“Merry Swiftmas” I proclaimed yesterday morning as I picked up a copy of Taylor Swift’s seventh studio album Lover the minute doors opened at the local record store, sporting a Taylor Swift t-shirt and my reputation socks! HMV sold out of copies quickly in Manchester but according to one article online Taylor’s star is falling, the pop-stars career is crashing rapidly... seriously? This is an artist who sold a million copies a week before it even came out! So far critics have said such things as ‘It’s too long” and “it’s too samey” do they know what they’re talking about? Who employed these people? No wonder Taylor hates the press!! Tay, I promise we’re not all that bad! So read this whilst you turn your stereo’s up to volume 13, don’t pay me too much attention whilst you take in these breathtaking lyrics and I’ll tell you why Taylor Swift is a Songwriting genius with a good head for business!
The first thing I notice about the album is the packaging, in a World where we are moving towards streaming and downloads and away from physical copies, Taylor has put a lot of thought into the way physical copies are delivered, making fans want to buy instead of stream and in some cases fans are buying four or five copies so they get all the content. The journal entries are a brave move but something we’ve come to expect and respect with Taylor. One entry that stood out to me was the one in Deluxe 1 where she talks of ownership, how this generation have to whip out their phone at every possible moment, how no one lives in the moment, everyone wants proof that it happened, that they were there. I’m a photographer but unless I’m working a gig, I don’t take photos, at the last Taylor concert I went to, the lady next to my mum watched the whole concert through her phone but didn’t even know Love Story was a Taylor Swift song! Taylor has a point, we need to put the phone’s down guys and I think this also highlights the fishbowl idea in her music video for Lover, everyone is always watching and documenting her every move, it’s hard to have any kind of private life when you’re Taylor Swift.
On to the actual music, the album opens with a quirky pop number I Forgot That You Existed, the rumour mill is buzzing with who this song could be about, critics say it’s Kanye West and Swifties think it could be ex-lover Calvin Harris. Well all I know is that it’s a great song and a brilliant way to open the album, it oozes with positivity, a light at the end of the tunnel, a happier, more chilled side to Taylor after the darker era of Reputation (which is still a phenomenal album btw). Track two is a real ear worm and proving to be a fan favourite, Cruel Summer is all about the melodies in that chorus, you’re going to be humming this one all day, no seriously you are!! I also love the part before the final chorus where we hear Taylor shout-sing “He looks up, grinning like a devil” and the lyrics “Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes.”
The title track lies third on the album, as the album represents all sides of Love, the complexity etc, I think Lover represents the simplicity. Born from a song off her 5th studio album You Are In Love, this song in 6/8 time seems to depict the happiest part of being in love with the bridge lyrics written like wedding vows. The stripped back production seems to take Taylor closer to her roots (a more in depth review of this song can be found on the website). The Man feels like the song I’ve been waiting my whole life for or at least the past three years through my job search! Trying to set up as a self employed journalist feels like you’re constantly fighting the World, the men in the business seem to get there a lot faster than the women, there have been a number of job interviews I’ve shown up for away from the music journalism industry where the interviewer, head of an all male department has said to me, “you have to be physically strong to do this job, I’m not sure you’re up to it” well give me a strength test then and I’ll prove you wrong! The Man speaks of the inequality between the two sexes and how a male would be complimented for doing one thing but a woman criticised if she does the same. Taylor has had lots of experience with this and who’s to blame? Well again, the press haven’t done her any favours in the past! Taylor and co-writer Joel Little have done a fantastic job of creating a relatable song that anyone can bop to! It feels even more relevant now with the current situation over at Big Machine with regards to her masters.
The brutally honest, stripped back The Archer assess both sides of love and break-ups, as Taylor sings “I’ve been the archer, I’ve been the prey.” Where the previous song sits lower in Taylor’s vocal range, The Archer sees Taylor use falsetto giving it a more delicate and fragile vibe to it and the harmonies and backing vocals really add to the effect. I think He Knows also uses falsetto in the chorus so it really does sound like her heart is “skipping down 16th avenue.” The next song loses this light hearted, care free feel. Taylor confirmed Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince was about the state of American politics right now as she sings “American glory faded before me” and “I saw the scoreboard and ran for my life” but Taylor has out-smarted any patriots who would be up in arms about her speaking out about the 2016 election or the current President by making the whole song a metaphor of a typical American high school love story, again this highlights her songwriting prowess.
