It’s August, Nation of Swifties. You gotta bring those Christmas lights down.
The seventh studio album is out and the Lover era is now in full bloom. I don’t think it’s a secret that Taylor has gone through a roller coaster of emotions that ended up in the catharsis that was reputation. Many of us have wandered how she was going to follow that one, but us fans knew it would result in something completely different. Taylor’s music unavoidably follow her mood. She both evolves emotionally as well as musically. The resulting product is a triumph that could possibly one if not her greatest ever.
I am going to be that annoying fan that says that we fans do the same thing that Taylor does. Each of her albums, each of her eras, we tend to follow the mood as well. In our defence, we’re not necessarily doing it on purpose. I have the theory that it’s not that every fan tries to adjust their mood to the last Taylor Swift album, but rather it’s Taylor Swift that somehow reads our minds and brings out the music we need in our lives right now. I call this theory “The Taylor Witch Project”.
(I’m only half kidding, chill. If you’re going to take everything I write seriously, you’re going to suffer through this review. I suggest you go get a drink and come back)
Lover will be many things to many people and everything to both new and old fans. I won’t deny it, if you hate her this is not going to help. To the people willing to listen, this is the musical evolutional heir to 1989. If that album represents what the Sparkly Dressed sounds like in the 80’s, Lover represents the musical evolution from that same universe up until now. This doesn’t make reputation unnecessary, Taylor needed that album to process what was a harsh time all around. So did we.
But Lover is a return to form and a step forward at once. It’s T-Swizzle being less guard and more receptive. She is not on the attack here because she doesn’t need to be. Musically, reputation brought on this dark aspect of conflict and confrontation that was interesting and even necessary but temporary. Lover instead is not a return to the 1989 era but an evolution from it. From a chrysalis of both light and darkness, a musical butterfly is born. This album is a child of both previous ones.
Takes several listens to the full album to realize that if there is one song that departs from the cohesive sound is the high-pitched “ME!” which stands out (and off, in my opinion) as the custom-order made-for-radio darling. Yes, that one is truly the sacrificial track for the mainstream bells-and-whistles crowd. You can keep the sweets, we’re here for the steak. What are the hits that Lover brings to the table? Several, as a matter of fact… Or I should say, my opinion.
For the top tier, “Paper Rings” is a banger, a bop and both a lyrical and musical shining gem just begging to be a single. “Lover” still rules the landscape, being overall the mood and theme for the entire track list. I can also see why “Cornelia Street” has so many fans, it’s lyrically and musically amazing. “Cruel Summer” has to become a single and rule the world if there’s any justice left around here. They’ve all been my favourites from the album while listening to them.
While we’re pointing at the top picks, I have mention two sonic delicacies. “Death By A Thousand Cuts” just haunts me the moment it plays (this is my current favourite track on the album). This is such a well crafted song that’s somewhere between a banger and a ballad and it’s such a complex relationship between melody and lyrics that makes me laugh and cry at once. Just a step behind is “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” which has a rhythm and feel that reminds me of 1989’s “Style” so much that it feels like its long lost brother. Definitely there are some 80’s vibes in a lot of the tracks of the album.
“The Man” has the right message wrapped around in a great song that I wish mainstream could listen to, a song with lyrics that jaded critics and detractors would never believe comes from the Sparkly Dressed. “London Boy” is a fun little romp, a playful delight of fun that plays off like a wink and a nudge. “I Think He Knows” has a high pitched chorus that I first thought I could live without but now I find endearing. Just a step behind I’d put “I Forgot That You Existed” and “Daylight” which are still strong listening choices.
I know we’re three tiers deep and I haven’t mentioned “Soon You’ll Get Better”. To be honest, all tracks mentioned are really top shelf – on my shelf, at least. I just think Taylor’s collaboration with the Dixie Chicks might require its very own category. This song might not be as sonically linked to the rest because this one has definitely throwback links to Taylor’s musical past… This one is the spiritual successor to “The Best Day” and even just writing that is heartbreaking. From what I’ve heard, writing that song might have been Taylor’s choice but including it in the album was a family decision. Yes, it’s an amazing song but the emotional toll it carries transcends its musical quality.
Now, I know that it feels like after three tiers the track list is going to have some filler, but I think these are just a step below my favourite range and still sound great. “The Archer”, “Afterglow” and “It’s Nice To Have A Friend” all have their brilliant moments and would be top tier on any other album but this one.
I guess I’m leaving “False God” on the first non-favourite tier. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t leave me with anything memorable afterwards. To a slightly lesser extent, “You Need To Calm Down” goes here too, as I found it lyrically empowering but melodically average, if that makes sense. At this level, they’re both still enjoyable to listen. I wouldn’t skip them, but I would not play them alone.
Yes, I’m afraid that leaves just “ME!” on the last tier, as the one track I don’t enjoy. I think at this point, I could listen to it on a live performance but it’s the one song I would leave off on continuous album repeats – and I have. My criticism of that song is already present in previous posts, so I’ll just repeat exactly what I just said. It’s the one song that I’d leave off the album.
In conclusion, the whole album overall is right at the top with Taylor’s best. Regardless as how the sales go, and I think they will go amazing, it does feel like a nice addition to the Enchantress’ repertoire and a brilliant jewel to be Taylor’s first fully owned studio album. From what she’s said, the older catalog will be re-recorded bringing it all full circle. No doubt that then it will be re-packaged and re-sold and yes, we’re all buying them again.
This means here starts the long, painful process where I have to scrounge up the time and the money to see if I can get to see her live. Unfortunately, this didn’t go so well the last time and I missed the reputation tour. I get another chance to do it all over again this era, and being that it’s Taylor’s comeback in a lot of ways, I really hope that means I can come along as well.
Lover is out now. Available everywhere. The Forever and Always Fearless One opens the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards this Monday, August 26. You should be saving up for the tour already, but if you haven’t I’d strongly suggest you start right this minute.
Coming up in the Calendar!
- August 26: 2019 MTV Video Music Awards on MTV. You can vote for Taylor Swift daily up to 10 times per category.
- September 9: Taylor Swift’s exclusive concert “City of Lover” happens in Paris, France.
(All Images: ©2019 Taylor Swift)