Genre-defying superstar Taylor Swift has dropped her seventh studio album, 13 years after her first album was released. Anyone who knows anything about Swift knows that 13 is a number that holds a special place in her heart, so it’s only fitting to look back at how far she’s come. This album is one that makes us believe that she is healed, or at least truly on her way there. Although this obviously won’t be the last we hear from her, it’s hard not to notice how full circle she’s come since her self-titled debut album. More than anything, it’s fitting that it’s come 13 years later. From singing about a Tim McGraw song to making one with him, all the tabloid covers to a Vogue cover story, and signing with Big Machine to her highly publicized separation from the label, we’ve watched her grow and change as an artist and Lover is the best indication of that.
We looked back on how her previous works have influenced her most recent masterpiece.
Major Theme: Indifference
Sonically, these two songs sound nothing alike, but lyrically they both talk about the very personal moment of realizing you are no longer thinking about something that may have been rent free, living in your mind. While “Clean” is a sobering listen about the process it takes before getting to a place where you have, in every sense, let go, “I Forgot That You Existed” is a fun take on the moment where, without even realizing it, you’ve let go. It’s reminiscent of Speak Now’s “The Story Of Us,” but it cares even less. In this one, Swift doesn’t care if it’s killing you like it’s killing her because it’s not killing her anymore—she honestly forgot that you existed.
Major Theme: Endings
As much as Tay knows how to sing about being deep in a relationship, or dealing with the fallout of a personal situation, she also knows how to sing about getting out when it’s the right time. While “Getaway Car” was about leaving a relationship that ran its course, “Cruel Summer” is about leaning into your unpleasant feelings, maybe about a negative situation, which is the first step in being able to let go of whatever is weighing you down. The similarities in their sounds can’t be ignored either, as these two songs are ones that will easily get stuck in your head, but you probably won’t mind.
Major Theme: Deep love
“Lover” is “Fearless,” 11 years later. The insecurity about the early stages of a relationship that made “Fearless” so relatable is gone, replaced by a self-assured Tay, confident that the intensity of her feelings is reciprocated. This relationship is no longer new, but the magic isn’t gone. In “Fearless,” Swift is waiting to be led, to be assured that the boy she’s waiting on is interested in making the first move—in “Lover,” she’s the one taking the lead, excitedly making plans for the future. While 19-year-old Swift uses classic dramatic clichés of romance (i.e. dancing in the rain), soon-to-be-30 Swift sees romance in the little things: decorating a home, spending time with friends, and most endearing of all, saving the person you love a seat. There are many small ways to say I love you, and “Lover” recognizes that when you’re young, these seem mundane, but when you’re older, they mean everything.
Major Theme: Forever and always
These two pop-tinged songs share similarities aside from their upbeat sound. More than being very danceable tunes, they share the same view on forever. Both celebrate an innocent take on what it means to be in a long-term relationship. The may not carry the weight of a slow or powerful ballad, but the vulnerable and accessible lyrics still ring true. Both “Paper Hearts” and “Stay Stay Stay” are celebrating sticking through fights, complicated pasts, and just appreciating being together more than anything else. Both echo the idea that as long as you have the right person by your side, nothing else matters.
Major Theme: Vulnerability
A classic Taylor move to have the fifth song on any given album track list be one of the most vulnerable, “The Archer” echos “All Too Well”‘s” honesty about a relationship, and holding yourself accountable where things went wrong. Though both are particularly romantic-sounding songs, neither romanticize a former relationship—instead, they are genuine, cathartic releases about a love that never panned out. It’s difficult to compare “All Too Well” to anything (because no line in her discography hits harder than “You told me about your past thinking your future was me”), but it’s hard to ignore the self-reflection in either of these track fives. In the same way that more than a few songs on Lover feel like grown up versions of past T-Swift tracks, it’s fair to say “The Archer” is a more self aware “All Too Well,” one where Swift looks in the mirror and, as always, feels it all.
Major Theme: Hey kids, geography is fun!
Since the start of her career, Swift’s relied on different locations for imagery in her songs. Extensive, yet fitting, use of the word “small-town,” referencing certain intersections, and eventually a love affair with the city of New York. Now, Swift’s got a London boy she’s fallen in love with, which means a new city to spend some time in. “London Boy” is a fun celebration of a big city across the pond, the same way “Welcome To New York” celebrated her new home north of Nashville back in 2014.