After months of Easter eggs, Instagram trolling and four lead singles, Taylor Swift’s latest album was released on August 23. In many ways, the album feels like coming home.
Lover arrives two years after Swift’s 2017 release, Reputation. Where Reputation was snakes and revenge and anger and the “Old Taylor Swift” being “dead,” Lover returns to what Swift has always done best: confessional pop songs about being in love.
The album begins with the upbeat “I Forgot That You Existed,” which is undoubtedly a dig at least one of her rivals—ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris or Kanye West, who interrupted her during an acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
From the opening track, a new tone is set: this will not be an album about the people Taylor Swift doesn’t like; be prepared to be disappointed if that’s what you’re looking for.
Instead, as the album heads into its title track, “Lover,” a theme that’s new yet familiar emerges: this will be an album about what Taylor Swift loves. And it is. Lover, which is also the name of one of the album’s lead singles, paints a picture of a love that will last as Swift sings “I’ve loved you three summers now, honey, but I want ’em all.”
Online, fans speculate that most of the work – including “Lover” – is about Swift’s current boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. The self-written “Cornelia Street” certainly is, as Swift was living on Cornelia Street in New York City in 2016, the year she met Alwyn. In it, Swift sings, “And I hope I never lose you, hope it never ends / I’d never walk Cornelia Street again.”
The album feels like quintessential Swift – filled with elements and lyrics and moments that long time fans have grown accustomed to. There’s a heartbreaking guitar ballad about her mother’s cancer that features the Dixie Chicks (“Soon You’ll Get Better”), a brutally honest break-up song (“Death By A Thousand Cuts”) and an honest piece about some of Swift’s greatest insecurities and weaknesses (“The Archer”).
All of these themes are trademarks of Swift – she’s managed to continue writing about them without her lyrics ever growing tired. So though Lover is new, it feels like an extension of her 2014 release, 1989, which won Album of the Year at the 2016 Grammys. Like 1989, It’s both lyrically and musically ambitious. It features songs that read more like stories. She is clearly back in her element. Reputation, while statement-making and performative, lacked the same heart on her sleeve that Swift had worn so well for so many years.
Even more, what makes Lover such a delight for me is the sense you get while listening that Swift loves her album, too. It’s her most joyful album by far, and it appears to mark a shift in Swift’s career.
At a release day mini-concert performed at the Sirius XM Headquarters in Manhattan, Swift said, “I really think it’s my favorite. I love this album so much, and I’m so happy you love it too.”
The concluding track on Lover, “Daylight,” is another self-written song about Swift’s relationship and current outlook on her life. The final line of the song, and of the album, isn’t sung, rather, it’s spoken.
In a moment of honesty, Swift says, “I wanna be defined by the things that I love, not the things I hate… I just think you are what you love.” It’s a beautiful sentiment, and one that marks a new era.
For many years, Swift’s life has been marked by Twitter fights, legal battles, and rumors about her private life. Where Reputation reclaimed all these things, Lover throws them out entirely. Instead, Lover insists that Swift will now only give room in her career to love. Whether that means more pink album covers or a more quiet life, Swift is certain to arrive there in the way she always has: beautifully.
Lover was released by Republic Records.