Ladies and gentlemen…Taylor Swift. At 29 years old, Ms. Swift has just dropped her seventh full length album.
Taylor has been in the game a long time. She was signed with a subsidiary of RCA Records at the age of 14, and then switched record labels when she met Scott Borchetta, who was more confident in her marketability, starting the long relationship between Taylor Swift and Big Machine Records. Taylor hits the ground running with her first record in 2006, and over the course of six albums, becomes one of the most recognized and successful household names in all of American Pop and Country music. In 2019, Forbes recognizes Taylor Swift as the #1 highest paid celebrity, beating Kanye West, Cristiano Ronaldo, The Eagles, and Dr. Phil.
I’ve generally always been a fan of Swift, and it wasn’t until her 2017 album Reputation that made me question the legitimacy in her efforts. The singles — End Game, Look What You Made Me Do, and …Ready For It? — were uninspired and boring. The sounds seemed disingenuous, borrowing from any other radio hit from 2016-2017. The lyrics were obnoxious, shooing away haters or romancing over some handsome fellow – an approach she was known for, sure, but this time with an artificial and glaring chip on her shoulder. Taylor pushed a narrative that she is misunderstood and a force to be reckoned with, fabricating a dangerous or dark side of her image with a flat and unoriginal sound.
Coming from one of the most successful musicians in our time, this comes off as annoying and lazy. I hate to judge a book by its cover, but the album artwork is very telling. I’m sorry, but that haircut and outfit just isn’t working, and the newspaper font is cheap and cheesy.
I had hopped off the T Swift train, only to reminisce over hits like Picture To Burn, Mean, and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. I was only mildly interested in the new album until news broke that she had left Big Machine Records for Republic Records. Apparently, some guy named Scooter Braun purchased Big Machine Records, transferring the rights of ALL of Taylor’s music overnight. Taylor accuses Scooter of bullying her in the past and thinks that Scooter purchased her catalog to continue to bully her. Taylor made a blog post about this but still no longer has ownership of her old music while Scooter holds it hostage. At Republic Records, she entered a new contract that grants her full ownership of her new music, so I was excited to see how this unfortunate and complex event would influence her new album.
The album art and title are already an improvement from her 2017 efforts. With a well-suited hairstyle, playful makeup, and dreamy backdrop, she invites us in for a very colorful experience. With a title like Lover, her heart seems to be in the right place… at least a little less preoccupied with the haters. She dropped four singles leading up to the release on August 23, 2019: Me!, You Need To Calm Down, The Archer, and Lover. Taylor brings a bold attitude to some of these tracks while leaving much to be desired on others. She continues this trend for the entirety of the album, creating an inconsistent product.
At 18 tracks and nearly 62 minutes of run time, the amount of fluff makes for a long-winded event. If the album was the best 10 tracks of the list, I’d call her a comeback queen. With both production and writing credits, nearly every inch of this record is with the help of Jack Antonoff, a member of fun. and Bleachers. If those names don’t ring a bell, I’m sure the song We Are Young will, a chart-topper from 2011-2012 (one that seemed to mark a critical shift in Pop songwriting). With that immense success, Jack has gone on to help the likes of Lorde, Lana Del Ray, Carly Rae Jepsen, and more.
The record starts off very strong with I Forgot That You Existed, with an expressive vocal performance and an effectively minimal, funky, and blissful production. The next track, Cruel Summer, features Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, as a co-writer, and Annie’s innovative mind adds a lot to Taylor’s intuition. These cuts along with Paper Rings, I Think He Knows, Death by a Thousand Cuts, Soon You’ll Get Better, Lover, and Me! have quite a bit to offer.
Some are playful and tightly constructed, while others exhibit an honest and emotional Taylor. Me! tows the line between self-empowerment and self-obsession, but the confidence is refreshing and crystal-clear. She even brings in The Dixie Chicks for Soon You’ll Get Better for a real tear-jerker, letting more Country roots and honesty come through on Lover.
Cuts like The Man, Cornelia Street, False God, and Afterglow are lacking life. Much like her previous album, there is an abundance of unfounded drama and imitation in these tracks, reproducing conventions found in her contemporaries or trendy 80’s synth. You Need To Calm Down is still obsessed with the haters, and The Archer is out of place, forgettable, and lacks compelling lyrics.
Combined with predictable structures, these songs cannot escape their fate of sounding like a Target commercial or the playlist you might hear shopping at Forever 21. This album was released with FOUR DIFFERENT DELUXE EDITIONS, each with their own set of diary entries and photographs, and they were EVEN SPONSORED THROUGH TARGET. With that in mind, this album can sound like a Target commercial at times because…well…it is a Target commercial.
All in all, I’m happy that Taylor is back in the game. With this new record deal with optimistic implications, I’m excited to see what the future will bring. Perhaps this record is a stepping stone to an even brighter magnum opus in another couple of years. It takes time to come off a stressful event like the one spearheaded by Mr. Scooter, and this is an honorable next step as a more independent artist. Taylor Swift puts a little more shine in her swagger as the most successful artist this year with a well deserved seventh album.
Here is a link LFPL’s copy of the new CD, if you wish to put a reserve on it and have a listen for yourself.