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Lover (album)

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Lover
Cover artwork of Taylor Swift's Lover
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 23, 2019 (2019-08-23)
RecordedNovember 2018 – February 2019
Studio
Genre
Length61:48
LabelRepublic
Producer
Taylor Swift chronology
Reputation
(2017)
Lover
(2019)
Live from Clear Channel Stripped 2008
(2020)
Singles from Lover
  1. "Me!"
    Released: April 26, 2019
  2. "You Need to Calm Down"
    Released: June 14, 2019
  3. "Lover"
    Released: August 16, 2019
  4. "The Man"
    Released: January 27, 2020

Lover is the seventh studio album by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It was released on August 23, 2019, through Republic Records, as her first album after exiting Big Machine Records, which resulted in a highly publicized dispute. Swift recorded the album with producers Jack Antonoff, Joel Little, Louis Bell, and Frank Dukes from November 2018 to February 2019, after completing her 2018 Reputation Stadium Tour to support her sixth studio album, Reputation (2017). Motivated by the love she received from fans while on tour, which helped her recover her mental health after the controversies leading up to Reputation, Swift conceived Lover as a "love letter to love" channeling her recalibrated personal life and newfound artistic freedom.

Compared to the dark and heavy hip hop-influenced tones of its predecessor, Lover's brighter sound draws primarily from electropop, dream pop, pop rock, and synth-pop, with melodies characterized by atmospheric synthesizers, midtempo rhythms, and acoustic instruments. The songs incorporate eclectic styles ranging from country and folk to funk and bubblegum pop. Lyrically, they explore many sentiments stemming from love such as infatuation, commitment, lust, and heartache; a few discuss contemporary American political issues like LGBT rights and feminism.

Having secluded herself from the media after Reputation was released, Swift embarked on an extensive promotional campaign for Lover through television shows, magazine covers, and press interviews. The album's cover artwork and visual aesthetic feature bright pastel colors. Four singles were released—"Me!" featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, "You Need to Calm Down", "Lover", and "The Man"—first three of which charted inside the top 10 of the US Billboard Hot 100. Lover was Swift's sixth consecutive to debut at number one on the US Billboard 200. It topped the charts in many other countries such as Australia, Canada, Mexico, and the U.K., and sold 3.2 million copies in 2019, becoming the best-selling studio album of the year.

The album received positive reviews from music critics, who praised Lover's emotional engagement and free-spirited sound, though some took issue with the disparate musical styles across its track-list as inconsistent. Many publications included the album in their lists ranking the best albums of 2019. At the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards in 2020, Lover was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album, the title track for Song of the Year, and "You Need to Calm Down" for Best Pop Solo Performance. The album won Favorite Pop/Rock Album at the American Music Awards of 2019, and its singles won four MTV Video Music Awards.

Background

Taylor Swift on the Reputation Stadium Tour
Swift wrote Lover channeling her recalibrated personal life while touring her 2018 Reputation Stadium Tour.

American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift transformed her sound and image from country music to pop music with her synth-pop fifth studio album, 1989, which was released in October 2014.[1] 1989 sold over five million copies in the U.S. within one year and solidified Swift's status as a global pop star.[2][3] During promotion of 1989, Swift was a target of tabloid gossip; her "America's Sweetheart" reputation, a result of her wholesome and innocent image,[4] was tarnished by publicized romantic relationships and disputes with other celebrities.[5][6] Her dispute with rapper Kanye West in summer 2016, after West released the single "Famous", led to an internet cancel movement denouncing her as a "snake".[7] Swift secluded herself from the press amidst the tumultuous affairs and released her sixth studio album, Reputation, in November 2017, as an answer to the media commotion surrounding her celebrity.[8][9] Before Reputation's release, Swift cleared her social media accounts, and began posting images and videos of snakes.[7][10]

Featuring a dark and heavy hip hop-influenced production, Reputation contains songs with themes of vengeance and drama.[11] Swift avoided promoting the album on the media as she had done for her previous albums, instead holding fan-exclusive listening sessions and holding a few television performances without having interviews.[8] It was her first album released outside her usual two-year album rollout cycle, and her last under her 12-year contract with Big Machine Records since 2006.[12][13] She supported Reputation with her Reputation Stadium Tour (2018), on which she used a giant cobra model as the stages' centerpiece;[3] the tour broke the record for the all-time highest-grossing U.S. tour.[14] In November 2018, upon completing the Reputation Stadium Tour, Swift signed with Universal Music Group label Republic Records, whose contract allowed her to own the master recordings to her albums.[13] She endorsed two Democrat candidates for the 2018 midterm elections in her home state of Tennessee—her first time publicly voicing her political opinion.[11][10]

