Less than two years removed from Reputation (Maestro’s AOTY for 2017), the incomparable TAYLOR SWIFT returns with brand new album Lover, out now on Republic Records. I won’t lie to you guys, because I am always honest. So believe me when I tell you that this review comes after having listened to the record EIGHT TIMES in a row at work today, with number nine happening right now. As with the six albums before this one, I defy you to not get lured in by the music, lyrics, and most importantly, Swift’s vocals. Before I left for work, I made sure to set Mini-Amps’ Spotify to this one so he could listen as soon as he woke up. The photos of him going crazy totally made my day. That’s his girl, and I love that he was grinning so hard!
“So, what’s the deal with Lover?” you might ask. Is it good? Is it something that the early fans as well as the newer, more pop-oriented ones can get down with? The answer is a resounding yes on both fronts. One of the biggest strengths of the record is the way it easily and flawlessly delivers great pop songs while still visiting older territory. Relax, shhhhh….don’t ask questions, we’ll get there. Production-wise, Swift is in the Executive Producer’s chair while being very hands-on alongside fellow knob-turners Jack Antonoff, Louis Bell, Joel Little, Frank Dukes, and Sounwave. The sound is very full, but there are times when the music is laid bare and stripped to its foundation. Those moments possess power, strength, and beauty.
Opener “I Forgot That You Existed” may be light and airy in its sound, but the lyrics pack a punch reminiscent of the ones Marvelous Marvin Hagler, my favorite boxer, used to land. “Cruel Summer” is loud, relatable, and atmospheric, while the title track “Lover” strays into MAZZY STAR territory. That was the first thought that popped into my head as soon as I heard it, and that’s a part of what makes it beautiful. I would actually love to hear Taylor do a cover of “Fade Into You.” I think my head would explode if that actually happened. “The Man” is a perfect middle finger to everyone who scrutinizes her, and sums that up with “Every conquest I had made would make me more of a boss to you.” The double standard is strong with this one.
Wow, okay, so let’s talk “The Archer.” This is not only one of my favorite songs on this disc, but it’s also in the running for my Song of the Year, one of two from this one, actually. Swift’s vocal is the centerpiece over a vast synth landscape and the whole thing crescendos and leaves me breathless when it ends. “I Think He Knows” might just be the funnest number on this whole thing. The rapid-fire delivery of, “I am an architect, I’m drawing up the plans,” followed by a big ass chorus is the stuff Taylor-made (see what I did there?!?) for dance floors from the U.S. to Dubai. “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” harkens back to high school, prom, and young love, and is another one I gravitated to right away.
By the way, “Paper Rings” is one of those songs done by your favorite artists where you just go, “Oh Hell yeah!! Thank you for this one!!” To call this an instant favorite with its understated pop punk vibe is an understatement. “Cornelia Street” is another testament to love, although it warns that she may never be able to walk said street again if the relationship ends. Regardless, the hook is infectious, lyrically it nails things, and is just a fucking great song…period. “Death By a Thousand Cuts” is spot-on in its interpretation of what we all have felt after a break-up. It sucks, and it feels like the hurt might never go away. It eventually does, but the process still sucks.
Idris Elba introduces “London Boy,” another of the album’s best tracks, and a not-so-subtle nod to Swift’s real life paramour Joe Alwyn. “Soon You’ll Get Better” is a tough one for me. Taylor wrote this for her mother Andrea, who is currently battling cancer. She enlists the DIXIE CHICKS on backup vocals, making the song all the more powerful. I lost both my parents to cancer, so this one hits home hard. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t/don’t cry to this one. I pray that Mama Swift gets better, and soon. There is a sensuality to “False God” that feels like a seduction, made even sexier by the saxophone that plays in the background.
“You Need to Calm Down” is the other entry in Maestro’s SOTY category. Everything about this bish…the sassiness, the message, the attitude…simply amazing. Oh, and how about the fact that this is an uplifting track that should make everyone who might be different feel good about themselves. Taylor’s got your back. Hell, we all do. You’re gay, you’re straight, you’re trans, you’re special needs? Guess what? We will ALWAYS be there, ready to fight for you. And that’s what this song means to me. Mini-Amps has autism, and I can rest assured that if there was ever a problem no less than 20 people would pop up ready to defend him. I’d be lying if I said this tune didn’t reduce me to tears, seriously.
There’s a certain darkness to “Afterglow,” which means it wouldn’t have been out of place on the last record, but I’m glad we get it now because the lyrics are pretty raw. And here comes “Me!”, the official first single featuring a duet with Brandon Urie which let’s face it, can put a smile on anyone’s face; it’s that fun. “Nice to Have a Friend” very much has an Asian influence, and quite frankly I was blown away as soon as I heard it. Gorgeous doesn’t do this song justice, but that’s what it is to me. Closer “Daylight” is another example of how Swift knows how to pace her albums, and deliver the right emotional hits at the right time.
So listen, this has been a pretty exhaustive review. We had 18 songs to go through. Know what? That’s just fine with me. Because I’d go through these 18 tracks again and again, just like I did tonight. There is so much to glean from this music and these lyrics. Hope it wasn’t too painful for you all. TAYLOR SWIFT is my favorite singer/songwriter for a reason, and with Lover, she has only reaffirmed that. To my fellow Swifties Arnesta, and Miss Kate the Fashionista, hope you love what I said about our girl. She rules, end of story. And now we wait for a U.S. tour announcement, don’t we?
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM