Beyond the headlines, missteps and seemingly endless media scrutiny, Taylor Swift’s seventh studio album, Lover, is one of complete tranquility. In spite of all the chaos surrounding her public presence, Swift remains one of the best pop artists writing today.
“I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t,” a line from the opening track of Lover, “I Forgot That You Existed,” reflects an admirable and mature wisdom following the almost satirical performance of anger and revenge in Swift’s previous album, Reputation. In contrast to Reputation, Lover has an overwhelming feeling of everything cozy and comfortable. Settled and content, Swift defines herself by what makes her happy — a goal that Swift especially emphasizes in a final voice memo on the last track of the album, “Daylight.”
With 18 songs, more than any of her previous albums, Swift stocks Lover with things that bring in the daylight, from her homes on Cornelia Street and in London, to her relationship with her mom and a feature from Dixie Chicks. As Swift approaches age 30, the album — also marking the first album for which Swift will own her own masters — serves as a reflection on her career thus far. Swift has long defined herself as someone who writes about love in all its forms, for better or worse, and Lover leans into this aspect of the artist’s career.
Enough cannot be said about “Lover,” the album’s fourth and easily best single, which redeems the album from the subpar expectations that its early singles had set up. The three worst songs off the album, through forces one cannot pretend to understand, were released as the first three singles from the album; the worst was the gratingly juvenile “ME!”
Reading the song with an understanding of irony or an implied wink might at most be optimistic and at the very least quite charitable. The only good news regarding “ME!” is that it is not at all reflective of the content or quality of the rest of the album. In an attempt to write an earworm destined to be the song of the summer, Swift introduced her album with something gauche and gaudy, which are two things the rest of the album is anything but.
In stark contrast, the album’s titular track “Lover” paints a sensitive portrait of the quiet ease of love. Reminiscent of “New Year’s Day” from Reputation, the track flexes Swift’s lyrical talent in the realm of soft acoustic pieces, the likes of which initially launched her into superstardom. Along with “Cornelia Street” and the album’s final track “Daylight,” “Lover” is one of the few songs authored exclusively by Swift. Together the three tracks offer the emotional heart of the album and remind the listener of the undeniable lyrical prowess of the songstress.
While some predicted Lover would be a transition back into the country genre on which Swift launched her career, the album remained true to Swift’s current pop success with a definite string of reflective nostalgia.
For example, songs such as “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” find themselves in direct conversation with Swift’s first megahit “You Belong With Me” from her sophomore album Fearless, but with an added distinct edginess. Songs like “Paper Rings” harken back to carefree love songs like “Stay Stay Stay” or “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” from Red, and “Soon You’ll Get Better” featuring Dixie Chicks stands out as a reminder of Swift’s country beginnings. Most significantly, more than 11 years after the release of “The Best Day,” a song about about all the ways Swift’s mother helped her grow up, “Soon You’ll Get Better” centralizes the idea of the absence of her mother in her adulthood.
Many listeners may be keen to speculate about who Swift writes about in each of Lover’s tracks. On the night of the album’s release, it seemed as if song lyrics on Genius had already been analyzed to demonstrate how a specific color or turn of phrase could potentially allude to Swift’s past relationships. While this kind of investigation is obviously fun, it detracts from the songs as abstract expressions of universal human emotions as opposed to material for tabloid fodder.
Through a process of what can only be described as trial and error, Swift has landed on something really special with Lover. While the internet debates whether Red or 1989 is Swift’s best album, Lover finds a solid medium between the two with a lyrical emphasis on adoration, romance and nostalgia, but with a musicality that keep its eyes firmly on the future.