Swift remarked that she wrote Reputation as a "defense mechanism" to cope with the tumultuous experience, and she secluded from the press because she needed to protect her mental health and stopped feeling obligated to "explain herself".[11] Commenting on her forgone "America's Sweetheart" reputation, she said it was liberating to relinquish her self-awareness of the title and attempt to be "always smiling, always happy".[15] On the Reputation Stadium Tour, Swift was inspired by the love she received from fans to embrace positivity and vulnerability; despite her tarnished reputation in the press, she realized her fans "see [her] as a flesh-and-blood human being", which "changed [her] completely, assigning humanity to [her] life".[16] To this end, she conceived her seventh studio album as a personal and vulnerable record connecting with her audience and showcasing her strengths as a singer-songwriter: "This time around I feel more comfortable being brave enough to be vulnerable, because my fans are brave enough to be vulnerable with me."[17]

Writing and themes

Swift began writing Lover after having recalibrated her personal life, freeing herself from her public perception.[18][19] Reflecting on her experience on the Reputation Stadium Tour, she learnt to take her occupation as an entertainer less seriously than before. Although she used to think of show business as "this massive thing [...] where we're all on this battlefield and everyone's gonna die except one person, who wins", as she performed on tour she realized, "We're just entertaining people, and it's supposed to be fun."[19] She reconsidered her social media appearances and figured out her focus was her music and not her social media influence.[18] Swift was inspired by these realizations to embrace her newfound artistic creativity and write songs from a free-spirited perspective.[20][21] As with her songwriting for previous albums, she wrote Lover as a reflection of her personal life.[19][22] She described it as very confessional and autobiographical, yet also playful and whimsical.[19][21]

In the September 2019 issue of Vogue, Swift described the album as a "love letter to love, in all of its maddening, passionate, exciting, enchanting, horrific, tragic, wonderful glory";[23] to this extent, its final track list consists of 18 songs—longer than any of her other albums—depicting many sentiments stemming from love.[24] Whereas the protagonists of the Reputation songs are exaggerated characters Swift created as a reaction to the controversies, the songs on Lover are from an honest and lighthearted perspective, and was much inspired by her first time discovering "love that was very real".[22] Although love is the central theme, Swift elaborated that she envisioned the album as a romantic record; therefore in addition to happy songs, it includes songs about sorrow or loneliness, which she believed one could perceive "through a romantic gaze".[25] Music critics noted Lover as Swift's return to her songwriting tradition of exploring love and emotional intimacy after the antagonistic viewpoints on its predecessor, representing her confidence, her artistic and personal liberation.[26][27][28]

Lover predominantly consists of straightforward, open-hearted love songs celebrating the ups and downs of love.[29][27] Its songs contain lyrics that are specific to Swift's personal life but also engage universally relatable feelings that, according to Time critic Dana Schwartz, could be applied to ordinary love stories of many people.[30] Although her songs are very personal, Swift avoided disclosing the inspiration behind them.[31] Lover opens with "I Forgot that You Existed", which, inspired by Swift's recalibrated personal life,[19] is about the protagonist no longer dwelling on vengeance against those who wronged them.[30] The title track, "Lover", is about Swift's commitment to a romantic partner;[32] she was inspired by how couples customize their marriage vows to write the bridge.[33] Lust is a theme explored on tracks like "I Think He Knows", which is about self-confidence after a reciprocated infatuation,[29][34] and "False God", where the protagonist ponders how false promises can help overcome the challenges of a long-distance relationship with lyrics using religious imagery to invoke oral sex.[35][36]

Some songs portray playful and quirky aspects of love, such as "Paper Rings",[9] on which Swift narrates a relationship from its first days to her marriage proposal to her lover;[34][37] and "London Boy", where she declares her love for an English man with tongue-in-cheek lyrics mentioning many locations in London and the English fashion designer Stella McCartney.[30][38] The lead single "Me!" is about self-affirmation, self-love, and self-acceptance;[27][39] the album version omits the lyric "Hey kids, spelling is fun" in the single version released before.[40] The penultimate track, "It's Nice to Have a Friend", tells a love story that begins from childhood and proceeds to adulthood.[41] Swift considered the song a representation of the feelings one wish to experience whether they were a child or an adult because "we all want love, we all want to find somebody to ... experience things with".[42]

Other songs explore introspective and poignant aspects of love and life; some are about the pitfalls of romance and find Swift assuming responsibility for a failed relationship.[43] "The Archer" is about Swift reflecting on her life with lyrics describing her self-awareness and acknowledgement of her past mistakes.[44][45] On "Cruel Summer", she sings about the painful feelings ensued from a fleeting summer romance.[33] "Cornelia Street", whose title refers to a New York City street on which Swift had rented a townhouse,[46] narrates a relationship where Swift is afraid she will lose her partner again should she repeat her past mistakes.[47] She takes the blame for having hurt her partner on "Afterglow",[38] and contemplates a loved one's prolonged medical treatment on "Soon You'll Get Better", inspired by her parents' cancer diagnoses.[33][34]

