Last summer, my queen Taylor Swift released a new album. Following the mega-successful reputation, fans really only saw one way for this record to go. And when Lover arrived, our expectations were met: this record is all about dropping bitterness in exchange for love and happiness.
And externally, this has been a very exciting time for Swifties – Taylor won the “Artist of the Decade” VMA at the end of 2019, and her Netflix documentary Miss Americana dropped earlier this year.
The album keeps up the high standard Taylor has set for herself, and there is plenty of ammunition for anyone claiming this is her best work yet. I’m here to break it all down, one track at a time, and maybe rank all the songs at the very end.
1. “I Forgot That You Existed”
My gut reaction is “worst on the album.” I’m very grateful that this song gets out of the way quickly. Sonically, it fits with this much more colorful album (compared to the preceding reputation). But lyrically, it’s not something we really needed on Lover. The whole album says “I’ve forgotten all my enemies and my lover is all I see now,” so we didn’t need this explicit spelling-out of forgetting that
Kanye an enemy existed.
2. “Cruel Summer”
Um. Probably the best song on the album. Maybe the best pure-pop song in Taylor’s discography. We Swifties have been begging her to release it as a single for the masses. Those harmonies in the chorus give me chills every single time. The delivery of “He looks up grinnin’ like a devil”? That bridge? I am positively shook. I’m crying. I’m shaking. This one deserves 1,000 chef’s kisses.
On an album with the same name, this song really needed to just scream love and romance.
And it totally does.
“Lover” is probably the best love song she’s ever written, which is just fulfilling its destiny I suppose. It’s sweet, it’s appealing to every generation, and I’m positive it’s been played in at least 65,000 wedding ceremonies this year.
An instant classic Taylor Swift song.
4. “The Man”
Just the kind of feminist anthem we needed from a newly-risen political Taylor. Gone are the days when our queen would sink into the shadows to avoid confrontation. Here, she’s ready to point out all the hypocrisy and double standards in the industry…and she’s correct about every single part. A bop with a message.
5. “The Archer”
This one wins my most-improved award. Compared to the other tracks on the album, it just felt boring at first. But over its first year, it’s slowly grown on me. “Who could ever leave me, darling? But who could stay?” It’s gorgeous, atmospheric, and eternal. I really like it.
6. “I Think He Knows”
Talk about pop perfection. For the second time this album, Taylor delivers an ultraviolet explosion of energy unlike anything we’ve heard since 1989. It’s just so fun. Love it, love it, love it.
7. “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince”
Haters will fail to see past the high school metaphors, but what a brilliant set of imagery to use if you’re Taylor Swift (criticized and still widely known for her appeal to teenagers). To discuss the current American political climate under the guise of more high school drama? Yes, please, I’ll have 2 more of those.
8. “Paper Rings”
Here’s my first hot take: this one’s just not all that. I know it’s a hit among other fans, but I’ve just had a hard time warming up to it. It’s perfectly fine. It is. I just don’t love it. I think it’s because of how derivative it feels. Am I crazy, or have I heard 12 other indie-pop hits like this over the last 10 years? It’s a good song…but I’m not screaming, which means it’s not above the Taylor average for me. Sorry, queen.
9. “Cornelia Street”
A favorite, without a doubt. “Drunk on something stronger than the drinks in the bar”? Okay, yes, I’m listening. “As if the street lights pointed in an arrowhead leading us home”? Come on, y’all. By the time we’re in the chorus and Taylor is singing “Baby, I’ve been mystified by how this city screams your name,” I feel like I need a lighter or perhaps a light-up concert bracelet.
This song perfectly exemplifies what makes Taylor’s songwriting so great: she takes something very specific (in this case, the name of a street she met someone on) and ties that tiny detail into all the surrounding feelings she felt at the time she was experiencing that detail. Any pop song can say “I’ve loved you so long and I wanna love you forever.” Most pop songs won’t let you in on such an intimate detail and make you feel like you know exactly what the artist feels.
It’s just brilliant.
And that wobbling, iridescent instrumentation throughout the song? I just love it.
10. “Death By A Thousand Cuts”
Miss Americana has admitted that she wrote this song with the fear that, now that she’s found such a steady relationship, she wouldn’t be able to write good songs about heartbreak anymore.
Clearly, that fear was misplaced.
Instrumentally, the chorus is a little all over the place, which actually feels perfect: when you’re in a relationship and you think about regretful ends to past relationships, that’s bound to be confusing and bittersweet.
Before we move on, let it be known that this is one of the best bridges on the album.
