Our Journalism teacher Mrs. Fialko, suggested (or ordered) that for this issue, I review an album that I would not usually find myself listening to. Luckily for me, country-turned-pop superstar Taylor Swift recently dropped album Lover (2019) fits the bill.
Based on the cover art, a pastel confection of clouds, Lover seems a new direction. Certainly, it is a departure from Reputation’s (2017) stark black and white cover. I do faintly remember listening to a couple of the tracks on Reputation out of curiosity, and I was put off by the stark, machine-like beats and stabbing chords. After listening to Lover, it becomes clear that the stark change in direction is not just surface level. One immediate plus for Lover is that Swift slows her roll a little bit. This is not to say that Taylor can not make serious music, it is just that music does not need to be cold and dark to be sincere. A pop starlet like Swift sounds uncomfortable singing over Reputation’s mechanical instrumentals, and right off that bat Lover resolves that with it’s warm, fun, poppy production.
Production doesn’t mean anything if the songs aren’t there. When looking at the credits for this record, I noticed that most songs are written entirely by Swift alone, with only a few getting the typical pop songwriting team treatment. This isn’t entirely a good or a bad thing, it’s actually a really mixed bag.
Some songs, like the title track “Lover,” are super tight, sugary-sweet pop tunes. I particularly liked this track’s use of organic instrumentation. The jangly guitars and rattling acoustic drums give this song a warmth you just don’t find that often on huge pop albums. It’s ambitious, and it pays off.
On the other side of the spectrum, “The Archer” comes off as actually quite vulnerable. The metaphorical lyrics and the sparse, slow-building instrumental caught me way off guard but like “Lover”, this experiment really pays off and works as a great platform for Taylor’s artistic ability.
One of Taylor’s most recent controversies was writers, fellow artists, anyone with a twitter coming at her for not expressing much of political opinion. While I find many of today’s current issues important, I also have nothing but respect for a pop artist that doesn’t really feel the need to publically take a side and after hearing some of Taylor’s attempts at politically driven pop. I wish she had stood her ground. Straight up, these few songs sound forced. Tracks like “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” try to tackle everything and fail. On “The Man” Taylor proudly proclaims that she would be a “Fearless leader/I’d be the alpha type” if only she were a man. While inequalities between men and women stupidly continue to exist, Taylor’s song equivalent to an Instagram Story post does not prove that she cares. It just feels like another check on the step list to making a pop album.
It was around this point when the sheer length of Lover just about had me give up. Swift stuffs 18 songs into this album and so many of them are straight filler. If they all were the same high quality as some of the best ones here, a little more than an hour of Taylor Swift wouldn’t seem that bad. About halfway through the album, she starts to run out of steam. It really does start to sound like fill in the blanks Mad Libs for upbeat 80s influenced, 2000’s pop girl jams.
Overall, I’m glad I checked out Lover. I was pleasantly surprised to find some songs in here that I really do like and will come back to. Listening to Lover has given me more respect for Taylor Swift as a singer and a songwriter, and if you’re curious like I was, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a listen to see if there are a couple of tracks here and there that are playlist worthy.