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Album Review: Taylor Swift’s ‘Lover’

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Swift’s seventh is easily her most upbeat and romantically smitten album, but it does find dramatic tension in songs about sexism, cancer, the national mood and the ever-present past.

Sitting in a hot tub on “Saturday Night Live,” Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch stole the sobriquet “love-ah” from the lexicon of acceptable terms of endearment — and, by golly, Taylor Swift is reaching into that oily water and stealing it back. The word doesn’t sound unctuous on her lips as she repeats it in the gentle, waltz-time title track of “Lover,” her seventh album. Released as a single a few weeks prior to the rest of the collection, the song “Lover” is an unabashedly winsome mash note that’s an effective calling card for the astute sweetness of the entire project — a warmth that wouldn’t seem so audacious if this set didn’t directly succeed 2017’s “Reputation,” in which Swift tried shedding her princess skin to enjoy being cobra queen for a day. As she narrows in on 30, Swift is looking to prove that love is something she does even better than revenge.

At the very end of this 18-song album, over the final, fading synth-iness of the closing ballad, “Daylight,” Swift speaks her overarching theme aloud: “I want to be defined by the things I love,” she says, “not the things I hate, not the things I’m afraid of, not the things that haunt me in the middle of the night. I think that you are what you love.” This is all well and good and woke, but just as Bruce Banner once warned us that we wouldn’t like him when he’s angry, is it possible we wouldn’t like Taylor Swift when she’s not?

By the time “Reputation” rolled around two years ago, Swift was seemingly in a sustained and contented place in her love life for the first time, which some wags had predicted would portend doom for such a diaristic songwriter. But in a twist of fate, she ended up with something to get much madder about than being merely lovelorn, as a tilted-stage power couple brought a wide world of trolls down on her head. She grew her ire and usurped her image as America’s sweetheart in the deliriously base “I Did Something Bad,” in which, weirdly, Evil Tay seemed oddly more lovable than ever. But there’s only a modicum of “Kanye content,” if you will, on this new album, as breakup songs fade further into the distance. Meanwhile, there’s that blissed out, mathematically specific status update embedded in the title track: “I’ve loved you three summers now, honey, but I want ’em all.”

Happy anniversary, then… but where’s the dramatic tension in that, you, dear reader and lover of Dear John letters, may ask?

Fortunately, Swift knows her William Faulkner — instinctively, anyway, if not literally — and so the great author’s declaration that “the past is never dead; it’s not even past” underlies even a lot of the dominant sunny moments on “Lover.” Even as the romantic reveries keep on coming, she can’t help recalling just how effed up things were in prior situations, and just how concerned she is about effing up this one, too — and this minor war between past doubts and current happiness adds sophisticated lyrical shadings to what is, in large part, sure, one big pop bubblegum blast of a record. It’s an album with a lot of froth to it, but weighted froth — her most mature collection as well as her most fun one.

Sometimes this self-awareness comes with a laugh: “Swear to be overdramatic and true,” she sings with a wink as part of the title song’s mock-matrimonial vows. But when she’s delving deeper into old fears, as she does in the “With or Without You”-like slow build of “The Archer,” the stock-taking is startling and sober: “All of my enemies started out friends,” she warns, as a prelude to pleading, “Help me hold on to you.” In the closing “Daylight,” she confesses, “My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in. … There are so many lines that I’ve crossed unforgiven.” With its tender throb, “Daylight” is a finale that recalls “Clean,” the epilogue of “1989,” except these days, Swift is more concerned with cleansing herself of her own sins, not somebody else’s.

Having established that singer-songwriter-ly reflection is still deeply part of Swift’s brand, it’s hard to overstate how much “Lover” is characterized by an unalloyed ebullience that the singer has only rarely allowed herself. The mood is set right at the outset with “I Forgot That You Existed,” placed there as the one real point of continuum with the Kanye-gate themes that sparked much of “Reputation.” It’s essentially part two of that record’s “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” with finger snaps leading into an “Everyday I Write the Book” bounce of a rhythm as Swift proclaims she’s graduated to “indifference” toward her famous antagonists. You could argue she’s protesting too much by devoting a song to the subject, but it’s a kick to get a reprise of her bratty side, channeled as nonchalance — and if it’s intended as a micro-exorcism, it works: Any other lingering traces of “Reputation’s” defensiveness evaporate as the album gets subsumed in open-hearted self-care and three-year crushes.

