Lover music review: Taylor Swift, producer Jack Antonoff's collaboration is at best a 5/10 experience
Lover, Taylor Swift's seventh studio album, sees her embracing a newfound positive energy.
Two years after Reputation, Taylor Swift finally dropped her seventh LP Lover, created with her pal and go-to producer Jack Antonoff. While many feuds and controversies led Swift to unleash a bitter side in the mostly dull sixth album, Lover sees her embracing a newfound positive energy. Still, expectations were relatively low, given how unremarkable the pre-release singles were. First came 'ME!', a jarring self-love anthem with Brendan Urie, and then 'You Need to Calm Down', a hollow attempt at cementing herself as an LGBTQ+ ally.
‘I Forgot You Existed’ opens Lover, where she expresses her determination to not be bogged down by the bad as it is no longer worthy of her time. “It isn’t love, it isn’t it hate, it’s just indifference,” she declares in this upbeat number, backed by smatterings of the piano. Whether or not the song is a shot at her former beau Calvin Harris, is the topic of heated debate between Swifties.
‘Cruel Summer’, a St Vincent co-write, borrows its title from Kanye West’s 2012 compilation album. Vocoder-distorted vocals, add some flair to her ode to boyfriend Joe Alwyn (whom she never addresses by name here), the “bad, bad boy, shiny toy with a price.” The Mazzy Star-like title track with its ‘80s instrumental, accurately encapsulates Carrie Bradshaw’s (of Sex and the City) idea of the “ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.” Swift muses about wanting this lover all to herself, sharing a home and living her happily-ever-after.
'The Man’ is Swift trying to pull a Beyoncé ('If I Were a Boy'). This pure synth pop number spotlights the double standards that exist between men and women. She even references Leonardo DiCaprio's image as a Don Juan of sorts — "And they would toast to me, oh, let the players play / I'd be just like Leo in Saint Tropez." Regardless of the rampant sexism in the music industry and negative press coverage she often gets, Swift has managed to shatter the glass ceiling and garner enough power to sway the narrative in her favour.
The famed track five, 'The Archer', lives up to its hype and is as delicate as the topic it touches upon — always keeping her guard up. The production pushes Swift's vocals, accompanied by a LinnDrum machine and soft synth sounds, to the fore.
The gentle, sweet ballad, 'Soon You'll Get Better', chronicles her mother's cancer diagnosis. Replete with warm harmonies courtesy the Dixie Chicks, pleasant plucks of the banjo, and honeyed tones of the violin, it brings to mind the musician's country days.
Swift maps her favorite spots in the English city with the bouncy ‘London Boy’, which interpolates an audio clip from her Cats co-star Idris Elba’s appearance on an old The Late Late Show with James Corden episode. 'False God' is the raciest of the lot, yet lukewarm by today's pop music standards. The stray saxophone in the back detracts attention from her voice as she plays with religious imagery to describe her relationship with Alwyn.
The album eventually becomes tiresome for there are only so many songs one can hear about being in love. If there were a Bechdel test for songs, Swift's would hardly qualify. She longs for reciprocation from a crush in ‘I Think He Knows’, reveals her devotion in 'Paper Rings' while Cornelia Street' calls for a blanket ban on all the places that are a reminder of the past.
‘Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince’ tries to replicate the same energy in Halsey’s ‘New America’ (Badlands) or even Lana Del Rey’s ‘National Anthem’ (Born to Die). 'Afterglow', 'It's Nice to Have a Friend' ,and 'Daylight' fall flat, making it hard to differentiate between them.
It is admirable how Swift never shies away from display of raw emotion. She has been called a master wordsmith, who weaves rich and vivid stories about her life but they so often tends to drip with cloying sweetness. With a little help from Antonoff, Lover sees some evolution in her sound, just not her lyrical content. This makes little to no difference to her fans, who will devour every piece of music she creates, and call it a masterpiece.
The album is at best a 5/10 experience.
Listen to Lover here.
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