August 23, 2019
Table of Contents
Background and Themes
Lover was Taylor’s most adult album to date, a rebalancing of sound and persona that opened doors to the next decade of her career; it was also a welcome return to the sonic diversity of 2012’s RED, one of her greatest albums and the unofficial start of her “pop” era. Critics and fans alike came to the conclusion that Lover was the first time since RED that Taylor had attempted to gather together all the Taylors and sit them down for a summit. But RED was seven years prior, and there were now a lot more new Taylors in the mix. All over Lover, she is in touch with her younger self — “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” revisits the high-school girl she was on Fearless (2008), just as “Daylight” updates the young-adult romantic of 1989. The girl who sang about making her mom drop her off a block away from the party is now driving her mom to the hospital. The teenager with teardrops on her guitar is now a woman with guitar-string scars. Yet on Lover she wants to show why all these girls are authentically her.
Months ahead of its release, Lover was preceded by the singles “ME!” and “You Need To Calm Down,” which attempted to perform two radically different tasks: 1) Re-establish Taylor’s bonafides as a maker of pan-generational pop hits, the sort of broad appeal, big-tent music that appeals to toddlers and senior citizens and everyone in between; 2) Placate critics who feel that Taylor “isn’t political enough.” The most common complaint about Lover is that those singles are easily the worst songs on the record, much like “Look What You Made Me Do” came to be viewed as the biggest liability on reputation by the general public.”
While promoting the album in a YouTube livestream on August 22, Taylor revealed that the album was originally titled Daylight before she wrote the song “Lover” which changed her mind. She stated: “I decide an album title based on something that has a nice theme to it and a ring; it’s very mood board how I go about [it]. The only time I ever started with a title was reputation. That was the only time I started an album with a title so I began writing songs around that word. For this album, I actually thought the title of this album was going to be Daylight for a couple months. Then I wrote ‘Lover’ and I was like, ‘That’s the title'”. She told Entertainment Weekly about the contrast between Lover and reputation: “This time around I feel more comfortable being brave enough to be vulnerable, because my fans are brave enough to be vulnerable with me. Once people delve into the album, it’ll become pretty clear that that’s more of the fingerprint of this — that it’s much more of a singer-songwriter, personal journey than the last one.”
In the voice memos for Lover, which are found on the deluxe editions of the album, Taylor further explained that after she wrote the song, she knew it would be the title and that it would “depict the tone for the record, and it’s been a real catalyst for what this album has become.”
Taylor's Last Big Pop Album
“Pop music can feel like it’s The Hunger Games, and like we’re gladiators,” Taylor told The Guardian in 2019. At some points on Lover, it seems like Taylor wants to scale down from the big pop statements. There’s “The Archer,” which builds and builds toward a classic 1989-style peak and then…doesn’t. There’s the title track, a self-written noir-soul brooder. Best of all is “Cornelia Street,” which revisits the anguish of reputation but with a softer, more romantic lyric about how “the street lights pointed in an arrow head, leading us home.” Lover is an album about being in love, which is both scary and hard to write songs about. “The Archer,” “Lover,” “Cornelia Street,” “Cruel Summer” — these are the kind of disruptively, devouringly hyper-emotional ballads Taylor used to write about her fleeting crushes, but it’s a totally different song when it’s about trying to hold on to a real human being (and trying to stay one). Taylor told Rolling Stone in 2019:
Writing and Recording
Taylor wrote Lover from an “open, free, romantic, whimsical place”; she added that the album felt “aesthetically very daytime”, whereas its predecessor reputation was “all cityscape, darkness, full Swamp Witch”. She started recording the album after the conclusion of her “reputation Stadium Tour” in November 2018, channeling the “positive energy” she gathered during the tour into the studio. The album was recorded in three months, finishing on February 24, 2019. Much of the album was recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, while some recording took place at Golden Age West in Auckland, New Zealand, Golden Age, and Electric Feel Studio, both in Los Angeles, and Metropolis Studios in London. Taylor said she approached the recording as though she were giving live performances, and that much of the album were nearly whole takes.
Taylor also highlighted that every song on Lover was written specifically for the album, devoid of leftovers from other albums; citing “This Love” as an example, which she had written closer to RED (2012), but ended up being on 1989 (2014). However, in a January 2020 interview with Variety‘s Chris Willman, Taylor revealed that “Only the Young“, the song for her 2020 Netflix documentary Miss Americana, was held back from being included on Lover.
