Death by Choice to Sell Out

Taylor Swift uses her seventh album as a chance for self-reflection and renewal. On her largest LP to date, Swift lets go of her emotional baggage and brings a positive twist to her repertoire.


Rene Campbell, Arts & Culture Editor - The Reporter; Associate Editor of Touchstone

I still vividly remember the first time the name Taylor Swift began to have some semblance of significance in my life. Twelve-year-old René caught on very quickly to the catchy chorus of “Love Story,” and was singing her out even before she knew what love and heartbreak really meant.


Taylor Swift, whether you love or hate her, has accomplished a feat that few artists tend to pull off. Her country roots, which spanned from her 2006 self-titled debut album, and closed out with “Red,” her studio album from 2012, ultimately earned her a place within the world of country music, and later the pop scene as well. This huge genre shift was unbelievable, especially for her country fans who had been belting “Teardrops on My Guitar” without regret for six years. Her country roots had thought of as long gone after her later albums “1989” and “reputation” were filled with electronic synths and all too catchy choruses, but I feel that fans of the “old Taylor” can find some solace within her seventh, and newest full length studio album, “Lover,” while also keeping her newfound pop following pleased.


“ME!” Swift’s first single for her 2019 studio album, featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco, is a wild ride as far as pop anthems go. As much as I hate to bash on anything that Urie is involved in, “ME!” is a track that would be better off forgotten. This single is honestly a horror show of a cheesy musical number combined with weak lyrics. Most notable of these are: “Hey kids! Spelling is fun!” which was taken out of the studio version after it received intensive backlash from fans over the internet. If this isn’t a sign for a terrible song, I don’t know what is.


Because of that track, it was a rough start for “Lover.” The second single, “You Need to Calm Down” also filled me with disappointment. I had hoped that Swift would stop centering her music around the hate she received, but this clap back of a song seems more so to me as backfiring by putting her haters in the spotlight yet again. It wasn’t until the title track, “Lover,” that I received hope before the release that there still would be moments on the album to enjoy. The track shines through because of the gently placed percussion, piano, and light pizzicato; her waltzy and lyrics of star-struck love are a nod to her younger works. Beyond the title track, the full length album of 18 songs has plenty of other moments that fall and rise, almost mirroring the often turbulent path one takes to find love.


Swift opens up her album with “I Forgot That You Existed,” a snappy and sassy lyrical jab that’s on savage level par of best friends gossiping about their exes. From here, I thought that there was no way that she had more salt to pour out, but in “The Man,” Swift goes off about gender perception and how societal gender roles play a part in how success is received by the public. An interesting concept, and although it is such a bop, it definitely sticks out like a sore thumb to include in “Lover” as a whole. Out of place, or not, I’m still going to be blasting it and destroying my eardrums simultaneously.


Swift calms down a couple notches within “Archer,” a song that lyrically addresses failed relationships and the struggle to balance past mistakes and the emotional baggage they carry. Lyrically, the song is fairly impressive: 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 on to you,” Swift laments in the third and final pre-chorus. Her dark twist of a well known nursery line captures a loss of innocence. This is one of the few songs on the album that highlights Swift’s potential for lyrical artistry. On the other hand though, the electronic synths and pulsing drum beats kept me anticipating a build for the final chorus, which never arrived. Ultimately, the monotone background left me feeling incomplete and unsatisfied.

“Although it is a song I will continue to listen to, it is also one that after playing, always reminds me of papers I write and never edit: something that does not reach its full potential.”

Moving on to “Death By A Thousand Cuts,” I was quickly attracted to the track because its title sounds so emo, and I’m totally here for potential emo Taylor Swift. The contrast hit me immediately with the cookie-cutter pop beat and colorful piano keys. When the chorus hits, Swift proclaims: “Cause I can’t pretend it’s okay when it’s not / It’s death by a thousand cuts.” By just reading these lyrics alone, it could easily be some My Chemical Romance stunt, but I guess Swift is done switching genres because this song’s emo potential is completely drowned out by upbeat synths, so take that juxtaposition as you will.


The second and final collaboration on this album: “Soon You’ll Get Better,” which features The Dixie Chicks, is more of a success than “ME!” by a longshot. Although very depressing since the song exposes Swift’s struggle with her mother’s illness, the raw emotion that she displays, accompanied by soft acoustics, is a likeness to her old school country days. When I reached this song and found myself wishing for old Taylor Swift back, I realized the difference in her music: SHE’S HAPPY NOW GOD DAMN IT. I am fully convinced that Swift’s happiness and comfort in her life has inhibited her talent as an artist because as soon as she came across depressing content, such as with this song, it was much better.


Finally, Swift closes out with her final two tracks: “It’s Nice to Have a Friend” and “Daylight.” The first of the two is as a whole: lackluster. Although it hints to love in relation to childhood innocence, it is just as underdeveloped as young love gets. “Daylight” is much neater for the album closer, with soft synths that work in Swift’s favor, and even a reference to the last of her country days in the bridge: “ I once believed love would be burning red / but it’s golden / like daylight.”


All in all, this album was a wild ride. Ultimately, it did succeed in capturing my attention enough to listen to the whole thing through, unlike “1989” and “reputation,” but Taylor Swift has a long way to go before I return to my twelve-year-old fangirl state.


My rating: