Thursday, August 29th, 2019

Taylor Swift – Lover

We’re mostly likers!


Tobi Tella: Gentle, passionate, and legitimately beautiful. For a song by someone who’s normally thinkpiece-inducing, I don’t want to think or look at this critically at all. I just want to sit and be enveloped by pure emotion (also a famous London boyfriend).

Joshua Lu: Hot Girl Summer is over and Christian Girl Autumn fast approacheth, heralded by this ode to monogamy that’s touching and pretty in all the obvious ways — at least until the bridge. Taylor Swift, perhaps understanding the inherent cheesiness of ballads like this, pushes the song to its campiest limits as she spins cliche marriage vows to be lyrical and silly. The way she promises at the end to be “overdramatic and true” hints at how she’s knowingly playful here, and it’s a clever way to enhance this particular kind of song to its hyperbolic end. If only the rest of the song weren’t too comfortable just being a “Thinking Out Loud” redux, then it might be worth revisiting. 

Jessica Doyle: It’s fine! It’s pretty, it’s soft, it’s got echoes of Maddie & Tae (in that lifted “close” in the chorus); Taylor sells the jealousy line as a self-deprecating in-joke that the video chose to play straight. It’s a perfectly fine song, all the better for not requiring any additional knowledge to decode. It’s a nice high note to leave on. So, without speaking for anyone else, I am adopting the belief that Lover is a stand-alone single released with very little promo by a talented but otherwise unremarkable country-crossover singer, whom this blog will get around to covering again in, oh, 2026 or so.

Alfred Soto: Impeccable craft. Facts are facts. The use of echo, the voluptuousness of Taylor Swift’s vocal prodding the acoustic strumming, the overdramatic middle eight/bridge in which she swears “to be overdramatic and true to my lover” — I need a nap after such a bounteous feast. The other lyrics fascinate me less; the line about Christmas lights staying up is Creative Writing 1102, Week 3: Using Precise Detail. But the yearning in “Lover” is closer to autocratic than tender, which, to her credit, she sees as indistinguishable. 

Michael Hong: I once read a comment section where someone referred to Taylor Swift as the “queen of long bridges.” Since then, I may have forgotten where I read it, but it remains something that I think is completely true and when Taylor Swift is at her best, she masterfully writes bridges. Her best bridges are midnight realizations, headbanging depictions of the crushing weight of heartbreak, or the anxious and relieving reminders of failing relationships. They often unfold as tightly-wound emotional revelations and are never without their cathartic release. But sadly, going by the early Lover singles, Taylor Swift may have lost her knack for great bridge-writing, producing the infamously cheesy “spelling is fun!” or a slightly too childish reference to Humpty Dumpty. “Lover” is no different. While “Lover” paints a grand picture of romance, everything feeling like just one of the many real possibilities, the bridge spoils the sketch, playing out like an obsessive fever dream. Contrast the way Taylor Swift sings the word “lover” on the chorus, which seems to resolve all anxiety and stop time around it, with the schmaltzy over-the-top way she stretches out the same word on the bridge until it becomes so mawkishly corny, it loses all meaning. It immediately takes you out of the romantic waltz of the rest of the track and into the overdramatic musings of a diaristic fantasy that would have been embarrassing even if read from an actual teenager’s diary. The bridge is full of various awkward and uncomfortable moments from the moment we hear “ladies and gentlemen” through Taylor Swift’s egregiously awkward and choppy talk-singing that seems to be on full-display across Lover — it didn’t work on “You Need to Calm Down” and it certainly doesn’t work here. All’s not lost because of the bridge, and I’m certain I could still get lost in the beauty of the rest, but there’s certainly more realistic passion and romance in one line of the chorus than there is across that entire bridge.

Ian Mathers: The sound, all that dusky reverb and brushed drums, is pretty lovely. Most of the song works well too, although god she lands hard on that title every single time it comes up, eh? I know I’m supposed to have a more complex reaction to Taylor Swift, but I got so burned out on the competing takes it’s hard to focus more than “a pretty nice song I’ll be fine hearing on the radio that has some clunky bits”.

