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Taylor brings a burst of colour to pop music with ‘Lover’
Lover is finally here! And I am more than ready for it. Long gone are the days of ‘reputation’, with its black and white album art, snake motif and bitter-fuelled tracks. The old Taylor is dead, she claimed back in 2017. Well, if the new Taylor’s anything to go by, I want her to stay, stay, stay… Lover’s such a stark contrast to ‘reputation’, whilst simultaneously having songs that sound as though they’d have fit right in on her prior record. It’s the ying to rep’s yang, and the symmetry of the two albums is beautiful. One of the many reasons why I find Taylor’s music to be so special is that it’s like peeking into her very own diary or a scrapbook; granting us outsiders an insight into the mind of Miss Swift at particular moments in her life. If ‘Lover’ is anything to by, she’s happier, lighter, and freer. Filled with butterflies popping and colours bursting and synths exploding, Taylor’s in love. And it shows. The record’s opener – ‘I Forgot You Existed’ – transitions from ‘rep’ to ‘Lover’ perfectly. Sure, it’s not the strongest opener she’s ever had (that crown is shared by both ‘State of Grace’ and ‘…Ready For It?’). But it’s kinda like a catch up on where Taylor was when she started the album. She spews out her bitterness that she was clinging onto – and which fuelled – ‘reputation’, ready to embrace a lighter existence. Taylor further cements this ideal by stating: “This song closes the book on ‘reputation’ in resolving that whole conflict with a shrug.” Yeeees! I’m here for this passive-aggressive resolution. Also, ‘I Forgot You Existed’ automatically gets points because of the adorable: “…sooooo, yeah”, at the end of the track. It’s the little things like these that I live for in Taylor’s music, and track one already didn’t disappoint. Next up on ‘Lover’ is ‘Cruel Summer’. Boy, do I have a lot of feelings about this track. It’s pure pop perfection – modern Taylor Swift at her absolute finest. It’s such an earworm and almost impossible to sing-a-long to (yet I still try in vain!). It’s legit the perfect track to whack on your ‘Summer Road Trip’ playlist and let the sun kiss your skin while Taylor sings softly in your ears. Honestly, I can’t get enough of this track, it’s been on repeat for quite some time now. It has one of the best bridges on the album (more on that later). Her screaming “I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?” It’s such a twisted lyric, so impactful, like she’s punching you in straight in the gut. It’s quite possibly my fave lyric from the entire record. Taylor herself says: “I wanted this song to feel like a desperate summer love that might be doomed from the start.” She captures that vibe perfectly. It’s light and upbeat, tinged with edges of darkness creeping in. Side note: Does the distorted voice at the beginning of the track reminds anyone else of ‘Walk Me Home’ by P!nk? No? Just me, then. You can tell that Taylor had fun making this album. You can feel her energy radiating through your headphones. You can practically see her dancing around in the studio, experimenting with different sounds and styles, wondering if she can get away with adding steel drums or an Idris Elba spoken word on her album. Spoilers: You can, and it works wonderfully. Unusual tracks like ‘It’s Nice To Have A Friend’ (featuring steel drums and a choir) and ‘False God’ (featuring a saxophone) give the record a little zest, and ‘Lover’ flies because of it. Even ‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’ is a little out there, at least for Taylor. Starting with the echoing ‘my, my, my my’, accompanied by the stringing of a guitar, it’s different, but fantastically so. See, ‘Lover’ is quite experimental, at least for Taylor’s standards. It would’ve been quite easy for her to stay in the country lane all of those years ago, raking in the cash from her safe little bubble. But ever since ‘Red’, Taylor’s explored other venues. I’m not saying she’s the pioneer of changing genres by any means – but the little nuances on ‘Lover’, the strange little additions that I weren’t expecting were a delight. It’s filled with synths and lyrics about love, sure, but it’s also bursting with personality. And that, in an album, is very rare indeed. ‘Lover’ tackles a variety of themes. From taking on politics in the tragic fairytale ‘Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince’ (seriously, that track name is one of the best I’ve ever heard, how iconic), to sexism in ‘The Man’, to LGBT rights in ‘You Need To Calm Down’, Taylor has a point of view. Long gone are the days of just singing sappy love songs (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Taylor’s back from the dead, and she ain’t taking any prisoners. Speaking of ‘Miss Americana’ – it’s another unusual vibe for Taylor. Stick it on ‘Speak Now’, for example, and you’d be baffled at how the ‘Sparks Fly’ singer was singing something so dark yet lurid. It’s a tragic, modern fairytale, and I can’t get enough of it. It’d sit nicely on ‘reputation’, but it’s perfect on ‘Lover’. It showcases the next logical, yet natural, progression of Taylor’s sound. And it’s beautiful that we’ve got to grow with her over all of these years. ‘The Man’ has some exquisite, classic Max Martin production magic all over it. The repetitive yet seductive beat draws you in, forcing you to listen to what Taylor’s got to say. It’s sultry, and I live for those synths. ‘Paper Rings’ is a happy, summer-y bop and that is that. If you hate ‘Paper Rings’, you hate happiness, and that’s a fact. It’s like ‘ME!’s’ big sister. And I love those happy little siblings. Ah, ‘ME!’