In 2017, Taylor Swift unveiled a darker, angrier side of her personality through her sixth album, “reputation.” The controversial album lived up to its name and challenged the way people perceive Swift — both musically and personally. Following “reputation,” Swift’s seventh album, “Lover,” released August 23, exhibits quite a turnaround. The song lyrics express maturity and emotional growth, and the musical style offers hopeful hints of resurrection to fans who were mourning the death of the old Taylor.
The album begins with a catchy, brutally honest song, “I Forgot That You Existed,” which flaunts the glories of becoming indifferent toward an ex-lover, former friend or foe. “I forgot that you existed / And I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t / And it was so nice,” Swift croons in this upbeat song, which is interspersed with light laughs. The track is devoid of any sign of heartbreak, self-doubt or resentment and introduces a welcome sense of positivity that is unfamiliar in most of Swift’s break-up songs. Indeed, the song’s lyrics are almost antithetical to those of Swift’s earlier records, in which she broods despondently about how “time is taking its sweet time erasing you” in the 2012 track “Sad Beautiful Tragic” or angrily “strike(s) a match on all (her) wasted time” spent in a previous relationship in the 2006 song “Picture to Burn.”
The focus of the album moves swiftly from old flames to a current paramour — presumably British actor Joe Alwyn, whom Swift has been quietly dating for three years. Wearing rose-tinted glasses, Swift wonders about “forever and ever” and sings about the warm comfort of a happy relationship in the title track, “Lover.” In “I Think He Knows,” she relishes in the confidence that accompanies mutual infatuation. “He got my heartbeat / Skipping down 16th Avenue,” she sings, adding breezily, “He’s so obsessed with me, and boy I understand.” It seems clear that Swift is finally in a happy relationship.
Unfortunately, Swift’s soppy, romantic feelings are accompanied by a sense of cliche banality. A paradigm of this mushiness is the track “London Boy,” an obvious ode to Swift’s British beau. The forced British colloquialisms and name-dropping of various London destinations in “London Boy” are so affected that they are almost analogous to a student who studies abroad for a few months and returns with a fake foreign accent. However, the catchy tune of the song warrants some forgiveness for its trite lyrics.
Romantic love is a recurring theme in Swift’s music, but her latest album also examines a different form of love. In the earnest “Soon You’ll Get Better,” Swift wears her heart on her sleeve and sings bravely about her mother, who has been diagnosed with cancer. Amid references to medicine bottles and the doctor’s office, Swift emotionally describes her emotions regarding her mother’s illness and her hope that one day she will no longer be sick. “Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus too,” Swift sings in anguish, her pain evident.
Some of the album’s tracks go beyond Swift’s personal life, instead addressing current political and social issues. For instance, the music video for “You Need To Calm Down” features several LGBTQ+ celebrities, including a line of popular drag queens dressed as various female pop stars. The video concludes with an appeal to sign Swift’s petition to support the Equality Act. In “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince,” Swift invokes a stereotypical high school scene, rich with classic prom queen and football game imagery, to subtly comment on the state of America under President Trump. “American glory / Faded before me / Now I’m feeling hopeless / Ripped up my prom dress,” she sings, alluding to her disillusionment with the current political situation in America. “Where are the wise men? / Darling, I’m scared,” she asks, referencing the “blue wave” of the last midterm elections by noting that Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince are “so sad (they) paint the town blue.”
Ultimately, “Lover” packs a lot into 18 tracks — relationships, illness, politics and the central theme: multi-dimensional love. The album exhibits a sequence of Swift’s introspections, painted in pastel colors. It is a journey of emotional growth, and despite its occasional over-dramatic and oversimplified moments, it does not fail to charm.