If we have to pick one thing that we simply adore about Taylor Swift, it has to be her attention to detail in songwriting. Having released more than a few hit songs that are chockfull with references – whether it be about her colourful love life, highly publicised celebrity feuds or various anecdotes growing up – Swifties were in for a treat when the songstress’ much-anticipated seventh album, Lover, finally dropped on 23 August.
This album is very much a celebration of love, in all its complexity, coziness, and chaos. It’s the first album of mine that I’ve ever owned, and I couldn’t be more proud. I’m so excited that #Lover is out NOW: https://t.co/t7jK7XmEqa pic.twitter.com/NMgE7LTdGZ
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) August 23, 2019
The road to Lover hadn’t been an easy one, though. In the two years since 2017’s Reputation, the songstress faced the loss of the master rights to her old music after leaving former label Big Machine Label Group – the company was sold to American music magnate Scooter Braun, whom Taylor has publicly condemned for “incessant, manipulative bullying”. For better or worse, the situation has made Lover a particularly precious record to the 29-year-old – and one to the fans as well, if its top spot as the most saved album by a female artiste on its first day of pre-orders says anything about Swifties’ reactions to their queen’s latest release.
Her longest album to date at a whopping 18 tracks, we get down to the details of Tay-Tay’s most romantic effort yet.
1. ‘I Forgot That You Existed’
Despite it being a “celebration of love,” Lover opens with a seemingly bitter farewell to former friends through ‘I Forgot That You Existed’. Punctuated by a smart piano beat, she declares her “indifference” to haters with a cynical laugh or two – a call back, almost, to the grudging tone of Reputation despite its supposed cheery tune. What we can say is while it’s an unexpected introduction to this hefty album, it does its job intriguing both fans and critics alike.
2. ‘Cruel Summer’
Painting a straightforward story of a relationship founded in secret meetings and drunken tears, this earworm was the combination of work done by Taylor, frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff and record producer Annie Clark (aka St Vincent). Centred around synth pop and possibly using a talkbox (a music instrument modifier used to change the frequency of sounds), ‘Cruel Summer’ focuses heavily on the lyrical creativity of Taylor the songwriter.
If you’re looking for the old Taylor Swift, it’s safe to say she can come to the phone now. ‘Lover’ reads like a cathartic return to the romantic love songs that first shot her to stardom, from the dreamy guitar down to the soft crooning of lyrics such as “With every guitar string scar on my hand / I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover”. Not particularly revolutionary, but a track that does enough to tell everyone the direction Taylor is headed with the record.
4. ‘The Man’
With Lover as the album where Taylor finally makes a move towards social issues, it’s not a surprise that a track named for the opposite gender is decidedly feminist coloured. Imagining how her celebrity life would differ in an alternate life, comparisons have been drawn between ‘The Man’ and the Beyoncé single ‘If I Were A Boy’ for its not-so-subtle decry of the double standards in society – “They’d say I hustled, put in the work / they wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve” being just two of the lines that hit back at detractors of successful females.
5. ‘The Archer’
Taylor hits the bullseye with dream-pop ballad ‘The Archer’, a lyrical illustration of her tumultuous relationships over the years. Leaning heavily on synthesisers, the track was lauded at release for showcasing her “vulnerable, confessional” side and a different look to the album, compared to the other singles preceding Lover, ‘ME!’ and ‘You Need To Calm Down’.
6. ‘I Think He Knows’
Snapping fingers herald sixth track ‘I Think He Knows’, which evolves into a high-momentum pop song about Taylor’s excitement for her lover. It also features clear reference to boyfriend Joe Alwyn in his “boyish looks” and “indigo eyes”, radiating confidence for their relationship – indeed, the record is scattered with Easter eggs alluding to him.
7. ‘Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince’
Yet another dreamlike opener about high school sweethearts leaving their home together, segues into a juxtaposition of the United States’ political landscape with ‘Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince’. Critics have noted its portrayal of hopelessness at her country’s current state, while being cleverly disguised as one of Taylor’s usual spiels on young love – as one might expect from an artiste who has made her mark in the industry as a “songwriting savant”, as described by Rolling Stone.
8. ‘Paper Rings’
If you’ve come to expect slow-paced, heavy songs in Lover, the album turns itself on its head with ‘Paper Rings’ – one of the more lightweight songs in the list. Once again implying details about her partner, the cheery new wave track describes the early stages of their relationship and finishes the tale with Taylor singing, “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings”. Dare we hope that this points to the pop queen tying the knot soon? One can only wonder for now.
