A New Era: “Lover” album review

In the digital age, where a week is a lifetime, is it even possible for someone whose career began more than ten years ago to stay famous? For Taylor Swift, the answer is a resounding yes. August 23 marked the release of Taylor Swift’s 7th studio album, “Lover.” The album has been a commercial success, debuting at No.1 on the Billboard 200 and becoming her sixth album to do so. 

Swift makes it clear that “Lover” is different from her previous release, “reputation,” right off the bat. The opening track, “I Forgot That You Existed,” is a bubbly, flippant dismissal of the events and people inspiring the previous album. The upbeat track makes its message clear: Swift is done wasting her time thinking about others, and is ready to express herself. Nowhere is that self-expression more evident than on the album’s lead single, “ME!” (feat. Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco), released on April 26, 2019. The song, full of horns, drums and of course, Brendon Urie, perfectly sets the tone for an album that can be described as a celebration of love. The celebration continued with the second single, “You Need to Calm Down.” The high-energy song continues to promote the message of self-expression, as well as being a celebration of all forms of love.  

While some might think the album, with its pastel aesthetic and fun lead singles, is all sunshine and rainbows, what it truly demonstrates is an emotional depth, vulnerability and maturity rarely seen in Swift’s work before. The album is also characterized by simple instrumentals, letting the lyrics shine through. For instance, “The Archer” consists only of vocals and a simple synth backing, but features some of the most open and vulnerable lyrics on the entire album. “Afterglow,” track 15, is about someone admitting their mistakes in a relationship and asking for forgiveness, backed by only heavy drums and synth. “Paper Rings,” while more upbeat and sweet, continues this theme with rhythmic drums and guitar under half-spoken vocals. A more playful interpretation comes in the form of “I Think He Knows,” a song about the early stages of flirtation. Starting off with nothing but a picked bass and finger snaps, the song builds to the final chorus, which features a more complex layering of vocal harmonies with other instrumentation. 

Of course, the album isn’t perfect. At 18 songs, it’s the longest non-deluxe album Swift has released, and it feels a bit disjointed at times. One song that exemplifies this is “The Man,” track 4. While the song, in which Swift imagines life as a man, is excellent, it feels a little out of place on an album that is overall thematically different. The song sounds as though it would fit better on “reputation.” Another example of this is track 13, “False God,” which is a slowed-down R&B ballad about an unhealthy way of viewing a relationship. The song isn’t bad, but considered in the context of the rest of the album, it just doesn’t quite fit. With lyrics such as “The altar is my hips/even if its a false god” and breathy vocals over a saxophone instrumental, it creates a sexual atmosphere that seems odd, especially considering it’s placement following the tender “Soon You’ll Get Better” (feat. Dixie Chicks). 

The 12th track on the album is dedicated to her mother’s battle with cancer. The tender lyrics, mixed with a simple instrumental of piano, violin and acoustic guitar, makes for a song that ranks among the best on the album. The heavy acoustic guitar and feature of Dixie Chicks is a nod back to Swift’s country roots.

Overall, while it could be trimmed down, the album is an excellent collection of songs that showcase Swift’s talent as both a songwriter and a performer. If you want to enjoy it for yourself, the entire album is available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Google Play, as well as available for purchase through iTunes.

~Eleanor Costic, Staff Writer~

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