Inspired by the romantic comedy film Someone Great,[48] the track "Death by a Thousand Cuts" explores how the protagonist tries to overcome the painful remnants of a failed relationship.[37][49] It was a song Swift wrote for Lover not inspired by her personal life, which was "incredible news" to her because she realized she could continue writing songs about heartbreak even if she were in a healthy relationship.[50] In the closing track, "Daylight", Swift contemplates that love to her now is "golden" and not "burning red"—a reference to the title track of her 2012 studio album Red—like she once believed.[44] Concluding with Swift speaking, "I want to be defined by the things that I love – not the things I hate, not the things I'm afraid of, the things that haunt me in the middle of the night," the song represents Swift's mature understanding of love, her personal life, and her public image.[34][38]

The MeToo movement was one of the events that impacted Swift's political viewpoints, reflected on some Lover songs.[11]

A few songs reflected Swift's evolved perception of contemporary American politics. She had been warned against getting involved in politics by her record label since she started out as a country music singer in 2006,[note 1] but after witnessing the political events affecting the rights of certain people,[note 2] she became disillusioned with the contemporary American political climate and decided to abandon her previous apolitical stance.[11] Swift wrote "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince" after the 2018 midterm elections; its lyrics use high school as a metaphor for American politics, because she thought the social events of a traditional American high school could alienate certain people, akin to "our political landscape ... like we need to huddle up under the bleachers and figure out a plan to make things better".[19] Another track, "The Man", was inspired by the double standards that women experience in society and, more specifically, the music industry.[42] "You Need to Calm Down" has lyrics advocating for LGBT rights, inspired by a conversation where Swift was asked by a friend what if she had a gay son;[11] other inspirations were cyberbullies, cancel culture, and how the media "pits [women] against each other".[7] Explaining how the track aligns with the album's concept, Swift explained that it addresses how "certain people are not allowed to live their lives without discrimination just based on who they love".[19]

Production and musical styles

Swift started recording Lover in November 2018, as soon as she completed the Reputation Stadium Tour.[16] To accompany the diverse lyrical themes, she wanted to incorporate eclectic styles, which was made possible by the new contract with Republic Records granting her more artistic freedom than before.[20] Swift recorded much of Lover with Jack Antonoff, who had produced 1989 and Reputation; other producers were Joel Little, Frank Dukes, and Louis Bell, all of whom were first-time collaborators with Swift.[51] The producers of respective tracks are credited as their co-writers alongside Swift, except three tracks written by Swift herself—"Lover", "Cornelia Street", and "Daylight".[52] Hip hop producer Sounwave is credited as co-writer and co-producer of "London Boy", singer Brendon Urie is credited as co-writer of "Me!", and musician St. Vincent is credited as Annie Clark as co-writer of "Cruel Summer".[51]

Jack Antonoff performing
Jack Antonoff (pictured) co-produced 11 tracks for Lover.

While recording, Swift revisited the musical styles that she had experimented with in the past. Whereas she associated Reputation's musical style devoid of acoustic instruments with imagery of "nighttime cityscape, [...] old warehouse buildings that had been deserted and factory spaces", she conceptualized Lover as "a barn wood floor and some ripped curtains flowing in the breeze, and fields of flowers"; to this extent, the latter's sound consists of many acoustic instruments.[19] For her vocals, Swift recorded as though she were performing live and said much of the album was nearly whole takes.[53] In publications' reviews, music critics categorized Lover as a primarily pop album[29][54] with a 1980s-influenced sound combining pop rock and electropop.[28][55] Compared to the dark hip hop tones of its predecessor, Lover's musical styles are brighter, more lighthearted and atmospheric.[37][55] The album is made of tracks of varying tempo built on straightforward song structures with piano melodies, rock arrangements, and standard chord progressions;[38][55][56] a few experiment with styles and song structures new to Swift.[28][42]

Antonoff co-produced 11 tracks,[40] all of which were recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City; "Paper Rings", "London Boy", and "Daylight" were also recorded at Metropolis Studios in London; the first two tracks, alongside "Cruel Summer" and "I Think He Knows", were additionally recorded at Conway Recording Studios in Los Angeles.[52] Antonoff's production is characterized by 1980s drums, atmospheric synthesizers, and vocal reverberation,[44][57] and explores eclectic styles across genres including synth-pop, punk, folk pop, and quiet storm.[58] Because of Antonoff's 1980s-flavored production, some critics commented that Lover expands on the 1980s synth-pop sound of 1989.[30][44] Billboard journalist Jason Lipshutz, meanwhile, commented that it is not an expansion on 1989's sound but a more ambitious record larger in scope.[56] Swift conceptualized such tracks as "Lover" and "Paper Rings" as if they could have been played in a wedding reception of the 1970s; as such, these tracks use retro instruments to bring forth a timeless feel she desired.[19][38] For the former, Swift and Antonoff used instruments that, according to Swift, are all invented before the 1970s;[33] it is a waltzing tempo track combining indie folk and alternative country with acoustic guitar, percussion, and pizzicato strings.[37][38][47] The latter is a gleeful new wave-influenced pop punk track[44][59] with influences from rockabilly and 1980s pop.[29][54][60]

