Upon the release of any new Taylor Swift album, fans search the metaphor, anecdote and heavily symbolism-wrapped lyrics in a desperate attempt to decode the real meaning, but her new song “Soon You’ll Get Better” paints an unavoidable and undeniably clear picture of reality. Swift’s mother, Andrea, is fighting her second battle with cancer.
The song details visits to doctor’s offices, prescriptions to manage and extra time spent with nurses rather than friends. Not only does it stand out on the Lover album as a return to Taylor’s country roots, with collaboration from the Dixie Chicks, but it reveals a coming-to-faith moment for Swift.
“Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you / Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus, too,” Swift sings.
The country-turned-pop icon’s religion has been questioned by fans for years. Never released songs “Sweet Tea and God’s Graces” and “Didn’t They” make generic allusions to God, while her 2007 Christmas original “Christmas Must Be Something More” has a clearer vow of faith: “here’s to Jesus Christ who saved our lives.” But aside from a few scattered references made in songs over a decade old, like most of her personal life, Taylor’s spiritual beliefs have been kept private.
As Taylor has recently broken her unwritten rule to not discuss politics, she’s also breaking into the divisive topic of faith during the midst of a deeply personal trial. In a YouTube livestream celebrating Lover, she revealed this was the most difficult song to write and was ultimately a family decision to release to the world.
“I’ve had to learn how to handle serious illness in my family. Both of my parents have had cancer, and my mom is now fighting her battle with it again,” Taylor said in an interview with ELLE Magazine. “It’s taught me that there are real problems and then there’s everything else. My mom’s cancer is a real problem. I used to be so anxious about daily ups and downs. I give all of my worry, stress, and prayers to real problems now.”
While Lover features the euphoric sounds of Swift’s Speak Now album era, creating a pastel-colored world of devils and angels, it is a shift “from the secular, imagistic, everything-is-enchanted sort of mysticism Swift has always excelled at to one rooted in actual theology,” says Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic.
Where Reputation was dark and vengeful, Lover is patient and kind. It is a gentle reminder that even seemingly invincible cultural icons sometimes fall to their knees and pray, making themselves small in a world that has painted them to be larger than life.