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Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Lover: A Nightmare Dressed Like a Daydream

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Taylor Swift Lover https://app.asana.com/0/32923395333443/1127064328995879/f

Taylor Swift Releases Seventh Studio Album, Lover

Kate Casper

The first two singles released for the album had all the whim and excitement that one would expect from a Disney Channel Original movie–the songs were lyrically shallow and sounded ditzy and obnoxious. Most importantly, what was lacking was the vulnerable authenticity that Swift has become known for. “ME!” and “You Need to Calm Down” in particular lacked this quality. While there seemed to be a major disconnect with these singles, they are no indicator of the well-executed pieces featured in “Lover.”

The highly-anticipated 18-track album introduces political themes, stories of infatuation and longing, and striking imagery and symbols carefully laced throughout. In Swift’s previous album, she introduced blue imagery to symbolize her real-life “Lover” Joe Alwyn through the lyrics, “ocean blue eyes” in “Gorgeous.” This element is continued in several songs in “Lover” where Swift affectionately associates Alwyn with blue, whether it be his “faded blue jeans” or the blue feeling she gives him. 

In addition, Swift introduces elements of activism in her new album. The socio-political overtones of songs like “You Need to Calm Down” and “The Man” may have come as a surprise to fans, as Swift has been critiqued for not being vocal on political issues in the past. In these songs, Swift advocates for equal rights and treatment for LGBTQ people (“You Need to Calm Down”) and women (“The Man”). In the music video for “You Need to Calm Down”, Swift even includes a link to the Equality Act. Thematically, these songs feel somewhat out of place when followed by classic “T-Swift” love songs, but the astounding response from fans as Swift accepted the VMA award for Song of the Year in August seems to make up for this discrepancy.

The first track of the album, “I Forgot That You Existed” details a relieved Swift moving on from a former love. The verses have a good beat, but the chorus feels anticlimactic and boring, with a beat drop followed by music that sounds like it came from a royalty free catalog. Some of the lyrics are spoken, which adds a comedic flare, but the giggles throughout the chorus feel like a major misstep. They were unnecessary, distracting, and awkward. 

“Death by a Thousand Cuts” was similarly disappointing. The story feels generic and surface-level. The overused “Death by a Thousand Cuts” idiom repeated throughout the song does not make up for the mediocre verses and chorus. The one redeeming quality of the song is the bridge, which features beautiful metaphors, rhymes, and elements of alliteration, as illustrated in lyrics like, “Our country, guess it was a lawless land,” or “Paper cut stings for our paper thin-plans.” Unfortunately, the bridge sounds more powerful than the actual chorus, so the buildup feels like a deadend. Although the song is generally boring, there are some revealing lyrics that highlight Swift’s vulnerability in her songwriting, with one standout line being, “Tryna find a part of me that you didn’t touch.”

Equally boring songs from “Lover” include “It’s Nice to have a Friend” and “Daylight.” “It’s Nice to have a Friend” is wholesome and romantic, but generally exhausting to listen to; it felt like it drags on forever with worthless surface-level lyrics. “Daylight”, which Swift revealed was considered to be the title of the album, is an angelic beautiful song, however, it is totally forgettable. While “Afterglow”, the 15th track, has a similar sound to “Daylight”, the lyrics and production value are much stronger. 

On the other hand, “Cruel Summer” is a classic feel-good pop song. Reminiscent of songs from Swift’s previous album “Reputation”, released in 2017, the song follows Swift falling in love with someone new and the emotions that come with it. In the pre-chorus, the lyrics say, “Devils roll the dice / Angels roll their eyes”, alluding that bad ones take risks, while good ones scoff and play things safe…Taylor is taking a risk on this relationship, but the bright chorus indicates to the listener that this is a happy song, not a cautionary tale. The melody is fantastic and the lyrics actually feel meaningful and purposeful. 

There is just one problem: Some of the rhymes are lazy and sloppy. In the chorus, “cruel Summer” is rhymed with “ooh whoa oh,” which is disappointing coming from a 10-time Grammy award-winning artist. Despite this, the song is well-crafted with clever lyrics and a defined tone and mood. The Summer imagery introduced in “Cruel Summer” is also continued in the flagship love song “Lover” with the lyrics, “I’ve loved you three Summers now honey, but I want them all.” 

A nod to Swift’s country roots, “Lover” is a romantic no-frills love song illustrating an adoring relationship. In the verses, Swift asks, “Have I known you 20 seconds or 20 years?”, revealing to the listener that this love is timeless. In the second verse, Swift portrays a realistic fear in any relationship with the lyrics, “And I’m highly suspicious that everyone who sees you wants you.” Up until this point, the song seemed to paint an idealistic picture of the “perfect” couple, which is contrasted by these refreshingly relatable lyrics. 

In the bridge, Swift sings, “With every guitar string scar on my hand / I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover”, playing into the wedding/marriage themes throughout the album. Here, she is announcing her willingness to settle down with her “lover”, with the “guitar string scar” line referring to Swift’s previous conquests she so infamously has written songs about. Finally, “Can I go where you go?” in the chorus reestablishes a classic Taylor Swift theme, a fear of being left behind, which is continued in “The Archer.”

