Taylor Swift
Lover


3.3
great

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
August 23rd, 2019 | 273 replies


Release Date: 08/23/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Listeners are always equidistant from good and bad on Taylor Swift's seventh album.

Pop music draws its strength from a listener’s ability to suspend disbelief, to trust – to know – that a song about love is expressing something that has never been expressed before. The emotions are achingly real and so genuine that you can reach out and touch them. Taylor Swift excels in the details – the scarf from “All Too Well”, the kiss that was “really something” in “Fearless”, Polaroids on the hardwood in “New Year’s Day”. The intersection of these two things is where the magic happens: when she uses those seemingly small details to get you to feel exactly what she feels. It’s powerful because you’ve felt it before, and it’s powerful because it feels like the first time all over again.

As her career moves onward, these moments have become less frequent, coinciding with her move closer to modern pop and away from the country-lite that built her up. The songs became shorter, less expansive, and much more likely to follow a typical ABABCB structure. After dedicating an entire cycle to her supposed reputation, Lover opens with “I Forgot That You Existed”, a kiss-off to all her haters and a promise that she never thinks about them anymore, honest. “I Forgot That You Existed” is completely uninteresting and is only saved from being her worst album opener because “Welcome to New York” exists. Musically, it borrows sounds from Camila Cabello’s “Real Friends”, and the lyrics presume that anybody gives a shit about whether she still thinks about Kanye (or whomever else has slighted her throughout the years). More power to those that do, but Lover truly begins with “Cruel Summer”, a song that begs for a few more weeks of hot weather so that it can be the soundtrack to summer love (even if its title – cribbed from Kanye – gives another lie to the premise of “I Forgot That You Existed”).

Lover, stretched out to 18 tracks, lacks a songwriting filter. Anything can be a song, and in the streaming era, there’s even a financial incentive behind all the filler. On an album this long, there is equal room for good and bad, and you’re always equidistant from either one no matter what track you’ve reached. An absolute knockout like “Cornelia Street” – the only song that captures that intersectional magic of detail and emotion described earlier – is followed by the white bread of “Death by a Thousand Cuts”, a song only worth mentioning because of its proximity to greatness. “Soon You’ll Get Better” hearkens back to her first few albums and even features the Dixie Chicks (only in backup, sadly), but the folky sound is adrift on an album full of songs that sound nothing like it. It’s a beautiful composition about her mother’s cancer, but, sandwiched between the intensely corny “London Boy” and the steamy “False God”, it feels as if it was destined for a project that never reached fruition.

The ups and downs recall Swift’s most uneven album, Red, which was full of great songs but nonetheless revealed an identity crisis at the center of her songwriting and lyrics. The tight focus of 1989 and, to a lesser extent, Reputation had seemingly put an end to that crisis, but Lover revives it. This late into her career, it is surprising that she still doesn’t seem to know who she wants to be musically. Throughout the album, she continues to borrow from other artists, even from albums released this year. “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” has a bridge seemingly meant to evoke high-school cheerleaders, but Ariana Grande’s “bad idea” used a very similar trick just a few months ago for a much better song. “The Man” is her version of Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy”, almost to the letter, and the song would still be boring as hell even if a guy performed it. Elsewhere, she intersperses some rare political lyrics that are so generic and vague that it almost feels wrong to call them political at all. If a line like “Our songs, our films, united we stand/Our country, guess it was a lawless land,” plopped into the middle of a breakup song with no rhyme or reason, is meant to be a response to those who bash her apolitical songs, it’s hard to hear it that way. “Miss Americana…” features a few similar sentiments, but the song is so aimless that they sound like non-sequiturs.

While she sometimes indulges in its more vapid conventions, pop has been good to Taylor Swift, for the most part. The two lead singles, “ME!” and “You Need to Calm Down”, all but force listeners to remember them because of their choruses, which are purely emotive, barely bothering with lyrics in favor of high-pitched, joyful noises. “ME!” is still the weaker of the two, but, blessedly freed from the “Spelling is fun!” expectoration in the bridge, it becomes easier to simply sing along without stopping to cringe. The bouncy “Paper Rings” sees her walkin’ on sunshine, perfecting the immature “Stay Stay Stay” with less sterile production and an electric guitar instead of a twee ukulele. “Afterglow” tones down the overtly breathy “Dress” with an admonition to meet her “in the afterglow,” a line that is beautifully suggestive of a private passion.

Closer “Daylight” is a little formless, a little plodding, but the production is beautiful, all pianos and synths. She sings about a love that’s still new, though getting older as the years pass. Whereas she used to write about love as if it progressed overnight from first kiss to old age, she now acknowledges the dark nights of yelling and tears and walkouts. Of course, those nights make the sunrise more meaningful. It’s why she loves to end songs with their opening line, to invoke the journey’s beginning as it reaches the end: look where we are, and look at what we went through to get here.



