Lover - Taylor Swift First Impressions

Lover – Taylor Swift: First Impressions!

As you may know, I am a big Taylor Swift fan, if you couldn’t tell from this earlier post . So of course, I was super excited to hear Lover, her 7th album. This isn’t exactly “first impressions” because I’ve already listened to the album twice, so this is my third listen, but it’s still definitely early days. Lover as a concept isn’t something Taylor’s new to, but a lot of the prominent themes in these songs are new for her. For the first time, this is an album about love while she’s in love. Much of her past albums have focused on heartbreak (with the notable exception of reputation, which did contain some songs that seemed to focus on her relationship with current boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, though it was from much earlier in their relationship so the songs did have a slightly different tone/dynamic), but now she’s clearly very much in love, and not afraid to tell the world. So, with the premise of the album set up, let’s dive right in.

“I Forgot That You Existed”
Track 1 immediately reminds us that reputation was Taylor’s last album. “I Forgot That You Existed” addresses a feud with another performer, but also shows progression. Taylor’s moving on. Probably more hard hitting than songs about how much someone hates you is about how easy it was for them to forget you, in the end, and this seems like Taylor’s final say in the matter. It doesn’t immediately encapsulate the Lover concept which seems odd for such a heavily aestheticised and stylised album. The marketing and branding for Lover couldn’t be further than the branding of reputation so it is a shock to have Taylor acknowledge the themes of her previous album and make a statement about moving on. The song is a little repetitive, but it’s still not unenjoyable, but one of the weaker songs on the album.

“It’s not love, it’s not hate, it’s just indifference”

“Cruel Summer”
“Cruel Summer” was first hinted at in the “You Need To Calm Down” music video, when Ellen DeGeneres received a fake tattoo of the track title. “Cruel Summer” also seems to hint somewhat at the reputation era, but also appears to address the start of her relationship with Joe. This definitely seems like single material: it seems radio friendly, though I’d expect it to be released either very soon or left until the end of the album cycle because it’s definitely a summer tune. It’s catchy, though the production doesn’t really blow me away. Lyrically, it’s stronger than “I Forgot That You Existed”, but it still isn’t quite at the top of Taylor’s game, though her best lyrics tend to be saved for the ballad-style songs. I really love the screamed “he looks up grinning like the devil” in the background, and some lines seem to call back to reputation (“I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you”) and the secretive beginnings of her relationship with Joe.

“Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes”

“Lover”
Released before the album, “little “Lover”” as it’s been called by fans is a gorgeous, classic Taylor Swift ballad. It has a very similar feel to “New Year’s Day”, with references to Christmas lights thrown in for good measure. This is the first song that really focuses on the romance side of Lover, and presumably her current relationship with Joe. The production on “Lover” is stunning, with a slow beat and reverb creating an intimate, hushed effect. Fans will also notice a couple of lyrical callbacks to previous songs (“take me out, take me home” calls back to 1989’s “Style”, and “I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover” seems to echo “Gorgeous” from reputation). The lyrics here are also more what you expect from Taylor Swift, which makes sense as she is the sole writer credited for the track. She plays with words, drawing from the old saying “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue”, and creates a beautiful, delicate, intimate story that encapsulates her relationship perfectly, but somehow also seems as though it could be universal.

“My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue/All’s well that ends well to end up with you”

“The Man”
I was uncertain of how I’d feel about this song, having heard about it beforehand, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s sassy, but not overly so, it’s powerful, it’s Taylor Swift owning her accomplishments and success. Again, like “Cruel Summer”, I’m not too excited about any of the production elements on this song, but it’s certainly catchy, and probably could also be a single. It’s the biggest feminist statement Taylor’s made in a song, but it doesn’t come across as obnoxious, which was my concern. There’s also another potential lyrical throwbacks: “let the players play” recalls “Shake it Off”. The line about what she’s wearing could also be a subtle reference to her sexual assault trial, as it’s a common question asked of women accusing men of assault or inappropriate sexual behaviour.

“I’d be a fearless leader, I’d be an alpha type”

“The Archer”
Like “Lover”, “The Archer” is more stripped back, with heavy reverb and intimate, hushed production. The similarities in production are likely down to Jack Antanoff’s involvement in both tracks. “The Archer” was also released as a promotional single before the album dropped, and was a hit among fans. After the radio-friendly, poppy “You Need To Calm Down” and “ME!”, it was a relief to see the other side of Taylor, and the other side of the album as well. Again, Taylor uses some wordplay here, adapting the humpty dumpty nursery rhyme to fit the reputation narrative because, again, this song does call back to reputation, asking “who could stay?” seems to fit the same question being asked in “Delicate”: can she and Joe survive this? Of course, we know the answer is yes. The line “I never grow up, it’s getting so old” seems very self-aware, but sincere, unlike her previous instances of self-awareness where she tends to parody the media portrayal of “Taylor Swift”. She also questions herself in “The Archer”: it’s a very vulnerable song. Perhaps the most vulnerable and honest of any Taylor Swift track to date. She admits her own flaws (“I see right through me”, “I’ve been the archer”), while begging for her love to stay, and sounds as sincere as she ever has at the same time.

