Before December of 2020, Jordan Holmes (comedian, author, podcaster) had never, intentionally, listened to a Taylor Swift song. Then began The Swiftening, where Jordan decided to review every Swift album in order. So far, he has covered Swift’s 2006 debut, 2008’s Fearless, 2010’s Speak Now, and 2012‘s Red, 2014’s 1989, and 2017’s reputation which we encourage you to check out if you haven’t already.
It should also be pointed out that we are now entering the territory where Jordan is talking about albums that have been reviewed on this very site. On our second day of existing as a site, Matt Drufke, Katie Keller, Michael Grace and Tim Nemec reviewed Lover. You can read that coverage here.
Ok, I am willing to admit that I have been unfair in my criticism of Taylor Swift’s first six albums. It is not difficult to admit this, being unfair was my mission statement, after all.
Another thing I am willing to admit is that the environments and social experiences and really the sum total of my existence is so fundamentally opposed to Swift’s… gestalt or something…, it creates a block; I am unable to engage with her music in the spirit with which it is intended. For I am a Grinch.
I was born a Grinch in 1987, in a private residence, three weeks late, to the chagrin of midwives all over the world. Green and most definitely squat, I had a giant head – have – that threatened to tear my poor definitely-not-at-all-ready-to-deliver-a-Grinch mother in twain. I am a true Grinch indeed, and no true Grinch could ever enjoy Taylor Swift.
So let’s Grinch it up! On to Lover, written for Lovers young and old but mainly Taylor Swift, as is always the case.
In regards to “I Forgot That You Existed” Swift said in promotional material:
“With the first song on this new album I wanted to bring us out the ‘reputation’ era. ‘reputation’ for me was about grieving the loss of your reputation and all of the phases you go through.
This song closes the book on ‘reputation’ in resolving that whole conflict with a shrug. “Well, I guess I’m over it now, because I forgot that you existed.”
I find that personally offensive. I am ostensibly supposed to take her emotions and expressions of such emotions as heartfelt, meaningful. After all of those self-serious songs are dismissed with a shrug… I feel deceived. Despite my unfairness, I invest myself in these songs.
How else could I write such mean things?
In her defense, to receive a bubble gum pop dismissal of everything I stand for is actually pretty hilarious and I believe Taylor Swift is a psychopath. Salut!
Lastly, the gall of using the second person; reputation was about grieving the loss of your reputation and all of the phases you go through. It was most definitely not about the loss of my, or any of your, reputation(s).
As far as the music, I have listened to this song fifteen times – I am listening to the song as I write this sentence – and I have already forgotten what it sounds like.
I recently finished the second season of “Blown Away”, a reality competition show that pits glass blowers against each other to see who can make the best shit outta glass and it’s fucking awesome. Everyone is so god damn good at blowing glass.
Unlike the Great British Bake Off, where everyone is an amateur, everyone in “Blown Away” is a dedicated nutjob. Who the fuck blows glass in 2021? People who are fucking cool.
The judge for this show is a professor of glass-blowery or whatever and she’s pretty great insofar as she doesn’t seem to give a fuck at all. She reminds me of my favorite professors. “Ok, so you did a great job? So the fuck what? Here’s how you do a better job next time. Pick it up, you egotistical little shit” (this may be more about me than you).
And I feel the same way about “Cruel Summer”, Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff and Annie Clark and Annie Clark and Annie Clark wrote a pretty good song.
The bridge is garbage. “I’m drunk in the back of the car” blahhh, sucks. Pick it up you egotistical little shit.
23 years later, sad songs and waltzes are selling, apparently, because everyone loved “Lover”. Swift loves “Lover”. She told Vogue: “This has one of my favorite bridges. I love a bridge, and I was really able to go to Bridge City.”
To which I say:
I will destroy your Bridge City. This song is boring.
Ghenea kills it again, though, love that guy.
On “The Man” Swift points out the debilitating disparity between how male and female artists are treated by, well… everybody. She’s right. And it’s disgusting.
That’s true of everyone, in specific to Taylor, though, I have one question:
Would Taylor be THE man, or would she be this man?
“The Archer” is a Journey song with different instrumentation. Make of that what you will.
All I have to say is, that someday, someday, love will find you.
Track 6 is “I Think He Knows”, a lovely song about how her boyfriend or whatever, I got bored. That said, I found the pre-chorus intriguing. The staccato delivery with the upwards inflection had my mind racing, I was frantic. Here are the lyrics for the pre-chorus:
And then it struck me like a lightning bolt. I was unable to shake it and I think you will find it similarly distracting from this day forward. I’ll give you a hint:
I believe I have saved you from ever having to listen to this song again.
According to Genius:
“Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” is a layered song that can be interpreted as describing a high school romance or Swift’s reasons for becoming politically vocal. It inspired the name of Swift’s January 2020 documentary Miss Americana, which detailed how revelations in her personal life pushed her to speak her mind more often.”
