Replay: Taylor Swift is My One True ‘Lover’

Deputy arts editor Xavier Barrios writes about his love for Taylor Swift’s seventh studio album “Lover.”

In high school, I was on time for everything, always at my assigned seat before the first bell rang. 

Things were different Aug. 21, 2019. Instead of waiting for first period, me and my grandmother, whom I call grama, were in the Target parking lot waiting for the doors to open. I walked into school an hour late with four deluxe CD editions of Taylor Swift’s “Lover” in my backpack. 

My relationship with “Lover” is complicated — it’s at once my favorite and least favorite Swift album. Swift usually has a grasp on her track order but on “Lover,” everything felt out of place and sporadic. In individual songs, Swift knows how to tell a story, but forgot about the track-to-track overarching theme. 

I like to forget “I Forgot That You Existed” exists and pretend “Cruel Summer” is the opening track. When I listen to this song, I can feel the Colorado sun burning my skin, the screams of thousands of Swifties and see the smile on my grama’s face as Swift opened The Eras Tour in Denver in July. 

“Alright Denver, we have arrived at the very first bridge of the evening,” Swift said at the onset of the over three-hour performance. “Now, I have a question. Does anyone here know the lyrics to this bridge?”

The bridge in “Cruel Summer” is arguably Swift’s best. There’s a joy in screaming the lyrics I’ve yet to find in another Swift song. 

The album’s titular track provokes the listener to sway — hopefully with their lover. Better than its original is the “Lover – First Dance Remix.” My heart swells at the first strum of the guitar. 

“My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue / All’s well that ends well to end up with you / Swear to be overdramatic and true to my lover,” Swift serenades.

When “Lover” was released in 2019, my grandfather, known to me as Grampa, was in and out of the hospital. My grama’s favorite song on the album is its titular track. While they’ve had rough moments, she’s stood by his side. I hope one day I can find a love as strong as they have. 

“The Man” and “You Need To Calm Down” are complete with surface-level feminism which make the songs sound tasteless and ineffective.

Like an arrow to the heart, “The Archer” is Swift’s emotions put on view. Singing about personal insecurity and anxieties, with lyrics akin to words I’ve written in journal entries, the fifth track is a dramatic shift from songs about interpersonal relationships to a reflection on self-loathing. 

“All the king’s horses, all the king’s men / Couldn’t put me together again / ‘Cause all of my enemies started out friends / Help me hold onto you,” Swift sings. 

Encapsulating the feelings of a crush is the song “I Think He Knows.” I’m not sure a crush has ever known I’ve had interest in them — but maybe that’s what Swift is singing about. By assuming her crush knows, she doesn’t act on her emotions — just like me. 

“Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” is Swift’s storytelling at its best. In less than four minutes she establishes a forbidden high school relationship — and her attempt to save it.

“And I’ll never let you (go) ‘cause I know this is a (fight) / That someday we’re gonna (win),” Swift sings. 

While I haven’t had a romantic love worthy of “Cornelia Street,” I find myself listening to this song when I miss my friends. Through my darkest moments, my friends have been by my side. Swift’s specific songwriting allows for her experiences to extend across various types of love. 

I broke down in tears hearing “Soon You’ll Get Better” for the first time, thinking of my Grampa’s condition. A few months later on Dec. 22, 2019 he died. At his funeral my aunt played the song unprompted, which I felt silently connected us. 

“In doctor’s-office-lighting, I didn’t tell you I was scared / That was the first time we were there / Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you / Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus too,” Swift sings. 

The anxieties of ruining personal relationships are present in “Afterglow.” When I’m feeling weighed down by imposter syndrome or the fallout of an argument, the drum intro plays in my head. 

“ME!” with Brendon Urie brings “Lover” to a rocky end as one of the final few tracks. I’ll place the blame on Urie specifically — his feature is out of place and unnecessary on a song about Swift’s uniqueness. 

My grampa wasn’t always the best person, but he made strides to correct himself. I wish I had more time with the good side of him — he was full of love and “Daylight.” Swift’s spoken voice at the end of the final track guides me through life after losing him. 

“I wanna be defined by the things that I love / Not the things I hate / Not the things that I’m afraid of, I’m afraid of / Not the things that haunt me in the middle of the night / I, I just think that / You are what you love,” Swift said. 

“Lover” is available to stream on all major platforms.

Featured image courtesy of Republic Records

Xavier Barrios

Xavier Barrios