By Catherine Taylor
On August 23rd Taylor Swift released her seventh studio album, ‘Lover.’ The aptly titled album is the longest of Swift’s career, coming in at 18 tracks, and here’s the thing: it’s not a drag. In fact, it’s probably her best work.
Lover takes the Swiftian method of storytelling that made Taylor a household name (see 2012’s critically-acclaimed album RED) and places it in the synth-pop setting of 2014’s bestselling release, 1989. The album opens with I Forgot That You Existed, an ode to the darkness that characterised Swift’s reputation era: ‘it isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference,’ she states with a lyrical shrug of her shoulders.
Fan-favourite track Cruel Summer is a triumph and deserves the hype it has received since the album’s release. Many question what exactly Swift was thinking when she released ME! as Lover’s first single, especially when Cruel Summer is peak Taylor Swift pop magic. Produced by St. Vincent, this should-have-been-a-single track delicately balances masterful storytelling, an inescapable hook and a dramatic bridge: ‘And I scream for whatever it’s worth / “I love you,” ain’t that the worst thing you’ve ever heard?’ is a glaring highlight.
Swift’s vocals are on top form on this record. 1989 co-producer Jack Antonoff collaborates with the songstress once again on Lover, seamlessly blending electro-pop synths with her levelled timbre. There’s an expertly delivered growl on the aforementioned Cruel Summer, a Taylor first. The song Lover itself is as good a wedding song as any, with a moving vocal performance. False God and Afterglow also showcase Swift’s voice at its best. While the former, a sensual saxophone track that sounds like it could be a song by The 1975, is sung primarily in her lower register, the latter is a powerful ballad, sung delicately at first, before a breath-taking climax in the final chorus.
Whilst starting off strong, Lover inevitably lags slightly in the middle. I Think He Knows and London Boy are both catchy, if forgettable, tracks about Swift’s long-time love Joe Alwyn. In fact, it’s impossible to ignore Swift’s unapologetic love for the British actor on this record: approximately half of Lover is believed to be about their three-year relationship. Cornelia Street and Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince are two obvious Joe-centric stand-out tracks. Cornelia Street is an unflinchingly honest look at the potential heartbreak that comes with a new relationship: ‘I hope I never lose you / hope it never ends / I’d never walk Cornelia Street again,’ whilst Miss Americana takes a familiar high-school setting and demonstrates a clever allegory for the state of America’s current political climate: ‘American glory faded before me / Now I’m feeling hopeless, ripped up my prom dress.’
Finally, Swift offers up every ounce of emotional vulnerability that she can muster in two of the album’s best tracks, Death By A Thousand Cuts and Soon You’ll Get Better. Death is so raw in its execution that the final line cuts just like All Too Well did on RED: ‘I take the long way home / I ask the traffic lights if it’ll be alright they say “I don’t know”,’ Swift sings morosely. Soon You’ll Get Better details her mother Andrea’s cancer battle, combining Taylor’s signature country sound with simple yet powerful lyrics and haunting backing vocals from the Dixie Chicks.
Overall, Lover is exactly what Swift intended it to be: a record that is shamelessly, adoringly in love with the idea of love, in all of its forms. With its masterful production, Swift has placed herself firmly in the top-tier of pop songwriters. She’s still got it, so the only question that remains is: where to next?