Taylor Swift is one of the biggest stars on the planet.
Taylor Swift is one of the biggest stars on the planet. I’ve been around since Fearless and it’s clear she’s finally shaken off the ‘next-door neighbour’ American teen dream vibe that drew me in as an eleven-year-old, and is now a woman who can eloquently express her opinions and thoughts in interviews, lyrics, print or video.
Her new album, Lover, has broken records set by her previous record Reputation. According to Billboard, in the first week the album sold 867,000 units, of which 679,000 were physical album sales. In a digital age this is unheard of. The choice to have four unique deluxe editions helped boost sales, with some fans buying five versions of Lover. This was arguably a planned move, to increase sales and profit, and at the end of the day we live in a consumer and capitalist world. Taylor Swift is a business woman, and a rather savvy one at that. No one can touch her level. Yet we will see claims that Lover hasn’t been successful, or was a flop because it didn’t reach the 1m figure of her previous four albums.
Lover is arguably her best album to date, and she’s rightfully aware of how good she is. In ‘The Man’ she sings “I’m so sick of them coming at me again, because if I was a man, I’d be The Man”. It’s clear that sexist attitudes have impacted how Taylor’s success has been viewed across the years, and she's more aware of it than ever.
Over the last year, Taylor hasn’t been afraid to speak her mind. Last November, she used her social media channels to encourage voting and promote the Democrats. Her previous single, ‘You Need To Calm Down’, called for members of the public and politicians to support the Equality Act. After over 500,000 signatures, the White House finally responded. When Scooter Braun purchased her entire album masters for $300 million in June, Taylor was quick to call him out alongside record label owner Scott Borchetta who is famously known for ‘finding’ Taylor when she was a teen. She recently announced she would be re-recording her old albums, making this million-dollar business move more than regretful for Braun, who has a negative history with the songwriter.
As a whole, Lover is a clear demonstration as to why Taylor continues to dominate the charts and sell out tour dates. While the first singles to be released from the album, ‘Me!’ and ‘You Need To Calm Down’, are classic, repetitive, pop tracks the rest of the album is much more desirable.
Second track ‘Cruel Summer’ should have been the first single. Its lyrics and musical production are on point from start to finish. The potential ‘Cruel Summer’ had to be the 2019 summer song is substantial and I will mourn its potential for the next few months. The track explores motifs of a passionate, could-breakdown-at-any-second romance. This narrative is continued into 'Cornielia Street', a much slower track with a heavier focus on the emotional lyrics Taylor pours out. Following this is break-up song 'Death by a Thousand Cuts', although this is reportedly inspired by Netflix movie Something Great, it's easy to get carried along by the narrative that the Cornelia Street romance ended painfully.
In ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’, the songwriter explores her mother’s cancer diagnosis and is one of the hardest songs on the album. I will confidently say that there are no skippable songs on this album, however I will miss this one. ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ is a perfect example of how Taylor’s music can target your emotions in the most painful way. She’s always said her songs are like looking into her diaries, there is always a sense of caricature with her romance songs (understandable considering the fixation the public has with her love life), but I think this is her most personal song to date.
Towards the end of the album, ‘It’s Nice To Have Friend’ is the shortest, and strangest track on the album. It’s also the most ambiguous, sang in short sentences following two young friends, who go through the journey of friendship to romance—or at least that’s what I can get from the short snippets. Featuring musicians from Toronto’s Regent Park School of Music, a non-profit which provides musical education at a low cost, the track is haunting and soft. The royalties from the track will go back to the school, and its unusual nature can make it easily forgotten but this is what makes it one of my favourites.
The album ends on ‘Daylight’. Just under five minutes, the longest on the record and feels like waking up after a long, hard night. After the first listen, it’s clear why Daylight was the original name for the album. The track looks towards the future, and it feels so bright and wonderful.
Across the eighteen songs, Taylor explores a variety of topics from classic romance, to sexism, to LGBT rights, to self-love, to unthinkable heartbreak. Yet despite the scope of the album, Lover is by far her strongest album. There's a sense of finesse and strength among every track. The album definitely carries the newfound confidence Taylor herself now possesses and is a fantastic start to the songwriter finally owning her own music after thirteen years in the business.