Paper Rings is proving a fan favourite, it’s a foot tapping number and again is filled with positive lyrics of the simplicity of love, you don’t need shiny diamond rings. It’s a commitment to a lover that no matter what, they want to be with them, this is true love! Once again its bouncy, casual but the sentiment remains. One of my favourites off the record Taylor wrote on her own, Cornelia Street. The imagery in this song is brilliant, “as if the street lights pointed in an arrowhead leading us home.” It shows us that love affects every aspect of life so much so that a city “screams your name.” It’s clearly a very personal song for Taylor and again she crafts a beautiful melody without losing the detail in the lyrics which is something Pop songs do all too often, focus on one and not the other, but Taylor has achieved a perfect balance. Death by a Thousand Cuts uses a very simple melody, there’s not much movement vocally in the chorus and the production falls away leaving it all about the words which is unusual as normally you build in the chorus but it works well. The detail and imagery once again is superb and we see the pain and abandonment of love “I look through the windows of this love, even though we boarded them up.”
I think every Swiftie in England’s favourite song is London Boy purely for the line “God I love the English” well thank you Taylor, the English love you too (so come back and tour soon yeah?) The imagery is so good that a friend of mine even worked out her journey on the London Underground which went viral! My personal favourite on the record is the devastatingly beautiful Soon You’ll Get Better which features the Dixie Chicks. Written for her mum who is fighting cancer, Taylor teamed up with one of her and her mother’s favourite bands to deliver this beautiful and desperate message which many people can relate to. They say music helps and heals and unites us all, this is one of those songs that you will shed a tear to but ultimately it will bring you comfort in a difficult time. Taylor and Natalie’s vocals blend perfectly together, you hear the emotion as Taylor’s voice quivers and it feels like Natalie’s giving her strength and support. The simplicity and beauty of Emily and Martie’s Banjo and fiddle playing is perfect for the song.
Now I’d like anything Taylor did I know but my least favourite song on the record is False God, there’s something about the production that gives me chills! The melody feels off centre, by design, but it doesn’t appeal to me like many of her other songs do. I think it will grow on me so I’ll give it time. One thing I do like is the way she sings the last love in the chorus. You Need To Calm Down has proven to be one of Taylor’s most successful singles and it’s message speaks volumes! It’s Manchester Pride this weekend and I’m sure this will be playing loud in some of the clubs because of it’s support for the LGBT community. Artists need to show their support and not be afraid of how it could impact their careers because come on, it’s 2019 why do people have a problem with loving who you love and being who you are? Once again this song is a bop and the video has some pretty cool people in it!
Afterglow lets us hear more of Taylor’s falsetto in the chorus and the melody and production gives her vocals lots of room to “glow.” ME! Follows, the lead single from the record, Brendon Urie from Panic at the Disco work well together. It’s good to hear some trumpets in the mix,in fact I really applaud the production on this song in particular, it feels current but timeless and again the melody gets stuck in your head wether you want it to or not (but we want it to so we’re not complaining). Once again we have a stripped back spacious production in It’s Nice To Have a Friend and we hear brass instrumentation again as well as what sounds like steel drums and a harp. The most important instrument though is perhaps the backing vocals which create hooks of their own. It feels almost out of place on the album but at the same time is just the song it needed as a penultimate track, it leaves so much unsaid but says so much, it’s quite different, particularly production wise, from anything we’ve heard from Swift before, it’s interesting.
The album bids us farewell with Daylight, showing us the hope and bright side of love! It’s a great way to summarise the album. I love the line “Clearing the air I breathed in the smoke.” As predicted this feels like Taylor’s most eclectic album to date, with one hand touching her roots as she continues to keep up and set current trends within music. As she concludes with spoken word, “I want to be defined by the things I love” well Taylor with this record you have shown us all the things that love can be and solidified your place as a true pop star and songwriting legend! Now whilst we curl up with our furry friends and play it again (on volume 13) we begin to imagine what you’ll do to bring these songs to life on stage. One thing is for sure, it will be the greatest show on earth!