Most songs produced with Antonoff feature a radio-friendly pop production.[34] "Cruel Summer" is a 1980s-influenced synth-pop song with pulsating synthesizers and distorted vocals,[34][61] and "London Boy" is a bubblegum pop song with layered synthesizers and repeated beats.[62] The upbeat electropop and R&B track "I Think He Knows" features influences of funk[44][47][63] with Swift's falsetto vocals over guitars, a deep bass, and a marching beat.[34][64] Although it has lyrics about a painful heartbreak, "Death by a Thousand Cuts" has an upbeat production with a recurring guitar line, quivering synthesizers, and faint church bells with vocal harmonies in the background.[38][55][64] The ballads "The Archer", "Cornelia Street", and "Daylight" are characterized by dense, atmospheric synthesizers;[34][37][65] the first of which combines dream pop and synth-pop with steady kick drum beats throughout.[29][45][64] Two tracks produced with Antonoff feature a subtler production compared to the dominant uptempo sound—"Soon You'll Get Better" and "False God".[60][64] The former is a country ballad featuring slide guitars and the Dixie Chicks contributing background harmonies, banjo, and fiddle.[47][59] The latter combines elements of jazz,[55] trap,[29] neo-soul,[34] and 1980s R&B,[35] with Swift singing over hiccuping vocal samples and a lone saxophone line.[64]

Four Lover tracks were produced with Little; they were recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York, Golden Age Studios in Los Angeles, and Golden Age West in Auckland.[52] Swift had first met him at a Broods concert in Los Angeles and got acquainted with each other when she was on the New Zealand gig of her Reputation Stadium Tour. Shortly after, Swift invited Little to come to New York to record songs with her; "Me!" was one of the first songs that they created together.[66] Featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, it features pop hooks, and its horns and marching band drums in the refrain evoke a 1960s big band sound.[66][67] "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince" is at atmospheric gloomy synth-pop track[38] with shouting cheerleaders' voice in the background.[30] The synth-pop tunes "The Man" and "You Need to Calm Down" feature pulsating synthesizers;[63][68] the former is built on a pulsating drum beat[69] and the latter features cascading vocal echoes in the refrain.[68]

The three tracks Swift produced with Bell and Dukes, recorded at Electric Feel Studios in Los Angeles,[52] showcase Swift's more experimental side.[40] The opening track "I Forgot That You Existed" is a lighthearted post-tropical house tune built on piano and finger snaps.[28][70] The power ballad "Afterglow" features a slow-building melody consisting of a slow bass and Swift's falsetto vocals.[68][69][71] Some critics considered the penultimate track, "It's Nice to Have a Friend", as the album's most original and experimental song.[28][56][72] Containing a sample of the track "Summer in the South" from the album Parkscapes by the Toronto-based nonprofit Regent Park School of Music,[73] it features a sparse production with steelpans, harps, tubular bells, and is punctuated by a trumpet solo and church bells near the middle.[41][45] Swift said that she wrote the track with only verses and was more focused on the "vibe and feeling", contrasting her usual songwriting with a clear refrain and structure.[42] Within three months, recording wrapped on February 24, 2019;[16] a sample of Cautious Clay's song "Cold War" used for "London Boy" was approved in June.[74]

Release and promotion

Title and artwork

Swift initially considered choosing "Daylight" as the album's title track, but later scrapped the idea because she thought it was too sentimental. She picked Lover as the title because she felt it better represented the overall theme and was "more elastic as a concept"; as such, songs such as "You Need to Calm Down", which is about LGBT rights, could align to the concept.[19] Colombian photographer and collage artist Valheria Rocha, who worked with Swift on the album's art direction, shot and edited the album's cover artwork. It depicts Swift in red lipstick with a heart-shaped pink glitter arrangement surrounding her right eye; in the background is a cloudy sky with pink and blue hues and a yellow light leak. The album title in the upper corner is printed in a slanted, pink, glittery, cursive font.[75]

The bright pastel colors depicted in the cover artwork were used by Swift in her social media posts and fashion choices during promotion of Lover, departing from the dark, black-and-white artwork and aesthetic of Reputation.[76][77] In an article for Entertainment Weekly, Emma Madden considered the cover artwork of Lover, which looked like "a fan-made aesthetic post on Tumblr", part of the emerging trend of "kitschy album artwork". By using a cover artwork that deliberately looked like a fan-made product in place of one commissioned by professional graphic designers, Lover brought "a level of iconicness and relatability" to Swift's audience because, according to Rocha, they could create their own versions of the cover artwork.[78]

