“Lover”: A Professor Reviews Taylor Swift, Album #7

Lover feels like a forgotten album. Assuming we count the Folklore and Evermore as the same album era (as suggested by Taylor’s Instagram post announcing Evermore), the Lover era is the shortest one–Folklore appeared just 11 months after Lover‘s August 2019 release. And really, it feels like the bright, summery era of Lover ended much sooner than that, once the pandemic lockdowns cast their shadow in March 2020. But it would be a shame to overlook this album. Yes, the song quality varies, and sometimes it feels like Taylor is throwing musical ideas at the wall to see what sticks. Even though she misses the mark on occasion, the strongest tracks on the album are outstanding examples of Swift’s artistry.

Lover (released 2019)
“Combat, I’m ready for combat… I say I don’t want that… but what if I do?

“I Forgot That You Existed” (6.5/10): My feelings about this opening track definitely aren’t hate, not quite love, and a bit more than indifference.

“Cruel Summer” (9.5/10): The second song on Taylor Swift albums tend to be pretty great, and this one is no exception, even if the verses outshine the chorus just a little.

“Lover” (4.5/10): I’m sorry, Swiftie fans whom I can see picking up rocks to stone me, this slow and saccharine song makes me want to reach for the “skip” button.

“The Man” (9/10): Here Taylor delivers not only an energetic track, but also punchy and incisive social commentary that I’ll probably mention every time I teach muted group theory.

“The Archer” (10/10): I think I might be in the minority, but that’s OK; I’m ready for combat to defend this track, which contrasts a minimalist style that generates tension with some of the most introspective lyrics Swift has ever sung.

“I Think He Knows” (7.5/10): Sometimes “Lover” feels not like an ode to love, but an ode to infatuation, and it’s that sense that prevents this quite listenable track from becoming a sleeper hit.

“Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” (9/10): I love epic Taylor, and this is epic Taylor; it’s tough to write allegorical political commentary that also works as artistry, but this track strikes that balance.

“Paper Rings” (6.5/10): A fun and energetic tune, but I prefer the stronger song that obviously inspired it (Hilary Duff’s “Breathe In, Breathe Out”).

“Cornelia Street” (10/10): This is one of the most brilliant songs of the album, with the effective build-and-release of tension that often characterizes Swift’s best work; the use of piano here is particularly effective.

“Death by a Thousand Cuts” (9/10): The music on the verses goes for epic and makes it there, and I enjoy the gently unnerving rhythm of the strings in the chorus.

“London Boy” (8/10): A novelty song, yes, and another “ode to infatuation,” yes, but this one is a nice dose of pure (campy) fun.

“Soon You’ll Get Better” (5/10): I feel badly giving such a low rating to such a heartfelt song, but it just doesn’t do it for me; fans of The Chicks might get more mileage out of it.

“False God” (4.5/10): I get what Taylor was going for here with the sultry saxophone, but it just doesn’t quite work.

“You Need to Calm Down” (7.5/10): It’s one of the most quotable and memeable Swift songs ever, but there’s a bit of irony that the queen of declaring her opinion and expressing her emotions (see album #3, “Speak Now”) now takes the role of telling others to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves.

“Afterglow” (5.5/10): This bleh song screams, “Hey, in another album era, I would’ve been a thoroughly forgotten bonus track on the deluxe edition.”

“ME!” (8.5/10): I’m going to come down on the side of this much-criticized song; it’s playful, peppy, bright, and cheerful, glowing with some of the best attributes of the Lover era.

“It’s Nice to Have a Friend” (4.5/10): If this song didn’t have the high-pitched chanting thing going on, I think I’d like it a good deal better; the sentiment sure is cute and sweet (and it even mentions video games!).

“Daylight” (8/10): I’m a sucker for the “here’s what we learned today!” songs at the end of Taylor’s albums, and this is a strong one, filled with the expansive sense of hope that’s part of a new day (or new era in life).

Lover mean = 7.39 (standard deviation = 1.94)