A Taylor Swift Trifecta (Part 3)
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
After almost a year of waiting, I'm ready to give the fans what they want. The final installment of the trilogy is here! I've spoken about 1989 and Reputation, so it's time to show some love to Lover, Taylor Swift's seventh studio album. If you're reading this, then it means you've survived the terrible year that we shall not name, and you're probably enjoying even newer music from Taylor. But take a moment to travel back to 2019 with me. Also, one final plug for the Miss Americana documentary, because it is definitely worth the watch.
So... Lover. I was skeptical at first (as I often am). When Me! was released I thought, "Oh no... this is where we are? I guess that's fine. I see you growing, Taylor." I had unrealistic hopes for some sort of otherworldly album greater than Reputation (which is, ya know, impossible.) But after You Need To Calm Down was released, I realized that Lover is THE Taylor Swift album. It's a beautiful blend of the previously albums with a mature clarity about life and love. 14 of the 18 tracks are must plays when I'm listening. The other 4 have distinctly different vibes from the rest of the album, so I usually don't play them through. For this blog post I will, though. Let's get to it. 1. I Forgot That You Existed - What an intro. Funny, I didn't instantly love this one. The hook didn't grab me, but after a few listens it grew on me. The lyrics started to resonate, (and we know how talented of a writer Taylor is) the beat became catchy, and there was no escape. What's so nice about this track is the pure idea of growth. She talks about learning and letting go, moving forward so far that the problems of her past were barely existent. 2. Cruel Summer - The beat pulls you in and then she says, "Devils roll the dice. Angels roll their eyes. What doesn't kill me makes me want you more." Bruh...
That's basically the whole tone of the song, and I'm here for it. I mentioned in the last installment that her songs are often so relatable. This one is a true test to that. "I don't wanna keep secrets just to keep you." Aces, Taylor. Aces. 3. Lover - I'm just going to come out and say it. She gave herself a black love interest in this one. Yes. More of this, please. Over my birthday weekend my wife and I noticed a ton of commercials showing more POCs, and interracial and same sex couples, and it truly made us feel good. The world needs to normalize this, because it really does make a difference. While I prefer the remix of this title track, the original does not fall short of being a beautiful ballad of the bond between two people. When I first heard it I thought, "Yeah. I can see this one being a hit for first dances at weddings." My favorite line from this one is, "...and you'll say all your dirtiest jokes for me, and at every table, I'll save you a seat." Like... it's all about the bond of lovers. Such a heart warmer. Oh! It's also worth noting that I do not agree with Shawn Mendes' remix line saying, "I'd go down with the Titanic, it's true, for you, lover." Nah, bro. #ThereWasRoomForJack
4. The Man - Watching the writing come together for this one on the Miss Americana documentary was so cool. It came together so well. Everything said in this song is so important. I can't just quote a part of it, cause the whole song is quotable. It touches on the following: - double standards in sexual escapades and confidence - rape culture - equal pay disparity - stereotypes in corporate leadership - "gender norms" - respect and gender barriers - media image - hypocrisy in language and behavior expectations - and a bunch of stuff I probably couldn't recognize as a man. Listen to the song. Watch the video. Educate yourself on the plight of woman in the modern world. Okay, necessary rant over. 5. The Archer - I like how this song shows the vulnerable, sort of mourning, side of Taylor Swift. The lyrics are raw and honest, which pulls fans in for that lyrical hug she's known for. I feel like there's a show of awareness in imperfection, while taking responsibility for anything she feels she should in the line, "I've been the archer. I've been the prey." She's been on both sides of the hurt. The line that resonated the most with me was, "All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't me together again, cause all of my enemies started out friends. Help me hold on to you." Taking such a well known rhyme and put a relatable spin on it is a skill she channels so damn well. "Help me hold on to you." really made me think about the cooperation involved in friendships/relationships. It speaks about how its a joint effort.
6. I Think He Knows - Man do I love this one. It's cute and poppy and sexy, and makes me want to dance. I love how it makes me shift my perspective in my relationship and consider, "What is my better half thinking? Is she swooning inside over some random thing I don't even realize I'm doing?"
If I had to highlight a single line that I love, it'd probably be, "Lyrically smile, indigo eyes, hand on my thigh. We could follow the sparks. I'll drive." It has a nice blend of metaphors, and the cool confidence in navigating a relationship that I like.
