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In "Lover" Taylor Swift lets in the audience on his own: NPR

Taylor Swift's new album Lover is available now.

Rich Fury / Getty Images for iHeartMedia

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Rich Fury / Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Taylor Swift's new album Lover is available now.

Rich Fury / Getty Images for iHeartMedia

I have no idea what it's like to be a pop star; I do not know what it feels like to be seen by billions of people (but rarely known by them). I join an obscure underground rock band called Priests. While Taylor Swift performs in stadiums and has an exclusive license agreement for Deluxe versions of her album with Target through a contract with major record label Universal, Priests performs in tiny clubs and we, its members, operate our own record label. (We recently celebrated a new distribution agreement that will enable our releases in larger stores.) Swift has 85 million Twitter followers and 121 million Instagram followers. I recently asked our 4000 Twitter followers (half-jokingly) if someone had paid for bot accounts to follow us on Instagram, since we've reached 10,000 followers and I find it very unlikely that many people even know that we exist.

The expectations, the audience size and the pay of Swift and me are very different. But I know that I am a performer, who is also a songwriter, and how the wishes of the performer-self can directly contradict those of the songwriter-self. As a performer, I am extroverted. I love to entertain the audience that I want to make happy, angry, sad, excited, etc. As a songwriter, I'm an introverted interior designer trying to put a curtain (a good-looking curtain, a convincing curtain) around the extrovert, as she carries on (and sometimes feels so) and tells everyone else. The songwriter says: No . Not everything. Choose what you share. Do art, do not read the news to everyone . Whatever it may be, the art for me comes from the friction between these opposing poles of desire: the songwriter always wants to show while the performer always wants to tell.

The show excites me, and not the show that the songwriter Taylor Swift releases on her new album Lover reveals her. Most of these 18 songs are pleasant, warm reflections on different kinds of love, soundtracks to which the listener can dance or cuddle. It's a familiar reason for Swift, whose discography always felt like it was written by and for people who grew up with crazy Disney fairy tales, movies and other entertainment programs about the salvation and salvation of the heroes / ines of our affection are. Swift was a prodigy in the art of romantic songwriting storytelling out of nowhere, with early tracks about the destruction of sweet boys ("Tim McGraw," "Our Song," "Teardrops On My Guitar"). But tracks on Lover sound pleasant with wider, open storylines. "It's great to have a boyfriend" tells Swift's narrator of moments in a special relationship that can span decades: sidewalks under snow, on a roof under a pink sky, school bells turning into church bells. This is a new and successful approach for Swift, who usually expresses everything. Instead, she invites the listener to do the work – to conclude what exactly could be so nice about a friend.


When Swift released her self-titled debut in 2006, she encouraged listeners to build an intimate relationship with their music. Long-time fans know that the lyrics in their companion notes often contain seemingly random capital letters that represent news for those who know how to decode it. (A quick Google search for "All Too Well lyrics" and "MAPLE LATTES" reveals the significant relationship that inspired many to become a career-defining song in Swift's catalog.) Fans opted for the message "PORTLAND, OREGON" In Capitalized lyrics for "Sparks Fly" was a country singer for whom Swift opened in 2006 in this city. Stories behind the origins of fan favorites like "Mean" and "Dear John" have been well documented in interviews with both Swift herself and her supposed topic (a blogger from the music industry and an older celebrity guitarist who probably should have known it wiser would be, not to go out with a 19-year-olds). Lovers is the first chapter in Swift's career after what she calls one of the worst years of her life.

Stalker, a sex offender, business and romantic breakups, broken friendships, and her mother's fight against cancer are just a few of the personal issues the pop star has tackled in recent headlines. As Swift's profile grew, so too did a reasonable reserve in handing over all the details to the questioning heads. In a move that she says feels right for her personal relationships and her mental health – but is wrong for many of her fans and some press representatives – she did not allow interviews in the 2017 rollout (19459010). Reputation (19459011). The playful attempt to evolve from the image of the chill-girl-next-door-who-necessarily-have-to-be-car-if-necessary-that fascinated the fans was probably a success measured by most metrics But the relative calm of the historically talkative songwriter left room for a wealth of assumptions, particularly about their values ​​and political beliefs. Taylor Swift is the most disoriented pop star of the 21st century, her performer herself wants to tell everything and her songwriting itself wants to selectively show a story, an allegory, a chance to preserve the true emotions that inspire and share their music protect those who have won & # 39; to be understood by nobody else. Nobody's speculating on priests like people about Taylor Swift, but when our band, which was previously a quartet, released a new album last spring, we were noticeably small. And many people asked (and kept asking), "What happened?" and then: "No really what happened?"

