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Every Taylor Swift Song Reference in ‘Lover’

Ghosts of past songs find peace in the pop star’s latest single

Jessica Xalxo Aug 17, 2019
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Yesterday, Taylor Swift released the titular track off her seventh studio album Lover. The spectrum of love has always been at the heart of Swift’s artistry and “Lover” picks up on notes and words from previous songs. We can’t help but feel that it is in this single where the ghosts of all her past songs come to rest, their questions finally answered. Here are all the throwbacks we glimpsed in the lyrics:   

1. We could leave the Christmas lights up ‘til January

The very first line of “Lover” is reminiscent of a blaze of light, unheeded by the dauntless adventurer in
1989’s synth-pop opener “Welcome to New York.” “The lights are so bright/ But they never blind me,” belts Swift on the song, an ode to New York city. And so the rush of nostalgia begins, from the lights in “Welcome to New York” to the midnight story of Reputation’s piano ballad “New Year’s Day”: “I want your midnights/ But I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year’s Day.” But the true pang comes when you realize there’s a reference to “The Moment I Knew” from Red: “Christmas lights glisten/ I’ve got my eye on the door.”

2. This is our place, we make the rules 

From the on-the-run adrenaline of 1989’s “Out of the Woods” to the moody “I Know Places,” there are references aplenty. “And they’ll be chasing their tails tryin’ to track us down/ Cause I, I know places we can hide,” Swift croons on the latter track. The ruckus and deception of Reputation’s “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” reflects: “And there are no rules when you show up here/ Bass beat rattling the chandelier.” The kingdom has extended since “King of My Heart” (“And we rule the kingdom inside my room”) and Swift is finally at home. But the major throwback is in Swift’s “Mine“: And there’s a drawer of my things at your place.

3. And there’s a dazzling haze, a mysterious way about you dear 

This line takes us back to
Speak Now and the mysterious open-ended encounter in “Enchanted”: “Walls of insincerity/ Shifting eyes and vacancy/ Vanished when I saw your face/ All I can say is it was enchanting to meet you.”

4. Have I known you 20 seconds or 20 years?

“Time moved too fast/ You played it back,” whispers Swift in 1989’s “You Are In Love.” In “Everything Has Changed,” she related, “All I know is a new found grace/ All my days I’ll know your face/ All I know since yesterday is everything has changed,” setting a tradition of timelessness.

5. Can I go where you go? 

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Taylor Swift isn’t telling her lover to “think (of) my (her) favourite song” when he thinks of “Tim McGraw.” She isn’t battling loneliness like she did in “Come Back…Be Here” (“And this is when the feeling sinks in/ I don’t wanna miss you like this/ Come back, be here, come back, be here). She isn’t following her lover home because any other space is too dangerous to meet in (“Treacherous”). Swift is simply asking for what she wants in “Lover.”

6. Can we always be this close forever and ever?

“It rains when you’re here and it rains when you’re gone/ ‘Cause I was there when you said forever and always,” sang Taylor Swift in Fearless’ upbeat heartbreak track “Forever & Always.” In Speak Now‘s “Superman,” she bids farewell: “I love you, I love you, forever.” In “Lover,” the question is rhetorical.

7. And ah, take me out, and take me home 

There’s no place Swift can’t walk hand in hand with her lover. The game of hide and seek in “Love Story” (“Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone”) and “Style” is over (“Take me home”).

8. You’re my, my, my, my lover 

Remember the sweet country track “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)” from Swift’s debut eponymous album? “I’ll be eighty-seven, you’ll be eighty-nine/ I’ll still look at you like the stars that shine in the sky/ Oh, my, my, my,” she sang, ending a song that spanned generations in 4 minutes. In “Call It What You Want,” she ventured: “I’m laughing with my lover, making forts under covers.”

9. Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand? 


Ah, “Speak Now,” the playful song about what could happen if someone decided to not hold their peace at a wedding: “I lose myself in a daydream/ Where I stand and say/ Don’t say yes, run away now.” Swift is now the officiant. And she is not just the one standing, but addressing the world and declaring her lover.

10. With every guitar string scar on my hand 


From belting “He’s the reason for the teardrops on my guitar,” (“Teardrops on My Guitar“) to wearing her scars with pride after bleeding at the fretboard, Swift is waving at the future with decorated hands, a love veteran.

11. I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover 

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Taylor Swift explored want and attraction in the cheeky pop track “Gorgeous”: “You should think about the consequence/ Of your magnetic field being a little too strong.” We can’t help but notice the allusion to the magnetic force in “Lover.”

12. My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue 


It’s always interesting when Swift juxtaposes the thoughts of lovers in her songs. “He says ‘What you’ve heard is true but I can’t stop thinking about you’ and I, I said ‘I’ve been there too a few times,’” she narrates in “Style.” She sings, “My, my love had been frozen/ Deep blue, but you painted me golden,” in “Dancing with Our Hands Tied.” It’s no wonder long-time listeners can catch on to the underlying currents of this line.

13. All’s well that ends well to end up with you 


Ah, “All Too Well.” The song with an unreleased almost 20-minute long recording. We can feel its echoes: “It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well.” We’ll never know that story but all’s well that ends well.

14. Swear to be overdramatic and true to my lover 


Taylor Swift owns her idiosyncrasies in “ME!”. “I know that I went psycho on the phone/ I never leave well enough alone/ And trouble’s gonna follow where I go,” she fights with her lover, an argument that is soon resolved.

15. And you’ll save all your dirtiest jokes for me 


This line takes us back to “Ours” from the Speak Now era: ‘Cause I love the gap between your teeth/ And I love the riddles that you speak/ And any snide remarks from my father about your tattoos will be ignored/ ‘Cause my heart is yours.” Then to Red’s  “Holy Ground”: “I left a note on the door with a joke we’d made/ And that was the first day.” And finally to 1989’s “You Are in Love”: “Buttons on a coat/ Light hearted joke/ No proof not much/ But you saw enough.”

16. And at every table, I’ll save you a seat, lover 


Swift went from singing “I used to know my place was a spot next to you/ Now I’m searching the room for an empty seat,” on the angsty “The Story of Us,” to new horizons in “Begin Again”: You pull my chair out and help me in/ And you don’t know how nice that is/ But I do.” What stays constant is reinvention. “On a Wednesday, in a cafe, I (she) watched it begin again.”

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