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Kristin Smith

Album Review

Swifties can take a deep breath, because the queen of pop music, Taylor Swift, has just released her seventh studio album, Lover.

The cover of the album features a pink-streaked sky and Taylor herself, with a heart painted around her eye. It’s a very different vibe when comapred to Taylor’s last effort, 2017’s Reputation. And as many predicted, Lover’s sales are through the roof. In just 48 hours, Lover has the most sales of any album released so far in 2019.

Composed of 18 tracks, Lover largely veers away from dark vibes and steps into lighter, more vibrant shades. And, as is common for Taylor, it gets personal. We hear many songs about love, loss and deferred hope. That said, some lyrics also include suggestive and sensual references, as well as allusions to drugs, alcohol and a handful of profanities.

Pro-Social Content

Taylor is evidently very much in love with her boyfriend of three years, Joe Alwyn, and she’s not afraid to let the world know. Songs such as “London Boy,” “It’s Nice to Have a Friend,” “ME!,” “Cornelia Street,” “Lover” and “Daylight” all offer variants on the theme of storybook romance, Swift-style. In “London Boy,” she sings, “They say home is where the heart is/But that’s not where mine lives/You know I love a London boy.” And in “Daylight,” we hear, “I don’t wanna look at anything else now that I saw you/I don’t wanna think of anything else now that I thought of you/ … And now I see daylight, I only see daylight.”

Taylor hints that she’s ready for marriage in “I Think He Knows” (“He better lock it down/Or I won’t stick around/ ‘Cause good ones never wait”) and “Paper Rings” (“I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings/ … Darling, you’re the one I want”). In songs such as “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” and “The Archer,” Taylor is willing to fight for a relationship that matters to her: “I’m ready for combat,” she tells us in the former.

Taylor apologizes to someone she loves in “Afterglow”: “It’s on your face, and I’m to blame, I need to say/ … Sorry that I hurt you.” Taylor prays for her mom to be healed from cancer in “Soon You’ll Get Better” (“Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus, too”).

In “The Man” Taylor speaks out against the double standards that discriminate against women: “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can/Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man.”

In “I Forgot That You Existed,” Taylor is happy to be completely over an ex (“And I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t/And it was so nice/So peaceful and quiet/I forgot that you existed”). Taylor’s ready to make a secret relationship public in “Cruel Summer.”

Objectionable Content

Swift shares some sensual details of current and former relationships in songs such as, “Death By A Thousand Cuts,” “Daylight,” “I Think He Knows,” “Cruel Summer,” “Paper Rings,” “Lover,” and “I Think He Knows.” In the first, Taylor reflects on a damaging former relationship (“My heart, my hips, my body, my love/Tryna find a part of me that you didn’t touch”). And the last song in the list above finds her repetitively getting into bed with a lover: “His footprints on the sidewalk/Lead to where I can’t stop/Go there every night.”

Taylor equates her relationship with a man to a religious experience (“Sacred new beginnings/That became my religion”) in “Cornelia Street.” And in “False God” Taylor suggests that her passionate sexual relationship is worth worshiping: “Religion’s in your lips/Even if it’s a false god/We’d still worship/We might just get away with it/The altar is my hips.”

You Need to Calm Down” is one of the most problematic songs on the album as Swift condescendingly judges and condemns those who don’t share her embrace of the LGBTQ movement.

References to alcohol pop up on “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” (“I get drunk, but it’s not enough”) and “London Boy” (“I love … Tennessee Whiskey”), “Cruel Summer” and “Cornelia Street.” Taylor also looks back on a night she met up with a bunch of friends who were “high” on “Paper Rings.”

“The Man” profanely calls out double standards in the music industry: “What’s it like to brag about raking in dollars/And getting b–ches and models?/And it’s all good if you’re bad.” Taylor reminds us that people still spread vicious rumors about her in the song “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince.”

God’s name is misused once in “London Boy,” while “d–n” and “b–ch” are heard elsewhere.

Summary Advisory

In contrast to Reputation, lighthearted romance is back in the air here as Taylor Swift dotes on boyfriend of three years, Joe Alwyn. This is a sweet turn of events, especially given some of the cynicism and bitterness of her last couple albums.

Other high points on Lover include Swift’s willingness to stand up for women’s rights and fight for close friends. And one deeply personal track digs into Taylor’s relationship with her mother as her mom battles cancer. In some ways, these tracks feel like throwbacks to the kind of upbeat love songs Swift often wrote early in her career.

But while Lover is lighter and more positive in some ways than her other recent efforts, it’s heavier in some respects, too. Taylor’s not afraid to sing openly about sex and intoxication, occasionally tossing in some profanity, too. And her harsh criticism of those who hold to a traditional, biblical understanding of sexuality on “You Need to Calm Down” will also be a huge hurdle to clear for fans who don’t share Swift’s progressive perspective.

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Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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