Taylor Swift’s seventh album Lover dropped around the world over the weekend. The Spinoff reviews the entire 18-song album, track by track.
1. I Forgot That You Existed
Pure alpha-cheerleader Taylor Swift, sounds like Avril Lavigne circa ‘Girlfriend’ or maybe Skye Sweetnam circa 2003. The distinctive bouncy riff that’s lifted from ‘Fancy’ totally works here, it feels faster and more menacing that you expect from a song that’s essentially the musical equivalent of cutting up photos.
Most importantly, Swift’s growing skill as a vocalist is present right from the jump off this album. She’s gotten way better at injecting at her burn-book lyrics with more than just brassy brattiness, there’s genuine venom and hatred here. Just listen to the way she hisses ‘Indifference’ throughout, and then drags it out at the end. / Sam Brooks, culture editor
2. Cruel Summer
Bold as hell to take a very distinctive title from Bananarama, but credit to Swift that she absolutely pulls it off here. Co-written with Jack Antonoff and St Vincent, it rides a moody, throbbing synth-swirl, but is most notable for the modern country cadence of the vocal on the back half. After years of refusing to acknowledge her catalogue and roots exist, it’s the first of a few strong nods to her origin story, and makes this an early highlight. / Duncan Greive, publisher
Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’ as covered by Jenny Lewis. Your mileage may vary on whether that’s a good thing or not. / SB
4. The Man
2017’s Killers single of the same name was an underappreciated OTT pomp-rock gem, soaked in the kind of irony to which Swift is allergic. Her version is in some ways its inverse, but it’s not a bad thing – the lyrics capture the deadweight double-standard she has been judged by from the start. “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can / Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man”, she sings, perhaps too restrained, over skittering drums and a weary wash. While Swift has probably sung about the weight on her too much over the past few years, by flipping it to more universal than targeted, it hits harder. / DG
I cynically assumed this song was Taylor running as fast as she could to get on the foyer playlist at the next Girls in Business event. But – unlike all the other feminist anthems you’ll hear opening a #GirlBoss keynote on any given Insta-story – there’s no bravado here, no sugary girl power, no real solution posited at all. It’s glum and it’s good. Swill it around and then rinse it out with Lizzo’s ‘Like a Girl’ otherwise you’ll probably never do anything again. / Alex Casey, senior writer
5. The Archer
A solid C+ all around – this feels like a proof of concept for what the rest of the album would be like that nobody felt like cutting from the finals. Which is sad, because no album needs to be 18 songs, and this meandering, second-gear, song doesn’t justify its place here. / SB
The sentimental driving music I’ve come to expect from at least one song on every Swift album. The beats build to nothing but it does feature a verse that’s literally just the words to Humpty Dumpty. Someone humpty dumped Taylor, I guess. / Josie Adams, staff writer.
6. I Think He Knows
It’s weird that ‘Cruel Summer’ is the St. Vincent co-write, because this wouldn’t be out of place on Masseduction. Props to T-Swizzle for finding a rap flow that works for her, which is a phrase I never thought I’d type. This is a killer chorus, though! There’s just enough of those group singalong moments that I wager that this’ll be a karaoke favourite, or more likely, a favourite of teenagers going from the pre-ball to the ball. “I want you, bless my soul” is… genius. / SB
7. Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince
This track is a mixture of my favourite kind of Taylor Swift song (big, sweeping, moody) and my least favourite kind of Taylor Swift song (very thinly veiled references to media scrutiny). I want to wrap myself up in that middle-eight and some of the more immediate rhymes (stupid games/stupid prizes, paint the town blue/voted most likely to end up with you), but I could very easily lose the nods towards the public’s perception of her own silence about politics. This is a major song, and I’ll bet my left arm this is either her tour opener or the second song of her encore.
