song to a teen mystery drama. Swift captures all of the longing tension and insecurity of High School in this dark-fairy tale of a song. With lyrics like “American glory faded before me” and “I’m feeling helpless, the damsels are depressed, Boys will be boys then, where are the wise men?”, this track appears to be far more political than it comes across when first listening. While there’s no explicit reference to what Swift could be talking about, there’s been no shortage recently of political disasters in Swift’s home country of America, so you can let your own mine run wild.
Paper Rings is a song of seduction and similes, and it flashes by so quickly that I almost can’t keep up. Swift runs on and on with a thousand things she wants to say and I am happy to sit back and let it all flow over me, smiling, as this pure and beautiful celebration of love continues to play in shouts of happiness. London Boy is one of the more controversial tracks on the album, mainly because it sounds like a song written about someone who has never been to London before and has chosen to write a song based purely off the guides of the best tourist destinations to visit. It’s got a lot of stick from actual Londoners, but it’s cheerful and sweet, and a good dedication to her London-born boyfriend.
Swift is joined by the Dixie Chicks on Soon You’ll Get Better, a track that is a far cry from the optimism and confidence that occupies the first half of the album. This track sees Swift sing about the struggles she has had in watching her mother’s cancer return earlier this year, and the echoes of “soon you’ll get better” are absolutely tragic. The Dixie Chicks make up the backing vocals to this gentle number, occupying more of a back seat than perhaps we’re used to from them, but their vocals next to Swift’s are borderline angelic and really deepen the emotion of the track. Swift herself is rough around the edges, and this makes the track an absolute stand-out on the album and I’m drawn back to it time and time again. It’s Nice To Have A Friend is another stand-out track as it is a wistful ballad about two long-term friends that become lovers. It’s short and dreamy and childlike and twinkly, with a background of softy ooh-ing female voices, which give it the perfectly young-love feel.
Lover’s final track Daylight comes in at just under the five-minute mark. It has a dominating piano background and pays homage to her past in lines like “I once believed love would be burning red, but it’s golden”, a reference to her 2012 song Red where she sang “’cause loving him was red…we’re burning red”. It’s a small touch, but an amazing addition to an already great song. The real winning moment of this track, however, is the small speech she gives as the song closes. It’s only six short lines, and more poetic than speech-like, and the album closes on the line “you are what you love”, and that, after all, is what Lover is all about.
Overall, Lover is more mellow than some of her more recent releases. It’s an album dominated by the ideas of strength, belonging, and growth, and there are moments of clear political standing as well – a real change from the Swift we used to know. It’s a wonderful album, and having Swift’s songwriting showcased in Lover made me realise how much more I missed it than I first thought. The singles released to promote the album, songs such as ME!, The Archer, and You Need To Calm Down, did not do this album justice. Lover is deep, kind, and above all joyful, and that’s the Taylor Swift I love to see.