Alternate Title: Lover is a fine title as is, actually!
Standout Track(s): Cruel Summer / The Man
Album Scores: 4.12 x (0.9) = 3.75
- Production: 3.67
- Uniqueness: 4.25
- Lyricism: 4.58
- Listenability: 4.17
This one just doesn’t do it for me. I think the magic of a Taylor Swift album stems from her willingness to try new things, whether that be the pop/dance infusions in Red or even the full-on electronic revolution of Reputation. Lover, in this case, remains almost stubborn in its refusal to tread new ground. Some songs sound like others (hence my cutting of six tracks), and others don’t really add anything to the overall experience. Glimmers of this magic are still evident, though, in tracks like Cruel Summer that benefit greatly by having a St. Vincent co-write on it.
Lyrically, I’d consider Lover to be Swift’s best. If one forgets the cringe of London Boy (as I’ve managed to do by making it my first elimination), we’re left with lyrics like Daylight‘s “My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in / Everyone looked worse in the light”, and False God‘s “Religion’s in your lips / Even if it’s a false god / We’d still worship”. Even The Archer takes on the self-reflection Blank Space played with: “I’ve been the archer, I’ve been the prey / Who could ever leave me, darling / But who could stay?”
Lover shines when Swift is her most mature when it comes to love, as Afterglow proves by being a rare song where Swift herself takes the blame for a relationship’s demise. In contrast, we have songs like Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince which not only sounds like a repetition of …So It Goes, but literally evokes high school cheers to tell yet another “us against the world” kind of love story. It’s a middle of the road track that pales in comparison to Afterglow and its kind, showing Swift’s occasional musical missteps.
Most frustrating of all is the otherwise heart-wrenching ballad Soon You’ll Get Better. Though simplistic in its delivery, Swift’s ode to her mother’s well-being is tender and emotional. This track was heavily hyped up when the tracklist was released due to its Dixie Chicks feature, and for good reason. What we got, however, is the Dixie Chicks echoing Swift’s lyrics in the chorus instead of a true collaboration. Is it a good song? Yes. Are the Dixie Chicks underutilized? Even more so, yes.
Interestingly, a few songs might have scored better for me if they were children of other artists. Paper Rings and I Think He Knows would be dealt greater justice if they were given a synth-pop gloss and sung by, say, Carly Rae Jepsen. Title track Lover, though, is thankfully spared the kind of emotionless void found in the music of Ed Sheeran.
The production may be where my interest in this album wains, which is odd considering producer Jack Antonoff’s other 2019 project (Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell) is a sonic standout for me. The Archer sounds empty and sparse, and Death By A Thousand Cuts is disorganized and confusing. It makes me wonder what a 2019 Taylor Swift album produced by Max Martin would sound like – certainly not as cheerful if thank u, next is any indication of where Martin is.
So, where does Lover stand at the end of the day? It’s a decent pop album, but it pales in comparison to the pop perfection of 1989. Outside of Cruel Summer, this isn’t an album full of songs that I’ll actively seek out to listen to, but a good chunk of them are ones I wouldn’t skip if they came on shuffle. It’s alright. That’s my most honest and straight to the point review. Alright.
- Cruel Summer
- I Think He Knows
- The Man
- Paper Rings
- False God
- The Archer
- Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince
- Death By A Thousand Cuts
- Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)