A Ranking of Taylor Swift’s Best “Lover” Bridges
We ranked ’em pre-“Lover,” so now it’s time for a follow-up.
Man, Taylor Swift’s new album Lover is long. There are eighteen tracks total, a number I failed to consider before deciding to rank all of their bridges. It’s her first record written wholly about a love that is stable and long-term and lusty as opposed to one that’s uncertain and tempestuous, but of course there’s still pain to be felt within the confines of commitment, and Swift’s talent lies in targeting those extremes with specifics.
While it’s undoubtedly not her best record to date, at least ten of these songs are genuine bops (and at least three are career-best conquests), with Swift’s signature bridges on proud display. So we’ve ranked those below, from best to worst.
Please note: three songs on the album don’t have traditional bridges—“False God,” “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” and “It’s Nice to Have a Friend”—thus they are excluded from this list.
1) “Soon You’ll Get Better” (feat. Dixie Chicks)
Some people assume Taylor enlisted the Dixie Chicks as collaborators to make a political statement, but it’s more likely they were chosen for being her mother’s favorite band (plus, after all, Taylor hails from country music). Swift’s mother has battled cancer for years, and “Soon You’ll Get Better” chronicles that illness with lines of quiet devastation (“you like the nicer nurses”) and soft harmonies from the Chicks. Swift is one of those millennials who consummately confides in her mom, and the bridge—which I wouldn’t recommend listening to in a place you can’t cry—is where she considers how her mom’s death might effectively ruin her life: “And I hate to make this all about me / but who am I supposed to talk to? / What am I supposed to do / if there’s no you?”
2) “Cruel Summer”
If this had been the album’s lead single in place of “ME!,” it would’ve been Song of the Summer. “Cruel Summer” (co-written with St. Vincent, naturally) lurches like a feral panther, illustrating the covert hooking-up stage of a fling before any serious feelings are confessed. Maybe Swift didn’t pick this as a single because headlines would’ve speculated about the behavior it condones; sneaking around, having sex with no strings attached. The bridge finds Swift “drunk in the back of the car” and crying “like a baby coming home from the bar,” but the real crux comes when she gives in and tells her suitor, “I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?” In response, he “looks up, grinning like a devil,” a line vibrating with devious eroticism that Swift screams so gutturally, her voice cracks.
One of the three songs on Lover Swift wrote entirely alone, closer “Daylight” was almost the title of the album (she’s called her last record reputation a “nighttime” project, thus the contrast) and the lyrics also hearken back to “Red,” the title track off what is widely considered her best record to date. That song recalled a passionate affair in which “loving him was red” and after it ended, “moving on is impossible when I still see it all in my head.” But “Daylight” locates a romance that’s easier, sunnier: “I can still see it all in my head / Back and forth from New York, sneakin’ in your bed / I once believed love would be burnin’ red / But it’s golden, like daylight,” Swift trills angelically on the bridge, reworking her old words with a new recognition that stability sometimes trumps excitement.
4) “I Think He Knows”
This is an odd, fun electro-pop tune about a fellow’s sex appeal (there’s a repeated multi-voice chant of “I want you, bless my soul”). The bridge summarizes the whole thing succinctly: “Lyrical smile, indigo eyes, hand on my thigh / We can follow the sparks, I’ll drive,” she suggests in coy descending chords. “‘So where we gonna go?’ / I whisper in the dark / ‘Where we gonna go?’ / I think he knows!” it concludes with a triumphant holler. They’re clearly going home together.
5) “Cornelia Street”
“Cornelia Street” is about the way we imbue inanimate locations with outsized importance based on our memories and sensory experiences there. “I’d never walk Cornelia Street again,” Swift sings of what’ll happen if her boyfriend breaks her heart. The place where the relationship first bloomed would flame into an apocalyptic landscape. She goes on to recall memorizing that apartment’s creaks in the floor (makes it sound like a hovel when it’s basically a mansion, but that’s part of TS’ magic), and on the bridge, the pair remember their start there together, “Barefoot in the kitchen / sacred new beginnings that became my religion.”
6) “Paper Rings”
“Paper Rings” offers up a taste of what Taylor’s career would’ve been like as a pop-punk artist (spoiler: it would’ve been good). “I want to drive away with you / I want your complications too / I want your dreary Mondays / wrap your arms around me, baby boy” Taylor calls on the bridge following a playful key change. Loving someone even on their dreariest of Mondays? Now that’s romantic.
