Taylor Swift’s seventh album, Lover, was released last night, a few hours after the release of the video for the song “Lover”. “Lover” is, presumably, about Joe Alwyn and there’s been all kinds of speculation, because of the lyrics, whether or not she and Joe might be married so I was wondering whether or not he’d show up – he doesn’t, which probably isn’t surprising, because she’s not going to put their relationship/possible marriage on blast like that, but she does include callbacks to what are presumably symbols of their relationship, like “glitter on the floor after the party”, the lyrics in “New Year’s Day”, the last song off reputation. It’s cute but I’m already partial to the song. “Lover” is a strong song, I like it so much, and I especially like the part where she gets jealous when she sees her lover talking to another girl: “swear to be overdramatic and true”, she sings and… well… yeah. In the past, she’s played cool girl in her lyrics, like we’ve all played cool girl out there in our romances, until you meet someone who gets your crazy.
As for the album, I’ve now listened to it twice through and my first impression is that it’s better than reputation and second to 1989, which I consider her masterpiece. She borrows a lot from herself on both albums here. Many of the hooks and bridges on Lover are hybrids of her two previous albums, and a more committed Taylor Swift scholar might tell you that that’s intentional by theme of each individual song, so they work like chapters in different books, if you’re paying attention, but can stand alone independently if you don’t give a sh-t about easter eggs and clues. Sonic cohesion is a big deal to Taylor and her goal after Red and with 1989 was to prove that she could make a sonically cohesive album – now that that’s been accomplished, I wonder whether or not the sonic cohesion, for her, isn’t restricted to an album now but rather to a string of songs across albums. One song from reputation connects sonically to a song from Lover and another from Lover ties back musically, and at times lyrically, to a song from 1989. For an artist who’s always been so self-referential, if this is indeed what she’s doing, eventually we’ll see that she’s building with her body of work an elaborate multipart epic story series that will require its own scholarship.
But still, Lover is long, slightly too long. It’s Taylor’s longest album at 18 tracks and if it were up to me, I’d get rid of the first song, “I Forgot That You Existed”. If you haven’t heard it is yet, “I Forgot That You Existed” is exactly what you think it is – someone she used to care about, someone she couldn’t imagine being not a part of her, and now she can barely remember who they are… but she’s written a song about it. OK. Kicking off Lover with “I Forgot That You Existed” takes away from the strength of “Cruel Summer”, the second song on the album which reminds me of “Getaway Car” from reputation.
I’d also get rid of “You Need To Calm Down” even though I liked it more than “ME!” when it came out. The way it’s on the album though, positioned right after “False God”, a song with a much more interesting vibe, and before “Afterglow” with its needy, plaintive pulse, is jarring. There are enough upbeat songs on Lover to break up the slow jams that I’m not sure “You Need To Calm Down” is necessary.
That said, there’s probably not much to skip here, a lot less to skip than on reputation, at least for me. “Cornelia Street” is lovely, “London Boy” is growing on me, and “Soon You’ll Get Better” feat Dixie Chicks, about Taylor’s mother’s battle with cancer, will destroy you.
And then there’s “The Man”. It’s Taylor’s version of “If I Were A Boy” with an especially pointed lyric:
And they would toast to me, oh, let the players play
I’d be just like Leo in Saint-Tropez
Leonardo DiCaprio’s modelising of women 25 years old and under has now been immortalised in a Taylor Swift song. It’s not meant to be a compliment. He’s a punchline. He’s been a punchline now for years. You think he’s embarrassed?
Also attached - Taylor at the Elvis Duran and The Z100 Morning Show yesterday in New York.