“When I found all my old diaries from my childhood and teen years, they were covered in dust,” begins the foreword in the booklet that comes with Taylor Swift’s seventh album, ‘Lover’. She recalls how under all the dust, she found her first school photos, mementos, and inspirational quotes scrawled down to get her “through the doubtful moments”.
READ MORE: The NME review of Taylor Swift’s ‘Lover’
“What shocked me the most was how I wrote about the things I loved. I noticed things and decided they were romantic and so they were.”
Through the rose-tinted prism of adolescent eyes, Swift notes how these tokens of joy guided her through all of the questions and anxieties of her formative years. “May your struggles become inaudible background noise,” she wishes for you, dear listener. “May you write down your feelings and reflect on them years later, only to learn that the trials never existed.”
In summing up the mantra of ‘Lover’, she concludes that “This album is a love letter to love itself. We are what we love”.
From the playful but confident opening track ‘I Forgot That You Existed’, Swift finds herself in a place of cool and collected peace of life after heartache. Or as she puts it, “not love, not hate, just indifference”. But ‘Lover’ is loaded with moments of Swift taking control of her own narrative, stamping her own joy and story over nonsensical “background noise”. Here are the most powerful moments that stood out to us upon our first and only listen before the album dropped.
‘The Man’ – Taylor Swift vs misogyny
Above pulsing, stabbing synths, Swift vows, “If I was a man, I’d be THE man,” before asking “what’s it like when everyone believes you?” and imagining being in a position of power where nobody asks what you’re wearing, where nobody pays attention if you’re rude, where you’re able to brag about getting “bitches, dollars and models”. Oh, to be like “Leo in San Tropez”. Sick of being labelled the difficult woman, Swift righteously wages war against the double standards she faces as a female artist trying to keep a firm grasp on her own destiny – and she’s winning.
‘I Think He Knows’ – Taylor Swift vs playing it cool
Potentially an album highlight, ‘I Think He Knows’ is loaded with Prince-esque pop-funk bravado and more hooks than a tackle shop. “He’s got my heartbeat skipping down 16th Avenue, I want to see what’s under that attitude” – because where’s the fun in playing it cool?
‘Cornelia Street’ – Taylor Swift vs bad taste
“We bless the rains on Cornelia Street,” sings Swift, reclaiming Toto’s classic from the realm of irony and putting over a soundtrack for “autumn air with the jacket on your shoulders” like a slick, synth-pop Springsteen.
‘London Boy’ – Taylor Swift vs Kanye and tabloids
Opening with Idris Elba offering up a ride around town on his scooter, ‘London Boy’ sees Swift admit her love of “Springsteen, Motown and Tennessee Whiskey” while shedding it for a more Anglophile love of perhaps, Cliff Richard, Britpop and John Smiths.
“I love a London boy, I love walking around Camden Market,” she starts, on what you could easily assume is the Transatlantic callback to Estelle and Kanye West’s ‘American Boy’, especially with the lyric “Took me back to Highgate, met all of his best mates”. Sound familiar? The line “I guess all the rumours are true,” is sure to land in a column inch or two as to whether said London boy is past beau Harry Styles, too, but for now just enjoy the red bus ride. “Shoreditch in the afternoon,” she continues. “Please show me Hackney,” said no American, ever. Still, it’s a laugh. Top marks for the English accent as she delivers, “Darling, I fancy you”. That’s one way to have fun with both a rival and the tabloids.
‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ – Taylor Swift vs real problems
“I’ve had to learn how to handle serious illness in my family,” Swift told Elle magazine earlier this year as she turned 30 years old. “Both of my parents have had cancer, and my mom is now fighting her battle with it again. It’s taught me that there are real problems and then there’s everything else. My mom’s cancer is a real problem. I used to be so anxious about daily ups and downs. I give all of my worry, stress, and prayers to real problems now.”
In this touching to her mother and her struggles, Swift beautifully and painfully puts everything in perspective. “I hate to make this all about me,” she sings with the assistance of the Dixie Chicks, “but who am I talk to, what am I supposed to do, if there is no you?” Nothing else really matters.
‘You Need to Calm Down’ – Taylor Swift vs internet wankers
“And we see you over there on the internet, comparing all the girls who are killing it, but we figured you out – we all know now we all got crowns. You need to calm down”. Probably don’t bother @ing Taylor. She won’t read it or care.
‘ME!’ – Taylor Swift vs humility
Here it is, the glitzy, jazz-hands, self-love anthem that you never knew you needed. It turned heads and inspired many a cringe when it first landed with Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie helping to deliver all of its Greatest Showman pomp, bluster and cheese – but put aside your cynicism and bask in a little of your own sunshine. “There ain’t no I in team,” they exchange, “but you know there is a me – you can’t spell awesome without me”. Here it is, spell yourself a little more confident.
‘Daylight’ – Taylor Swift vs doubt
“I’ve been sleeping so long, in a 20-year dark night,” mourns Swift, before coming full circle in the album’s awakening to be driven only by the things that matter.
“I want to be defined by the things I love, not the things I hate, not the things I’m afraid of, the things that haunt me in the middle of the night,” she concludes. “I just think that you are what you love.”