We explained the story the way we wanted it, in a way that felt the most accurate for everyone involved: it was and was both messy. The breakup was as friendly as it was tense. Although it was Taylor Mulitz, our bassist, who decided to leave, I was the first to say that I thought he should leave. He had new commitments that would make it impossible to remain a priest, and I hated the idea of ​​being a burden (which in hindsight has a quick "vacation before you have energy"). The authors wanted to learn about the now weekly band therapy appointments, which we did not have much to say about their occasional disappointment. I felt people wanted our story to be packed neatly into an inspirational, educational, or entertaining package. that our lack of determination or willingness to tell all about our personal drama had disappointed them. I was frustrated. I wondered how much this frustration was due to our refusal to summarize our story, our work or the people in it as an easily digested plot. I thought of Russell Crowe in Gladiator when he got mad that he had beheaded an opponent and the crowd does not cheer, pull off his helmet and "Are not you entertained ?!" At what point in time, I wondered, does the performance of our pain and conflict saturate the relentless craving for consumption and popcorn eating, and how much does it cost our ability to write songs and do our job?

With the exception of the few unfortunate people who were so kind to listen, this (melo) drama took place mainly in my head. However, for Swift this was not the case. I can not imagine how complicated it is in real time to reconcile one's own self-perceptions and personal relationships with the perceptions of hundreds of millions of fans and press, some of whom termed Swift's album 2017 a calculating, vengeful snake. " Written about these songs.

When Swift reappeared and lost the darker palette of 's reputation, she announced Lover with pastels and a common symbol of transformation and rebirth: many butterflies, four deluxe Versions of the new album contain scanned pages from Swift's Diary.An entry from the summer of 2016 describes the period as their own personal apocalypse.No wonder that many fans are now fanatical about Lovers images, lyrical content, and contextual information think of Swift's life to reveal the secret of the record n, about which she was willing to tell more explicitly must be really .

But what makes Lover a good album for Swift's evolution is how much she now chooses to evoke rather than explain it. Lyrically, their vivid observation details (weather, colors, locations, drunkenness, Leonardo DiCaprio, hair in cloak buttons) often lead to further puzzles rather than a solution or at least provide a catchy hook. On Cruel Summer, the wonderfully ambiguous phrase of "It's new, the shape of your body" next to "It's blue, the feeling I have / It's a cruel summer" suggests that blue is both a shape and a shape could be a feeling (that might be blue or cruel), like the disorienting uncertainty and thrill of a new crush.

The Narrators of Lover sound as if they had thought a lot; Some even have a natural sense of humor. In the first stanza of the album's title, Swift, who probably sees herself as planned and deliberately guilty, will live or die free (we all contain a multitude of people). She insists that she and her romantic interest can "leave Christmas lights up until January" (holiday cheer for no more than a few extra weeks in this lawless house). This song did not grab me when I first heard it. But his gentle snare slap (possibly my favorite sound on the entire record) kept calling me back, until I realized he was now one of my favorites in their catalog of perfect pop romance. This bridge! These girls group harmonies! Swift's songs are "relatable" but not about realism. "Lover" sounds like a fantasy in which many of the narrators of their songs have always liked to be.


As the album Lover even finds the songwriter meditating on love, which will ultimately cause grief. The fearful refrain falsetto of the album highlight "Cornelia Street" only foresees the possibility of a heartbreak, whose narrator is hidden by the low probability that a good situation could turn bad. However, pessimism as a defense mechanism is being replaced in "Soon You Get Better," as a narrator's struggle with the knowledge that his own optimism is literally all I have, will not avert the inevitability of a loved one's death.

Just as Lover offers fabulous endings, his stories are also rooted in this uncertainty and ambiguity; a reminder that there are always details that we do not know exactly from the performers we treat as an ever-open book. Kim Gordon, rock icon and co-founder of Sonic Youth, asks in her essay "I'm so scared when I kill in my dreams", "How long can [a performer] still be intense before it becomes indecent and dishonest?" When does the audience feel that the artist is showing anything? A performance deserves a beginning as well as an end, a time when the curtain closes and the performer leaves the stage Swift now avoids the release of Lover in personal revelations, gaining her crafting skills and storytelling in a move that emphasizes her artistry over celebrity, leaving Swift's reconciliation with her performer and songwriter more room for her Fantasy of her listener.

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