MUSIC

Taylor Swift Soars in “Lover’s” Exploration of Complex Love

Swift finds her state of grace on Lover's more personal, sincere, and quiet tracks.

When people think of Taylor Swift, they think of break-up anthems, heart-shattering love songs, and her ability to write and produce earworm singles.

Over the past six years, from 1989 to Reputation to Lover, the brash production of her pop-perfection has overshadowed Swift's more subtle talents. But on Lover, long-time listeners can forge a connection to the woman they've grown up with, as Swift turns to quiet reflections to grapple with loss and the trials of love.

Admittedly, throughout the first half of the album, Swift feels removed, regurgitating the same spew she's offered fans for the past six years. The songs give little insight into her life (besides the intimate title track, "Lover"). At the very least, Lover's opening song, "I Forgot That You Existed," immediately pivots away from the resentment of Reputation and moves towards acceptance: "It isn't love / It isn't hate / It's just indifference." Frankly, the tedious lyricism is disappointing.

It feels like the further you delve into the album, the further you are from being connected to Swift. "Miss Americana and The Heartbreak Prince" is the most reductive track. It's a retreat back to adolescence, but the song sounds even less mature than her work as a teenager, as it's missing the vibrant and visceral emotion of her earlier work. Upon second listen, it's apparent that she's alluding to her past reluctance to address politics, but for the average listener, it fails to achieve its intent. (And anyway, it's a cop-out for her to merely allude to her political silence rather than fully explain her rationale).

Thankfully, Swift is able to make the necessary heel turn to a more personal and quiet style midway through the album. Of course, there are still interjections of certified pop-pandering hits, like "You Need to Calm Down" and "ME!," but you're better off skipping those. The album's midsection, from "Cornelia Street" to "False God," is almost heavenly. The tracks expose another side of Swift: sweet, mature, introspective, and at her most sincere since Red. For once, she shows a few signs of genuine growing pains.

"Soon You'll Get Better" is her most personal track on the album. Swift always does her best work in the midst of heartbreak, and "Soon You'll Get Better" twists hearts into knots, as Swift softly sings about the stress of having a sick loved one. The track is about her mother, Andrea, who was diagnosed with cancer back in 2015 and went into remission before the cancer recently recurred. The lyrics leave the star emotionally exposed: "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."

From introspections like "Desperate people find faith / so now I pray to Jesus, too," Swift moves to "False God's" declaration that "the altar is my hips." The transition is almost seamless, exploring how different relationships evolve, sometimes with beauty and sometimes with heart-rending tragedy. "False God's" slow-burn beat and her captivating delivery are soul-stirring.

If "Soon You'll Get Better" shatters your stone cold, glass heart, then "It's Nice to Have a Friend" succeeds in gluing the shards back together. The evocative imagery tells a story of strangers becoming friends, friends becoming lovers, and lovers becoming partners. The echoing vocals hover around the chorus, encompassing the listener; it's cinematic.

On her seventh studio album, Swift sheds her old skin of pettiness and resentment. Altogether, the album matures from "I Forgot You Existed's" indifference to "Daylight's" focus on love and sun rises, as she quietly concludes, "You are what you love." For the first time since Red, Swift mixes genres and plays to her voice's strengths to say exactly what she has to say. She could have written this album back on her bedroom floor, all alone, and we'd believe it. Lover may have its ups and downs, but its midsection proves why Swift doesn't need to retreat back to country music—those brief but poignant songs create moments when the album is glorious.

Listen to the epic album here:

CULTURE

Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.

OF COURSE. i.imgur.com

That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.

Implications

So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.

MUSIC

Big Sean Matures on "Single Again"

Big Sean is showing some big growth.

Big Sean rehashes his romantic past, breaking the cycle of long-term relationships and prioritizing self-care with his second single this week, "Single Again."

He takes a note from his ex Ariana Grande by reclaiming his romantic past and extending positive vibes by featuring his recent ex-girlfriend of two years and Twenty88 collaborator, Jhené Aiko, on the track. On "Single Again," He shows he's grown by rapping about his truth, which includes the habit of jumping from one serious relationship to the next. Sean Don references his toxic past, like how he dragged ex-fiancé, Naya Rivera, on his 2015 hit, "I Don't F**k With You," reflecting four years later, "Old relationships turn to new déjà vus / Got me feeling like 'I don't f**k with you' / Oh nah, nah, that's the old me / You f**king with the new me."

Big Sean and Aiko harmonize on the chorus to address why the pair split in the first place: "Told 'em that we better off friends / Blaming you is just so easy / But maybe the problem's me / I'm single again / Guess that's just the way it's gon' be"

Ty Dolla $ign backs Big Sean's second, illuminating verse. The Detroit rapper brilliantly and seamlessly breaks down unhealthy coping mechanisms while remaining self-aware—commenting on drug abuse, mental health, and self-love. Now that's a real man, commenting on some real sh*t. On "Single Again," Big Sean is showing some big growth.

Listen here:

Big Sean - Single Again (Audio) www.youtube.com