Review: Compositionally, Taylor Swift’s ‘Lover’ stands out about as much as its title

Republic Records

Braden Hajer, Copy Editor, columnist

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“Lover” is the seventh studio album from singer-songwriter superstar Taylor Swift. Clocking in at 61 minutes and 18 tracks, it stands as one of her longest projects to date. Unfortunately, Swift fails to make much of an impression with it. The vast majority of the album falls prey to the same few debilitating compositional choices.

Countless tracks feature skeletal verses with only about three sounds in them. “I Forgot That You Existed,” “The Man,” “I Think He Knows,” “Cornelia Street…” The list goes on and on. It’s as if Swift is afraid of making the verses interesting and full, because that would mean the choruses would have to be bigger than they are. On nearly every track, Swift’s vocal performances on the verses are lifeless and plain. Even the fantastic tracks here tend to share this critical flaw.

I don’t mean to discredit the legitimately great songwriting that pops up occasionally on this record. Tracks like “Cruel Summer” show that the wasted potential is real. The vocals are energetic and powerful, the beat has a fun bounce to it, and the track has more than two MIDI files in it.

The title track is also a winner. Where much of the album is very artificial, the instrumental on “Lover” is natural and down-to-earth. It starts slow, but over time it builds to be something that’s surprisingly heartfelt and at times even beautiful. The pizzicato strings in the bridge are delightful, and one of the few times that Swift does something unique with her sound. The lyrics are a bit of a cornfest, but I suppose that’s to be expected when the name of your song is one of the most commonly used words in all of music.

“You Need to Calm Down” is one of the only tracks on the record that takes advantage of a texturally thin instrumental. It provides the perfect backdrop for the lush, incredibly executed harmonies in the chorus. The simple verses contrast with the particularly full choruses in a way that actually works. 

If every song was like the ones above, the album would be one of the better albums of the year for sure. 

However, the album is seriously bloated. It simply doesn’t need 18 tracks. Musically, much of what Swift has here is bland, low-effort, generic pop. I have trouble discerning most of the  record from itself, let alone the rest of current popular music. 

However, very few tracks on this album are… bad. 

They’re all listenable. You won’t be offended by 95% of the audio in this thing. It’s designed to weave in and out of the playlists and stations of the modern streaming world. “Paper Rings” literally sounds like it was designed for a Google Pixel commercial. The album is catchy without the substance for the earworm melodies to coincide with.

The album can be summed up in one word: safe. It’s formulaic, radio-friendly and ultimately boring. For every “Lover” or “Cruel Summer,” there are three “The Man”s. 

 

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