Marketing

Three singles preceded Lover.[79] Swift released the first, "Me!" featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, on April 26, having commissioned a giant butterfly mural in a Nashville neighborhood and a social media countdown.[80][81] The second single, "You Need to Calm Down", was released on June 13, after Swift had encouraged her fans to call for the passing of the Equality Act on her social media;[81] the media viewed this release as Swift's intention to coincide with Pride Month.[25][82] The title track was released as the third single on August 16.[83] All three peaked in the top ten of the US Billboard Hot 100, with the first two peaking at number two.[84] "Me!" broke the record for the all-time largest single-week jump when it climbed from number 100 to number two after one week.[85] "The Archer" was released as a promotional single on July 23.[68][81] A fourth single, "The Man", was released on January 27, 2020.[86]

Whereas Swift avoided social media and public appearances during promotion of Reputation, she embarked on an extensive promotional campaign for Lover on social media, televised events, and press interviews.[51][80] Media speculation on Swift's follow-up album to Reputation arose when she appeared at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards in March adorned with butterfly motifs and pastel tones, the aesthetic that she later used in her fashion for public appearances.[81] Her social media posts showcased her outgoing and comfortable persona, departing from the dark and antagonistic image she adopted for Reputation.[3][77] She had interviews with such publications as Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian, Vogue, and Rolling Stone, where she openly spoke about her recalibrated personal life.[87] A few weeks before the album's release, Swift invited a select group of fans to private Secret Sessions listening parties in London, Nashville, and Los Angeles;[33] she had hosted similar sessions for 1989 and Reputation.[88] She also gave interviews on the morning programs CBS Sunday Morning and Good Morning America,[82] and the talk shows The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.[89][90]

Brendon Urie performing
Brendon Urie (pictured) featured on the lead single "Me!" and performed it with Swift at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards ahead of Lover's release.

Swift promoted Lover with corporate tie-ins and promotional deals, including a merchandise deal with Capital One, airplay deals with SiriusXM and iHeartMedia, a deal with YouTube Music with Swift hosting a live stream on the platform, an Amazon deal featuring images of Swift on packaging and an exclusive concert for Amazon Prime users, and a Target Corporation deal to distribute four deluxe editions of Lover on CD;[91] the deluxe editions were also available on Swift's website.[80] Each deluxe edition contains a CD with two bonus audio memos, a blank journal, a poster and different bonus content of Swift's old journal entries and photos.[92] She also collaborated with English fashion designer Stella McCarntey on a limited-edition merchandise collection.[51]

Lover was released on both digital and physical formats on August 23, 2019, through Republic Records;[80] it was her first album after ending her 12-year contract with Big Machine Records, her first released on streaming from its first week, and the first whose master recording she owned.[20] Leading up to the release, Swift was involved in a public dispute over the ownership of her Big Machine Records albums' master recordings. In a social media post on June 30, 2019, after Big Machine had been acquired by manager Scooter Braun, Swift accused the label of having neglected her desire to acquire the master recordings and called the deal with Braun, whom she deemed an "incessant, manipulative [bully]", the "worst-case scenario".[81] After Lover was released, Swift began implementing her plan to re-record her past albums.[51]

She performed on many televised shows, starting with a performance of "Me!" with Brendon Urie at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards on May 1.[93] She performed the song again with Urie on The Voice,[94] and by herself on Germany's Next Topmodel,[95] The Graham Norton Show,[96] and the French version of The Voice.[97] At the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, where she won three awards, she opened the show with a medley of "You Need to Calm Down" and "Lover".[98] Swift later performed Lover songs on BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge,[99] Saturday Night Live,[100] NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concert,[101] the Jingle Bell Ball 2019 in London,[102] and iHeartRadio Z100's Jingle Ball in New York City.[103] She also promoted the album on Nippon TV's Sukkiri Morning Show in Tokyo[104] and at the Singles' Day Countdown Gala by Alibaba Group in Shanghai.[105] At the 2019 American Music Awards, where she was honored as the Artist of the Decade, she performed a medley of "The Man", "Lover", and her past singles.[106] On May 17, 2020, ABC aired a concert special titled Taylor Swift: City of Lover, filmed on her September 2019 one-off concert in Paris.[107] Swift planned to embark on a worldwide concert tour titled Lover Fest, set to kick off in the summer of 2020 and encompass four shows in the U.S., ten shows in Europe, and two shows in Brazil.[108] It was officially cancelled in February 2021 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.[109]