And according to Swift:
“(Taylor) explained that after a period of personal turbulence in 2016, including her mother’s cancer relapse and a high-profile argument with the rapper Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian, she felt unable to be in the public eye: “I was just trying to protect my mental health – not read the news very much, go cast my vote, tell people to vote. I just knew what I could handle and I knew what I couldn’t. I was literally about to break.”
She said her negative public image at the time made her feel “just useless. And maybe even like a hindrance”, adding that she felt “really remorseful for not saying anything”. She confirmed that she would otherwise have endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.”
And according to me:
“Taylor Swift is 100% responsible for Donald Trump becoming president because she was busy arguing with other rich people.”
Paper Rings. Bupkes!
One word: SCHMALTZ!
Feh! This SCHLOCK! Is SHMUTZ! On the face of all of you SCHMUCKS!
“Cornelia Street” is not a song about love or whatever, it is a song about the apartment Taylor Swift rented in 2016 and ‘17. She rented this three-story townhouse for $39,500 a month. The house sold for 11.5 million dollars. She rented this townhouse for $39,500 a month while at the same time paying for renovations on her Tribeca penthouse.
“Cornelia Street” is about how obscenely wealthy Taylor Swift is.
Songs about being obscenely wealthy are common and overdone. Boring. Low art.
Songs about the marginal income tax rate for individuals making over $500,000 a year and the penalties for tax evasion? Revolutionary new territory, genius. High art.
I despise “Death By A Thousand Cuts”. Truly despise it. The stereo effect on the tinny, poorly tuned guitar track, playing only in your left ear like a nightmarish pixie, stabbing my eardrums with its tiny spear, agonizing pain overwhelming every nerve in my body; please make it stop I will tell you anything, anything you want to hear, please, just let me be free of this pain…
“London Boy” is fucking dope. I love this track.
Let’s talk about Sounwave, the co-writer of this here song. Sounwave is an in-house producer for TDE, which means he’s good, and he’s worked with Kendrick Lamar for more than a decade, which means he’s really good, and he received co-writing credits for half the tracks on DAMN – an album that will someday be anointed as beyond contest one of the greatest achievements of mankind – which means he’s great.
Sounwave is cool as shit. Here’s some cool as shit stuff he said to some people:
“I’m extremely tapped in. I have a girlfriend who is 100 percent tapped in, so I’m like 50 percent. My third eye is open.”
“The song was mastered and ready to go, but we were like, “Hold on.” We went back to it, changed the drums up, gave it a little more bounce. As soon as we made those adjustments, it was like, “Yeah, this is gonna be one of the fan favorites right here.”
“Everybody literally had sleeping bags in the studio at that point. Like, “If you leave, you’re not serious, and we don’t want you to come back.” That’s how it was. “You wanna go get something to eat? You’re not serious.” You’re gonna be in this studio and you’re gonna starve with us until it’s perfect. Luckily, it’s everybody we love — it’s like having a sleepover with all your cousins.”
HELL FUCKIN YEAH!
“Bono and Kendrick had been talking on the phone and they’ve wanted to work with each other for the longest.”
Also, Sounwave is just fuckin’ great.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, friends. Fancy Boys Editor Matt Drufke here. I’ve been editing Jordan’s pieces for the site and it’s a delight. I, clearly, enjoy Swift much more than he does, and when this pandemic is over, we are going drinking and I am putting way too much money in the jukebox as we debate Swift’s career. However, this is now the second week where the tracks of Swift that I like the least are the ones he likes the most, and I’m starting to think that he is doing this to deliberately taunt me. Fuck you, Jordan.)
My aunt died suddenly in July, of cancer. Instead of reviewing “Soon You’ll Get Better”, I’m going to go for a walk. I’m going to give Satan the bird, send dick pics to God, and finally tell the ineffable to eff off.
Y’all have fun.
“False God”, track 13, is a song about Joe Alwyn being the first boyfriend of T.S. to eat box.
I know this because I have a great deal of experience with close reading poems and verse. I once tore into Archibald Macleish’s play, J.B., which just so happens to be about false gods as well. My professor made the comment that I have a talent for boiling things down to their simplest component parts.
J.B. is a riff on Job, the book in the bible about God fucking up a dude’s life for no reason. In Macleish’s telling, God and Satan are both silly made up nonsense we created to explain bad things and why they happen. In reality, life is just suffering and some other stuff that’s better than suffering. Shoot for the better stuff.
“J.B.: Curse God and die, you said to me.
Sarah: Yes… you wanted justice, didn’t you? There isn’t any. There’s the world…Cry for justice and the stars will stare until your eyes sting. Weep, enormous winds will thrash the water. Cry in sleep for your lost children, snow will fall…snow will fall…
J.B.: Why did you leave me alone?
Sarah: You wanted justice and there was none–only love.
J.B.: [God] does not love. He is.
Sarah: But we do. That’s the wonder (151-2).”
In this section, Macleish points out the true failing of God – he sucks butt.
