On Aug. 23 of this year, Taylor Swift released her highly anticipated 7th studio album, Lover. After the titan that was Swift’s last album, Reputation, it is easy to say that Swift has taken a more light-hearted approach to the follow-up album. While Reputation was packed with basepumping songs about revenge and heartbreak, Lover seems to pick up where Swift’s fifth album, 1989, left off: with pop hits and ballads.
The subject material of Lover touches on topics that Taylor Swift never would have addressed at an earlier point in her career. Lover takes songs about love, grief, loss and cheating and wraps them in a pink bow of beautiful and catchy music.
Taylor makes a very large statement in track 4 of Lover. In "The Man," Swift addresses how differently she might be treated by the media and public if she were a man. Swift has spoken very candidly in the past about feeling slut-shamed by the media, and in many ways, Taylor has become the poster child for it. Although her current relationship is entering into its 4th year, critics still bring up the partners she had in her early twenties and teen years, as if they have any relevance to her current relationship and career. She is still frequently put down as an artist who got success off of making kids' music, despite her killer business tactics and how many records she has broken. People still question how much of it she deserves. "The Man" addresses all of this and more and is quickly becoming the feminist anthem of the year.
One critique of Taylor Swift being a feminist is how she has publicly feuded with other female artists like Katy Perry. Perry is said to have inspired Swift’s song "Bad Blood" and many people believe it to be hypocritical for Taylor to play the feminist card now after publicly bashing another woman. Swift has yet to address this criticism in an interview, but she seems to take a very self-aware perspective of it in her song "The Archer."
In "The Archer," Swift address how, throughout her career, she has been both the archer and the prey. She’s been attacked and been the attacker. The song seems to take the perspective of Taylor reflecting on both her mistakes and successes. While listening to "The Archer," you pick up on Taylor's understanding of why people both adamantly defend her as well as rationalize and validate criticism directed towards her. The song is an intellectual and reflective look at Taylor’s perception of herself.
The most interesting aspect of Lover might be how Taylor Swift has used the album to talk about politics. The album’s second single, "You Need to Calm Down," made waves when it was released on June 14 because of its obvious ties to LGBTQ rights. In the past year and a half, Swift has started speaking candidly about her political views, for which she has received praise, and Lover reflects that. The video attached to "You Need to Calm Down" was packed with queer celebrities (from Hannah Hart to RuPaul himself ) and contained a public call to action for viewers to call their senator in support of the Equality Act (an act that works to protect members of the LGBTQ community against discrimination and has been passed by the US House of Representatives).
This act is something that Taylor has been very vocally supportive of in every recent interview. She’s been vocally opposed to the current presidential administration in those interviews as well. Becoming more politically outspoken has earned Swift both praise and backlash. Many say her career is going to go the way of the Dixie Chicks, who faced unprecedented backlash after front-woman Natalie Maines publicly criticized then-President George W. Bush in 2003.
Ironically, the Dixie Chicks are featured on track 12 of Taylor Swift’s Lover, "Soon You’ll Get Better." They are a clear example of how artists using their voices for social change was at one point very taboo and something that could ruin a career. Swift’s confident return seems to represent a new age in which the public believes artists have a moral obligation to use their platforms for positive social change.
Pop-culture column by Hannah Davis Johns, Staff Writer