Vikram Joseph: Love songs are a hard sell; the best ones make you overwhelmed with joy for the protagonist, or make you believe that you one day you could have all of that happiness for yourself, but that kind of listener empathy takes real skill to engender. “Lover” sounds smug and entitled, like your posh acquaintance who’s never had to struggle for anything (emotional or material) in their life boring you to death down the pub about their wedding plans. The aggressively cloying middle-eight perfectly encapsulates drink number three, when they’re off on one about their honeymoon plans (an all-inclusive resort in Dubai) while you’re remembering why you’ve only seen them twice since uni and wondering whether you can get a lobotomy on the NHS. And yes, it sounds a lot like Mazzy Star, but if I want to listen to a reimagining of “Fade Into You” I’ll head straight for “Coming Down” by the Dum Dum Girls, thanks.

Katherine St Asaph: Early reports likened “Lover” to ersatz Mazzy Star (a reminder of what they actually sound like), when what it’s clearly trying to be is “Hallelujah,” and given the sparkly perkiness of the bridge and all beyond, quite possibly the Pentatonix version. The rest is the usual Taylor Swift problem: the song’s supposedly about a “magnetic force of a man” but sounds like it’s about a Build-a-Bear.

Sonia Yang: Cozy, intimate, and eschewing glitzy synths in favor of drawing upon her country roots. Rather middle of the road for an album title track, but it’s packed with neat little bits such as that relaxed swing-y 6/8, the way everything cuts out for Swift to sing the “lover” at chorus end, and Swift’s breathy head voice. It’s not a big track but it doesn’t have to be. However this is something I can see myself loving much more life than on record; without the immediate atmosphere to bask in, it does feel a bit underwhelming. 

Edward Okulicz: “Lover” sits in the middle of songs on its parent album for me — it’s beautifully made, but like a few of its midrange peers has one or two things that annoys me. Here, it’s the word itself — not “lover,” but “luvv-verrrr.” It’s not that it’s a weirdly coquettish thing for her to say, because Swift has always done the modern girl dreaming of the romances of literary greatness, although usually she’s a little bit more creative (“Starlight”) or subversive (“White Horse”). No, it’s just that I don’t like how she sings that one word and it feels gratuitous in a song that doesn’t really need a slightly anachronistic, coquettish touch to it. Other than that, no complaints about a lovely melody, delicate production and a performance that radiates relief and warmth and comfort. Probably an 8 in a month, but not yet.

Rachel Bowles: I never truly believed the old Taylor was dead, the romance of reputation’s ‘Delicate’ hinted at it, and Lover’s eponymous single confirms it. It’s a wistful, waltzing, breathless ode to long term relationships, making a home and real life happy endings- Taylor’s teenage ‘Mine’ fully realised.

