Ram Jams: Love, Hate or Indifference Toward ‘Lover?’

A Swiftie and a skeptic discuss Taylor Swift’s latest offering

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Ram Jams: Love, Hate or Indifference Toward ‘Lover?’

Taylor Swift's 6th studio album is her first with Republic Records.

Taylor Swift's 6th studio album is her first with Republic Records.

via Republic Records, Universal Music Group

Taylor Swift's 6th studio album is her first with Republic Records.

via Republic Records, Universal Music Group

via Republic Records, Universal Music Group

Taylor Swift's 6th studio album is her first with Republic Records.

By BRIELLE CAYER and PAOLO ESTRELLA

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Genre: Pop, Synth Pop, Bubblegum Pop
On a playlist with: Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Alessia Cara

The deets: Taylor Swift is back and on a new label. After a long hiatus riddled with controversy and Scooter Braun/Big Machine troubles, the pop star released her seventh studio album entitled “Lover” on Aug. 23. Within the first week, the album topped the charts as eager “Swifties” lined up in droves to purchase it. True to its title, “Lover” showcases 18 songs that explore the things Swift loves from her current partner to her mother to London. Brielle Cayer (Swiftie) and Paolo Estrella (non-Swiftie) find a number of masterful gems among more forgettable tunes as they discuss their mixed reviews of the album.

 

Meet the Reviewers

Paolo Estrella: I have historically disliked Taylor Swift. I am in the camp of “old Taylor is way better,” from “Love Story” to “You Belong With Me.” I come from a hip-hop, R&B and rap music background, but I wanted to give this pop album a shot. 

Brielle Cayer: I’ve been a self-professed “Swiftie” since I was eight years old and first heard “Teardrops on My Guitar.” I bought all the albums, memorized every lyric, covered my bedroom in posters and watched the concert tour DVDs religiously. For me and many other young people, Taylor Swift was the girl who put our thoughts to music. I will admit, I feel like her transfer to mainstream pop music has negatively affected her music — I miss the clever lyrics and acoustic guitar. I wasn’t a fan of the darker “Reputation,” so the announcement of “Lover” gave me hope that Swift might return to her strong suit of wise, thoughtful storytelling.

 

Top Picks

PE: My favorite song on “Lover” is “Soon You’ll Get Better.” This is “sad yeehaw” Taylor at her finest. Plus, with a Dixie Chicks feature, this song could do no wrong. 

BC: Yes! This emotional ballad serves as a beautiful tribute to Taylor’s mother and her ongoing battle with cancer. Its stripped-down, melancholy style broke my heart as Taylor begs, “Soon you’ll get better,” as if to convince herself. 

PE: Speaking of sad songs, I know we have differing opinions on “The Archer.” I hated it. I thought, lyrically, it was really bad and slow. It just kind of put me to sleep, but you liked it. 

BC: I agree that it’s slow, but I don’t mind. I think it’s the most raw and emotionally honest single off the album and probably my favorite artistically. Lines like, “I cut off my nose just to spite my face / And I hate my reflection for years and years” remind me of her lyrical craft where she pours out her feelings from personal experiences in a thoughtful, reminiscent way — this is when Swift truly shines. However, I did feel a little let down because the song seems to build and build to what I hoped would be a soaring chorus, but then it hovers there and never crescendos into the fantastic piece it could be. 

 

Skippable Tracks

PE: I thought “Lover” would have benefited heavily if Taylor had cut a few songs like “Cornelia Street,” “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” “London Boy,” “Afterglow” and “Daylight.” 

BC: Interesting. I enjoyed both “Cornelia Street” and “Daylight,” but the others were just okay. Why didn’t you like them?

PE: I thought they were insanely boring and didn’t really have a place on the album. The storytelling and production (shoutout to Jack Antonoff) were good, but I couldn’t get over how boring many of the songs were. From a musical standpoint, some songs on this album, such as the lead singles “ME!” and “You Need to Calm Down,” were straight up offensive. I hated the lyrics and just the songs themselves were irritating.

BC: Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of “ME!” either.

 

“ME!”

BC: I waited up until midnight to watch the music video premiere, but I should’ve gone to bed. The lyrics could have been written by a child — they really rhyme “me” with “me.”

PE: I thought the lyrics were really stupid. I was thinking, “You’re better than this, Taylor.” I love Brendon Urie and his voice, but even his verse was awful. Even though it wasn’t in the final cut of the album. I just can’t get over. “Hey kids! Spelling is fun!” Are you serious?

BC: As a fan who knows Taylor Swift’s songwriting capability, I was let down.

 

“You Need to Calm Down”

BC: Swift’s next single was definitely an improvement to “ME!” I thought it was pretty catchy and I love that Taylor is finally using her art to show support for the LGBTQ community.

PE: I thought it was cool that she finally took a stand. I just wished she had done it sooner. She should have been talking about this subject, but instead she came out with “Reputation.”

BC: I know she has received a lot of backlash from people claiming she’s using the gay rights movement to benefit her brand. Personally, I don’t believe that was Taylor’s intention, but her team should’ve put more thought into the methods and tone used to present her beliefs. The song has people debating about what it truly means to be an ally for the LGBTQ population. Hopefully, this dialogue will educate people on how to show respectful support.

 

Sparking Conversation

BC: That’s not the only song where Taylor incorporated current issues. She ventures into the subject of toxic masculinity in “The Man.”

PE: And “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince,” too. It was one of my favorite songs on the album.

BC: It’s a total bop! It’s also an unexpected protest against our country’s current political situation. She uses engaging, dystopian high school imagery to express her disappointment in the increased systematic oppression prevalent in modern America under our current administration  — while also referencing her former political silence and the privilege that allowed her to remain this way.

PE: It makes me think about how she initially broke into the country genre, which is historically a white-dominated genre, and after 10 years, she’s finally acknowledging that privilege. I really liked this song. Not only were there really good storytelling elements, but it also sounded really good. In the beginning of the song, the kick drums sounded like a heartbeat, and I thought having that element in the song made it that much more impactful.

 

Takeaways

BC: The top songs for me were probably “Miss Americana,” “Cornelia Street” and “Cruel Summer.” I didn’t like “London Boy,” “ME!” or “It’s Nice to Have a Friend.” As a whole, I thought the album provided a good mix of fun, pop songs and emotional, fragile pieces. To me, “Lover” acts as a mature sequel to 2014’s widely successful “1989” as Swift incorporates new perspectives, political points and a pastel color palette. I’d rate it a seven out of 10. I have a feeling your rating is lower.

PE: I give it a four out of 10 at most. The only four songs I liked were “The Man,” “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince,” “Soon You’ll Get Better” and “Paper Rings.”

BC: I take it you won’t be purchasing a ticket to the “Lover” tour?

PE: I’ll spend my money on artists I actually like, thanks.