"As snippets of her aesthetic were released, I was a little confused. Pastel clouds?"TAYLOR SWIFT/YOUTUBE

I love Taylor Swift. In 2019 it is a difficult and controversial love to have, but it remains ever strong. It is an inexplicable love, for Taylor Swift cannot sing, dance or write as well as others in her industry of a lower success. I am entirely aware of her inferiority to Beyoncé, and yet she is my Beyoncé. I know every single album inside-out, I learnt to play every song from Fearless on the guitar, and I paid an extortionate fee to watch her perform on the Reputation tour at Wembley Stadium.

“In the case of Lover, I remained consistently confused of its purpose – something that I feel has previously always been clear”

Following years of bitter post-break up albums, hearing Swift was going to release a love album excited me. Her emotional explorations of pain, identity and reclamation have accompanied my own across the years. I was finally ready to hear a “love letter to love”. As snippets of the album’s aesthetic were released, I was a little confused. Pastel clouds? It lacked the sophistication of the newsprint Reputation, the nostalgia of the 1989 polaroid, or even the iconic red lips of Red. Usually, the form follows the theme of the album. In the case of Lover, I remained consistently confused of its purpose, something that I feel has previously always been clear.

These initial feelings only grew with the release of ME!, the video for which is an incoherent, steroid-fuelled pastel blast. The song itself sounded like it belonged on the Despicable Me soundtrack. ‘You Need to Calm Down’ has an important message to convey, though the success of its delivery is debatable. I am as conflicted as the critics, but feel myself leaning towards perceiving the track as an instance of distasteful representation. She is entirely outshone by the LGBTQ+ icons that feature in the music video – and without them, the track’s generic lyrics mean the video would struggle to convey her stance. Either way, she recognises the importance of addressing homophobia even if the effectiveness of such an assertion is lost within a song which reflects upon the criticism she herself has faced.

When ‘The Archer’ was released, my excitement for the album was reinstated. It shares the simple electric guitar and echoing vocals of ‘This Love’, which marked a welcome and mature development for the impressive melancholic numbers which shine across her discography. The song showcases the strength of her voice and ear for melody in the bridge, while sustaining effective lyrics that communicate a concept that is not overworked. Swift exposes herself in a way that feels honest, rather than forced. “Who could ever leave me […] but who could stay?” poignantly echoes media comments on her love life and cast them in a way that suggest they have been internalised, as she gently asks for “help [to] hold on to you”.

Title track ‘Lover’ is my favourite Taylor Swift song, overtaking ‘All Too Well’. Every element of the song works. Set in 12/8, it shares the iconic modern ballad-feel of Rihanna’s ‘Love on the Brain’, yet feels distinctively Taylor Swift. The music similar showcases her artistic ability. I was optimistic following the release of this track and hoped the rest of the album would follow.

“‘False God’ feels like a strange arrangement of garage band loops struggling against a time signature”

‘Cruel Summer’ was met with much anticipation following the approval of the fans invited to listening parties. While the verses lack a little, the chorus shines. It encompasses the nostalgia of 1989 with cinematic feeling of Red. The song belongs at the end of a coming-of-age film, but is lost as the second track on Lover. Unusually, the track-list of Lover seems incoherent. Taylor Swift usually opens and closes her albums effortlessly. ‘I Forgot That You Existed’ is a weak opener, and ‘Daylight’ is entirely forgettable. The album is at least five songs too long. Fantastic pieces are lost to a sea of tracks that are not only mundane, but feel unfinished, and are elevated only by their production.

‘Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince’ is a highlight. Much like ‘So it Goes…’ (Reputation’s most underrated song) the production is fantastic, with a chorus introduced by a dramatic drop that makes it an infectious dance track. When I inevitably fork out to see her on tour, I will look forward to this song.

Where her country roots were abandoned in Reputation and 1989, Lover rightfully picks them up again and effectively uses them in ‘Paper Rings’ and ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’. While ‘Paper Rings’ is upbeat and fun, ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ artfully makes use of the Dixie Chicks’s feature on the track. Hauntingly delicate harmonies accompany the intensely personal lyrics detailing her mother’s illness. For anyone who has experienced anything similar, it hits home.


Mountain View

...& Me: Bon Iver

The good songs on Lover are some of the strongest Taylor Swift has ever written. It is only unfortunate that tracks ‘False God’ (which feels like a strange arrangement of garage band loops struggling against a time signature) and ‘London Boy’ (which simply shouldn’t have been allowed to feature on the album) are also included. These tracks do not dip, but plummet.

The overall feeling is one of inconsistency. Matched with blue as a running motif which seems to be forgotten half way through the album, overworked ideas like ‘Cornelia Street’, and an incessant need to recount her ‘drunk’ state, it seems like an album that is not quite refined. Unlike Fearless and 1989 which span a perfect 13 tracks, it feels laborious at 18. Another year in the studio would have made Lover her strongest album yet.

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