As the pop music landscape has shifted over and over again this decade, major artists have repeatedly attempted to reinvent the album release for a digital time:
There have been surprise albums, visual albums, albums edited after-the-fact, albums with little notice and no advance singles, streaming-only albums, video-only albums and so on.
And then there is Taylor Swift, steady in her traditional pop playbook, with radio singles, music videos, magazine covers, television appearances and a stream of things for sale, all on schedule.
Just before the clock struck midnight on Friday, the singer, 29, released “Lover,” her seventh album and first for Universal Music Group/Republic Records after more than a decade on the Nashville-based label Big Machine. Swift, in the liner notes, called the 18 tracks “a love letter to love itself — all the captivating, spellbinding, maddening, devastating, red, blue, gray, golden aspects of it (that’s why there are so many songs).”
From the album’s earliest marketing last winter — cryptic hints on Instagram, a new wardrobe — she signaled a brighter palette, with floral, rainbow and pastel imagery, a clear shift from the relative darkness of her previous release, “Reputation,” from 2017, which centered on her long-running feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West, and the resulting dings to her public persona.
“Lover” seems to start there, before indicating that Swift is ready to move on. The first track, “I Forgot That You Existed,” was written with Louis Bell and Frank Dukes, the production and songwriting team behind hits for Post Malone and Lorde, and appears to allude to West with lyrics like, “Free rent living in my mind/but then something happened one magical night/I forgot that you existed.”