I tuned into the MTV Video Music Awards earlier this week for the first time in years.
I’d seen on Twitter that Taylor Swift would be opening the awards show with two songs, and I wanted to see them live. (Random aside: The show made me realize that I’m out of touch with many recent artists. Seriously, who were half of those people? However, it needs to be said that Lizzo absolutely crushed it with “Truth Hurts” and “Good as Hell.”)
One person whom I was extremely familiar with is Swift, and I’ve been a bit obsessed with her this summer, as she dropped tracks off her album “Lover,” which came out last Friday. Surprisingly, she put out four singles before the album had even been released.
First, we had “Me!,” which came out in late April and features Brandon Urie of Panic! at the Disco. It was followed by “You Need to Calm Down” in June, “The Archer” in June and finally the title track off her seventh studio album, “Lover” in mid-August.
It’s an eclectic mix of songs, which is fitting, since Swift is an eclectic kind of girl. Moreover, she pulls no punches on “Lover.”
While the album’s title may seem sweet and sentimental, “Lover” proves to be an anthem that won’t back down.
Take “Me!,” for example. It’s fun, colorful and lets the listener in on a little secret: Swift knows she is a lot to handle and slightly insane. (Happens to the best of us, though.)
Not all of her songs are fluffy fun, though. “You Need to Calm Down” comes out swinging, and it’s not a punch on the shoulder — rather an uppercut to prejudice.
The video — and Swift’s performance at the VMAs — let Swift show her true rainbow colors, leaving little doubt where she stands on the issues of equality. (Her performance literally had 3D letters that read “equality.”) The lyrics are pretty telling:
“Sunshine on the street at the parade / but you would rather be in the dark age / just makin’ that sign must’ve taken all night / You just need to take several seats and then try to restore the peace / and control your urges to scream about all the people you hate / ‘cause shade never made anybody less gay.”
Yep, that one is sure to earn her plenty of new fans.
When it comes to the punchiest song, though, for me, it’s “The Man.” Maybe that’s just because it’s one that hits closest to home:
“I’m so sick of running as fast as I can / wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man ... they’d say I hustled, put in the work / they wouldn’t shake their heads and question / how much of this I deserve / what I was wearing, if I was rude / could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves.”
Swift long has been a source of speculation, ridicule and pop analysis, as the media and public alike commented on everything from her looks to her clothing to who’s dating. Again and again, Swift’s love life is fodder for gossip rags. Heck, when the single “Lover” came out, entertainment pubs started picking apart the lyrics wondering if it was Swift’s way of announcing her engagement.
Swift’s first album came out in 2006, when she was just 16 years old. Every song was one she’d written during her freshman year in high school, and the album helped catapult her to fame. She has been building a career for nearly half of her life, and yet, who she’s dating is still more of a topic of discussion than the mini-empire she’s built.
I’ve been building a career for a little longer than Swift, but not by much, and I can say that I find the song to be crazy relatable. Sometimes all the hustle in the world doesn’t mean much, especially when you have two pesky X chromosomes.
All that being said, Swift captures something special here about not just love, but our culture wars. It’s an interesting move from someone who was on top of the music world a few years ago with “1989” and seems interested in shaking up her perfect image — like she did with 2017’s “Reputation.” She doesn’t follow a formula, only her heart ... and mood.