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Taylor Swift steps into sunlight on 'Lover'

 – Photo by Wikimedia

Taylor Swift’s seventh studio album, “Lover,” was released on Aug. 23, and once again proved to audiences and critics alike the vocal and lyrical genius of the 29-year-old country-turned-pop star.

In stark juxtaposition to the dark and defiant sound of her last album “Reputation,” which Swift herself described as coming from an inner place of  “all cityscape, darkness, full swamp witch,” to what feels “aesthetically very daytime.” 

The album cover displays an ever-pensive Swift with her head in the clouds, adorning her signature red lip. Much of the art for the album, including the cover, was shot and designed by Colombian fashion photographer and collage artist Valheria Rocha. The visual beauty of “Lover” is on par with its auditory beauty, with arrow hearts, light leaks, pastel tones and rainbow hues dominating this album’s sensory landscape.

The opening number — ”I Forgot That You Existed” — shows Swift upbeat and unscathed by the past. Here, Swift bids adieu to the tenebrous “Reputation” era that stemmed from her dispute with what The New York Times pop music critic Jon Caramanica aptly called the “Kanye-Kardashian industrial complex.” 

The second song, “Cruel Summer,” is informed by a strong sense of infatuation and has the sonic zeal and potential to be the artist’s next single. 

The titular track “Lover” exemplifies the whimsical and romantic nature of the rainbow world Swift paints in this latest musical endeavor. The swaying acoustics and beautiful backing vocals of this song takes one back to the starry-eyed teenage Swift, who often fell in and out of love, that many of us grew up with. 

Earlier this month, Australian country artist Keith Urban covered the hit at a concert and took to Instagram to write: “Every now and then you hear a song that you love and wish you’d written.” 

Shifting from “Lover,” “The Man” is Swift’s pertinent contemporary commentary on sexism. This snappy song is filled to the brim with witty lines on what it’s like to be a powerful woman earning money, playing the field and even just existing in a patriarchal society, with the chorus reiterating: “If I was a man/Then I'd be the man.” 

Swift’s private life has been in the public eye and constantly scrutinized since she was a naïve teenager, and “The Man” is Swift’s rejection of the many sexist double standards she has had to deal with throughout the course of her tumultuous 13-year career.

Her most sonically experimental undertaking on this album is the high-spirited and idyllic “Paper Rings.” This sunny song is especially characterized by the persona of a stereotypically smitten Swift many know and love. At the album’s midpoint is "Cornelia Street," an intricate, narrative number about Swift’s memories of her love life in the plush Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village. "Death by a Thousand Cuts" plays into a popular thematic motif in Swift’s musical repertoire: the nostalgic recollection of a great, lost love. 

Swift pulls at your heartstrings with "Soon You’ll Get Better," featuring the haunting harmonies of the Dixie Chicks. The detailed, intimate words of this song elaborate on her mother Andrea Swift’s ongoing battle with cancer. At one of the many difficult and evocative points in the song, Taylor Swift sings: “I know delusion when I see it in the mirror / You like the nicer nurses, you make the best of a bad deal / I just pretend it isn't real.” 

“False God” is a mellow and blue ode to the worthwhile trials and tribulations of love. The single “You Need to Calm Down” is a loud and proud declaration of Taylor Swift’s status as an ally of LGBTQ+ communities. “ME!,” a frankly quite annoying earworm featuring the talented Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, was the public’s first taste of “Lover” and is somewhat of an exception to the album’s overall greatness. 

But, the incandescent concluding songs “Afterglow” and “Daylight” allow listeners to exit the "Lover" experience feeling fulfilled, grateful and content.

In this joyous and colorful record, Taylor Swift seems to have finally stepped “into the daylight,” as the last song proclaims.

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