The focus of Taylor Swift’s Lover is right in the title. From her love for her boyfriend and mom, to her love for being in love, Swift has clearly dedicated this album to the people and things she loves the most. Lover is hopeful, challenging and suggests there’s a certain kind of freedom in heartbreak.
Unlike the dark edginess of her 2017 album Reputation, Lover feels more like a sequel to her pop album 1989, glitter and all. Swift traded her snakes and hard edges for butterflies and hues of pastel, a symbol for the way she’s choosing to brand herself as a lover rather than a fighter.
And the “lover” brand suits her quite well Lover has more emotional depth than Reputation and shows a new level of maturity for Swift. While her previous albums are full of black-and-white juxtapositions to describe love and relationships, Swift admits these things are not as clear as night and day when she sings “I once believed love would be black and white/but it’s golden.”
The kind of love we see in Lover goes beyond Swift’s romantic escapades. One of the most intimate songs on the album is an ode to Swift’s mother, who is battling cancer, titled “Soon You’ll Get Better.” Unlike some of her recent songs, Swift doesn’t retreat from detailed lyrics and gives a taste of the old Taylor with the storytelling capacity she is so well known for.
In fact, Swift teased fans for the return of Old Taylor with the pre-release of the album’s title track, “Lover.” The song has all the elements of any early Taylor Swift song: Christmas lights, romance and of course, a catchy tune.
While Lover is largely a celebration of love, some of the album’s tracks still hold the aggression from her Reputation era. In the album’s most controversial tune “You Need To Calm Down,” Swift directly calls out anti-gay protestors, declaring “shade never made anybody less gay,” and portrays them as angry country bumpkins in the music video. “The Man” is also very pointed at sexism, yet showcases Swift’s humor. “Every conquest I had would make me more of a boss to you,” she sings impassively, highlighting a slew of double standards she’s faced in the music business.
Lover has certainly been a place for Swift to grow in her lyrics, but musically, she still tends to lean into pop style with ethereal synthesizer pulses and strategic key changes. “Cruel Summer” is the epitome of Swift’s signature style with dreamy high notes and light hearted chants in the bridge: “I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you!”
What’s most surprising in Lover is its country undertones, taking us back to Swift’s roots as a country music artist. Swift recruited the Dixie Chicks for delicate background vocals in “Soon You’ll Get Better,” while the title track similarly contains traces of the country swing Swift made her name with.
After the surprising release of Reputation, no one was quite sure where Taylor Swift would take her career next. Lover feels like a step back into common territory and suggests Reputation is the farthest Swift will tread from her traditional style. While she may be finding refuge in the music she built her career on, Lover points to a way forward as Swift seems to have shifted her focus to her own experiences rather than defending herself. Lover is intriguing, thoughtful and relatable; Taylor Swift has once again given us a collection of songs to sing, cry and dance to.