When the last few bars of “Daylight,” the last track of Taylor Swift’s new album, play, a voiceover by Swift begins.
“I want to be defined by the things I love, not the things I hate,” Swift says.
If defining herself through love was her goal with “Lover,” Swift accomplished it. “Lover” is without a doubt Swift’s most diverse album with each of the 18 tracks highlighting Swift’s lyrical genius in a different way. Described by Swift as a “love letter to love,” the tracks cover everything from her mother’s battle with breast cancer to her relationship with current boyfriend Joe Alwyn.
With seven studio albums now in her repertoire, Taylor Swift’s music catalogue contains some of the most talked about music of the 21st century. Each Swift album has its own theme and central idea, its own era. “Fearless” solidified Swift as the teen queen of country music. “Red” signaled Swift’s shift from the sweet and naive country artist to an international force of pop. Her sixth album, “Reputation,” shattered her public image as America’s Sweetheart. Now, with “Lover,” Swift takes the pieces of each of her eras and transforms them into a cohesive and diverse documentation of her growth.
Though Swift has produced hit after hit in both genres throughout her career, “Lover” takes the best aspects of each of her eras and builds upon them, instead of picking one narrative and trying to fit inside it, like her past six albums.
“Lover” squashes any speculation that Swift would continue on the darker trajectory of her previous album. The first track of “Lover,” “I Forgot That You Existed,” closes the door on the “Reputation” era for good. Instead of dwelling on the pain and mistakes of her past, like “Reputation” tracks “I Did Something Bad” or “Look What You Made Me Do,” “I Forgot That You Existed” dismisses all of Swift’s past “haters.”
“I forgot that you existed. It isn’t love. It isn’t hate. It’s just indifference,” she sings.
Though Swift is still focused on telling off her “haters,” the track’s lyrics are a far cry from the vindictive and vitriolic attitude of “Reputation.” Swift approaches her past with wisdom and wit that show just how much she’s grown, both musically and personally.
Every “Lover” track also rebuilds on tropes of Swift’s earlier music. Swift’s first few albums consisted mostly of high-school-level love songs, like “Teardrops on My Guitar” from her debut, self-titled album, or “Hey Stephen” off her second album, “Fearless.” With songs like “Lover” and “Paper Rings,” Swift explores her experiences with real love and relationships as usual, but now exhibits her growth in dealing with heartbreak. Swift’s breakup songs in her first five albums were often angry and focused on themes of revenge, such as “Picture to Burn” or “Mean.” In contrast, “Death by a Thousand Cuts” details the grief that comes at the end of a relationship, and how Swift has learned to heal from that heartbreak.
The classic cleverness of Swift’s lyrics remain — in “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince,” Swift explains her view of American politics through a metaphor about American high schools.
“American glory, faded before me. Now I’m feeling hopeless. Ripped up my prom dress,” she sings.
Though Swift’s lyrics are true to her style, it’s evident that her worldview has changed, and she has grown up.
On the album’s title track “Lover,” Swift sings in the bridge, “Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand with every guitar string scar on my hand?”
Swift’s years in the music industry have been filled with scars from past loves and past wrongs. But with “Lover,” Swift takes those scars and creates a masterpiece of growth and hope.