By Dylan Stanford
After Taylor Swift released Reputation, her sixth album back in 2017, it left loyal Swift fans in a tizzy, making them wonder: “Is the old Taylor Swift really dead?” Meanwhile, other fans speculated that Reputation was simply a demonstration of Swift’s embrace into modern pop culture, where songwriters use messy drama and feuds in order to fuel their albums.
However, Swift dropped her album Lover in August which seems to explore both familiar and uncharted waters, but in the absolute best way.
To start, Lover has a total of 18 songs which is unheard of in all of Swift’s history; her albums have never run more than 16 tracks, but I’m not complaining. To kick it off, Swift shows her growth and maturity in her first song, “I Forgot That You Existed.” While the title may seem a little passive-aggressive, the lyrics show her altered perspective on former lovers and haters. Swift clearly states right off that she spent a lot of her time mulling over details of the past when she says, “How many days did I spend thinking ’Bout how you did me wrong, wrong, wrong?”’ She goes on to sing that her own sunshine would disappear due to the shade being thrown her way, but instead of making a jab at her haters like she would have done on Reputation, Swift says, “But then something happened one magical night / I forgot that you existed / And I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t.” And then later in the chorus she clarifies that “It isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference.” Are you surprised? Because I certainly am. Swift seems to have found her ground and become comfortable enough with herself to the point that she does not need to acknowledge the hate that she gets and does not need other’s approval to determine her self-worth. To me, this shows a more sophisticated side of Swift, which I am all for. Not to mention just how catchy the song is. I can’t stop myself from playing it every morning.
Fast forward past “Cruel Summer,” a song reminiscent of 1989 (her fifth studio album) about tortured love, and there is “Lover” which fits the theme of the entire album. The song starts off slow and Swift sets the tone early on: This track is free and unhurried, and most importantly, it seems dedicated to Joe Alwyn, the lover that she’s been with for almost three years. To me, this song screams of new beginnings and seems to show more of the Swift that we used to know.
The next most notable song is “Miss America & The Heartbreak Prince.” When I first heard this song, I was in awe of how similar I thought it sounded to tracks on 1989. Similarly, Swift seems to take it all the way back to the halls of high school when she talks about her “ripped up prom dress” and how girls would whisper about her in the hallway. But she counters this again with the same idea from the very first song on Lover, only focusing on what is important and blocking out everything else. However, on her next song “Paper Rings,” a slightly more catchy and upbeat version of “Miss America & The Heartbreak Prince,” Swift sings, “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings / Uh huh, that’s right / Darling, you’re the one I want.” Again, Swift touches on the idea about how people will hate and say things about you, but at the end of the day, no one can make you feel a certain way unless you let them. She also uses the idea of paper rings to reference how she feels about Joe Alwyn, hinting that she could not care less about a shiny diamond ring and cares more about the strengthening of their relationship. Thus, through her songs and lyrics, Swift is continually showing this evolution of her character that is leaving me hopeful for more.
Her next two songs, “Death By A Thousand Cuts” and “London Boy” are definitely worth a listen, but the song that caught my attention was “Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks).” Immediately, the lack of any other instrument other than the guitar takes you back to her first few albums, but then the lyrics will hit you right in the gut: “In doctor’s-office-lighting, I didn’t tell you I was scared / That was the first time we were there / Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you / Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus too.” Listening to these lyrics, it is obvious that this is about much more than a boy. Swift even explores a deeper side of herself when she sings, “What am I supposed to do / If there’s no you?” For all the growth that Swift has displayed in her album, it would be a little upsetting to hear these lyrics if they were about a boy due to her display of self-confidence; however, Swift wrote this song about her mother. This year, her mother’s cancer returned, so this song is a physical manifestation of how Swift is dealing with the situation. When I listen to this song, it brings tears to my eyes. Not just because I’m empathetic towards Swift’s situation, but because I admire her for being able to write a song so personal and for herself, while still being able to release it for the world to hear. She has truly come a long way.
Even though “Soon You’ll Get Better” is hard to follow up, “False God” does a good job of keeping the mood with a slower-moving song that is also reminiscent of 1989, but with more seductive undertones. It definitely fits the general subject of Lover; however, one important thing to mention is the transition between “False God” and “You Need to Calm Down.” At the end of “False God,” the music tapers off, while in “You Need to Calm Down,” the song starts with an abrupt beat which completely changes the vibe. I think that we’ve all heard “You Need to Calm Down” multiple times and seen all the memes that come with it, but I’m just gonna come out and say it: This song is incredibly catchy. Although the lyrics seem to lack a little depth, for example when she sings “You need to just stop / Like can you just not step on my gown? / You need to calm down,” the beat and just how relatable the song is makes up for it. I mean, I’m pretty sure all her fans can or has related to the lyrics “You are somebody that I don’t know / But you’re takin’ shots at me like it’s Patrón / And I’m just like, damn, it’s 7 a.m.” at some point in their life.
To wrap up the album, there is “Afterglow,” “ME! (feat. Brendon Urie),” “It’s Nice to Have A Friend,” and “Daylight.” In “Afterglow,” Swift again shows her evolution when she takes responsibility for some of the things she has done when she sings, “I blew things out of proportion, now you’re blue / Put you in jail for something you didn’t do.” As for “ME!” I still have mixed opinions on it. Swift really does seem to embrace the whole idea of accepting oneself as you are and realizing your own self worth, which don’t get me wrong, I’m all for. But to me, it was the overall sound and tone of the song. It sounded like something that would be in a musical, which isn’t bad, but personally not my style.
Moving on to “It’s Nice to Have a Friend,” I was pleasantly shocked. This song has a very simplistic sound to it, which matches the lyrics as they seem to be a memoir of her childhood: “School bell rings, walk me home / Sidewalk chalk covered in snow / Lost my gloves, you give me one / “Wanna hang out?” / Yeah, sounds like fun.” She even pays tribute to the game of Twenty Questions that we all used to play at sleepovers. On that note, her lyrics are very short and sweet, even in her chorus when she sings, “It’s nice to have a friend.” I think that Swift was very purposeful with the way she composed this song. I think that Swift really wants to appreciate her past and knows that in order to have a successful future, she needs to acknowledge the past and take good lessons from it. These past few years, Swift has been in the spotlight and given a lot of negative attention. To me, Swift is appreciating a simple thing in life: simply having a friend.
Finally, her last song “Daylight” slows it down and seems to reminisce on the last year or two: “Here I am waiting, I’ll have to leave soon / Why am I holding on? / We knew this day would come, we knew it all along / How did it come so fast?” It seems to be a perfect ending to an epic album.
Overall, I think this album was a huge step forward for Swift. While it’s true that this album may not bring as much scandal or drama, Swift furthered her career by making an album that seemed more for herself than for the spotlight. And even though she did take it back a little bit with some of the lyrics and sounds that were more like her songs on 1989, Swift showed us evolution and maturity that we didn’t know we needed.
I think that all I can say is that I’m truly happy for her.