This star is dominating the music scene once again, in a way that has old fans itching for more. (Illustration by Rachel Glucksman, Rhode Island School of Design)
Sounds /// Thoughts x

The more important question … are we ready for it?

Taylor Swift debuted “Lover” in late August. The album is her most recent among seven previously successful studio albums. Swift has dominated the music charts for a long time, with her second album, “Fearless” (2008), earning a Grammy; her fifth, “1989” (2014), earning Grammys for album of the year and best pop vocal album; and “Reputation” (2018) achieving significant success as well.

“Lover” doesn’t fall short of these previous successes, and has already climbed its way to No.1 on the Billboard 200, which Billboard claims is the most fruitful week for any album since “Reputation.” For anyone like me who isn’t super music savvy, you can find the breakdown of how Billboard decides its rankings here.

I am no music critic, but Taylor Swift and I go way back, and my opinions of her music have had their ups and downs throughout the years. I started listening to Swift when her first album, “Taylor Swift,” was released. As many prepubescent children, I admired the older kids in junior high and high school, and Swift’s music allowed me to believe I actually understood what it’s like to be a teenager.

Fast forward two years to the release of “Fearless,” and you’ll find me — at the ripe age of 10 — “relating” to all her songs about high school and heartbreak. Yet, regardless of how ridiculous I was when I was younger, I still enjoyed Swift’s songs for the same reason as everyone else: She’s relatable.

Regardless of your age or gender, everyone goes through puberty, high school, heartbreak and all the other experiences illustrated by Swift’s lyrics. That’s why I, and I assume many others, continued going back for more and why she has remained a significant member of the music industry for 13 years.

At some point, Swift’s music started to change. With the release of “Red” (2012), Swift’s sound became less acoustic and began straying away from her country roots. The album was more “hip” and in line with the pop genre, and she even brought in popular guests for duets, such as Ed Sheeran in “Everything Has Changed.”

Here is when we also saw the first of her somewhat petty releases, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” However, despite the change in Swift’s sound, her lyrics still felt close to her origins. She was still as relatable as ever, just with a revamped sound.

The second shift came with the release of “Reputation,” which is when I officially fell off the T-Swift bandwagon. Her sound shifted again, and honestly, I felt like she was trying too hard to stay relevant. On top of that, I was sick and tired of breakup songs. With this album, she also seemed to be making petty digs at other celebs, which just reminded me of silly fights I had in middle school.

So, it’s safe to say I wasn’t expecting to like “Lover” at all. Honestly, I never planned on listening to it at all aside from whatever happened to play on the radio. However, one of my friends is a big time “Swiftie,” and convinced me to give it a shot, and I admit, I was pretty surprised. This album is a stark contrast to “Reputation.”

She seems to have abandoned shameless digs at other celebs. Instead, Swift has regressed back to her regular content —breakups, romances, friendships and other relatable subject matter. To me, this album sounds like a mature, grown-up version of “Fearless” and “Speak Now.” Swift seems to have left her petty differences with others aside and gone back to her true self.

The album is named after the third track, “Lover,” a relatively slow song about a mysterious lover. It’s unclear about whom Swift is singing. Yet, regardless of the subject, anyone who has ever been in love can understand this track. The lines, “Can I go where you go / can we be this close forever and ever … you’re my … lover,” are so non-specific they can apply to practically any romantic relationship.

Compared to her other songs on “Reputation,” which felt like she was striving to prove something to the world, “Lover” feels refreshingly like a basic expression of her emotions. The sound is very dream-like and feels nostalgic and listening makes me feel like I’m reminiscing an old memory.

The entire album falls in line with this dreamy sound and familiar feel, particularly “The Archer.” The song is one of my favorites on the album. Not only is it a fun song to sing along with, but it also seems to be an acknowledgement of her previous behavior and issues with the media and other celebs.

She starts the song by saying, “I’m ready for combat … ‘cause cruelty wins in the movies,” which in my opinion is her way of saying she was pressured into her previous behavior because she didn’t know how else to handle her beef with others — cruelty always wins, right? Yet, there lies a sense of conflict in her lyrics.

The “you” she is singing to appears to be herself: “Help me hold onto you” is her struggling to maintain her true self amidst her spotlight in the media. “I never grew up; it’s getting so old” is her saying she is tired of being immature and following the juvenile behavior of others. She’s ready to be her true self again.

I really like this album. Not only does it have a great, catchy sound that keeps you going back for more, but it is honest about her struggle to maintain her identity throughout her journey with fame. This album is Swift finding herself again. She acknowledges her mistakes in the past and the way she’s struggled to accept her own behavior.

Through “Lover,” she is establishing that self in the world so everyone else can know her for who she truly is. With this album, Swift has definitely earned back my respect, and I’m sure others who fell off the bandwagon previously will feel the same way.

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