August 23, 2019
“Lover” represents a more “positive” Taylor after the fraught (and fascinating) “reputation”, her album inspired by the series of personal and professional catastrophes that piled on after the massive success of 2014’s “1989“. In interviews promoting “Lover”, Taylor deftly instructed journalists and critics to perceive the album this way, talking candidly about the fragility of her mental health in 2016, when she was under siege in the media for everything from her reignited feud with Kanye West to her supposed culpability in the election of Donald Trump. The album certainly looks brighter — the goth aesthetic of the “reputation” album cover was replaced by the pink and blue cotton-candy, pastel skies imagery of “Lover”.
BACKGROUND AND THEMES
“Lover” was Taylor’s most adult album to date as well, 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” 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’s in touch with her younger self — “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” revisits the high-school girl she was on “Fearless”, just as “Daylight” updates the six-months-sober 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”.
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).
MOVING ON FROM REPUTATION
Taylor told “Entertainment Weekly” about the contrast between “Lover” and her previous album, 2017’s “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.” — Taylor Swift
Taylor described the album as a romantic one, stating that it was “not just simply thematically, like it’s all love songs or something. The idea of something being romantic, it doesn’t have to be a happy song. You can find romance in loneliness or sadness or going through things in your life… it just looks at those things through a romantic gaze.”
In a radio interview with Zach Sang, Taylor stated about “Lover”:
“There isn’t ever one song that could sum up what the album is, but I knew that this one felt like a celebration— it felt like something that could make you feel good, and like, I just want that right now for people, and I want to feel that way when I perform it. …I wanna feel good and positive and hopeful. And I think that a song is kind of like a mantra if you think about it. If you get a song stuck in your head, that’s the message you’re telling yourself— whether it’s intentional or not, whether it’s conscious or not.” — Taylor Swift
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 has a pink glitter heart around her right eye, and the tips of her hair are dyed blue. The album title is emblazoned across the top in magenta glitter. The title and the logo were teased in the music video for “ME!”. 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.
|Released||August 23, 2019|
|Recorded||November 2018 – February 2019|
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