The playfulness takes a romantic turn in the two most light-spirited and irresistible bangers. “Paper Rings,” meanwhile — the album’s second maritally themed song (hmm) — benefits from a rhythm rooted in, believe it or not, rockabilly. “I Think He Knows,” meanwhile, is a delicious slice of Prince lite — at least, that’s where the sound of her falsetto against a low bass and a marching beat takes some of us — with a cockiness worthy of the man himself: “He’s so obsessed with me, and boy, I understand!” There’s another moment of self-consciousness when she adds as a moony-eyed aside, “It’s like I’m 17, no one understands” — underscoring that, in these giddiest moments, at least, she almost sounds more like a teenager than she did in her teardrops-spilling-on-guitar days.

The absence of longtime producer stalwarts Max Martin and Shellback from this album’s credits was a cause for concern. But another returning producer, Jack Antonoff, and some new additions, Joel Little and the pairing of Frank Dukes and Louis Bell, are up to the ear-candy task. Antonoff in particular is peaking as a specialist in quirky Top 40 fodder; equal to the charms of “Paper Rings” and “I Think He Knows” is “Cruel Summer” — co-written by another client, St. Vincent — with vocoder background voices making it sound like a greatest hit of the ’80s, even if it’s not actually a Bananarama cover. That’s one of the few breakup-memory songs. Swift is back to present-tense grins with “London Boy,” which has a sampled intro of Idris Elba discussing his scooter leading into a horn-fueled celebration of Anglophilia with more than a little autobiographical content.

The British place names in “London Boy” get called out in such quick order that it’s impossible to follow along without a lyric sheet, a map or a not-so-regular joe as a tour guide. There’s a sense of place in other songs, too, less so than in the English sojourn but enough to root the locations as well as emotions in reality for fans. In “I Think He Knows,” she’s “skipping down 16th Avenue,” suggesting that Nashville’s Music Row still has a place in her heart, if not her sound. “Cornelia Street” really gets specific — it’s where the New York apartment was where she and her beloved shared their first “sacred” memories, and also a tentative moment or two, as she movingly describes packing her bags and being headed toward one of the tunnels out of Manhattan before a phone call turned her around. Later, in the record’s vibeiest track, the neo-soul “False God,” where Swift deigns to share space with a minimalist saxophone (more of that, please), place and personhood become one: “You’re the West Village — you still do it for me,” she declares.

Swift does find some things to get mad about in “Lover”; it’s just not boys. A good chunk of the album is given up to statement songs, some of which are played for fun and anger, like the GLAAD-happy, homophobe-baiting “You Need to Calm Down.” An even more deceptively up-tempo tune, “The Man,” addresses how women suffer from sexism’s double standards when their power moves render them “a bitch, not a baller.” If she were a guy, Swift reckons, “I would be complex, I would be cool / They’d say I played the field before I found someone to commit to / And that would be okay for me do / Every conquest I had made would make me more of a boss to you / I’d be a fearless leader, I’d be an alpha type / When everyone believes you, what is that like?” (This comes during a week when the music world is believing that she means to do more than just complain when she feels wronged, as she’s establishing with her vow to re-record her catalog in response to having her master recordings end up in what she considers enemy hands.)

Electronics and any pretense of fun take five in the honest tearjerker “Soon You’ll Get Better,” where Swift is joined by the Dixie Chicks’ vocals, banjo and fiddle as she explores the prayerful panic of having a loved one in sustained and sometimes hopeless medical distress, surely to be taken a reflection of her own shellshock as her mother has gone through cancer treatment. The title of the record takes on broader connotations, there: Greater love hath no man than he or she who spends endless nights in waiting rooms or sleeping on hospital floors.

Stark as that low-spirited highlight is, there’s something just as startling about “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince,” the album’s most political song. You might not immediately recognize it as such, since the song disguises its social statement in deep metaphor. But while the high school milieu of the lyrics at first makes the song seem like a dystopian sequel to “You Belong With Me,” it’s hard to make that mistake by the time she gets to lines like “American story burning before me / I’m feeling helpless / The damsels are depressed / Boys will be boys then / Where are the wise men?” The chant of a cheerleading squad is even pumped into the minor-key choruses, but it’s clear she’s singing about her disillusionment as a young American patriot who can no longer feel so proud about waving the school colors. When she emerged as an activist for gay rights and the Equality Act earlier this year, you could sense the disappointment beneath the rallying, and “Miss Americana” shows that this grappling wasn’t a one-off. Here, Swift has found an ex truly worth writing about: the naive spirit of national optimism.

