No one makes waves in the pop music scene quite like Taylor Swift. Her previous record, “Reputation” (2017), seemed to mark an immense change in her songwriting style and overall sound. So, of course, when her next project was promoted before its release, every Taylor Swift fan and critic waited anxiously to hear what next steps she would take as a singer. However, instead of deviating further from the sound that built her career (coming off of country-pop albums such as “1989” (2014) and “Red” (2012) to name a few), T-Swift makes a safe return to pop music.
While safety in a genre tends to act as a cushion for artists, her newest album, “Lover” (2019), has more to offer beyond letting fans know that Taylor Swift still makes music. While this record doesn’t seem to push too many boundaries in her artistic style, there are still moments on it that show that Taylor’s still not playing around with her music.
In contrast to the aggressive delivery given throughout “Reputation,” Taylor creates a much more confession-filled and preachy collection of love songs on “Lover.” The way she expresses love in this album is delightful, and its many forms stand out in every song. This may not have been expected by the second single “You Need to Calm Down,” which seems to be addressing someone in a negative light. The rest of “Lover,” however, is a burst of positivity and passion for herself and her love interest.
Hidden in the middle of the album lie some of its most impressive tracks, each with a catchy chorus, vocally and instrumentally. Namely, on “I Think He Knows,” after a slick, guitar-like bass intro, T-Swift shows off her range by hitting plenty of high notes and adding harmonies on top of her lead vocals. Furthermore, on “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince,” T-Swift’s delivery is catchy and nearly flawless. A string section is featured in the final chorus of this song, which is one of the standout instrumental decisions on this album. Interpolating various instruments prevented moments on the album from becoming bland and improved moments that were already solid. For example, the saxophone adds a smooth element to the R&B cut “False God,” and steel drums and trumpet on “It’s Nice to Have A Friend” give the song a more heavenly feel.
Songwriting was hit or miss on “Lover,” put simply. Most of T-Swift’s songwriting was done herself, or with the help of Jack Antonoff (Bleachers, Fun.). If you pay enough attention to word choice, there are cacophonous moments that interrupt her word flow. Nevertheless, she let very little get in the way of her expressing what she wanted. At times, she does bring in help from artists like St. Vincent, who gets writing credit for “Cruel Summer,” which fits the Vincent-esque production of that song. The definite lyrical highlight on the record was “London Boy,” which incorporates relentless use of writing oriented around British lifestyle and general British phrases.
Low moments arrive at some points throughout the record, as T-Swift unfortunately succumbs to generic pop that requires less effort. Nothing really stands out from the song “ME!” featuring Panic! At The Disco lead singer Brendon Urie. Both vocal performances are okay, but the song as a whole in the context of the album is forgettable. The chorus on the intro track “I Forgot That You Existed” is underwhelming and prevents the song from panning out into a memorable beginning.
Other than some thematic inconsistencies and some variation in effort between songs, there isn’t much that stands in the way of Taylor Swift’s latest album. While about 30% of the album likely could have been erased from the final product and still create the same effect, the 62-minute-long “Lover” should not be overlooked by pop fans.