Taylor Swift dropped her latest album “Lover” on Friday, August 23rd. I stayed up until midnight to listen to the album right as it came out, like I do every album cycle. It’s taken me a bit of time to write about this album purely because it is perfection. Something that has been thrown around during Swift’s career is the term “sonically cohesive”. In the wake of the 2014 Grammys and the loss of her album “Red” to Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”, Swift commented that the album did not win the Grammy because it wasn’t “sonically cohesive”. (The argument that sonic cohesiveness means anything is a fluke, let’s be honest. “Red” is quite literally one of the best albums of the century, come fight me Taylor Swift). Since, Swift has crafted albums that very clearly contain songs that belong together- in theme, and in sound. “1989” was a pop masterpiece which blended wonderment and despair with upbeat synths, and “Reputation” further defined Swift’s genre of Pop, with catchy hooks and bass thumping anthems. But her latest, “Lover”, makes it clear that Swift has been enlightened with the knowledge that she does not need to restrict herself to making “sonically cohesive” albums in order to make Grammy-worthy albums. “Lover” melds a plethora of sounds to keep listeners abated and surprised. The transitions between sounds might not make sense from word of mouth, but upon listening, it is clear how Swift can put an upbeat 70s-esque semi-rock and roll anthem, (“Paper Rings”), right after a dark pop bop, (“Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince”). This makes it difficult to rank the songs “from most favorite to least favorite”, because every single song is tied at number one. I am literally unable to rank these songs, just like I am literally unable to skip a track while listening.
While I cannot rank them, I can review each of them. So, here is my review of “Lover”, track by track:
- “I Forgot You That Existed”- This song is a clever non-shout out to the haters and a soft opening to a fierce, multi-faceted album. “It isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference.” We move on, but we don’t need to forgive those who hurt us in order to do so. And gosh by golly, we’re going to laugh about our new-found freedom and celebrate the lack of toxic people in our lives with melodious words and finger snaps.
- “Cruel Summer”- I really want this to be released as the next single. It’s the equivalent of a good root beer float, (fizzy, sweet, and hard to put down), and introduces listeners to the hint of rock n’ roll that can be heard throughout the rest of the album. The growling “He looks up grinning like the devil” is sonic perfection, and I have an out of body experience every time I sing along to it. “Cruel Summer” is one of those songs you scream out the car window at 1 a.m. with all your best friends.
- “Lover”- Just hours after its release as the third single, “Lover” was already being used as first dance wedding songs across the globe. It’s easy to see why when the bridge comes: “Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand?/ With every guitar string scar on my hand/ I take this magnetic force of a man to be by my lover/ My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue”. The song set’s itself up to be a classic; the instrumentals sound timeless, and the slow, easy, vocals detail the story of true love.
- “The Man”- Her whole career, Swift has been ridiculed for doing the same things her male peers have been praised for, (dating, writing her own songs, speaking out, getting angry, writing about her relationships, etc.). Swift calls out Leonardo DiCaprio, who is perhaps the most fitting example of a double standard, as he is consistently seen dating young women in their early twenties while his age continues to progress. “I’d be like Leo in San Tropez”. Call him out, girl. I also admire Swift for the lines “They wouldn’t shake their heads/ And question how much of this I deserve/ What I was wearing, if I was rude”. The song itself is an avant-garde pop song, and lets listeners know she came to fight.
- “The Archer”- Released pre-album, “The Archer” is synth perfection co-produced with Jack Antonoff. The synths add an anxiety-like factor to the song, and Swift herself wrote many allusions to her own earlier work. The song is perhaps one of Swift’s most vulnerable in years, as she describes her anxiety about potentially self-sabotaging a great relationship because of her own fears and the media. My favorite element of the song are the synths. They never let up throughout the whole song, and perfectly represent what anxiety feels like. “The Archer” highlights Swift’s Shakespearean-like ability to story tell filled with literary allusions, (listen for the “Humpty Dumpty” reference), and emotions abound.
- “I Think He Knows”- I have quite literally hit my head on a wall because I was bopping to this song too hard. The definition of an Ear Worm; just astounding. It holds the mystery and confidence of sending signals that you’re crushing on someone. Swift sings in falsetto most of the chorus, which perfectly emotes uncontained excitement and losing one’s cool in the presence of a crush.
- “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince”- Swift hasn’t written about High School since “You Belong With Me”, but “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” takes us back to the days of pep rallies and school rivalries. It employs the use of bass tones and low beats throughout, curating that sound of Dark Pop. Swift continues to push the genre envelope again, all the while making smart references to the current political climate in the United States.
- “Paper Rings”- Littered with bits of rock, and Grease references, (“You’re the one I want”), the song is very 70’s. I absolutely cannot wait to see how this will be performed live. The second verse is where it gets so good: “I’m with you even if it makes me blue/ which takes me back/ to the color that we painted your brother’s wall”. It’s such an endearing shot of freewriting.