Both “The Archer” and “Lover” complement each other incredibly well, with distinctive thematic parallels. In the chorus, Swift sings, ”Who could ever leave me darling? But who could stay?” It seems she is constantly battling this overly confident borderline-arrogant feeling about who she is and what she deserves against her deepest fear of being alone. She is scared that the person assumed to be her “forever and ever” (“Lover”) will leave her or get bored of her. In the “Reputation”-era track “New Year’s Day”, Swift hints at this theme, as she pleads, “Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere.”

“Cornelia Street” continues this theme, as Swift uses a street to represent her nostalgia for a former relationship. In an interview with Elvis Duran, Swift said, “It’s about the things that took place, the memories that were made on that street.” In the chorus, Swift sings, “I’d never walk Cornelia Street again / That’s the kinda heartbreak time could never mend.” While the concept of the song is not overly original, the relatability of the story and the artistry of the actual music supersedes that aspect. 

Taking a drastic tone-shift, “The Man” is an out-of-place cringe-enducing feminist anthem.  In an interview for CBS, Swift explains that there is a different vocabulary for men and women in the music industry, saying, “A man does something–it’s strategic. A woman does the same thing–it’s calculated.” While this statement is very telling of the tendencies in her industry, the chorus, “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can / Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man,” comes off as out-of-touch and disingenuous. 

Named Forbes’ highest paid celebrity in 2019, it is frustrating that Swift dedicates an entire song to complaining about what the everyday woman might go through at a greater extreme. In addition, the production is awkward, and similarly to “I Forgot that you Existed”, the background music sounds like the copyright-free music an elementary school student might use in a YouTube video. “The Man” might be catchy, but it is not a good song.

“I Think he Knows” is a sassy, bright song with a bouncy beat; the story is not anything particularly interesting, but it is fun and well-executed. The sound is very reminiscent of Swift’s first breakout album into the pop genre, “1989.” The lyrics are not completely pointless or surface-level, but they convey the point in a clear and concise manner–there are not too many standout metaphors in the song. “I Think he Knows” might be the best song off of the album, even if there is not too much artistic value in the lyrics.

The seventh track, “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” is a darker song that compares a toxic high school relationship with the current political climate in America. The bridge is probably the most impressive aspect of this song, further highlighting the “high school love” theme by adding cheer chants with the lyrics, “And I don’t want you to (Go!), I don’t really wanna (Fight!) / ‘Cause nobody’s gonna (Win!)” This element was absolute genius, and the verses did not disappoint either, with impeccable lyrics like, “You play stupid games / you win stupid prizes.”

Undermining whatever artistry was happening in the album, “ME!” is a trainwreck of a single. While some may argue that the song is fun; that’s just not true. “ME!” is a fun song for third graders, but for anyone over the age of 8, the song is stupid. The ridiculously low-level lyrics paired with the juvenile sound make this a major disappointment. This song belongs in a Barbie movie, not a pop icon’s album; it is all-around an embarrassment to “Lover.”

Unfortunately, “ME!” was not the only letdown. “Paper Rings” had upbeat well-written verses, but a poorly-executed chorus. Cheesy nightmarish lyrics like, “Uh huh, that’s right / Darling, you’re the one I want” totally ruin the song. In addition, “You Need to Calm Down” had a powerful message that got lost in elementary rhymes and lyrics including, “And I’m just like, damn, it’s 7 AM” and “Snakes and stones never broke my bones.” The last disaster of a song was “False God”, which was an attempt at a seductive track, but just comes off as awkward. The religious imagery used in lines like, “Religion’s in my lips / The altar is my hips” is off putting and uncomfortable. 

Unlike “ME!” and songs like it, “London Boy” exemplifies a song that can be fun and light-hearted without being ridiculous. Inspired by Swift’s British boyfriend, the song includes British slang and references like “I fancy you” in the chorus to mimic the adoring language used by her significant other. 

Finally, the most emotional of the songs, “Soon You’ll Get Better”, is a beautiful, but tragic piece inspired by what Swift went through when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. It is a narrative piece with storytelling components and plot. When the song opens up, Swift is in a doctor’s office where she gets the news. Later, Swift goes into how she will “paint the kitchen neon” and “brighten up the sky” for her mother. In a YouTube livestream counting down the release of the “Lover” music video, Swift described that including this song in her album was a “family decision”, and that she could not perform the song live because it was too emotional. This song and others like it, including “The Archer” and “Lover”, offer classic Taylor Swift songwriting; It feels almost as if these stories are a window into her soul, a diary almost. 

Swift’s new album was an emotional rollercoaster; some songs were remarkable, highlighting the symbolism and storytelling components expected of Swift, especially during her country era. While there were several songs that absolutely missed the mark as far as production, sound, content, lyricism, and more, they do not undermine or degrade the quality of other standout songs featured on the album. Overall, this album will not be on the “Hot Girl Semester” playlist.

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Lover: A Nightmare Dressed Like a Daydream