7) “The Archer”
Possibly Swift’s most self-aware song ever, “The Archer” is a synthesizer slow-burn that builds but never crests, contending with her long history in the public eye and the ways growing up famous can stunt a person’s development. What man would sign up for a life under such microscopic scrutiny?, Swift wonders on the chorus (“who could ever leave me darling / but who could stay?”). The bridge has anxiety to rival “Out of the Woods”: “’Cause they see right through me / Can you see right through me? / They see right through me / I see right through me,” she repeats with escalating worry, the sudden switch to “I” addressing a facade she rarely acknowledges (she hates being called “calculating,” although she is).
8) “I Forgot That You Existed”
This album opener establishes all of Swift’s old feuds—with Kanye, Katy Perry, and the most likely target of this song, ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris—as done and dusted, to use an English phrase. In other words, she’s over it…kind of. The interspersed laughter sounds a little forced. But the most potent burn possible is letting someone know they no longer phase you: “You sent me a clear message / taught me some hard lessons / I just forget what they were / it’s all just a blur,” Swift sing-speaks on the bridge, sounding bored. Sorry, Calvin, this is all you get.
A mature track like this one would’ve been out of place on any previous Swift album; it’s about fighting with a significant other but making up and admitting your faults in the “Afterglow” because you’re too deeply entrenched in each other’s lives to split in response to a blow-out. “Tell me that it’s not my fault / Tell me that I’m all you want / even when I break your heart” she pleads, taking responsibility for past pettiness and hoping her partner can forgive.
Taylor Herself loves this bridge, as do her fans, but I just can’t get down with it. It sounds like a wedding march that’s much weaker musically than the ballad’s soulful verses and chorus, and despite the personal touches (“with every guitar string scar on my hand”), the lyrics aren’t nearly as clever as she thinks they are (I’m not honestly sure “all’s well that ends well to end up with you” makes sense). The saving grace is the languorous way she draws out the final word in the bridge’s last line—“and at every table I’ll save you a seat, loverrrr.”
11) “London Boy”
This track has been afforded a great deal of mockery for listing every London tourist trap imaginable and then using them as evidence that she’s practically a native there now, albeit set to an exceedingly catchy tune. When Swift tells her British lover on the bridge, “Stick with me, I’m your queen / Like a Tennessee Stella McCartney on the Heath,” it’s obviously just a plug for a brand collab she’s doing with the designer—she really has nothing else in common with Stella. Also, the clothes in their line are not cute.
12) “The Man”
“The Man” has an unpleasant melody and lyrics that read like the diary of a middle schooler who has newly learned the definition of “feminism.” However, Swift does use the word “bitch” several times on the bridge, so that’s cool. “What’s it like to brag about raking in dollars / And getting bitches and models?” she ponders, imagining how much better her life might be if she were a man instead of a mere white female millionaire.
13) “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince”
This one is inexplicably titled “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” (some people think she means Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump), and it sounds an awful lot like a moony Lana Del Ray joint. On the bridge, a chorus of voices scream “go, fight, win!,” and I get it; the song’s story is set in a high school and that’s what cheerleaders shout at a football game. Whatever. Combining school metaphors and politics isn’t the worst idea (schoolyard bullies and hierarchies remain Taylor’s “thing,” and Trump is as stupid as any John Hughes villain) but the execution doesn’t quite work.
14) “You Need to Calm Down”
Funny how Lover’s two lead singles are also its two weakest tracks. “You Need to Calm Down” marks Swift’s messy attempt at comparing LGBTQ discrimination (a topic she certainly seems to care about) with her own persecution at the hands of critics. “We see you over there on the internet / comparing all the girls who are killing it,” she sings with contempt on the bridge, a dated idea reminiscent of her formerly misguided feminism, back when she believed all women should support one another regardless of disparate values. Culture writers compare pop stars because that’s their job, Tay!
15) “ME!” (feat. Brendon Urie)
If Hell exists, “ME!” will welcome your arrival over the loudspeakers, closely followed by Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Taylor notably removed the lyric “Hey, kids! Spelling is fun!” from the track’s final recording after backlash when the single was first released, but the rest of the bridge still remains: “Girl, there ain’t no ‘I’ in team / But you know there is a ‘me’ / And you can’t spell ‘awesome’ without ‘me,’” Urie informs us cheerily, apparently with no qualms about being a truly bizarre choice for one of only two collaborators on Swift’s album. Their song is a brazen insult to human intelligence. FL