- “Cornelia Street”- Such a narrative. Falsetto is ethereal and how she used her voice to be breathy and emote is pure art. Could be in a Broadway musical, honestly. (Maybe this was musically influenced by her time spent working on the Catsfilm?). “Card shark playing games, I thought you were leading me on…Showed your hand, turned around when I hit the tunnel…” The whole song is written with such specific honesty that it’s impossible to do anything but like the song. Vulnerability seems to be the big word to describe the album as a whole, and “Cornelia Street” is just one of the poster children for how Swift went headed back to her most singer-songwriter roots for her best and most engaging album.
- “Death By A Thousand Cuts” – This song was written about the Netflix film “Something Great”, and it’s perfect fanfiction to be honest. This song is exactly how healing from a broken heart feels like. “I ask the traffic lights if it will be alright/ they say, ‘I don’t know’”. It absolutely boggles my mind how Swift wrote a song that so perfectly sounds like a film. The steel drums, piano, and strings all emote the despair and stages of grief felt throughout the film.
- “London Boy” – The first voice you hear on this track isn’t Taylor Swift’s; it’s actually that of Idris Elba, her Catsco-star. “London Boy” is the next chapter in Reputation’s “Gorgeous” – it’s a cute but explosive bop about her London Boy. All the American culture allusions like Mo-Town, So-Cal, Springsteen, faded blue jeans, and Tennessee Whiskeyare expertly curated and host a feeling of nostalgia. The way she sings “but God I love the English” like she’s joking around with her friends on a night out reminds us of Swift’s ability to make you feel like a close friend, when really, you’re listening to the album miles away in your small hometown, glass of wine in hand. She also kindly asked Stella McCartney for permission to name check her in the song, asserting her identity as Biggest Baller. (Catch that “The Man” reference).
- “Soon You’ll Get Better” (feat. The Dixie Chicks) – This song cuts deep. “Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you/ Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus too… You like the nicer nurses, you make the best of a bad deal”. These lines are so raw and filled with so much truth. The Dixie Chicks provide exceptional harmonization. This song hits it out of the park.
- “False God” – If you told me Taylor Swift would have saxophone in her songs, I would have laughed. But this is just one way that Swift is re-inventing pop music and forging her own genre further. The saxophone makes the song slinky and sexy, and compliments the breathy way Swift sings. “Looking out the window like I’m not your favorite town/ I’m New York City”; this line is one of my favorites from the album. Gosh, the nuance, the metaphor, it’s all so perfect.
- “You Need to Calm Down” – A good way to discuss haters without making a song that sounds heavy. Some takeaways: the song is a freaking bop; screw Twitter; donate to GLAAD; and support the Equality Act.
- “Afterglow” – With lyrics alluding to being in a mature relationship, “Afterglow” ties back to “The Archer”. It outlines a kind of quiet anxiety and the calm after. The drums are reminiscent of a heartbeat, and the synths at the end are the perfect audio interpretation of when the lights are almost faded and things are calming down.
- “Me! (feat. Brendan Urie) – This is a roaring self-love anthem! It’s place on the album emphasizes that you can still have insecurities and be confident in yourself. Brendan Uries’ voice is a nice addition to the punk rock we see on this album. The band and horns throughout the song represent the tonal shifts in Swift’s album as a whole, and therefore “Me!” was a perfect palette whetting first single.
- “It’s Nice to Have a Friend” – Haunting, simple, and straight out of a fairytale. The album is very Summer, but this song is perhaps the most Fall. The steel drums throughout mimic a sense of ease, or perhaps wedding bells. The trumpets introduce the romantic last verse, and like earlier track “Lover”, showcase Swift’s ability to write beautiful clean-cut tunes that are classic and sure to stand the test of time. It’s another contender for a wedding song. Whereas the constant beat in “The Archer” denotes anxiety, the constant beat in “It’s Nice to Have a Friend” clearly defines safety. All proceeds from this song go to the not-for-profit Regent Park School of Music in Toronto, Canada. The school provides afterschool music lessons at a low cost. Further, the talented students of Regent Park School of Music are featured as the backing vocals on the track. “It’s Nice to Have a Friend” was co-written with Selena Gomez.
- “Daylight” – This is the most powerful way Swift can end an album and bring it full circle. The last sung line in “Daylight” is “Step into the daylight and let it go”. The song is perhaps the most poetic, relying on lines of spoken word to end the track. The song is all about manifesting positive energy and letting go of the negative energy. She also cleverly references the title track from her earlier album, “Red”. “I used to believe love was burning red, now I know it’s golden, like daylight”. 1989’s track “You Are In Love” was written about seeing her friends in love, but now Swift gets to write a true love song for herself. That’s what we call a glow-up folks, and it’s what we call stepping into the daylight.
It’s clear “Lover” is one of those albums that will be talked about for generations to come. It’s already hit many well-deserved chart achievements, with all eighteen tracks charting on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time. So, do yourself a favor: draw a glitter heart on your face, and listen to Taylor Swift’s latest album. You’ll step into the daylight too.