Review: Taylor Swift is both the best and the worst on Lover

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Taylor Swift’s album cover for Lover, her most recent album.

Amelia Foster, A&E Editor, Multimedia Editor

I have been conflicted about Taylor Swift for as long as I could form coherent thoughts. If you’d ask me about any of my opinions on her, my only response would be “I don’t know.” I’d oscillate from screaming her lyrics and dancing around my room, to giving an in-depth analysis of the stupid things she’d done and why her new single sucks. And you know what? Lover didn’t change that at all.

Lover opens with “I Forgot That You Existed,” one of the weakest songs I’ve ever heard from her; of course, that’s beside her first two singles “ME!” and “You Need To Calm Down,” both which I’m still not convinced weren’t written by Kidz Bop.  “I Forgot That You Existed” sounds like a petty clap-back a middle schooler wrote on Garage Band about the boyfriend they dated for two weeks who broke up with them over text. In fact, I think it would have been a better song if that was the case.

When Swift writes a song that’s good, it shines so bright that you can barely see how hopeless the rest of the album is. The five songs that I’ll listen to on repeat every day were almost good enough for me to write a review praising her, despite how lacking the other 13 songs on Lover are. Swift has it all or nothing, with a song absolutely blowing me away or just, well, blowing.

“The Man” is a modern feminist “thought experiment” song about how different Swift’s career would be if she was a man, with her singing “I’d be a fearless leader/I’d be an alpha type/When everyone believes ya/What’s that like?” The beat is fun and quick and Swift has never been more down-to-earth on such a bubbly yet serious pop song. I’ve never related to her more, and I’ve already listened to it on repeat more times than I’d care to admit.

Swift’s new grip on activism falls on its face with “You Need To Calm Down,” where she compares actual harmful homophobia to the online bullying she experienced in 2016 with the lyric “Snakes and stones never broke my bones.” The song completely trivializes homophobia, calling homophobes haters who need to calm down, and it sounds like it was written by someone who just found out that gay people are considered cool now.

One of the things that sets her seventh album apart from all the others is how head-over-heels in love Swift is; the depth and strength of the love is embedded in her voice and the lyrics. “Paper Rings” lets Swift throw away all of her worries with her lover as she sings with a smile “I like shiny things/But I’d marry you with paper rings.” The song doesn’t take itself seriously as she jokes about how obsessed she gets with someone when she likes them, and it’s so cute that it makes me want to dance exuberantly with a crush I don’t have. “Paper Rings” isn’t the only time the concept of marriage appears, it actually came up so much I wouldn’t be surprised if she announced her engagement soon.

Not all of Swift’s songs about marriage are created equal. “Lover,” the third track, deserves to be the title track more than any other on the album. It’s the kind of song that makes me wish I was already 30 and married and in love so I could slow dance in the kitchen underneath the Christmas lights. I could write essay upon essay about how “Lover” is the best song Swift has ever written. But on the other hand, “It’s Nice To Have A Friend,” a song about childhood friends to newlyweds, is all build-up with no climax and wouldn’t sound out of place on a horror movie soundtrack.

“Cruel Summer” and “Soon You’ll Get Better” are the last songs on the album I can say with any confidence are good, with the former being about falling in love with someone she shouldn’t have during a cruel summer, and the latter about her coping with her mother’s battle with cancer.

The last nine songs I didn’t mention are much of the same. Swift confesses to being an Anglophile (someone obsessed with the English) in the cringey “London Boy,” then manages to turn a common phrase into something painful in “Death By A Thousand Cuts.” Listening to “Cornelia Street” more than once was genuinely painful, and “I Think He Knows” sounds exactly like something every other pop artist on the planet has written.

If there’s anything left to say about Swift that thousands haven’t said before, I wouldn’t know what it is. It pains me to call this album mediocre because of how much I adore some of the songs, but calling it her best album or even just great would be a bit of a stretch. Swift is a woman filled with multitudes, and Lover explains that as much as any album could.