Taylor Swift wants you to know that she can do anything. Testing the waters with a drum 'n' bass wobble in 2012's I Knew You Were Trouble, the singer from Pennsylvania traded in her country beginnings and sneaky clean image for 1980s-inspired synth-pop on 2014's 1989.
Then there have been the Kendrick Lamar guest verses, public feuds with Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, sexually frustrated contributions to the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack, unnecessary rap-offs with Ed Sheeran, and a bizarre fascination with playground rhymes that she sneaks in wherever possible.
In the new dawn of Lover, the soon-to-be 30-year-old continues to keep us guessing with what she’s going to next by … going country again.
Lover is the third single (but fourth release) from her forthcoming album of the same name, and unlike Me!, the album's first single which – with all respect – sounds like it belongs on a Smurfs soundtrack, Tay Tay has gone serious.
Seriously in love. With sliding guitars and a touch of the Mazzy Stars, Lover dials down the meme-able content that drives songs like Look What You Made Me Do and You Need To Calm Down and, instead, lets down her guard and gets personal.
"This is our place, we make the rules," she sings with a smile, presumably addressing her beau, the English actor Joe Alwyn, who she has known for "three summers".
Seemingly picking up where New Year’s Day, the final track from 2017’s Reputation, left off, this song begins with the daring suggestion of leaving Christmas lights up until January but, culturally, the new rules feel like a promise never to revert to the take-no-prisoners character she created for that album.
When you have a Lover, who has time for haters, right?
When Swift once famously glorified "squad goals" and popularity through music videos, not-so-subtle passive aggressive lyrics and Instagram posts, she's letting us know that she's happy to be in a team of two.
Gone (for now) are the messy clapbacks and vengeful undertones that could be aimed at Perry, Kardashian, West or her ex Calvin Harris. Instead, in a sepia-toned haze – this song has autumnal vibes stamped all over it – she declares her love without any hidden meanings or spiteful innuendo.
The spirit of Blank Space Swift is evoked in the line “And I’m highly suspicious that everyone who sees you wants you”, because old habits die hard, and before we know it, we have an exchange of vows in a breezy bridge that commit Taylor not just to Alwyn but to her guitar and her need to throw in references to old songs.
“Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand? With every guitar string scar on my hand I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover,” she sings over swelling strings. “Swear to be overdramatic and true to my lover and you’ll save all your dirtiest jokes for me and at every table, I’ll save you a seat, lover.”
Now waltzing through life, floating on a cloud and possibly indulging in the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack and a glass of pinot noir, this is Swift’s Joey loves Pacey moment.
Lover is the grand gesture that proves that all the heartache she’s sung about – from 2007’s Teardrops On My Guitar to 2016’s Out of the Woods – was worth it. “All’s well that ends well to end up with you.”
Taylor Swift’s seventh album Lover is released on August 23rd