Alex Clifton: I fell in love with Taylor Swift’s music when I was nineteen and heartbroken. Speak Now carried me through a time when all I wanted to feel was loved and complete instead of the broken mess of a teenager I was. I thought I wanted a fairytale love myself, grand gestures and bouquets of roses and a partner who would shout their love for me to the city, but I couldn’t even have a real conversation with the people I had crushes on. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to mend my own heart and really open myself up to love. Eventually, I found someone and learned that love lives in the smallest things. He knows the way I take my tea and holds me when I cry; I know his regular orders at restaurants and tell him stories at midnight to keep his anxiety at bay. I never knew I’d prefer a quieter love to something all-consuming that burned red to the point of self-immolation. Instead I revel in the moments we have while walking around our favourite park, playing Scrabble in a cafe, reading together in bed. Swift has found the same sort of security and has carried this feeling into one of her best songs in years. “Lover” is a sun-drenched lazy ode to love itself and is the song that Swift’s been building to her whole career, complete with wedding vows. It’s a mature outlook on what love can and should be–something that fills each quiet moment between all the drama and major events, a strong feeling that can’t be knocked down by a single fight or small mistake. Even with the occasional overdramatic moment (lovahhhhhhhhhh) it’s made me remember how much I love my partner each time I’ve heard it, which is what the best love songs should do.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The paradox of Taylor Swift is that all of her songs are inherently flashpoints in the discourse, even when there’s nothing to talk about. “Lover” is the least controversial thing that Swift has done in years, both in intention and execution, and yet there’s still no way to talk about it without talking about Taylor Swift, Important Pop Star And Cultural Figure. It’s true that this becomes true of any sufficiently big pop star, yes– but since (at very least) “Mean,” Swift’s music has been written like it’s almost exclusively commentary about her own reputation. Yet the thing about “Lover,” all the way down to its title, is that it’s uncomplicated. It’s maybe the least complicated single she’s ever put out– it’s a love song with no twist, an acoustic ballad that’s content to just be a big, stately acoustic ballad. It does its job– the song will undoubtedly soundtrack twinkly-lighted summer weddings for the rest of eternity, and I won’t even be mad. Because underneath it all, Taylor Swift is a pretty damn good songwriter when she doesn’t feel the need to excessively perform the role of Taylor Swift. The lyric is full of lines that were clearly written with pride and skill– the bit about guitar string scars on the bridge, most obviously– but it doesn’t feel as obsessed with the self as, say, anything on “You Need To Calm Down.” And in letting the song breathe and stand for itself, she manages to reinvent herself: not as a pop megastar or some empire unto herself, but as a craftsman that happens to be the biggest thing in pop music. It’s a compelling guise, and one that feels refreshing after a decade long media slog. But the greatness of “Lover” ends up leaving me feeling more skeptical of the rest of Swift’s work than ever.

Kylo Nocom: Taylor replaces the pain of what ended up happening with the comfort of what could have been. Her fairy tale ending is real, but “Lover” is generous enough to let one believe every single thing here can exist forever and ever. The spacious drums sound like they could have been recorded from the moon; that string-plucked bridge came from heaven.

Isabel Cole: Having had some time to acclimate to the roller coaster kinda rush of Taylor following up the two worst songs of her career with the first album of hers I’ve ever genuinely loved, I’m content enough now to say I just think this is wonderful: unhurried, cozy like a well-worn sweater, pretty without showing off, knowingly nostalgic without being cloying, humbly besotted. Impressive that after half a lifetime making music Taylor is still deepening her skill as a vocalist, finding new clarity and a few welcome hitches; her performance, like her writing here, works by not working too hard, all the more convincing for not needing argue its merits. The fact that Taylor sees leaving the Christmas lights up till January as a show of deep intimacy is as hilarious as it is completely believable — no one who’s not a bit of a control freak winds up with their face plastered on UPS trucks. Similarly, I’m so genuinely endeared by “at every table, I’ll save you a seat,” coming from an artist who was writing songs bearing the sting of her lifelong dweebishness well into her era of global acclaim: marry me, Juliet, you’ll never have to sit alone! It’s hard to imagine that when she recorded the breathless final act of Love Story she could have envisioned that one telling a love story would sound as easy as this.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Every time I’m on the verge of disowning Taylor Swift for her terrible choice in singles, she releases something like this. “Me!” was an infantilizing failed experiment at camp, “You Need to Calm Down” was surprisingly thoughtful social commentary let down by a dud of a song, and “The Archer” sounded like a forgotten Hunger Games soundtrack cut. “Lover”, though, is a timeless, gorgeous vignette of domesticity, mature in its lyricism and warmly familiar in its sound. It’s the most compelling Taylor Swift has sounded since “New Year’s Day.”

