Courtesy of Republic Records

August 25, 2019

TEST SPIN | Taylor Swift ⁠— ‘Lover’

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Welcome, one and all, to another entry in Taylor Swift’s musical journal. Lover, the superstar’s seventh studio album, is a grand departure from the dark, gritty style of 2017’s reputation. Instead, the 61-minute run time delivers bold, fun tracks covering everything from Swift’s lover, Joe Alwyn, to Swift’s lover, Joe Alwyn, but with more nuance. Folded in between these songs are serious contemplations about Swift’s struggles with past relationships, mental health and politics. Known for her heavy romantic themes and teenage angst a decade removed from her teen years, Swift deviates from her M.O. and crafts a more mature album that grants the listener a deeper look into her life.

Lover is Taylor Swift’s first album while signed to Republic Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, after her first label was sold to a larger umbrella company. Under Republic Records, Swift has full ownership of her music and has recently expressed interest in re-recording her older albums so that she personally owns the masters. This release demonstrates the beginning of a new era of Taylor Swift, one with more freedom than before.

The album kicks off with “I Forgot That You Existed,” which can really only be described as a “summer bop” reminiscent of DJ Khaled’s 2017 mega-hit “I’m The One,” at least musically. Swift sings about letting go of her past controversies over a light, bouncy instrumental and oddly namedrops Drake in the sixth line (“In my feelings more than Drake, so yeah”), which seems slightly out of place. This leads into the almost-reputation style “Cruel Summer,” which discusses Taylor’s mental health during her spat with Kanye and criticism over her boyfriend in 2016. Whereas songs on her last album were largely confrontational and accusative (“Look what you made me do” or “They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one”), “Cruel Summer” is introspective and focuses on Swift’s stress, not others’ actions.

Swift does a good job maintaining momentum throughout the project, mixing in the slower songs with upbeat, bubbly ones. “Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)” is the emotional peak of the album, a heart-wrenching, poignant performance about her mother’s battle with cancer. At an album release event, the singer shared that “it was also a family decision whether to even put it on the album,” due to its extremely personal subject matter. Two songs later, Taylor challenges online haters and homophobia in the showy “You Need To Calm Down,” backed by heavy synth and drums.

Lover features a couple of oddball tracks. The mid-2000’s-Disney-Channel-theme-song-esque “Paper Rings” is a playful melody about Swift’s commitment to Alwyn. If you don’t listen closely enough on “False God,” you might mistake it for an Ariana Grande song. The steel drums on “It’s Nice to Have a Friend” are a unique instrumental choice, and I can’t decide if they are distracting or not. These, however, are not detrimental to the overall feel of the album and, if nothing else, showcase Taylor’s extreme versatility and comfort in multiple music styles.

A prevalent theme across the album, and throughout Swift’s discography, is the use of color as a metaphor or emotion. The color blue shows up frequently on Lover, mainly representing sadness, but on “Paper Rings,” she uses it as a pun of sorts: “In the winter, in the icy outdoor pool / When you jumped in first, I went in too / I’m with you even if it makes me blue.” On “Daylight,” the closing track, Swift describes love as first “black and white” and “burning red” but now feels that it’s “golden.” Through these lyrics, the spurned lover realizes that she has found a good partner and is now in a happy relationship.

Each album in Taylor Swift’s career has a certain aesthetic. reputation, for example, was very dark and the singer showcased this with black outfits on tour and grungy merch with snakes and dull colors. Lover represents a complete 180 from this era. Swift’s recent performances have been on flower-covered stages, her music videos are hyper-vibrant and glittery and the merch, designed by Stella McCartney, is smoothed, colorful and warm. I was worried that the album would be too lovey-dovey and sickly sweet, but Taylor balances everything nearly perfectly.

Lover marks yet another chapter in Taylor Swift’s incredible career and it feels like she accomplished exactly what she wanted to with the album. Swift distances herself from the then-uncharacteristic darkness of reputation but maintains her signature style of personal lyrics and intricate songs with catchy beats. Go give Lover a deep listen, even (especially) if you’ve already played it through twenty times.

Jeremy Markus is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He currently serves as an assistant arts and entertainment editor on The Sun’s editorial board. He can be reached at [email protected].