Album Review | Taylor Swift - Lover
Taylor Swift’s latest album Lover reads as a musical art journal or scrapbook of a young woman’s raw diary entries. It is a merging of the country Taylor and the newer pop Taylor.
Taylor calls this album “a new beginning … a love letter to love, in all of its maddening, passionate, exciting, enchanting, horrific, tragic, wonderful glory.”
I completely ignored the hype around Taylor as a 15 year old. 14 years later I fell in love with her 1989 album. Songs like the synthy delicious “Welcome to New York” and “Style” with its funk-pop form and upbeat guitar refrain had me hooked. 1989 was all pop and I loved it.
Two albums later Lover is Taylor’s 7th album, the culmination of Taylor’s musical life, her journey from a 14 year old into a woman on the brink of 30, this album feels like a slice down the middle, not separating her distinct styles but merging them, unashamedly. She no longer is trying to prove a particular side of her, but instead calmly accepts where she came from musically, where she has gone and where she is headed.
One of my personal favourites on this album is “Cruel Summer”, the second of eighteen tracks. The song was co-written with Jack Antonoff, the lead singer of the indie pop band Bleachers and Annie Clark of St Vincent. Taylor said she wanted this song to “feel like a desperate summer love that might be doomed from the start.” This is a true summer song, evoking feelings of a carefree youth, the memory of walking into something unknown, exciting and perhaps a little dangerous. It’s a song you can blast out while driving across the Moors on a hot summer’s day and yet feel a deep sense of sweet poignancy rising up within you with the chorus.
If, like me, you were also a die-hard Dixie Chicks fan, crying over “Travelling Soldier”, there is a treasure waiting for you by the name of “Soon You’ll Get Better.” The song is about Taylor’s mother’s battle with cancer. The combination of the Dixie Chicks’ ability to deftly handle sorrow in their harmonies and the unexpected rawness and fragility of Taylor’s vocals makes this song both hard to listen to and impossible to keep your distance from. Beautiful Bluegrass guitar melodies permeate the whole track as Taylor’s voice is cradled by harmonies, as if her and her mother are being held up and comforted by a chorus of women.
“False God” is musically a new direction for Swift. As a massive Simply Red fan, the use of sax reminds me of his style; sensual, fun, mixing seductive jazz with upbeat pop. It’s a really tuneful, sultry song, bringing out a side of Taylor’s voice I’ve never heard before and I’d love to hear more of this style. I wonder if this may be a glimpse into whatever she decides to move into next.
The significance of Lover as an album could be passed over at first glance, yet is an important mirror held up to the current generation. It is symbolic of a generation who are changing the way we view life, work and individuals. You don’t get one job that lasts your lifetime anymore. You split your skills and run 3 freelance jobs at once in order to survive. You are all things. Rachel Mercer, Executive Strategy Director at R/GA sums it up when she says, “Gen Z’s motivations around money are much more around how they can maintain their independence...and if you don’t like labels you also don’t want to be put into boxes around what you have to do in your life. You just want to be doing what is most fulfilling to you as an individual.” This is the underlying feel and message of Lover. It is a mix of all the styles that have made Taylor up so far. She is telling us she doesn’t have to choose - she is proud of all of her. If you struggle to pin down what this album is - well that’s the point.
In perhaps a rather odd comparison, this album actually reminds me in some ways of Christina Aguilera’s 2002 Stripped, one of my favourites which heavily influenced me growing up. Like Lover, Stripped was a scrapbook, a story of Aguilera’s life. That album pinpointed Aguilera’s ownership of who she was musically and who she was as a woman. It was leaving a ‘label’ behind and moving into what she wanted to be, regardless of who she upset or how her fans felt about it. I believe that Taylor is in the process of doing this. Where Aguilera was breaking free of the sweet, feminine image of a female pop star, Taylor by contrast is owning the delicate and the pink. She seems to be saying she can be a strong, powerful, independent woman and be all the candy floss too. They are not mutually exclusive. I’m all for that.
Lover is most certainly an album that matters in Taylor’s musical career and reflects a journey that everyone can relate to.