The final track on Taylor Swift’s Reputation predicted the direction of Lover in a big way.
From snakes and snark, to hearts and hope, Reputation and Lover are two very different Taylor Swift albums. They may fall next to each other in the artist’s discography, but there’s a world between them in terms of their tone and subject matter.
Reputation featured some of Taylor Swift’s most empowered tracks to date. It was her album to say, “I am who I am,” whether people are “ready for it,” or not. The album featured one of her most over-the-top, luxuriating takedowns of all time, lyrics with edges of self-aware and “I don’t care,” and a sense of ownership over herself, her work, and her choices that hadn’t been made nearly as clear in her previous albums.
The first 14 tracks of Reputation are a wonderfully sonically cohesive piece, perhaps being her most tonally consistent album ever. From “…Ready For It?” to “Call It What You Want,” each track is heavily produced, hard hitting pop, detailing the ups and downs of Taylor Swift’s life, loves, and everything in between.
That being said, the 15th track on the album, “New Year’s Day,” doesn’t really fit that description at all. It’s stripped down and simple. It stands in stark contrast to the rest of Reputation’s harder tracks.
Since Reputation was released, my theory has always been that “New Year’s Day” did not serve as the end of Taylor’s Reputation era, but rather, the beginning of her next chapter.
“Call It What You Want” is the perfect ending for Reputation. It shrugs off public perception in favor of her own, steadfast belief that she has something special. It’s the finish line at the end of the Reputation race. A goal at the end of a long, arduous game for Taylor Swift.
“New Year’s Day” is, based on its very title, a beginning, and now that Lover has been released, it’s more clear than ever that it was the beginning of Taylor Swift’s Lover era. This whole time, Lover has been the glitter on the floor after the party.
If Reputation is made of covert meetings under starlight, Lover is an afternoon walk in the park, hand in hand. If Reputation is the intricate dance of meeting someone at a bar, late at night, Lover is the relieving simplicity of waking up next to someone you love.
Reputation is recalled in Lover’s frantic bridges, before being ultimately resolved. It shows itself in the backseats of the taxis she cries in before she squeezes her lover’s hand there. Reputation is the memories that fuel “The Archer” and “Cornelia Street’s” fears before she wakes up from them and it’s “Daylight” once more.
“New Year’s Day” was the beginning of that. The beginning of the “Daylight,” and the “golden” love that is the backbone of Lover.
The simplicity of “New Year’s Day” is gorgeously echoed in the album’s title track. Both songs are heavily carried by piano, and are characterized by hauntingly beautiful, yet incredibly uncomplicated lyrics about love. “Don’t read the last page, but I stay,” becomes “can I go where you go? Can we always be this close?”
That tonal simplicity is ubiquitous in Lover. It can’t be missed in tracks like “Forgot That You Existed,” “Soon You’ll Get Better,” and “Daylight,” which consist of easy chording and highlight the singer’s vocal tone and harmonies. It can even be found in “Paper Rings” and “I Think He Knows,” which have much more in common with 1989’s level of production than Reputation’s
Lover is no stranger to synth-y beats, and it is equally as empowered and self-aware as Reputation, but the overall feeling of the album is easy and comfortable. A feeling of home. A feeling of love. It’s the same feeling that “New Year’s Day” evokes.
As “New Year’s Day” fades out into forever, never truly ending, it was always reaching out into the future. It was always reaching toward Lover, signifying what we could expect from the next evolution of Taylor Swift. It started teasing the new album long before a single rainbow emoji or palm tree picture was posted.
“New Year’s Day” first shone the light on Taylor’s latest brand of love and light, and at the end of Lover, it’s still out in the “Daylight.”