It's been a long time coming, and the rollout didn't go quite as planned, but Taylor Swift's seventh album, Lover, is here. Stream the album below via Apple Music or Spotify.
The campaign began in late April, with a sprinkled scavenger hunt of hints across social media that culminated in the release of "ME!" featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco. The bubblegum ballad felt perfunctory, a half-hearted, half-baked not-quite-hit with a spelling interlude. The single failed to top the Billboard Hot 100, stymied by the longest-running No. 1 in history, Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road," making "ME!" the first lead single from Swift to not reach the top spot since Speak Now's "Mine" in 2010.
The release of "You Need to Calm Down" followed in June, its timing seemingly intended to coincide with Pride Month, with its "Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD?" lyric and a video featuring cameos from Adam Lambert, Hayley Kiyoko, Adam Rippon, RuPaul, and the Queer Eye cast (plus a final, feud-settling moment with Katy Perry). In the wake of its release, Swift was hit with accusations of queerbaiting and appropriation (like Perry before her); the video, which Swift co-directed, also faced separate backlash for its caricatured, classist depictions.
Later that month, Swift made headlines as Big Machine, her longtime label until last fall, was acquired by Scooter Braun, manager of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. That meant Braun — not Swift — owns the masters to the pop star's first six albums. She called the sale her "worst-case scenario," citing Braun's "incessant, manipulative bullying" that came courtesy of his clients. On Thursday, Swift confirmed weeks of speculation when she told Robin Roberts of "Good Morning America" that she intends to re-record and re-release the six albums sold to Braun.
All the while, the Swift promotional train barreled toward release date. In an increasingly rare move, Swift spoke to both Entertainment Weekly and Vogue, having eschewed interviews during her last album cycle. Swift and her new multi-colored aesthetic – a stark contrast to her goth-lite Reputation era – have also taken over Amazon shipping boxes and morning show stages, unveiling Target exclusive deluxe editions and Stella McCartney collaborations.
The run-up to Lover also included the release of the much-maligned trailer for Cats, the upcoming cinematic adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical starring Swift, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench and James Corden. And though Swift's cinematic foray is separate from the album release, her role as a literal cat is weirdly on-brand for the noted cat lover.
Swift has been characteristically tight-lipped when it comes to what to expect on Lover, but subsequent pre-album releases have hinted that the record itself, a double album that spans 18 tracks, may approach new sonic terrain. "The Archer," produced by Jack Antonoff, has a dream-pop feel; the title track "Lover" evokes a waltz, weaving a romantic, nostalgic message. The tracklist, released last Friday on Instagram, confirmed a collaboration with Dixie Chicks entitled "Soon You'll Get Better."
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