Published Aug 26, 2019Taylor Swift finally sounds happy.
She's come a long way from the innocent lovesick songs of her teen years to the single girl party phase of 1989 to the me-against-the-haters vibe of reputation — and Lover proves it.
The album is a dreamy, sugary sweet collection of songs that capture a snapshot of a young woman who finally knows what she wants in a forever partner, and seems to have found it.
The title track is an orchestral ode to both the minutiae of mundane everydays and the optimism of a long and loving future ahead, spent with someone she calls her own. It's simple and moving, set to a waltz, and one of Swift's best love songs to date. "The Archer" and "Afterglow" are more reflective and introspective, bubbling with subtle '80s synths and sharing the few moments of self-doubt on the record.
More often than not, though, the songs sound straight out of a prolonged honeymoon phase of a new relationship. "I Think He Knows" and "London Boy" unabashedly bask in the giddiness of new love, while the upbeat jolt of "Paper Rings" and synth-pop sweetness of "Cornelia Street" posit that new love as an ever-lasting one.
"False God" and "Afterglow" hear a more mature Swift in both subject matter and sound, addressing her own flaws in relationships (something she's often accused of not doing) and drawing on '90s R&B sounds for the former and more synths on the latter.
Of course, there are still a couple of fairytale-esque love stories told on Lover, like "Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince" (which is already being interpreted as a greater political allegory for America and the Democrats by some) and the childhood-friends-turned-sweethearts story in "It's Nice to Have a Friend" (featuring a timpani-heavy loop performed by Toronto-based Regent Park School of Music students).
There are a few outliers that move beyond the realm of romance — album opener "I Forgot That You Existed" makes it clear from the get-go that Swift is done with petty drama, even if she isn't forgiving or forgetting; "The Man" may sound like a peppy pop tune, but lyrically, it's a scathing criticism on sexism (particularly in the music industry); and "You Need to Calm Down" hears Swift finally taking her LGBTQ+ allyship public (if a little heavy-handedly). Then there's "ME!," which is an outlier for all the wrong reasons — marching band music, an infuriatingly annoying chorus and a message of self-love straight out of an afterschool special — that only grate more when Panic! At the Disco's Brendon Urie takes over from Swift on vocals.
The best of all, however, is "Soon You'll Get Better." Opening with just an acoustic guitar, it hears Swift at her most vulnerable yet as she sings to her mother, who was recently re-diagnosed with cancer. "You'll get better soon, 'cause you have to," she pleads, backed by gorgeous harmonies by the Dixie Chicks. It's a feeling familiar to anyone who has lost or almost lost someone close, and stands as a testament to the fact that Swift doesn't need to write about ex-boyfriends to write an absolute heartbreaker of a love song.
Following the fun-all-the-time mentality of 1989 and the chaotic aftermath of public backlash on reputation, Lover hears Swift back on stable ground. Her songwriting is as careful, detailed and impressive as ever, she's nestled into a perfect pop niche, and it seems like being totally in love has let her head drift off into the clouds a bit. The best part: Lover lets fans wander off into the daydream with her. (Republic)