And while that lyric is my favorite, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out another one for all those Starbuck's lovers... Yeah. Taylor Swift has given us another puzzler in the chorus of this song. "That's my toe/tote." is the line I'm talking about. Really, your toe, Taylor? I listened time and time again to see what this line could actually be, and then gave up. I really feel like she does it on purpose. Regardless, Google's trusty intellect was there to shed light on the mystery, revealing that the line is actually "Bless my soul." Bless... my... soul. Wow. Bless your heart, too, Taylor.
I do wish we had a video for I think He Knows. I'm picturing a couple quarantined, and just being silly and comfortable with one another. Scenes of drinking tea or coffee, playing video games or instruments, playing silly pranks throughout all of this, dancing both well and awkwardly together, then a seemingly intimate (but not revealing) scene under bedsheets when the bridge comes in at 1:55. Then when it looks like things are about to heat up, surprise! Pillow fight right at 2:12. Inline with the album title, this song makes me think about the pure fun of having a lover who just connects with you on all the goofy days.
7. Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince - It's crazy how well composed this song is. One of my top favorites on the album, for sure. Even on the surface as a story about high school love drama, it baannggs. The spirit squad cheers in the bridge are so thematic (wait... I'm not reviewing a board game). When I found out it's referencing the madness of US politics, I was even more impressed. I started to read into it, making connections, and ask myself so many questions! Let's dive in a bit... Considering she's talking about the 2016 political year, and years after... - Who's the Heartbreak Prince? Is it a dark reference to Trump? A lighter reference to Bernie Sanders? Something totally different? - "You know I adore you. I'm crazier for you..." starts of the song. Could this be about Hilary Clinton? Bernie? No one? - "American glory... faded before me... Now I'm feeling hopeless..." Maybe this a reference to her reaction at seeing the 2016 election results? "I saw the scoreboard, and ran for me life." would support this idea. - "I counted days... I counted miles... to see you there." Could this have been her dashed hopes to see our first female president? - "The whole school is rolling fake dice..." Is this touching on the idea that citizens have little to no power in the thick of it? - "You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes?" Is the bi-partisan system the stupid game? Is the Trump administration the stupid prize? - "So sad we pain the town blue. Voted most-likely to run away with you..." This line solidifies the parallel, or allusion, to politics. Painting the town blue is likely a thought of turning states into democratic states. The words 'voted' and 'run' only bolster the idea. - "I see the high fives between the bad guys..." me too, Taylor. Me too. - "You are the only one, who seems to care." You're right! No one loves us like Bernie does! Ha, okay. That's me speculating.
I could go on, but I think it's probably more fun for y'all to go and make your own connections while you listen. I do think this song had great video potential, as well. Maybe it would've been too dark during the presidency, though. Not sure a happy ending could've been devised. This reminds me (in a light sense) of a modern version of We Didn't Start The Fire, by Billie Joel.
8. Paper Rings - It feels utterly redundant yet essential to mention just how great the lyrics are in just about every T. Swift song. Whether cryptic and poetic or simple and relatable, they're notoriously great. Paper Rings is no exception. I can't really pick a single line or two, because the whole song deserves to be inscribed on a tablet about genuine love.
Then it's catchy af. Feels like... the 70s? I think that's right. I'm getting major 16 Candles vibes. No... that's not quite it. After digging through Reddit, I'd say it's more Weezer or Jet-like. Those are compliments, by the way. Also, major 'sing in the shower vibes.'
You go, Emma Stone. Anyway, this song evokes such a cute, love story vibe. If I were to direct a video of this, I'd actually prefer a fan video of couples just being loving. If we want to break the budget, let's overlay each shot with A-Ha's iconic drawn style of Take On Me.
9. Cornelia Street - This one is definitely in my top 5 of the album. If you ever find yourself reminiscing on a old fling, maybe because you walked past a certain bar or heart a particular song, that's this song. It's a Taylor Swift classic, but still tells an interesting story, in my opinion. Lots of push and pull, great layering of vocals, and instrumentals, but what I love most about the song is towards the end. At 3:25 you get a deep sense of emotional climax, where tears might be right at surface, and you feel all the feels. It gives me goose bumps. This song is so solidly composed.
10. Dream By A Thousand Cuts - There's an interesting parallel here. The song speaks about 'pain' of losing someone, a metaphorical 1,000 cuts, but it's not a sad tempo. It's pretty upbeat. There's a nice channeling of anger with the punchy parts of the beat, and exhaustion implied through the tempo and lyrical pace.
Wow. That sounded pretty um... technical. Whatever. Ha, it is what it is.
