Taylor Swift via Universal Music Group (label)
23 August 2019 (released)
26 August 2019
Taylor Swift is bubbly and bright as she casts off most of her cares during seventh album Lover.
Back in 2017 reputation arrived on the scene with its artist under fire for various supposed transgressions against the court of public opinion. The album saw Swift send up her persona in various ways as well as telling of a secretive love story, desperately trying to avoid the media spotlight.
Two years on and the singer has shrugged off the negativity and the secrecy, in favour of an energetic love affair of an LP. As well as joyfully lifting the lid on her flourishing relationship with actor Joe Alwyn, Swift also takes the opportunity to exercise her social conscience.
Opener ‘I Forgot That You Existed’ serves as a sort of palate cleanser from the darker predecessor. The singer-songwriter makes it clear she is done fretting over the famous feud of the past.
The 29-year-old sings:
“Sent me a clear message, taught me some hard lessons, I just forget what they were, it's all just a blur I forgot that you existed, and I thought that it would kill me, but it didn't,…”.
Not only does the song serve to put the full stop on the Kanye West debacle, but also welcomes the listener to a friendlier, more at ease venture.
Taylor Swift is unabashedly pleased with how her love life’s going now and several odes on the 18-track set are dedicated to this fact. Title track ‘Lover’ settles in for a cosy life with that special someone, ‘Paper Rings’ drinks in everything there is to know about the beloved, whilst ‘London Boy’ finds the protagonist immersing herself in her beau’s life, not to mention good old London.
As with many offerings on the album, the three tunes showcases the American’s ability to not only lend her work an autobiographical feel, but also ensures that it remains universal. We are not only invited on Taylor’s journey, but songs also provide us with enough scope to desire the thrills and spills of our very own love affair.
As well as her confessional accessibility, the giddy ‘Paper Rings’ puts the Grammy winner’s cheerful sense of humour on full display. In one moment of gaiety the singer hints at the length she went to to keep her courtship covert.
The songstress points out:
“The wine is cold, like the shoulder that I gave you in the street, cat and mouse for a month or two or three, now I wake up in the night and watch you breathe..”
The singer has on occasion referred to her music as like sharing an entry of her diary. It is to her credit then that she doesn’t just allude to her happiest moments but also her most painfully raw.
Featuring the Dixie chicks, ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ lays bare the emotional turmoil her mother’s battle with cancer has brought. The pain is evident in the singer’s voice as she sings:
“And I hate to make this all about me, but who am I sposed to talk to? What am I sposed to do, if there's no you?..”
Sadly, the lyrics bring into sharp detail the family’s heart wrenching situation. It’s unfortunate that the most emotionally affecting song on the record had to come at such a cost.
Previous single ‘The Archer’ also sees proceedings take a darker more reflecting tone. The synth ditty, while sounding like something off of 1989, casts its protagonist in a cynical more judgmental light. In our review Music News called the five-star single “earnest and vulnerable “.
By and large Swift manages the mix between the personally inspired and crafting something everyone can relate to. Only the jazz inflected ‘False God’ struggles to hit the mark. The combination of religious imagery and notable New York locations feels odd and out of place.
In recent months the Tennessee resident has begun to find her political voice, writing to Senators, and vociferously campaigning for the passage of an equal rights bill through Congress. Lover marks Swift’s first tentative steps via the medium of music.
‘The Man’ playfully wonders what it might be like to be an alpha male or Perceived like a boss. Meanwhile, the anti-hate anthem, ‘You Need to Calm Down’ rails against bullying and poisonous rhetoric against gay people and women.
Some have also pointed out the political allegory of ‘Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince’. During an interview with the musician, the Guardian describes the song as a “forlorn, gothic ballad in the vein of Lana Del Rey that uses high-school imagery to dismantle American nationalism..”
With lines like “American glory faded before me, now I’m feeling hopeless, ripped up my prom dress” and “You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes”, it certainly a reasonable interpretation to make. If the listener does not wish to hear it politically, then the song does offer a degree of wiggle room.
The storyteller opines:
“No cameras catch my pageant smile, I counted days, I counted miles, to see you there, to see you there, It’s been a long time coming, but It’s you and me, that’s my whole world...”
Depending on their interpretation, or perhaps political persuasion, the listener is offered a choice to either focus on the implied love story within the dystopia, or as a rebuke against the childish powers that be.
Whatever the point of view it’s a smart catchy song that is going to go down well in concert venues across the land. With a good build-up and ever present drumbeats, don’t be surprised to see a marching band take to the stage come tour time.
For all the hullabaloo surrounding it, reputation, was never truly a downbeat listen. The sixth studio album had plenty of fun, playful, and loving moments.
The difference between the two is that while the predecessor operated through the prism of parodied personas, and fretting for what’s to come, Lover removes the disguise to excitedly look to the future.
On the whole the record can be characterized by “a lyrical smile”, to quote the song ‘I Think He Knows’. Sometimes it’s as broad as a Cheshire cat’s as on the sweet hearted ‘Lover’, a sarcastic smirk on ‘ I Forgot That You Existed’, or a dreamy beam on ‘It’s Nice to Have a Friend’.
Produced by the likes of Jack Antonoff, Joel Little, and of course Swift herself the album is just as radio friendly as ever. While many of the melodies utilize computerized beats and clicks to get the punters dancing, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some enjoyable divergence from this formula.
‘Paper Rings’ has a pleasant bouncy rock feel to it, ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ is a subtle return to country, while ‘It’s Nice to Have A Friend uses steel drums and backing singers to create a dreamy feel.
Overall, Lover is an engaging expression of an artist still on top form. Lyrics maintain the personal touch, while managing to be, provoking, fun, and relatable. What’s more, the project adds a new political string to Taylor Swift's musical bow.