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3.1
good
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
August 23rd 2019


10196 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm not upset that T-swizzle dropped a good album.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
August 23rd 2019


44810 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

i tried.

Digging: ((( O ))) - ((( 1 )))

Odal
August 23rd 2019


445 Comments


Stellar review. Totally agree, I think the title track is a career highlight tho

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 23rd 2019


902 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Yeah the title track is very good. I like the video a lot too.

luci
August 23rd 2019


11669 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

bothers me how much the chorus of "i think he knows" sounds like crj

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 23rd 2019


32091 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree that this album is a bit of an identity crisis. It's funny because I likened it to Red in my mind before even reading this review; it's definitely an astute comparison. My summary, had I reviewed this, might have been "all frosting, no cake" because it's so damn sweet and frothy but lacks much of the substance that made me fall in love with her back around 2009/2010. Sure, the sugar is satisfying on the record's catchiest tracks (I Think He Knows is super fun), but after 18 songs, the vapid nature of the album can no longer be masked by its cuteness or its glossy melodies - which are grandly produced but still don't hold up against her two most recent pop outings, 1989 and Reputation. I enjoy this a little more than you do (thinking a 3.5-4 because I have no self control), but your review is absolutely on point and I agree with it in every conceivable way. Great work.

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

Odal
August 23rd 2019


445 Comments


Also, totally agree on how bad the opener is. Like, come on, Taylor. I'm so sick of hearing how over her haters she is lol

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
August 23rd 2019


10196 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That's basically part of her charm now right?

TheCalebRobinson
August 23rd 2019


105 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

I like your comparison to Red, this album just felt too all over the place and unfocused for my liking. And I think her songwriting as taken a notable step down in consistency.

luci
August 23rd 2019


11669 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It doesn't feel like an identity crisis to me, more like a brand offering a little bit of everything to please their fans. It's a very streamable collection of all her previous eras. She doesn't top her best in any genre, but it's respectable material for the most part.

Bloon
Contributing Reviewer
August 23rd 2019


2898 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ill read soon but this albums slaps hard

Digging: Streetlight Manifesto - Everything Goes Numb

Uzumaki
August 23rd 2019


1576 Comments


I came here expecting a Sowing review and I find one as good as, if not better than, he could write. Have a pos.

And @Sowing, no knock on you, man. You’re cool.

Digging: Seratones - POWER

JWT155
August 23rd 2019


14403 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I'm a sucker for Jack Antonoff so I thoroughly enjoyed this, he's a give influence on this record, you can even hear her her utilizing a lot of his singing patterns.

Makemebad35
August 23rd 2019


934 Comments


3.3 was exactly what I thought this album would receive. I can't really get into it though. I like a lot of the verses but most of the choruses make me want to stop the song immediately.

Lucman
August 23rd 2019


3202 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Ah Chan, good review my man. I get it, but man, I really, really like this haha. Listened to it on a drive last night and it's near magical.

@Sowing maybe there isn't a lot of substance but she's never been one to have a lot substance I feel. I actually feel this has more to it than Reputation had, or at least, better things to sing about

Digging: Courtney Swain - Between Blood and Ocean

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 23rd 2019


32091 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh I'm not arguing that she's been an artist of great substance recently - I think she checked that at the door after Speak Now (she did have interesting personal lyrics on that album and prior) - but this album seems to favor aesthetic over actual songwriting. 1989, and even Reputation, are both much better in that regard whereas this tries to produce its way to the top of the charts. It's all very sweet and bubbly, but feels empty emotionally and structurally.



With all that said, it still sounds nice and has more than its share of fun songs. I'd place this above her debut and Red but below the rest of her discography. It's good, but she's creeping closer to sounding like any other pop artist on the radio. She used to have a distinct personality/style, and I can hear it slipping farther away with each release.

tectactoe
August 23rd 2019


1105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

this album bops. two singles are easily the two weakest tracks. cut those and we’re possibly looking at a 4.0 honestly

Digging: Cigarettes After Sex - Cigarettes After Sex

outliers
August 23rd 2019


969 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

pretty solid, feels borderline overproduced tho imo

Meridiu5
August 23rd 2019


2629 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

cover looks nice. 18 songs is hella stacked too. gotta listen later

Digging: Vision Divine - When All the Heroes are Dead

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 23rd 2019


7725 Comments


A Channing review is always welcome and so refreshing! Love your writing and the even-keel approach to pop music that doesn't spend half the time undressing the personality of the pop star in question.

As for the album, I just don't know anymore. It feels like half the songs are half good, the other half just misguided. To your point about not knowing who she is musically, it seems she considers that breadth of genre-dabbling as a token of her stature and receptiveness. It doesn't even sound focus tested and really strikes at something authentic, which makes it more disappointing that the songwriting just seems bad. Really wanted to like this one, but when your ballads inadvertently make the terrible lead singles better, it just...

Digging: Blood Cultures - Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs



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