Album Artwork and Aesthetic
A stark contrast to the harsh, black-and-white emblem of reputation, the cover art of Lover features Taylor over a vibrant background of light yellow, pink, and blue. She wears her signature red lipstick, with a heart-shaped pink glitter arrangement surrounding her right eye. The album title is etched above her head, in a slanted, pink, glittery, cursive font. The album art was shot by Valheria Rocha, who also shot other photos of the Lover era. Rocha is a Colombian portrait photographer who also specializes in collage art. She is currently based in Atlanta, GA.
Taylor teased the album aesthetic on Instagram before it was announced, departing from the dark, gothic, serpentine black and white color scheme of reputation. The aesthetic of Lover has been described as daytime, spring and summer, incorporating butterflies, hearts, floral and kitsch, and consisting heavily of pastel colors. Taylor further defined the Lover look and feel as open fields and sunsets; calling it a “festival-y” album, while discussing the album’s accompanying (and eventually cancelled) tour, the “Lover Fest“. The aesthetic was also employed in several public appearances and live performances throughout the Lover era.
Taylor teased the details about Lover through cryptic hint-dropping and “easters eggs” on social media. Entertainment Weekly wrote, Taylor “has perfected the pop culture feedback loop: She shares updates about her life and drops hints about new music, which fans then gobble up and re-promote with their own theories, which Swift then re-shares on her Tumblr or incorporates into future clues. It’s like a T-Swift-built Escher staircase of personal memories and moments that tease what’s next”.
The New York Times highlighted Taylor’s “old-fashioned” way of releasing Lover, from the release of its lead single “ME!” till the album release. The newspaper stated that she is “steady in her traditional pop playbook, with radio singles, music videos, magazine covers, television appearances and a stream of things for sale, all on schedule”, even though the majority of the music industry has adapted to the digital era. With the release of her next album, folklore (2020), Taylor ditched the heavy promotion cycle too.
With 178,600 pre-adds on Apple Music within one day, Lover became the most pre-saved album by a female artist as of July 2019; it was also the most pre-saved pop album on the platform. Republic Records reported album pre-sales worldwide were nearly one million. Target confirmed Lover was its best-selling music pre-order of all time, surpassing the record previously held by Taylor’s own reputation.
Lover sold more than 3.2 million pure copies worldwide in 2019 alone. Republic Records reported that it earned 3 million units in global consumption in its opening week. The strong global sales of Lover led the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) to name Taylor the number-one best selling artist of 2019, earning the honor for the second time, her first being in 2014 after the release of 1989, making her the first female artist to do so.
In the US, Lover sold around 450,000 copies in its first day, earning the biggest sales week of 2019, breaking the previous first-week sales record of Jonas Brothers’ Happiness Begins (357,000) in a day. Lover debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, generating more than 867,000 units with around 679,000 pure sales, immediately becoming the country’s best-selling album of 2019, and the biggest sales week since Taylor’s own reputation. It is her sixth No. 1 album in the country; she also became the first female artist in US history to have six albums sell more than 500,000 copies in a single week. Lover earned more than 226 million streams across all platforms in the US in its first week, at the time marking the second largest streaming week of all time among albums by women. Additionally, Lover outsold all the other 199 albums on the chart combined in its opening week, the first album to achieve this feat since reputation.
All 18 tracks from Lover charted simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100, breaking numerous records—the most simultaneous Hot 100 entries among women, the most simultaneous Hot 100 debuts among women, the album by a female artist with most simultaneous Hot 100 entries and the album by a female artist with the most simultaneous Hot 100 debuts.
Lover and its singles received three nominations at the 62nd Grammy Awards. The album was nominated for “Best Pop Vocal Album”, which was Taylor’s third consecutive nomination in the category, following 1989 (2016) and reputation (2019). “You Need to Calm Down” was nominated for “Best Pop Solo Performance” while the title track “Lover” was nominated for “Song of the Year”.
The album’s music videos garnered four wins at the MTV Video Music Awards: “Video of the Year” and “Video for Good” for “You Need to Calm Down”—having previously won the former for “Bad Blood” (2015), Taylor tied Rihanna and Beyoncé as the only female acts to win the top prize twice—and “Best Visual Effects” for “ME!” in the 2019 show, and Best Direction in 2020 for “The Man“.
Taylor scored wins in all her five nominations at the American Music Awards of 2019, becoming the most awarded artist of the night and the most awarded artist in AMA history (29 wins), extending her record in the categories of “Artist of the Year”, “Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist” and “Favorite Pop/Rock Album”. Additionally, she was crowned the “Artist of the Decade” of the 2010s, a very well deserved highlight in her prolific career.
|Released||August 23, 2019|
|Recorded||November 2018 – February 2019|
Electric Lady (New York City)
Golden Age West (Auckland)
Golden Age (Los Angeles)
Electric Feel (Los Angeles)