Media expectations

Lover received extensive media coverage; in the BBC, Nick Levine wrote: "if it doesn't become her sixth in succession to top the Billboard 200, it would be a major music industry shock."[3][10] Some publications noted the extensive promotional campaign was old-fashioned compared to the emerging trend of surprise album releases in the digital era,[10][51] with Rolling Stone's Elias Leight commenting that Swift was the last remaining pop star to rely on radio push and corporate tie-ins to promote albums.[91] Her first album released on streaming platforms from the beginning, it was noted in some articles as a sign that Swift had abandoned her anti-streaming stance.[110][111] Because of Swift's record with four albums each sell over one million copies in Billboard 200 chart history,[note 3] some journalists debated whether she would achieve the feat the fifth time, and whether streaming would impact its sales figures.[51][111]

Some suspected Lover would perform well on charts even if critical reviews were negative, and that it was also a means for Swift to rebuild her public image after the Reputation controversies and the dispute with Big Machine and Braun;[3][77][91] Kate Knibbs from The Ringer observed: "as Swift tries to control the narrative, it is a reminder that ... Swift has achieved an American Dream—she's too big to fail."[10] Billboard's Andrew Unterberger, observing the diverse styles and themes of the four songs released prior to Lover—"Me!", "You Need to Calm Down", "The Archer", the title track—opined that Swift released Lover not because she wanted to control her image, but to focus on her artistic merit on her own terms.[112] In the September 2019 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Maura Johnston commented although Swift's blurring the line between the personal and the promotional with her social media posts might prompt tabloid gossip, Lover should stand the test of time with its best songs.[77]

Commercial performance

Variety, citing Republic Records, reported that Lover sold nearly one million copies before release.[113] In the U.S., the album sold around 450,000 copies in its first day[114] and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with first-week tally of 867,000 album-equivalent units, of which 679,000 were pure sales. It is Swift's sixth U.S. number-one album and made her the first female artist to have six albums each sell more than 500,000 copies in one week.[115] It outsold all the other 199 albums on the chart combined in its opening week, the first album to do so since Swift's Reputation (2017).[116] All its 18 tracks charted simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100, breaking the record for the most simultaneous chart entries for a female artist.[117] With Lover, Swift returned to the top spot of the Billboard Artist 100 chart for a thirty-seventh week, extending her all-time record as the longest running number-one act.[118]

Lover was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting one million album-equivalent units, after four weeks of release.[119] The only million-selling U.S. album of 2019, it sold 1.085 million pure copies, both physical and digital, becoming the year's best-selling album. It marked the fourth time Swift had the best-selling album of a calendar year in the U.S., after Fearless in 2009, 1989 in 2014, and Reputation in 2017. Combining singles sales and streaming, Lover acquired 2.191 million units throughout the year.[120] The album was certified double platinum by the RIAA in May[121] and had sold 1.22 million pure copies in the U.S. by October 2020.[122]

The album peaked atop the charts of the Anglosphere countries of Australia, New Zealand,[123] the U.K.,[124] Ireland,[125] Scotland,[126] and Canada;[127] it received platinum certifications in the first three countries,[128][129] including a double platinum certification by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).[130] Her fifth number-one album in Australia, it made Swift the artist with the most Australian number-one albums of the 2010s decade.[131] In both the U.K. and Ireland, it made Swift the first female artist in the 2010s decade to have four chart toppers.[132][133] Lover also peaked atop the albums charts of European countries including Latvia,[134] Lithuania,[135] the Netherlands,[136] Norway,[137] Portugal,[138] Spain,[139] and Sweden.[140] In China, Lover became the first international album to surpass one million units within its first release week and made Swift the first international artist to have three million-selling albums, after 1989 and Reputation.[141]

Lover sold more than 3.2 million copies worldwide in 2019, the year's best-selling album by a solo artist and the second overall, behind Japanese group Arashi's greatest hits album, 5x20 All the Best!! 1999–2019.[142][143] The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) recognized Swift as the Global Recording Artist of 2019, making her the first female artist to earn the honor twice—her first being in 2014.[144]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?7.2/10[145]
Metacritic79/100[146]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[147]
The A.V ClubA−[38]
The Daily Telegraph[55]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[27]
The Guardian[59]
The Independent[63]
NME[29]
Pitchfork7.1/10[44]
Rolling Stone[28]
The Times[148]

In mainstream publications, Lover received generally positive reviews from music critics.[149][150] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received a mean score of 79, based on 26 reviews.[146]

Most reviewers commended the themes of positivity and emotional intimacy.[26][149] Many critics, including Jon Caramanica in The New York Times,[37] Neil McCormick in The Daily Telegraph,[55] and Robert Christgau in his Substack-published Consumer Guide column,[151] welcomed Lover as Swift's return to her songwriting abilities of emotional engagement and, compared to the antagonistic themes about celebrity on Reputation, a sign of her embracing forward-looking perspectives.[43][147] Others such as Mikael Wood from the Los Angeles Times and Annie Zaleski from The A.V. Club commented on its emotional maturity representing Swift's grown-up perspectives.[35][38]