11. London Boy - Okay, first... is that Idris Elba at the beginning? Yes. It is.
I think we can agree that there are tons of thing that are better in London than they are in America. As far as guys, well, I'd disagree there, of course. I really don't have much to say about this track. It's a cool one. It's poppy, and I can picture of friends jamming out to it with the top down, but it doesn't speak to me spiritually or anything. Two thumbs up, let's move on.
12. Soon You'll Get Better - For reasons I think we are all aware of, I will only say that I respect the strength it takes to live through something this difficult. I can't imagine...
13. False God - I would've swapped the placement of this track (14, 16, 13, 15) for better transitioning, but regardless... my God.
No pun intended there, but seriously... I didn't think Taylor Swift could top Dress, but here we are. This is my favorite song on the album. Between the saxophone, the ad-libbed "aye" here and there, and the chorus, I'm sold. It's a very intimate song, but just as you'd expect, it's not explicit or raunchy. It's suggestive for sure, but that's what makes it great. "The alter is my hips." Who is this person?!?!?! I'm joking, mostly. This isn't the first song we've heard from her that bleeds into a "more adult" style, but I'd argue that it's the best. Well, I don't know. Dress is a killer song.
14. You Need To Calm Down - This song is so important. A lot of people don't like when celebrities speak about social issues (I'm not one of those people), so I guess it's a good idea to sing about it instead of speak about it. Everything about this song and video send a message that Taylor's tired of the bull shit, and I'm here for it. I could write an entire blog post about my frustration with America's treatment of the LGBTQIA community (and I might), but for now I'll just express the joy I got when I saw someone with major influence take a stand as blatant as this. I think that making it harder for marginalized groups to be ignored or mistreated is a responsibility of those in power. Also, so dope that she and Katy Perry were able to settle things. Practice what you preach, right? Also, I'll never forget the fact that "Shade never made anybody less Gay!"
15. Afterglow - Sigh, second favorite song on the album. Crazy how I identify so easily with "sad" songs, but I can recognize that isn't a crutch. I've been on both sides of the bullet, and it's really nice to have a song that can remind you, "Sometimes you mess up. You've got to own up to it, apologize, and deal with the aftermath. That's the right thing to do." Taylor Swift's voice really lends itself to these ballads where she puts out super emotional sound, in lines like "Why'd I have to break what I love so much?" (much like my note about Cornelia Street.) Also, she's not kidding. "Fighting with a true love is boxing with no gloves." Have you ever tried boxing without gloves? What happens is major self-inflicted damage. The strength of this chorus is wild. The lyrics pair with the drum hits in a way that's so hard to resist.
I've mentioned this time and time again, but here's an example of what I love about so many T. Swift songs, "I lived like an island. Punished you with silence. Went off like sirens, just cryin." You get interesting and fluid lyrics that are still raw and truthful. I think what I've seen people remark most about this track is a key element needed in being an adult, and issuing an apology. In the chorus she says, "I'm sorry that I hurt you." The key word there is 'that.' Taking ownership of the pain you're actions shows you understand what happened, and you acknowledge the pain you caused. It shows maturity and compassion.
16. ME! - I didn't immediately love this song. To be more accurate, I only loved it after having a really bad day and realizing, "This is a pick-me-up song." It's about accepting people (including yourself) for who they are. When ME! was released I wasn't in place to see past the upbeat, color-filled, fanfare of a video for that message to resonate. Wild, right? I'm an idiot sometimes.
Sidenote: Brendon Urie's voice... how? Now, I love the video and how flamboyant is it. Even the intro with the argument in French is enough to make me happy. I guess I'd call this song/video, "A parade of butterflies for better days."
17. It's Nice To Have A Friend - This is one of the few songs on the album I could do without. It's not a 'bad' song, it just feels misplaced, like an after though. I can't help but compare it to Everything Has Changed, featuring Ed Sheeran, which... this can't compare to. Even as a contradiction, that should make sense. They give me same vibe, but one is much better.
18. Daylight - I feel more than a song, Taylor Swift is basically just talking to us in this one. Well, actually, she's talking to her lover. I'd don't have strong feelings about this one, but it's definitely a nice way to wrap up the album. Kind of feels like that concept in presenting. "Tell them what you're going to talk about, talk about it, then remind them what you talked about." Bring it all full circle. (Big exhale.) Okay. I did it. A three-part series of my love for T. Swift music. Why did that feel like so much work? Oh well. I need some hot chocolate now. Thanks for reading. #TaylorSwift #ATaylorSwiftTrifecta #Lover