“And I cut off my nose just to spite my face/Then hate my reflection for years and years”

“I Think He Knows”
Opening with clicks, I’m immediately brought back to “I Forgot That You Existed”, though this has a more stripped back introduction. This song is apparently, again, about the early days of her relationship with Joe. It’s playful, somewhat secretive, and encapsulates the early stages of a relationship. The chorus doesn’t really grab me, though, but I do like the bridge. As track 6, I’d say it’s also fairly likely this will become a single. It’s forgettable, though, sadly, but it does have some radio potential. A nice line for fans calls back to “Sad Beautiful Tragic” (“’Cause good ones never wait”) but flips the message. Again, like “I Forgot That You Existed”, I certainly don’t hate it, but it’s also definitely not one of my favourites on the album.

“Lyrical smile, indigo eyes, hand on my thigh/ We could follow the sparks I’ll drive”

“Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince”
When I heard the title, I thought I wouldn’t like this song. I was wrong. The first verse alone is full of callbacks: to “Crazier”, “You Belong With Me” and “Out of the Woods”. The chorus is incredibly catchy, and features the repeated motif of painting something blue that seems to crop up all over the place in her songs about Joe. reputation also seems to get a quick shout out with the line “They whisper in the hallway “she’s a bad bad girl””. While the bridge doesn’t add much lyrically, the shouts in the background really add an extra dimension to the song. The political undertones to this song are strong as well, with Taylor condemning the current state of America in the second verse. It’s more subtle than “You Need To Calm Down”, but it’s present.

“The whole school is rolling fake dice/You play stupid games you win stupid prizes”

“Paper Rings”
“Paper Rings” is FUN. It’s catchy, it’s dancey, it’s romantic, it’s poppy, it’s irreverent, it’s mature, it’s everything you could want in a Taylor Swift song. Blue paint pops up again here, in relation to (we assume) Joe. The chorus is amazingly catchy, and offers an insight into just how serious the relationship is. And, it’s 2019, and Taylor Swift is referencing drugs and sex dreams. This also has Jack Antonoff credited as producer, and again, it’s one of the most interestingly produced songs on the album. Lyrically, it’s full of some gems, and yet another reference to “blue”. It’s absolutely one of my favourites on the album, and I really hope it’s a single and gets played in the club so I can have an excuse to dance to it.

“I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this”

“Cornelia Street”
“Cornelia Street” is another romantic song, but this one is less upbeat than “Paper Rings”. The focus is on the potential loss of a relationship that Taylor is desperately hanging on to. It’s more stripped back, but the chorus is still reasonably poppy and upbeat. This is another solo-written song, and Taylor makes use of simple lyrics to create that trademark intimacy. This song seems like a private speech rather than a public statement. Yet another lyrical callback can be found here in the pre-chorus: “sat on the roof” seems to describe the same scenario addressed in King of My Heart in the line “up on the roof with a schoolgirl crush”. I’m a fan of the callback to the start of the song in the closing lines, and the breathiness of the vocals.

“And baby, I get mystified by how this city screams your name”

“Death By A Thousand Cuts”
I wasn’t a fan of this song when I heard the title, and it didn’t quite blow me away like “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” did, but it is still enjoyable. The imagery of the paper cuts creates a stark contrast to “Paper Rings”, and turns away from the happy, fulfilling relationship portrayed in earlier songs to focus on a breakup. The chorus is the best bit of the song, though I have a soft spot for “I ask the traffic lights if it’ll be alright, they say I don’t know” which I think is mainly down to the slight pauses between “I don’t know”. I also like the line “United we stand/Our country, guess it was a lawless land”, and the idea of trying to find a part of your body untouched by an ex-lover. I’m not a fan of the repeated “my my my my” in the introduction that reappear in the song, but again, I just can’t even dislike it.

“London Boy”
Oh my God the opening of this song cracked me up the first time I heard it. The image of Taylor Swift sat in a British pub watching rugby is another hilarious image. This song creates a contrast between her as an American girl, and Joe, her “London Boy”. The line “babe don’t threaten me with a good time” also seems to link to the later Brendon Urie feature, as there’s a Panic! At The Disco track titled “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time”. This is also the song that name drops Stella McCartney, which led to the Stella x Taylor Swift merch line. This song is pretty lighthearted, and definitely doesn’t take itself seriously, but it’s still a cute, and funny tribute to her relationship with Joe.

“They say home is where the heart is, but God I love the English”

“Soon You’ll Get Better” ft. The Dixie Chicks
This song is a big change in tone from the rest of the album, because it deals with her mother, Andrea’s cancer. It’s a beautiful tribute to the most important figure in Taylor’s life. Her close relationship with her mother has been well documented in songs, and in their public appearances alongside one another. The Dixie Chicks are featured on this song as backing vocalists, apparently because the Dixie Chicks are one of Andrea’s favourite bands, making it an incredibly touching addition to the song. It’s a genuinely heartbreaking song, one Taylor says she can’t listen to, and I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to write and record. Despite how personal this song is, I can easily see a lot of fans finding comfort in it if they’re going through a similar experience, which really speaks to Taylor’s songwriting abilities.