See? If God does not love, God does not exist to us. If God does not love, then God is nothing more than a rock. And, this is the important part, we made God that way. If God does the stuff we have designated “God” stuff, then he is a rock. If God is not that stuff, then he’s not the “God” we created.
And everyone who creates Satan is a dum dum. Satan’s also “God”, if God’s “God”.
That’s what J.B. is about. “False Gods”, on the other hand, is about Joe Alwyn southbound chowing down.
“Religion’s in your lips
The altar is my hips”
“You Need To Calm Down” is familiar territory for Taylor, once again we are responding to “haters” – by my count, of the 70ish songs I’ve listened to, at least 25% are about how inconceivable it is that people sometimes do not like Taylor Swift.
A brief note on the music: T.S. is too big to fail. Every song on Lover is competently produced, manufactured, and packaged. Every beat is at least slightly above average, every lyric is pored over, and our girl T.S. Idiot had every single song on Lover in the Billboard top 100 at the same time. The world believed, of the top 100 songs in 2019, T.S. had written a full 20%.
There’s not much to say about the music other than it is without risk, and is more often than not incredibly boring. When artists are too big to fail, I immediately lose interest.
So, “You Need To Calm Down”, let’s refer back to “Cornelia Street”, wherein Richie Rich tells us all about how she is renting a place for $39,500, while at the same time renovating a multi-million dollar property and owning multiple properties she is not even using.
I might argue it is in fact very easy to be Taylor Swift, and, if you have looked outside, it is more reasonable than not to be furious all the time.
How about, “You Need To Go Fuck Yourself”.
“Afterglow” is a landmark song in the epic story of Taylor Swift growing up. For the first time, she takes responsibility for her actions. Good for her.
Although, and hear me out on this theory I have, let’s take a look at the writers on “Afterglow”.
Frank Dukes? Or Frank… Dux?!
“Boxing with no gloves”?
“It’s on your face and I’m to blame”?
“It’s on your face, don’t walk away, I need to say”?
Yup, pretty sure this was written by the Bloodsport guy.
I don’t think I’m even allowed to talk about “Me!”, honestly, because it’s so far beyond not-written-for-me I can’t begin to engage with it. Up top I pointed out that I have to invest myself in songs in order to write mean things about them – or make Bloodsport references – and “Me!” is… well…
Let me put it this way, this is the music I’m listening to while I write this sentence, immediately after listening to “Me!” on repeat for a while. Look at those motherfuckers music (when they play, “music” is a verb)! Goddam!
Those are all musicians that, at one point or another, thought to themselves, “I have to join another jazz band!”
What, really, is there for me to say about “Me!” that isn’t just a grumpy beatnik telling a Britney Spears fan about Gil-Scott Heron? Like anyone gives a fuck.
Don’t listen to “Me!”, listen to Whitey On The Moon.
The penultimate track, “It’s Nice To Have Friends” is a jaunty 2 minutes and 31 seconds and it’s getting freaky now; every album has a T.S. song that’s similar to, and much worse, than shit Kanye is involved with.
All Kanye did was stand around and know who Francis is, that’s some star power! Look at those idiots dance!
Now that’s pop music! *bones creak*
There are 18 tracks on “Lover”. That is… not good.
Deep down, we all know that great albums have maybe four or five great songs on them, three or four good songs, and then however many songs are required to fulfill the record contract. There is no reason for 18. Ever.
I mean this in a deadly serious way, there are very few artists capable of making 18 worthwhile songs, total.
To paraphrase Karl Kraus (maybe, maybe not, no one knows for sure!) every singer has an album in them, and for Taylor Swift, that is where 9 or 10 of them should stay.
We’ve reached the end with “Daylight”, the 18th(!) track on Lover, and I almost listened to the song. I was really close, promise.
But the first line set me off.
“My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in”
Well I want to talk about motherfucking Chicago! Also, I only deal in geography-based metaphors, so it’s a win-win.
Jamila Woods is Chicago, through and through, and this is how you write about a city and love! Love is not like daylight, Taylor. If it is, then love is always accelerating away from you at 300,000 meters per second squared. Didn’t think about that, did you, Swift? Didn’t think about how, even if you’re telling me that you’ve found love, all you’ve done is forced love to curve time and space to get away from you.
Love is like a lake, specifically, my lake. Because it’s beautiful, heart-wrenching, dangerous, and is within a 20 minute walk from my place.
If you don’t like it, just leave it alone, Taylor.
Once again, after several thousand laborious words, the question is posed, “Is Lover listenable?”
I have good news for all T.S. fans! Lover is 7% listenable, an increase of 4% over all of her previous albums combined.
We did it everyone!
Jordan Holmes is a Chicago comedian, author, podcaster, and one of the twenty best humans of all time. We love him very much. Every Monday & Friday, you can hear him on a new episode of Knowledge Fight, a podcast devoted to exposing the lies of Alex Jones. You can read (or listen) to his debut novel, The Quiet Part Loud, by going here.