We all love the ethereal pairing of folklore and evermore, but were those truly Taylor Swift’s first sister albums? Personally, we think her prior two albums can also be considered sisters! 2017’s reputation and 2019’s Lover complement each other in such a beautiful way, exploring love in the chaos of the outside world and the chaos that can pop up in love as well.
These two albums deserve so much more recognition than they get, both individually and together, so we’re gonna be diving into what makes them such a special pairing! Get out some popcorn as our conversation about rep goes down, and maybe make some forts to read this in with your lover, if you have one.
After her 1989 era ended in a highly public feud and unfair takedown, Taylor mostly escaped from the limelight. She focused on her well-being as online hate kept being thrown at her. All the while, she was finding love and trying to figure out how to protect her relationship the best she could. This was all while being in such a high-profile line of work – “finding love throughout all the noise,” as she explained it at a private 2018 concert with AT&T.
“It was a love story in amongst chaos,” Taylor told Rolling Stone about the reputation album in 2019. “All the weaponized sort of metallic battle anthems were what was going on outside. That was the battle raging on that I could see from the windows, and then there was what was happening inside my world — my newly quiet, cozy world that was happening on my own terms for the first time.”
With love being such a healing, important thing for her during that period of her life, it makes sense that Taylor would lean into it for her seventh album, Lover! This album is all about different forms of love and how it affects us on a day-to-day basis, while the anxieties left over from the rep era appear on songs like ‘The Archer.’ Lover’s opening track, ‘I Forgot That You Existed,’ specifically builds on reputation. It explores how Taylor’s rep era and tour helped her get through that hard time in her life.
[I got into that headspace] sometime on the reputation Tour, which was the most transformative emotional experience of my career. That tour put me in the healthiest, most balanced place I’ve ever been. After that tour, bad stuff can happen to me, but it doesn’t level me anymore. […] Something about that tour made me disengage from some part of public perception I used to hang my entire identity on, which I now know is incredibly unhealthy.
Taylor Swift to Rolling Stone
Conversely, Lover largely continues the more cozy, quiet energy of the love described on reputation, especially from its final track, ‘New Year’s Day.’ Taylor sings, “I want your midnights, but I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year’s Day.” This highlights how she wants both those flashy, outwardly romantic moments and the more mundane, everyday moments that mirror the comfort of a relationship. Meanwhile, on Lover’s ‘Paper Rings,’ she insists, “I want your complications, too, I want your dreary Mondays.”
Another sweet thing to note about ‘New Year’s Day’ is the lyric, “hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you,” which fans have used for concert pic captions and even as the soundtrack to the first dance at their wedding. You could even interpret the Lover album as a mosaic of some of those memories for Taylor, cataloging all sorts of magical moments that she experienced with her partner.
How She Describes Love
Over the years, a few different themes and motifs have popped up in the ways that Taylor has described love in her music. That’s especially true across reputation and Lover. In fact, a lot of these motifs appear on both albums! First, let’s talk about the theme of anxiety in love. This came up quite a few times throughout reputation as Taylor grappled with how her public image might affect her personal life, but there was also quite a bit of confidence in certain songs – for example, she sings, “I know I’m gonna be with you, so I take my time,” on ‘…Ready For It?’ before questioning, “is it too soon to do this yet?” on ‘Delicate.’
Lover has a similar duality in this theme, with songs like ‘Lover’ and ‘Daylight’ talking about the stable love she found while tracks like ‘The Archer,’ ‘Cornelia Street,’ and ‘Afterglow’ touched on her insecurities and worries that her partner would leave. Overall, though, it mostly talks about love’s longevity, making it a beautiful follow-up to the uncertainty of reputation.
One of our other favorite themes on these albums is the idea of love as a religion, which Taylor previously played with on songs like 2012’s ‘State Of Grace’ and ‘Holy Ground.’ On reputation, it got a bit more intense, with ‘Don’t Blame Me’ and its pleas of, “Lord save me, my drug is my baby,” prompting a fandom joke that Taylor takes us to church whenever she plays it live. The religious idea also came up in ‘Dancing With Our Hands Tied,’ noting that her partner, “turned [her] bed into a sacred oasis,” that the outside world couldn’t harm.
She continues the idea of love being sacred on Lover, particularly on ‘Cornelia Street.’ This song is all about protecting, “sacred new beginnings that became [her] religion,” and ‘False God,’ which describes the choice to, “still worship [a] love,” even if things get tough and your hope feels more like, “blind faith.”
Finally, one more theme we wanted to talk about was the idea of love in dreams! We previously heard about Taylor’s desire for a dreamy romance in songs like ‘Untouchable,’ and how she wanted to be memorialized in someone’s subconscious in ‘Wildest Dreams.’ On reputation’s opening track, ‘…Ready For It?,’ Taylor describes seeing her partner, “in the middle of the night, in [her] dreams.” This could be her literal dreams, or it could be how nights with her partner, away from the chaos of the world, feel like a dream to her.
In Lover’s adorable ‘Paper Rings,’ Taylor explains her devotion to her lover and how he’s the one she wants to spend her life with, even if their wedding includes flimsy, paper rings. She wants him in real life, “in dirty dreams,” and, “in all [her] dreams,” with the last one probably meaning she wants him to appear in both the sleepy dreams we all have as well as be by her side as she accomplishes her dreams in the real world.
“Real love shines golden like starlight…”
This could technically fit into our “How She Describes Love” section, but we think the golden motif throughout these two albums deserves its own time to shine. Throughout reputation, Taylor describes the love she found as “golden” to highlight how special it is to her – on ‘End Game,’ “it’s like [his] body is gold,” she notes that “[he] painted [her] golden” on ‘Dancing With Our Hands Tied,’ likens the inescapability of her feelings to a “gold cage” on ‘So It Goes…,’ and compares his love to, “a golden tattoo,” on ‘Dress.’