9. ‘Cornelia Street’
When Lover made its way to fans, people were quick to pick up on a very specific place in the tracklist – namely ‘Cornelia Street’, where Taylor lived for a while. One of the three songs that Swift wrote entirely on her own in Lover, there also seemed to be a curious debate as to whether Cornelia Street referred to the one in London or Manhattan – evidence seems to be pointing to the latter, but as one might guess from her English beau, she might just be partial to all things British as well.
10. ‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’
It may be the name of a form of torture in ancient China, but this whimsical song is anything but dark. A favourite at Taylor’s Secret Sessions that she held for fans before the album was released, its subject of getting over a lover was such a personal one to Taylor that she allegedly left the room when this song was played. This just goes to show the amount of love the songstress put into creating each number and embodies what we love most about Tay-Tay: the dedication to her craft.
11. ‘London Boy’
There’s nothing quite like declaring your love for your significant other than by writing and naming a song after him. Quirkily opening with a line by actor Idris Elba – “We can go driving on my scooter ‘round London” – taken from his interview at The Late Late Show with James Corden, ‘London Boy’ is a saccharine ode to Alwyn that laves praise on his accent and dimples, and confirms that Taylor’s heart is well and truly taken.
12. ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’
Sure, we all knew this collaboration with the Dixie Chicks was happening, thanks to an Easter egg spotted by eagle-eyed netizens in the music video for ‘ME!’. However, ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ isn’t just a throwback to her country roots. One of the most emotional songs ever released by the ‘Fearless’ singer, it focuses on her mother’s battle with cancer, which returned earlier this year. A heart-wrenching ballad complete with banjo strums and stripped-back instrumentals, this is Taylor at her rawest yet – and we simply can’t get enough of it.
13. ‘False God’
A sombre slow jam peppered with religious imagery, many had assumed this would be yet another subtle political commentary, but the truth is that ‘False God’ is at its heart an R&B-esque number about a failing relationship. Lines like “Religion’s in your lips, even if it’s a false god / We’d still worship, we might just get away with it” put together a sombre story that stays with fans long after its last note. There’s also yet another mention of New York City folded within, but only T-Swift herself may know what that reference really means.
14. ‘You Need To Calm Down’
Going all out for the LGBTQ community, Taylor’s second single ‘You Need To Calm Down’ is a peppy, snarky response to those who don’t believe in the freedom to love. While some critics found the song to be a tad too commercial in a bid to appear as an LGBTQ ally – it debuted in June this year, the month of Gay Pride, where many businesses appear to jump on the bandwagon to appease the community – it’s one of the few explicitly pro-gay songs done by a high-profile artiste, with the singer openly encouraging fans to sign for the Equality Act in the United States.
For someone who had no qualms about writing up past boyfriends into songs, ‘Afterglow’ brings about a twist to Taylor’s songwriting. Singing about her fear of accidentally destroying her relationship, the pre-chorus line “Why’d I have to break what I love so much?” is a poignant reminder that the queen of pop is just like everyone else – a person with their own insecurities and emotions.
And of course, the track that announced Lover to the world – ‘ME!’, a bubblegum synth-pop track of shiny camp featuring Panic! At The Disco frontman Brendon Urie. With Taylor decked out in a cotton candy-esque dress and discarding the snake moniker from the Reputation era, the music video certainly hits the right notes in embracing and owning individuality.
17. ‘It’s Nice To Have A Friend’
At just 2:30 minutes, it’s the shortest track in T-Swift’s illustrious discography – but its length does not take away the charm of beguiling penultimate track ‘It’s Nice To Have A Friend’. Implying a friendship that becomes something more with each line while transitioning to adulthood, the use of harp plucking and choral backing vocals gives the song an ethereal beauty that is unlike any of the other tracks in the record.
Ardent fans would be hard-pressed to forget how Taylor proclaimed that love was “red, burning red” in the 2012 album Red, but seven years on, it seems that the songstress is changing her view as we come full circle with ‘Daylight’. Another hymn to paramour Alwyn, as most of the album has been, the sweet lyrics “And I can still see it all in my head, back and forth from New York / Singing in your bed, I once believed love would be burning red / But it’s golden, like daylight, like daylight” confirm that Taylor has opened a new chapter in her life for love and honesty, becoming the lover she’d always meant to be.
Taylor Swift’s new album Lover is out now.
Swifties, wanna catch Taylor Swift at her City of Lover Concert in Paris? Here’s your chance to win yourself a trip to catch Tay-Tay live! Participate here.