“You’ll get better soon, because you have to”

“False God”
The sexiest song on the album, and a return, presumably, to her current relationship. There’s references that point to her early relationship with Joe, where she apparently tried to leave because she was convinced they wouldn’t survive the media and wanted to protect them both from heartbreak, and the claim “even if it’s a false God/We’d still worship this love” seems to create a link back to “Don’t Blame Me” where Taylor also links together religion and love. It’s slow, seductive, and a lot more mature than her previous work. It’s almost reminiscent of “Dress”. The breathy chorus stands out to me as the best part of the song, and the production again has the hallmark Jack Antonoff production.

“The alter is my hips”

“You Need To Calm Down”
I think we all know this song by now. The second single released, Taylor came under massive fire for writing a song that some people saw as a gay anthem as a straight woman, but honestly, it’s a bop. People also seem to misinterpret the song — only the middle chorus is about LGBT+ issues, with the rest about Taylor’s personal haters, and the media pitting women against each other. It’s a fairly solid pop tune, but I wouldn’t call it a gay anthem. It is, however, a nice touch from Taylor, letting her LGBT+ fans know she’s on their side fighting for their rights (if that weren’t already clear from the line “and you can want who you want/ boys and boys and girls and girls” from “Welcome To New York”, her longstanding friendships with openly LGBT+ celebrities like Todrick Hall and Ellen DeGeneres and her ever-loving, generous attitude to her fans both straight and LGBT+ alike).

“Can you just not, step on our gowns, you need to calm down”

“Afterglow”
“Afterglow” returns to the blue motif, and therefore, presumably Joe. In this song, Taylor takes on the responsibility for hurting her lover. This is an apology, an admittance. She’s hinted at this before, in “ME!” she sings about going “psycho on the phone” and in “Lover” she swears “to be overdramatic and true to my lover”, and it’s another blow to the Taylor Swift haters who claim she always plays the victim. In Lover, Taylor repeatedly owns up to her past mistakes, most notably in “Afterglow”, showing a new level of maturity and self-awareness in her music.

“Chemistry til it blows up, til there’s no us”

“ME!” ft. Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco
We all know “ME!”. If you don’t, and you’re reading this, I’m honestly impressed. It’s bubblegum pop, plain and simple. It’s catchy, and it’s fun, but it’s not the pinnacle of Taylor’s songwriting. As a longtime Panic! At the Disco fan, I was super excited to hear the rumours that the lead single was featuring Brendon Urie, and I was a little disappointed: I was expecting something more pop-rock. The album version of this song has removed the frankly terrible line “Hey kids, spelling is fun!” which, while clearly not meant to be taken seriously, did make the song feel really childish. With the removal of this line, the song feels less like it’s meant to be played at a primary school disco (though I’m sure it will be played at primary school discos), but instead just what it’s meant to be: fun. Bubblegum pop.

“Babydoll when it comes to a lover, I promise that you’ll never find another like me!”

“It’s Nice to Have a Friend”
This song is… short. It’s quite nicely produced, though I know it’s not been overly popular with the fans. It paints a beautiful picture of childish, innocence love, told from the perspective of schoolgirl. The choir in the background isn’t overpowering, allowing Taylor’s voice to shine through. The concept is sweet, painting the lovers as two schoolchildren, and the instrumentals are a bit different to what you’d expect on a Taylor Swift album, which is a nice departure. The song really emphasises the importance of having your lover also be your friend, and my only real complaint with it is how short it is. It seems like an interlude, which doesn’t make much sense given its placement in the album.

“Like pink sky, up on the roof, sun sinks down, no curfew”

“Daylight”
The closing song on the album returns to the slower, romantic songs featured earlier in the album. Despite closing the album, the song represents new beginnings, which is what Lover is for Taylor. With the dark, edgy reputation gone, she can turn her focus to her love, and “Daylight” is the ultimate representation of this, even making use of the symbolic ending of the night to represent the turbulent times she’s emerging from. The lyrics to “Daylight” also make a slightly obscure Swiftian reference: in the foreword to her 4th album RED, Taylor wrote about the potential of finding a love she described as “golden” as opposed to the red love she was drawing on when she wrote RED, and “Daylight” references this with the line “I once believed love would be burning red, but it’s golden”.

“You are what you love.”

Rankings
“Paper Rings”
“False God”
“Lover”
“The Archer”
“Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince”
“Soon You’ll Get Better” ft. Dixie Chicks
“Cornelia Street”
“Afterglow”
“Daylight”
“The Man”
“You Need To Calm Down”
“London Boy”
“Cruel Summer”
“It’s Nice to Have a Friend”
“Death by a Thousand Cuts”
“I Forgot That You Existed”
“I Think He Knows”
“ME!” ft. Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco

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