As her first foray into music production with a new label, Taylor Swift’s Lover truly captures the mood for 2019 — love.
Self-love, love for friends, love for family and love between lovers are all themes Swift explores in her seventh studio album. It works for her, most of the time. This year has been huge for her as an artist, and it’s not because of any Wests or Kardashians.
After Swift lost out on the possibility of owning her catalog of music as a result of the sale of Big Machine Records in June, she hinted at releasing new music under Republic Records. She’s rerecording all of her music so she can own her master tapes, too. Several months later, Lover is here, and it is truly a lovely album — with some exceptions.
On to the review.
For the most part, Lover hits all the notes of a Taylor Swift album. It’s dramatic, cute, a little kitschy and some tracks are definitely shower karaoke material. There are just a couple of tracks that don’t flow with the rest of the album’s vibe, such as “ME!” and “You Need to Calm Down.” The album spends most of its time focusing on love and heartbreak like her last six, and “ME!” would fit into that framework, being about radical self-love, if it didn’t sound like it was written for a toddler. The inclusion of Brendon Urie doesn’t help because he spends most of his time on the track spelling out the word “awesome.”
“You Need to Calm Down,” while ultimately a positive and uplifting message which encourages people on social media to just let people live their lives, comes off as preachy and condescending. Taylor Swift has clearly earned the right to tell people to hop off her back, but Lover really isn’t the time or place. The song would have been much better as a stand-alone single.
Some of the real gems from Lover are “Cornelia Street,” “Soon You’ll Get Better” and “Afterglow.” “Cornelia Street” tells the story of looking back on a ride home with someone and reminiscing about the resulting heartbreak. This calls back to “Enchanted” from her 2010 album Speak Now, where she sings about saying goodnight to someone after meeting them at a party. “Cornelia Street” is truly powerful songwriting on Swift’s part, bringing in verses such as “We bless the rains on Cornelia Street/Memorize the creaks in the floor” and “Barefoot in the kitchen/Sacred new beginnings/That became my religion, listen.”
“Soon You’ll Get Better” features country artists Dixie Chicks, and their harmonies with Swift are the cause of half the tears this song triggers. Beginning with lyrics about being in a hospital, the track is a place where Swift emotionally reflects on her mother’s cancer diagnosis. This song is beyond touching. It is worth recognizing the strength it took to verbalize, vocalize and publish this kind of emotion — Swift truly bares her heart to her fans.
While “ME!” approaches self-love from a somewhat childish perspective, “Afterglow” takes on asking to still be loved after making a mistake in a relationship. “Fighting with a true love is boxing with no gloves/Chemistry ‘til it blows up, ‘til there’s no us/Why’d I have to break what I love so much?” On this track, Swift is a vulnerable mess. Most importantly, she is human. Just a human, fallible, asking for forgiveness. Even after 2017’s relatively tame Reputation, this may be the closest she has come to shedding her image as a golden child.
It’s a Taylor Swift album, which means it absolutely does not disappoint.