These medical and political malignancies make only cameo appearances on an otherwise exuberant album, but invoking them does bring into sharper relief why we maybe need lovers now more than ever, and why ballads like “Afterglow” and “Daylight” have her trying to figure out — in public — how to use love as a scalpel, not a bludgeon. She intends the album title to put you in mind of indigo-eyed objects of desire, for sure, but she’s just old and wise enough now to also be thinking of “Lover” as a job description. This album gives us something to love, too: Event Pop where the sharing of emotions on a massive scale is the richest part of the blockbuster occasion.

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Emmys 2019: Full winners list

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DRAMA SERIES

“Better Call Saul” (AMC)

“Bodyguard” (Netflix)

WINNER: “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

“Killing Eve” (BBC America)

“Ozark” (Netflix)

“Pose” (FX)

“Succession” (HBO)

“This Is Us” (NBC)

COMEDY SERIES

“Barry” (HBO)

WINNER: “Fleabag” (Amazon)

“The Good Place” (NBC)

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

“Russian Doll” (Netflix)

“Schitt’s Creek” (Pop)

“Veep” (HBO)

LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES

Jason Bateman, “Ozark” (Netflix)

Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us” (NBC)

Kit Harington, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul” (AMC)

WINNER: Billy Porter, “Pose” (FX)

Milo Ventimiglia, “This Is Us” (NBC)

LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES

Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

WINNER: Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve” (BBC America)

Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder” (ABC)

Laura Linney, “Ozark” (Netflix)

Mandy Moore, “This Is Us” (NBC)

Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve” (BBC America)

Robin Wright, “House of Cards” (Netflix)

SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES

Alfie Allen, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul” (AMC)

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

WINNER: Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

Giancarlo Esposito, “Better Call Saul” (AMC)

Michael Kelly, “House of Cards” (Netflix)

Chris Sullivan, “This Is Us” (NBC)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES

Gwendoline Christie, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

WINNER: Julia Garner, “Ozark” (Netflix)

Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

Fiona Shaw, “Killing Eve” (BBC America)

Sophie Turner, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

Maisie Williams, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

DIRECTING, DRAMA SERIES

David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

David Nutter, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

Miguel Sapochnik, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

Lisa Brühlmann, “Killing Eve” (BBC America)

WINNER: Jason Bateman, Ozark (Netflix)

Adam McKay, “Succession” (HBO)

Daina Reid, “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)

WRITING, DRAMA SERIES

Peter Gould, Thomas Schnauz, “Better Call Saul” (AMC)

Jed Mercurio, “Bodyguard” (Netflix)

David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

Emerald Fennell, “Killing Eve” (BBC America)

WINNER: Jesse Armstrong, “Succession” (HBO)

Bruce Miller, Kira Snyder, “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)

LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES

Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish” (ABC)

Don Cheadle, “Black Monday” (Showtime)

Ted Danson, “The Good Place” (NBC)

Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method” (Netflix)

WINNER: Bill Hader, “Barry” (HBO)

Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek” (Pop)

LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES

Christina Applegate, “Dead to Me” (Netflix)

Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO)

Natasha Lyonne, “Russian Doll” (Netflix)

Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek” (Pop)

SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES

Alan Arkin, “The Kominsky Method” (Netflix)

Anthony Carrigan, “Barry” (HBO)

Tony Hale, “Veep” (HBO)

Stephen Root, “Barry” (HBO)

WINNER: Tony Shalhoub, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

Henry Winkler, “Barry” (HBO)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES

WINNER: Alex Borstein, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

Anna Chlumsky, “Veep” (HBO)

Sian Clifford, “Fleabag” (Amazon)

Olivia Colman, “Fleabag” (Amazon)

Betty Gilpin, “GLOW” (Netflix)

Sarah Goldberg, “Barry” (HBO)

Marin Hinkle, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)

DIRECTING, COMEDY SERIES

Alec Berg, “Barry” (HBO)

Bill Hader, “Barry” (HBO)

WINNER: Harry Bradbeer, “Fleabag” (Amazon)

Mark Cendrowski, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)

Amy Sherman-Palladino, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

Daniel Palladino, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

WRITING, COMEDY SERIES

Alec Berg, Bill Hader, “Barry” (HBO)

WINNER: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Fleabag” (Amazon)

Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle, Stacy Osei-Kuffour, “PEN15” (Hulu)

Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler, “Russian Doll” (Netflix)

Allison Silverman, “Russian Doll” (Netflix)

Josh Siegal, Dylan Morgan, “The Good Place” (NBC)

David Mandel, “Veep” (HBO)

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Rihanna Knows How to Throw a Party. One Successful Night at Her Diamond Ball Is Proof

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The women’s washroom at Cipriani Wall Street in downtown Manhattan is a palatial marble space. In any case, the slows down are little. Rihanna, in a dark velvet outfit with an emotional trumpet-flared stitch that stood out a few feet, didn’t appear to be irritated by the requirements. The vocalist, design and magnificence tycoon and donor was facilitating her Fifth Annual Diamond Ball in the scene, and she realized exactly how to manage her awkward skirt in those restroom slows down. At the point when asked how she fit, she had a snappy answer: “This way — like a topsy turvy umbrella, sister,” she exhibited supportively to TIME, flipping her spruce up, before dancing out to impart a gathering of the psyches to Kehlani and Megan Thee Stallion.