Also, “I ask the traffic lights if it’ll be alright. They say I don’t know” is one of my favorite lines from the album.
11. “London Boy”
This one’s perfectly fine. Very cute and bubbly. I have the least to say about “London Boy.” It’s fun and I won’t skip it, but it’s not one of the most exciting tracks on the album.
12. “Soon You’ll Get Better” (feat. The Chicks)
It’s heartbreaking. A song about a loved one struggling with cancer for years? Not exactly what we expected from this album, but it only endears us to Taylor even more. It’s not one I can hear every day, but I’m so grateful Taylor included it.
13. “False God”
I appreciate this sexy-time track. It experiments with new sounds, and I respect that. It’s not necessarily a favorite, but not a skipper either. Sort of middle-of-the-road, I guess. I will say, though, that her SNL performance really boosted it for me.
14. “You Need To Calm Down”
Taylor really did the damn thing. Not only is this the most overt support she’s shown for the LGBTQ+ community since “Welcome to New York” (released in 2014!); she also decided to release it during Pride month 2019. With a music video PACKED with queer celebrities, Taylor has elevated herself as an ally in a way that warms my gay little heart. It’s one of the most vibrant tracks on the album, and I have no choice but to love it. Thanks, Tay Tay!
This one screams 80s slow dance (I wasn’t alive, but I’m serving you imagination). It’s a great example of Taylor’s maturity, as she apologizes for doing her lover wrong, and begs him to forgive her. “Afterglow” is a fan favorite for good reason, and I love how it radiates color (I see blue and purple every time).
16. “ME!” (feat. Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco)
As the lead single, this song absolutely succeeded in letting the world know this was going to be a completely different record from reputation. It is definitely serving some Dreamworks family movie end-credits song vibes, but I just love its bright pastel mood. It reminds me of biting into one of those soft butter mints they have at weddings. I also really like the military drum line beating dutifully throughout the song.
17. “It’s Nice To Have A Friend”
What a bizarre choice. I kind of love it. This just feels so serene and peaceful. The echoing chorus behind her. The very simple instrumentation. It strips away all the production to serve an innocent, beautiful moment of meeting someone new. Nice!
This is the first time a song has made me cry on first listen. The whole thing is a beautiful and logical transition from the bitterness of yesterday to the hope and joy of today and tomorrow.
The part that got me? The very end, when Taylor includes a recording of herself talking about how she wants to be remembered: “I want to be defined by the things that I love. Not the things I hate. Not the things I’m afraid of, or the things that haunt me in the middle of the night. I just think that…you are what you love.”
Lover Overall Review & Song Ranking
In my reputation review, I wrote that I have no problem with Taylor stepping up to a more badass version of herself, and that I loved some of her sassier tracks like “Look What You Made Me Do.” But this just feels like such a healthy progression of her psyche that I can’t help loving it. Lover matches so closely with what I hoped Taylor would create after reputation, and she actually exceeded my expectations for how good it would be. It’s full of vibrant tracks that manage to all feel distinct from one another. There are very few skippers here, and I believe Lover should be in the conversation for the best-written Taylor Swift album of all time.
If I were going to rank the 18 tracks on Lover from worst to best (18 being worst; 1 being best), it would look something like this:
- “I Forgot That You Existed”
- “Paper Rings”
- “London Boy”
- “ME!” (feat. Brendon Urie)
- “Soon You’ll Get Better” (feat. The Chicks)
- “It’s Nice To Have A Friend”
- “False God”
- “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince”
- “I Think He Knows”
- “The Archer”
- “You Need To Calm Down”
- “Death By A Thousand Cuts”
- “The Man”
- “Cornelia Street”
- “Cruel Summer”
P.S. This ranking was incredibly difficult. What a great album!
Personally, I wasn’t crazy abut Lover but one of my absolute favorite tracks, not just from the record but Taylor’s discography as a whole, has got to be “Death By A Thousand Cuts”. I could listen to that song over and over and never get tired of it.
Love that take! It seems a little polarizing (I know some Swifties who hate it), but I definitely hear the appeal. That bridge alone is stellar.
Thanks for commenting!
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That song is one of my favourites on the album too! The line “pPaper cut stings from our paper-thin plans” is incredible!
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You’re so right (again). The wordplay here sort of reminds me of “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter” in “Mine.” The turn of phrase releases endorphins in my brain every time.
I also love the imagery, because when I read the song title for the first time I was thinking “paper cuts” (as opposed to, like, knife cuts). Overall, a very thoughtful concept brought to life with those A-tier lyrics.
Love her. ❤️
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