Few artists make it to their seventh album with just as much hype (if not more) surrounding its release as their second or third. With the conclusion of the record breaking reputation Stadium Tour, fans were left wondering how Taylor Swift was going to outdo herself yet again. Swift is in the 13th year of her career and she is still writing songs that and offer up her personal life in the form of the soundtrack to many of our lives. In many ways, Lover is unlike any album she’s ever put out. At a lengthy 18 tracks, Swift created an album dedicated to love in all forms.
The album opens with the catchy yet coincidentally forgettable, “I Forgot That You Existed,” closing out the reputation era with one more rehash of old news. The track sees Swift get playful with her vocals as the lyrics brush off the negativity that once used to drag her down.
Next, “Cruel Summer” comes bounding in with one of the best bridges Swift has ever written, perfectly capturing the intense romanticism of a summer romance that you would see in a movie. A collaboration with longtime producer and co-writer Jack Antonoff was highly anticipated but the addition of the sharp lyricism of Annie Clark (a.k.a. indie-rock darling St. Vincent) created a new layer of dramatics on this full speed ride of a song. It easily could have served as a prequel to another well loved Swift-Antonoff collaboration, reputation’s “Getaway Car”.
The album’s title track is one of the most authentically romantic songs in Swift’s entire catalogue. The wedding band arrangement and airy production delivers a timeless love song that strikes a cord with every feeling to be found in the starry eyed fantasies of Fearless era Taylor Swift. “Lover” is highly inspired and harkens back to the love story (ha) she has been writing about for years, but this time it’s real.
No Taylor Swift album would be complete without some comment on her haters and Lover has a few of them. Swift leans all the way into her pop expertise with “The Man,” a synth-pop kiss off to challenge those who have tried to criticize her based on sexist double standards. It’s a soft introduction into feminism but packaged in such frank terms fans will be quoting its lyrics in response to Facebook comment trolls for years to come.
Antonoff’s production makes several more instantly recognizable appearances throughout the record. “I Think He Knows” soaks up the moment of lighthearted joy with falling into an easy love and could have been a bonus track on 1989. “Paper Rings,” according to Swift, was written from the perspective of a wedding band, and definitely accomplishes that goal with an instagram caption worthy chorus.
One of the true gems on the album is “Cornelia Street.” Referencing an apartment Swift rented in the West Village back in 2016, she recounts the beginnings of her current relationship. She unpacks all the baggage she has picked up in her personal life and even provides closure to “All Too Well,” a song that captures one of her most infamous heartbreaks.
With high anticipation for the lead single, “ME!” did little to stand up to expectations. Coming off as a cheesy attempt at picking up streams from a younger demographic, the track could have been a one off single for an upcoming children’s film. “ME!” and “You Need To Calm Down” stand out as definite outliers on the record. While they effectively garnered the attention Swift was craving this era with two instantly viral videos, neither song stand to make a real impact on their own musically.
“Afterglow” is a down to earth love song in which Swift owns up to her faults in an effort to better the relationship.She’s not holding her lover accountable for her insecurities in favor of working on herself. “Daylight” feels like the Taylor Swift song we’ve been waiting for her entire career. Referencing back to colors mentioned in songs throughout her discography and feels like the perfect book end from the start of Swift’s career until now.
The 18 tracks on Lover oftentimes slide together like a lot of beautiful puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit together perfectly. Though it was meant to examine love in all its forms, the lengthy album could have stood to be narrowed down more selectively as the overwhelming number of songs almost distracts from the overall meaning of the album rather than elaborating on its complexity. Lover sees Swift unpack her insecurities and combat them head on, while also digging further into personal ground. While the bombastic single choices ultimately detract from the easy synth-pop pop vibe of the rest of the record, her vocals have truly never been better and she is still finding new ways to describe the fairytale ending that she has always written about.