So here we are, just over a week after Lover’s release. As a fervent supporter of Taylor and her music, it was rough listening to ME! and You Need to Calm Down. YNTCD is great in many ways, but neither song sonically nor lyrically appeared to be a Taylor Swift song. I was worried at the path Lover was taking us down. Much like reputation, Taylor took us for a ride with the first offerings from the album. The Archer and the album’s title track Lover both did their fair share of work to tide the waves of anxiety caused by the first two releases. Yes, I am a 32-year-old man who has anxiety induced by Taylor Swift’s (and Mariah Carey’s) well-being and career. Then came August 23rd and frankly every listen since the initial go has been an awakening to the power of the entire album in its full-length.
Lover plays to Taylor’s strengths. There are many heart-felt songs (Lover, Cornelia Street, Soon You’ll Get Better, Daylight) written and curated to a fault. There are joyous and buoyant pop songs (ME!, YNTCD, London Boy), and then there’s the complex pop that is certainly assisted by Jack Antonoff’s presence (Death by a Thousand Cuts, Paper Rings, The Man, I Think He Knows, Cruel Summer), and then there’s pop that I honestly feel wouldn’t be on this album if Carly Rae Jepsen didn’t have the street-cred she did (False God, Afterglow **NOT SHADE**). What I’m trying to get across is that there is something for everyone on this album, but all of it is actually very good.
On the lead-up to the release of this album I remember having a conversation with a co-worker who is a so-called Swiftie about the status of her career and the looming album release. She vehemently despises reputation. I later found out she’s only been a Swiftie since 1989, with some interest shown during the Red era. This led me to believe that many of those doubting Taylor are only comparing her to the pop promise shown in 1989 and have not looked passed 1989 to assess the true talent Taylor holds within.
On the lead-up to the release of Lover, I also revisited all her albums except her debut which I loved as a college student but can’t truly embrace as a whole as an adult. I recently also asked the Twitter universe which album of hers (1989, Red, Speak Now or Lover) is the best. I had excluded the polarizing reputation, the juvenile Taylor Swift and Fearless knowingly because they are her three albums, I cannot listen to from start to finish without skipping multiple songs. 1989 won the poll, but after extreme consideration, I realized that Speak Now as my favorite album of hers.
I remember the day Speak Now was released, the Speak Now tour and every single song off that album. Though the average time span of a Speak Now track was well over four and a half minutes, each song on that album still remains engaging and interesting. A snap shot of an experience, a story told, and that is what Taylor has always been to me, a gifted lyricist with a keen eye for stories, emotional analysis and effective communication through song. Speak Now was the beginning of the end of her pop-country career. Red cemented the end of it; 1989 brought on the pop full force of nature. Speak Now however is solely written by Swift and holds multiple songs that remain part of her strongest tracks (Mine, Sparks Fly, Enchanted, Last Kiss, Haunted, Story of Us, Long Live and even Dear John) when considering her full discography.
Lover is a return to form in a sense. Though I was and still am a fan of 75% of reputation (So It Goes… ,Dress, King of my Heart, Dancing With Our Hands Tied still remain some of her most desperate attempts at trend chasing), Lover brought back the Swift many of her original fans loved, and many of her new fans came to love. This idea that a pop star returns to the persona the public loves, however, makes me wonder if we truly allow for creative growth. Do we stunt our own pop star’s creativity and personal growth? And why are we so attached to versions of them and not their catalogue or talent as a whole.
Lover masterfully blends some of the complex musicality of reputation with the lyricism we saw bursting throughout Speak Now, Red and 1989. There’s a song for each mood one may feel; however, there isn’t a song like All Too Well, Getaway Car or Enchanted on this album. Daylight closes the album very well; however, the passionate love song (no disrespect to the title track) is markedly missing. Though I truly love the album as a whole, there’s still something missing, but perhaps that’s my mea-culpa in a sense. Taylor is still forging her own path within the pop landscape. 1989 did it very well with a sense of naivety and Lover definitely has a defiant sense of self.
Lover is another excellent addition to an exceptional and brilliant discography. In a world where artists now reach number 1 with sales+streaming data, Taylor continues to sell records and engage the public in her art. And perhaps that’s her forte in this all, the public pays attention, but so does she.