My only question: Why the hell wasn’t this the lead single? / SB
I went maybe a solid year, post-1989, seeing how over-the-top gross and breathless I could sing the lyric “tight little skirt”. Now, a challenger enters the ring. “They whisper in the hallway ‘she’s a bad, bad girl’” is probably going to get me dumped within the week and, tbh, I feel like that’s what Taylor would have wanted. / AC
8. Paper Rings
Taylor Swift can seem like pop’s Mark Zuckerberg, watching other artists test product then brazenly swooping down to adopt it for her own platform once proof of a market has been established. (Similarly, she responds poorly whenever she’s characterised under terms she doesn’t herself recognise). That said, if you’re going to do an Avril Lavigne ripoff, make it as fun as ‘Paper Rings’ and we won’t be too mad. / DG
I will never not compare Taylor Swift to Avril Lavigne, and for the second time here, I will say that this is basically ‘Sk8er Boi’ from the perspective of the other girl, before she got dumped for the singer of ‘Sk8er Boi’. It’s a great song with one misstep: a guitar solo that’s neither long enough to justify its place, or short enough to justify even being called a solo proper. / SB
9. Cornelia Street
Take ‘Red’ from Red, make it a little bit happier, and a lot worse and this is what you’ve got. This is totally fine, and it wouldn’t be a Swift album without one wistful sincere love letter, but ‘Red’ is an all-time Swift song, and this feels like a just fine tread of well-trod emotional ground. / SB
10. Death by a Thousand Cuts
The second verse is one of my favourites from this album, chock full with more killer lines than an episode of Veep: “My heart, my hips, my body, my love, tryna find a part of me that you didn’t touch”, “Paper cut stains from our paper-thin plans”, “My time, my wine, my spirit, my trust, tryna find a part of me you didn’t take up”.
Unfortunately, the rest of the song doesn’t live up to this. A lot of songs on this album have a spoken line to wrap up the song, along with a dramatic drop of the silence, and this one is deployed worst of all; it feels like the song running out of steam rather than an intentional finish. / SB
11. London Boy
It’s not in the dictionary, but ‘fontrum’ is generally defined as embarrassment for someone who doesn’t have enough common sense to feel embarrassment themselves. And boy do I experience fontrum when Taylor Swift discovers a major world city. First she reduced diverse, weird New York to a bunch of blandishments about bright lights and big crowds; now she turns London into the aural equivalent of teenage tourist’s Instagram feed. God help us if her next boyfriend’s French. The thing is, though, ‘London Boy’ is an absolute banger. So yes, I’ll be singing “Took me back to Highgate, met all his best mates” in my car for the foreseeable future. Just know I’ll be having major fontrum while I do it. / Catherine McGregor, deputy editor.
Absolutely fucking not. TripAdvisor should get a co-write credit on this track. / SB
12. Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. The Dixie Chicks)
Man, was I not expecting to hear music icons The Dixie Chicks on this album, especially given Swift’s tendency towards political neutrality/non-existence. The song would be good without them, but it’s their harmonies that lift this up into as close to a celestial moment at the album reaches – it’s like literal angels coming around Swift as she grieves her mother’s cancer.
It’s also one of the songs here that shows how Swift has grown as a vocalist. She’s never going to be a belter, but similar to her contemporary Carly Rae Jepsen, the way she’s played around with her phrasing and the limitations of her voice are beautifully showcased here – just listen to the way she smiles through “I hate to make this all about me” and cuts herself off at the last pre-chorus “‘Cause I have to”. Beautiful stuff. / SB
13. False God
Never empathized with a Taylor Swift lyric like, “Staring out the window like I’m not your favourite town / I’m New York City”. Own that self-confidence, Taylor! Even though Swift has grown as a vocalist, she doesn’t quite bring enough vocal weight to give this slow-burn blasphemous jam any kind of sensuality. / SB
14. You Need To Calm Down
I can’t recommend this at all – ‘Shade never made anyone less gay’ is the lyric she should’ve cut from a song before release, not the inoffensive spelling one from ‘Me!’ – but can I recommend the quite good Clean Bandit remix instead. Why wasn’t that on the album? / SB
A snooze until a great middle-eight – the only part of the song where Swift’s earnest vocals aren’t drowned out by insistent drums stolen from a Ryan Tedder track. / SB
16. ME! (feat. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco)
You can find The Spinoff’s original reactions to the ME! video right here. They have not changed.
17. It’s Nice To Have A Friend
Cute, a nice little ditty. You will not be seeing this song on tour or on any sort of compilation in the future. / SB
This is the sort of track that plays over a movie’s end credits – but five minutes in, when they’re finally thanking craft services and the Office of the Vancouver Film Commissioner and assuring you that no animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture. A drab conclusion to a mostly superb album. / CM