Sacred New Beginnings

Taylor Swift performs at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina, on Saturday, March 23, 2013. (Jeff Blake/The State/MCT)

Sacred New Beginnings

By Lea Killian

On Aug. 23, Taylor Swift released her highly anticipated seventh studio album, “Lover.” For months, she teased her fans with Instagram photos of pastel-stricken landscapes, glitter hearts and rainbow-infused red carpet looks at every event.

To the unwatchful eye, it seemed insignificant, but fans knew she was signaling something big:

The next era of Taylor Swift.

The first two singles off the album, “ME!” and “You Need to Calm Down,” rose to the top of the charts. The latter even winning Video of the Year at MTV’s Video Music Awards last month.

Upon its release, “Lover” debuted number one on the Billboard 200 Chart, earning 867,000 units within the first week — the biggest overall week for an album since her very own 2017 album, “reputation,” as reported by billboard.com.

While there is no doubt the album would have found success on the charts and among varied audiences, or even without Swift’s impressive discography to back her, “Lover” brings Swift back to her romantic roots.

Where “reputation” is closed off and guarded, especially in tracks like “I Did Something Bad” and the debut single from the album, “Look What You Made Me Do,” listeners will once again find Swift singing with an open heart on every track of “Lover.”

The change is evident from the opening song, “I Forgot That You Existed,” which Swift describes as a goodbye letter to the “reputation” era.

“I wanted it to be really simple,” she said. “I thought it might be a fun way to open the album, basically shrugging off things that you’ve been through that caused you a lot of struggle and pain, and one day waking up and realizing that you’re indifferent.”

From there, the album transitions into familiar territory with tracks like “Cruel Summer” and “I Think He Knows,” songs that are reminiscent of her 2014 album, “1989.”

What separates these new songs from her earlier work is her newfound, avowable confidence. Swift is no longer singing about what she hopes love will be like. She is singing about what she has finally found―and knows to be true.

Nothing proves this more than the album’s title track, “Lover.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand? / With every guitar string scar on my hand, I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover. / My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue. / All’s well that ends well to end up with you. / Swear to overdramatic and true to my lover.”

With Swift’s layered vocals and dreamy strums of an acoustic guitar echoing throughout the track, listeners understand why she not only chose this song as the title track, but why she modeled the entire aesthetic of this era around it.

Furthermore, “Lover” takes Swift into uncharted waters with new sociopolitical stands, adding an unexpected element to the album. In addition to her summer anthem, “You Need to Calm Down,” a song that uses Twitter-verse language and humor to unify against hatred and, instead, celebrate love, Swift has even more to say on the topic of gender equality.

On the album’s fourth track, “The Man,” she sings with absolute nerve, wondering how society would view her success if she were a man:

“I’d be a fearless leader. / I’d be an alpha type… / If I were a man, I’d be the man.”  

Prior to releasing her first political statement just before the 2018 midterm elections, Swift remained silent about these issues for the majority of her career, making these songs an exciting endeavor for new and returning fans alike.

Before production on the album began, Swift found herself flipping through her childhood journals and diaries, notebooks filled with guitar picks and polaroids she had taped to the pages, song lyrics and stories.

In the opening letter of the physical copy of the album, Swift recounts what it was like sifting through her memories, remembering how easy it used to be to romanticize the world around her.

“What shocked me the most was how often I wrote about the things I loved,” Swift said. “Writing a new song, riding in the car with my mom, the purple-pink sky above the soccer field on the walk home, the one night in middle school when none of my friends were fighting… I wrote about tiny details in my life in these diaries from a bygone age with such… Wonderment. Intrigue. Romance.” 

At its core, “Lover” is a celebration of everything love can be. Whether it is with a significant other, a group of friends or  yourself, it is an album that allows listeners to remember what it is like to be truly dazzled by the simple things, like a song, for example, that makes you feel brand new.

In the album’s final track, “Daylight,” Swift likens finding a once in a lifetime love to stepping into the daylight after a long, dark night.

To the delight of longtime fans, she references her 2012 album, “RED,” comparing her ideas of love then and now:

“Maybe you ran with the wolves and refused to settle down. / Maybe I stormed out of every single room in this town. / Threw out our cloaks and our daggers because it’s morning now. / It’s brighter now… / I can still see it all in my head, back and forth from New York, sneaking in your bed. / I once believed love would be burning red, but it’s golden ― like daylight.”

As the music begins to fade and all listeners can hear is a soft piano melody, a voice recording begins to play:

“I want to be defined by the things that 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. I just think that… You are what you love.”

If listeners choose to define Swift by what “Lover” represents, she will have succeeded in every sense of the word. She doesn’t just step into the daylight; she immerses herself in it―and shines brighter than ever before.

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