The gold imagery also comes up in the iconic ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ music video, particularly in the scene where Taylor sits in a golden cage. It hints at the “gold cage, hostage to my feelings” line from ‘So It Goes…’ while also subverting our expectations of what being “caged in” might look like. She’s in a giant birdcage, and though there are security guards inside with her, she has more freedom and space than you might expect from a hostage. We think the cage might symbolize protection of sorts from the outside world, like how the romance she found during this era helped her grow past the negative aspects of fame and choose to create her own safe space instead.
On Lover, the gold mention comes up on one of the most beautiful songs in Taylor’s discography: ‘Daylight.’ The track reflects on how her views of love have changed over the years as she’s grown and gone through different things, and how receiving unconditional love has helped her to realize that she’s not defined by the bad situations she’s faced in life. She thinks about how she used to believe, “love would be black and white,” potentially as a nod to reputation’s black and white cover, and, “love would be burning red,” as a reference to her 2012 Red album, but ultimately lands on the idea that real love is, “golden like daylight.”
Throughout both eras, we got a few aesthetic nods to the gold references that we’re still absolutely in love with. While the reputation photoshoot was mostly black and white aside from a few orange and gray-driven shots, the merch regularly incorporated gold, and one of the most notable examples is the coveted golden snake ring. Gold also became a big part of the reputation Stadium Tour, popping up on costumes and the on-screen visuals for songs like ‘King Of My Heart.’
For Lover, the photoshoot was mostly bright, pastel colors, which included some pops of yellow. We did get some actual gold, though, thanks to the sparkly gold hearts hanging from the trees in certain pictures! We also think it’s worth mentioning how her American Music Awards Artist Of The Decade performance saw her shedding a black and white button-down to reveal a shimmering gold bodysuit – it was very “I once believed love would be black and white, but it’s golden” of her.
While we’re talking about colors, we also wanna give a little shoutout to blue! Taylor describes her partner’s standout blue eyes on reputation’s ‘Delicate’ and ‘Gorgeous’ before noting how he brought her heart back to life on ‘Dancing With Our Hands Tied’ – “my love had been frozen deep blue, but you painted me golden.” On rep, blue represents both the exciting potential of new love, but also the pains of past love.
She comes back to the idea of “blue” heartbreak on Lover’s title track, where the bridge is formed like wedding vows: “my heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue, all’s well that ends well to end up with you.” Together, they can move away from past pains and create something more special for each other. That idea also comes up in ‘Paper Rings,’ in which Taylor sings, “I’m with you even if it makes me blue… without all the exes, fights, and flaws, we wouldn’t be standing here so tall.”
The Character References
While folklore and evermore were the first of Taylor’s albums to really channel fictional characters she made up, they weren’t the first ones to explore different perspectives! She wrote about other people’s experiences and stories in songs like ‘Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)’ and ‘Starlight,’ but really took that to the next level starting with reputation. She told Entertainment Weekly that watching Game of Thrones influenced some of our favorite songs on the album which helped flesh out what she wrote about her own experiences.
These songs were half based on what I was going through, but seeing them through a Game of Thrones filter. ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is literally Arya Stark’s kill list. ‘King of My Heart’ was influenced by Khal Drogo and Daenerys. It’s even got this post-hook of drums—I wanted them to sound like Dothraki drums.
Taylor Swift to Entertainment Weekly
Lover also hopped on the fiction train for the fan-favorite ‘Death By A Thousand Cuts,’ a stunning breakup song inspired by the Netflix movie, Someone Great, about a relationship slowly crumbling after nine years. And in a full-circle moment, Taylor’s 1989 album, specifically ‘Clean,’ had helped writer and director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson through the heartbreak that inspired the movie!
Lover Brings The Old Taylor Back To Life
Every Swiftie remembers their initial reaction to hearing that iconic ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ lyric: “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, ‘cause she’s dead!” It was equal parts mesmerizing and terrifying, with the meaning not necessarily clear the first time we heard it. When we got the context of the rest of reputation, we understood that the “old Taylor” she was describing was the one who let others’ opinions, thoughts, and ideas dictate how she lived her life, and also on a bit of a sonic level, trading the twangy guitars of her earlier music and the airy synths of 1989 for deeper, richer sounds that matched the intensity of what she was going through at the time.
With her frustration let out and her angst more resolved, Taylor returned to a lighter pop vibe with the sounds of Lover, while also going back to her more autobiographical style after exploring different personas on reputation. She explained to Rolling Stone, “I don’t think I’ve ever leaned into the old version of myself more creatively than I have on [the Lover] album, where it’s very, very autobiographical. But also moments of extreme catchiness and moments of extreme personal confession.”
The Album Aesthetics
Finally, the reputation and Lover aesthetics are complementary opposites! Even though the albums have similar themes overall, they’re very distinctive visually – reputation’s cover is black and white while the music videos and merch had darker color schemes, while Lover’s cover is a kaleidoscope of color and the era’s signatures included pastels and hearts. The chain around her neck on reputation mirrored how trapped and restricted she felt in the years leading up to that era, and the sunset behind her on the Lover cover feels much more warm and fun, as she found a way to free herself.
Both of these eras also had an animal signature, with rep’s being a snake because of the “Taylor Swift is a snake” comments she got online and Lover’s being a butterfly to symbolize growth and freedom. She played with the contrast between these creatures and eras at the beginning of the ‘ME!’ music video that kicked off Lover, which shows a hissing snake disintegrating into a sea of bright butterflies.
What do you think of the connections between reputation and Lover? Do you think they could be considered sister albums? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
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