Praises were more reserved for the track list's length and diverse musical styles.[26] Those complimentary welcomed its disparate styles as a representation of Swift's creative freedom.[38][54] Nick Catucci in Rolling Stone considered the album "evolutionary rather than revolutionary", but welcomed its "free and unhurried" styles.[28] Others taking issue with the length commented that although Lover was overall a good album, it could have been a better record with some refinements.[27][29][45][63] In The Observer, Kitty Empire deemed this "a partial retrenchment until Swift decides what to do next".[152] Paste's Claire Martin was outright critical, deeming the music unimpressive and the lyrics, despite their heartwarming nature, "lacking any profound meaning".[153]

Some critics viewed the album as a culmination of Swift's strengths as a singer-songwriter on her past albums, with particular comparisons to her 2012 album Red;[40][47][56] Schwartz and Anna Gaca from Pitchfork also highlighted the personal lyricism that recalled her 2010 album Speak Now.[30][44] In The Guardian, Alexis Petridis viewed Lover as a testament to Swift's songwriting abilities, but commented the genre-spanning styles felt like "consolidation, not progress", a conservative effort to maintain her commercial success.[59] In a similar vein, Carl Wilson from Slate wrote although Lover was a sophisticated album, it was held back by Swift's efforts to satisfy her audience.[47]

Year-end lists

Many publications ranked Lover in their lists of the best albums of 2019.[154] In featured on the top ten of such lists by Billboard,[155] People,[156] and USA Today.[157] Some publications included it in their unranked lists, including American Songwriter and MTV.[158][159] In individual critics' list, the album was ranked within the top ten by Zaleski,[160] Wood,[161] Sheffield,[162] and Willman,[163] with the last two naming it the best album of 2019.

Select year-end rankings of Lover
Publication List Rank Ref.
Billboard The 50 Best Albums of 2019
3
The Guardian The 50 Best Albums of 2019
29
The Independent The 50 Best Albums of 2019
19
The Music Best Albums of 2019
7
The New York Times Best Albums of 2019
14
NME The 50 Best Albums of 2019
41
People The 10 Best Albums of 2019
3
Q Top 50 Albums of 2019
35
Rolling Stone 50 Best Albums of 2019
4
USA Today The 10 Best Albums of 2019
3

Industry awards

In 2019, Lover won accolades at awards shows including Favorite Album of the Year at the People's Choice Awards,[171] Best International Artist at the ARIA Awards,[172] and two album sales awards at the BuzzAngle Music Awards.[173] At the 2019 American Music Awards, where Swift was honored as Artist of the Decade, Lover won Favorite Pop/Rock Album. Winning four other awards, Swift was the most awarded artist of the night and the most awarded in AMAs history (29 wins).[174] The music videos for Lover's singles won four awards at the MTV Video Music Awards, including three in 2019—"You Need to Calm Down" won Video of the Year and Video for Good, and "Me!" won Best Visual Effects;[175] and one in 2020—"The Man" won Best Direction.[176]

At the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards in 2020, Lover was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album, which went to When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? by Billie Eilish. Its singles "You Need to Calm Down" and "Lover" were respectively nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance (lost to "Truth Hurts" by Lizzo) and Song of the Year (lost to "Bad Guy" by Eilish).[177] It won Pop Album of the Year at the iHeartRadio Music Awards,[178] an award in Sales and Marketing (Packaging Campaign) by the American Advertising Federation in Nashville,[179] and was nominated for Top Billboard 200 Album at the Billboard Music Awards.[180] In Asia, the album won Album of the Year (Western) at the Japan Gold Disc Awards,[181] Best Selling Album (English) at Hong Kong's RTHK International Pop Poll Awards,[182] and a Music Jacket Creative Award at Japan's CD Shop Awards.[183]

Track listing

Credits adapted from the album's liner notes[52]

No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."I Forgot That You Existed"
2:51
2."Cruel Summer"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
2:58
3."Lover"Swift
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
3:41
4."The Man"
  • Swift
  • Little
3:10
5."The Archer"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
3:31
6."I Think He Knows"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
2:53
7."Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince"
  • Swift
  • Little
  • Swift
  • Little
3:54
8."Paper Rings"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
3:42
9."Cornelia Street"Swift
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
4:47
10."Death by a Thousand Cuts"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
3:19
11."London Boy"
3:10
12."Soon You'll Get Better" (featuring The Chicks)
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
3:22
13."False God"
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
3:20
14."You Need to Calm Down"
  • Swift
  • Little
  • Swift
  • Little
2:51
15."Afterglow"
  • Swift
  • Bell
  • Feeney
  • Swift
  • Bell
  • Dukes
3:43
16."Me!" (featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco)
  • Swift
  • Little
  • Urie
  • Swift
  • Little
3:13
17."It's Nice to Have a Friend"
  • Swift
  • Bell
  • Feeney
  • Swift
  • Bell
  • Dukes
2:30
18."Daylight"Swift
  • Swift
  • Antonoff
4:53
Total length:61:48

Notes

  • ^a signifies a co-producer
  • "London Boy" contains a sample of "Cold War" by Cautious Clay.