It might be simply one more night in the life for Rihanna. In any case, for the 600-odd visitors at the Diamond Ball supporting her Clara Lionel Foundation, it was a checked starry night highlighting host Seth Meyers and entertainers including Pharrell Williams, DJ Khaled, Fat Joe, G-Eazy, Megan Thee Stallion, A$AP Ferg, Fabolous, Yo Gotti, and even Rihanna herself, coming in for a first-since forever live execution of the tune “Lemon” — to the astonishment and joy of everybody collected. (Indeed, even at her extreme Savage X Fenty style show prior in the week, Rihanna declined to sing, leaning toward just to move. What’s more, following a three-years-and-tallying sit tight for her next collection, the fans are ravenous.)

The objective of the night: fund-raising for the Clara Lionel Foundation, her altruistic association named after her grandparents, which spotlights on offering help to worldwide young ladies’ training projects and compassionate guide programs in her local Caribbean, with an overwhelming spotlight on environmental change versatility. The strategy for raising support: a robust passageway sticker price and a live sell off. Visitors offer on an all-costs paid excursion to see Serena Williams contend in her next Grand Slam shot ($60,000); a constrained version 60-lb. foot stool book of elite Rihanna photographs and custom 2,000-lb. etched marble platform ($111,0000, to a Cardi B who outbid herself); and an outing to Barbados highlighting supper with the Prime Minister and a submarine excursion, among different advantages ($275,000, twice). Live gifts were coordinated by Twitter prime supporter and previous gathering participant Jack Dorsey (piling on over a large portion of a million from the group in the room). At last, they brought over $5 million up in all out.

It got off to a moderate beginning: visitors fired topping off the huge scene, which was lit up with hot pink, turquoise and yellow botanical light projections, lime-green tablecloths and genuine, rich blossoms flanking the goliath (open) bar, a long time before 8:00 p.m. Yet, it wasn’t until half past nine that supper (heated tagliardi bolognese, hamburger or fish with potato dauphinoise, chocolate cake) was served. In any case, there was bounty to do during the deferral: at a Fenty Beauty stall, visitors — like models Karlie Kloss, Shanina Shaik and Slick Woods, or rappers A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, 21 Savage and 2 Chainz (it was his birthday) — could speak to the ability of cosmetics craftsmen outfitted with what resembled the full line of items.

In the interim, stations around the room recounted to video accounts of a portion of the ladies around the globe that the Clara Lionel Foundation has bolstered. A tap of a table task card additionally skilled a $100 gift to the reason, affability of American Express. “It’s something other than the gathering, it’s the give-back,” rehash participant Biggs Burke, record executive and Roc-A-Fella fellow benefactor, reminded TIME. “As a matter of first importance it’s for a decent aim. Second, clearly, it’s an incredible gathering. There’ll be some D’usse spilling and Ace of Spades everywhere.” Added first-time visitor Saint Jhn: “It’s my preferred night as of now.”

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Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy announce ‘Hella Mega’ tour, new songs

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Here’s a declaration that is knocking the socks off of our mid-2000s selves: Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy are going on visit together.

With U.S. dates beginning in 2020, the “Hella Mega Tour will include the trio of notorious musical crews playing arenas crosswise over North America. It commences July 17 at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park and wraps up Aug. 29 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

Webstore presale tickets for the North American leg start at 10 a.m. nearby time Sept. 16, while mailing list presale tickets start at 11 a.m. nearby time, as indicated by Green Day’s site. General deal begins at 10 a.m. neighborhood time Sept. 20 on Ticketmaster.

Los Angeles ska-punk band the Interrupters will open each show.

Pause, there’s progressively uplifting news.

On Tuesday, the three main events each discharged singles to go with the visit declaration.

Green Day’s “Father of All…” is a foot-tapping single from the band’s forthcoming album of the same name due out Feb. 7.  The band described the new album in a Sept. 10 tweet as, “The life AND death of the party. Not political. Surviving in chaos.”

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