. Taylor always seems to choose the most divisive tracks to be her lead single, the most meme-worthy and attention-grabbing to stir up a commotion. I, personally, love ‘ME!’. I don’t even care. Sure, the lyrics are a little juvenile and cringe-inducing, but it paints a bright picture in an otherwise monochromatic pop landscape, and I can’t get enough of it. I’m still bitter that she removed the “hey kids! Spelling is fun,” from the Spotify album. I guess enough people complaining about the track forced her hand. Sigh. This is why we can’t have nice things. Looking for ‘1989’, chill-pop Taylor? ‘Cornelia Street’ has your back. With traces of ‘Dress’ (but better), this track is like viewing old Taylor through the guise of new Taylor. And the two blend together beautifully. ‘London Boy’, on paper, should be awful. Opening with Idris Elba asking “Can we ride in on my, uh, scooter?”, featuring Taylor listing a bunch of random places in London, before she declares “I love the English!”. Yeah, no thanks. But, listen. I actually kinda love it. It’s so tongue-in-cheek and sounds so good that I actually get excited when it’s coming up on my ‘Lover’ relisten (for the 100th time already). With her faux-English accent and juggling Lily Allen-vibes, I’m here for it. Besides, I can’t wait to hear it performed live in London when she goes on tour. ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ is devastating. I almost cried while listening to it, honestly. It’s so vulnerable, so raw, so filled with emotion, it almost feels intrusive listening to it. “Soon you’ll get better, because you have to,” she coos to her mother. Ugh. It’s such a simple lyric, but it’s so effective. It’s something we all, unfortunately, can relate to. That feeling of helplessness. And Taylor lets us share in her pain and vain hope. “Who am I supposed to talk to, what am I supposed to do, if there’s no you?” Oh god. Goosebumps. Tears. The lot. Even the little nuances, from her breathing on the track, attempting to keep her composure. The whole track just oozes sadness and vulnerability and I just can’t. I love it, it’s beautiful and sacred, but I won’t be listening to it too much. I can’t go through that emotional turmoil. ‘Afterglow’ is ‘Wildest Dreams’, viewed from a different perspective. They tackle similar themes, holding a similar sound. But I love that. Again, it’s like the next chapter of Taylor’s diary, and she’s still struggling with the desperate doubts that cloud her mind. While the sound of the album is light, and while the album art is dreamy, it tackles some pretty personal stuff. Sonically, it’s got a big, booming beat that’s gonna sound sick blasting out of arena speakers. (Can you tell I’m buzzed for the ‘Lover’ tour?) ‘Daylight’ is the perfect closer to the album. It’s straight out of ‘1989’, beautiful and mellow, finishing off the album with a kiss. Even the spoken outro is something a little different for Taylor. It shows how far she’s moved on from the opening track. “You are what you love,” she says, finishing off the album. This is a Taylor who’s focusing on what she loves, as opposed to what she hates. And she’s blossoming. The title track is one of my favourite songs released this year. In fact, it’s one of my favourite Taylor Swift songs of all time. It’s so beautiful, so raw and honest and gives me all of the feels. “Ladies and gentlemen will you please stand, With every guitar string scar on my hand, I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover. My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue,” is one of the best bridges of all time. It’s first-dance, wedding-worthy stuff. ‘Lover’ is ethereal, like candyfloss wrapped up in a 3:41 song. The record knows exactly when to leave a track vacant or when to spice up its production. There’s plenty of room for the songs to seep in, and there’s plenty of up-tempo bops to dance along to. It features the perfect balance. It feels so clean, so fresh, so light and colourful, and I literally cannot praise it enough. Now, I realise this has been a pretty one-sided review, but I’m just gonna come out and say it: ‘Lover’ is my favourite Taylor Swift album so far. Yup, I love it that much. That’s not to say that it’s without flaws, though. ‘False God’, while the sick sax saves it from falling into the depths of mediocrity, is my least favourite track – but out of 18 tracks, having one slightly filler-feeling song is pretty decent. (Besides, it’s probs gonna grow on me). The other critique I have with the album (other than the deduction of ‘spelling is fun!’ – yep, still bitter), is that I’d love for the Dixie Chicks to have more of a feature ala Brendon Urie than being demoted to backing vocals. Having said that, though, ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ is kinda sacred and perfect, so I don’t think I’d really change it if I had the power to. ‘Lover’ sounds so much better through good headphones, too. While it sounds decent played through speakers, through headphones, you really get wrapped up in all of the different shades of the record. ‘I Think He Knows’, for example, really shows off the sick beats and depth of Taylor’s vocals when you blast it straight from some the source. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss. Trust me. Lyrically, the album is stellar. There are so many lyrics that read just like poetry. “Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes”, “holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you”, “American stories burning before me, I’m feeling helpless, the damsels are depressed, Boys will be boys then, where are the wise men? Darling, I’m scared.” I always knew she was a talented song-writer, but this is next level stuff. Overall, ‘Lover’...