Personnel

Credits adapted from the album's liner notes[52]

  • Taylor Swift – vocals, writer, producer (all tracks); executive producer; journal entries (deluxe); personal photographies (deluxe); packaging creative direction; percussion (track 8)
  • Jack Antonoff – producer, keyboards, programming, recording (tracks: 2, 3, 5, 6, 8–13, 18); writer (tracks: 2, 5, 6, 8, 10–13); piano (tracks: 3, 8, 9, 12, 18); live drums (tracks: 2, 3, 8, 9); acoustic guitars (tracks: 3, 6, 8, 12); electric guitars (tracks: 6, 8, 18); percussion, bass (tracks: 3, 8, 11); vocoder (track 2); synthesizers (track 10); guitar (track 10); wurlitzer (track 12); background vocals (track 8)
  • Louis Bell – producer, writer, programming, recording (tracks: 1, 15, 17); keyboards (track 1)
  • Frank Dukes – producer, writer, guitar, programming (tracks: 1, 15, 17)
  • Joel Little – producer, writer, recording, keyboards, drum programming (tracks: 4, 7, 14, 16); synths, guitar (track 16)
  • Laura Sisk – recording (tracks: 2, 3, 5, 6, 8–13, 18); background vocals (track 13)
  • Annie Clark – writer, guitar (track 2)
  • Serban Ghenea – mixing (all tracks)
  • John Hanes – mix engineer (all tracks)
  • Randy Merrill – mastering (all tracks)
  • Grant Strumwasser – assistant (track 1)
  • John Rooney – assistant (tracks: 2–6, 9–13, 18)
  • Jon Sher – assistant (tracks: 2, 6, 8, 11)
  • Nick Mills – assistant (tracks: 8, 11, 18)
  • Joe Harrison – guitar (tracks: 1, 15, 17)
  • Serafin Aguilar – trumpet (track 1)
  • David Urquidi – saxophone (track 1)
  • Steve Hughes – trombone (track 1)
  • Michael Riddleberger – live drums (tracks: 2, 13)
  • Sounwave – co-producer, writer (track 11)
  • Cautious Clay – writer (track 11)
  • Sean Hutchinson – live drums (track 11)
  • Mikey Freedom Hart – keyboards (track 11); background vocals (track 13)
  • Evan Smith – keyboards, saxophones (tracks: 11, 13)
  • Emily Strayer – banjo (track 12)
  • Martie Maguire – fiddle (track 12)
  • The Chicks – featured artist (track 12)
  • Brandon Bost – background vocals (track 13)
  • Cassidy Ladden – background vocals (track 13)
  • Ken Lewis – background vocals (track 13)
  • Matthew Tavares – guitar (tracks: 15, 17)
  • Brendon Urie – featured artist, writer (track 16)
  • Valheria Rocha – photography
  • Andrea Swift – personal photographies (deluxe)
  • Scott Swift – personal photographies (deluxe)
  • Joseph Cassel – wardrobe stylist
  • Riawna Capri – hair
  • Lorrie Turk – makeup
  • Josh & Bethany Newman – packaging art direction
  • Parker Foote – packaging design
  • Jin Kim – packaging design
  • Ryon Nishimori – packaging design
  • Abby Murdock – packaging design

Charts

Certifications

Sales certifications for Lover
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[130] 2× Platinum 140,000double-dagger
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[244] Platinum 20,000double-dagger
Italy (FIMI)[245] Gold 25,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[128] Platinum 15,000double-dagger
Norway (IFPI Norway)[246] Platinum 20,000*
Singapore (RIAS)[247] Platinum 10,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[248] Gold 20,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[129] Platinum 300,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[121] 2× Platinum 2,000,000double-dagger

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Swift contended this was a consequence of the Dixie Chicks controversy in 2003, when the Dixie Chicks was ostracized by the country music audience after publicly criticizing President George W. Bush.[11]
  2. ^ Among the events that influenced Swift's political outlook included a sexual assault trial that she won in 2017, the MeToo movement, the restrictions on LGBT rights, the rise of American nationalism, and white privilege.[11]
  3. ^ Swift is the first artist in Billboard 200 chart history to have four albums each sell one million copies first-week with Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), 1989 (2014), and Reputation (2017).[91]

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Cited literature

External links