Jonathan Bradley: On early hit “Love Story,” Taylor Swift punctuated a marriage proposal with a key change. The moment is one of ecstatic joy: a fairytale promise fulfilled beyond the bounds of reality. “Lover” sounds like a proposal, too — her vow to be “overdramatic and true” is both lovely and gently self-aware — but it’s a rich and grounded union that finds more to happiness than the relief of a promise “you’ll never have to be alone.” It is a song of brushed drums, slow steps and brocade, a “Speak Now” from the altar and not the jealous aisles, of pleasure in shared domestic spaces where friends can stay over and Christmas decorations can stay up. There are no princes and bare promises, but Swift sings it with an awe even her earliest romances could not conceive.

Hannah Jocelyn: Continuing my series of altering professionally produced music, I created an alternate tracklist of Lover, creating an 11 track 40 minute concept album about a battle between naivety and maturity. It goes from a scattered pop album to a fun-size Once I Was An Eagle. On this closer, love definitively wins out. “Lover” is Swift and Antonoff’s take on 50s rock; purposefully campy and over-the-top, but genuine in a way that the first two singles from this era did not. As a closer, it resolves a lot of the tensions that have plagued Swift’s work this decade, giving her a happy ending… but as the third track, it’s baffling. I should not have to make my own context for this to take on a meaning, but that’s also the whole point of pop music. (At least, it was before albums became more of a status update for an artist’s life than a complete body of work.) I was on the fence about docking a point because “forever and ever” gave me “Jerika” flashbacks, but it’s just a phrase that can only be given weight if someone genuinely believes in it. Kind of like “true love.”

Reader average: [8.57] (14 votes)

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10 Responses to “Taylor Swift – Lover”

  1. One of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard lately. I hope it succeeds because the current music landscape is so dark and dreary.

  2. @michael cruel summer & death by a thousand cuts both have extremely quality Patented Taylor Swift Long Bridges imo! the latter has maybe unseated out of the woods as my fave taylor bridge (and in much better surroundings oo). i also rly love the bridge in daylight but concede that that one is more squarely in line with things i am traditionally easy for so my opinion should be trusted less.

    i was so ready to write her off for good after the first singles but now i’m sort of cautiously optimistic that she has figured out she doesn’t want her work to be permanently read through the lens of gossip and knows that trying to convince us of that would be futile so is just choosing to act like a person/artist who can do that until the world catches up/gets bored from lack of new material. historically she does not reward such hopes but she DID finally use antonoff to make an album that sounds like my secret fave sweeter than fiction five years after i wondered whether that might be what 1989 would bring so like anything is possible!!!!

  3. I can deal with the negative blurbs for this but The Archer slander hurts </3

  4. Haha, Cruel Summer is the bridge that’s maybe unseating Out of the Woods for me.

  5. @isabel i do think there are some good bridges on the album!! only meant to say that i thought the bridges on the lead singles are terrible, but i think like reputation, the album is a lot better than you’d believe given whatever pre-album singles were released. haven’t listened to the album very much, but i do agree that the bridge on cruel summer may be one of her best.

    also @tobi, i’m sorry!! i like the archer quite a bit and think it’s one of the best on the album, but the first few times i listened to it, all i thought was “yikes” at the humpty dumpty reference. now i get it, i understand it, but i still think the track might have been better without it? i’m sorry!!

  6. Taylor spent the last album burning all her bridges… now she’s rebuilding all of them

  7. Speaking of Cruel Summer though….is it just me, or does anyone else hear the melody from the line “If you love like that, blood runs out” from Bad Blood in the bridge of Cruel Summer (specifically when she belts, “I don’t wanna keep secrets just to keep you,” or, “I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?”)? Or am I just (I know the answer to this, but just for confirmatory purposes) delusional?

  8. i think it might be because she does the same kind of shouty-voice and i think the top parts “if you love like that” and “i don’t want to keep secrets” sound similar, but the “blood runs cold” seems to be stretched out a little differently than the “just to keep you”

  9. @tobi i’m sorry for mentioning the archer but also my first reaction to that song was literally to rush to the computer and spend 10 minutes googling whether or not there was a new hunger games movie and then just feel really really confused

  10. but also if not for that ya, the song would be pretty great