When an artist’s work becomes synonymous with the term diaristic, it’s easy to feel that there’s little left unknown about her life. Taylor Swift has been not-so-subtly addressing her nonfictional exes and besties and rivals and romances in lyrics for years. One song on her new album, Lover, reveals the very block on which she first shacked up with one of her beaus. But it’s still surprising to hear her talk about certain subjects in song. Like her faith.
When Swift swam into the country mainstream with her twangy 2006 self-titled debut, there were light mentions of prayer amid her swept-up love ballads. She’s used only the most generic religious references—a stray “Lord save me,” for example—since then. Now, with Lover, she acknowledges her actual beliefs and lack thereof. On “Soon You’ll Get Better,” a tender banjo piece about her mom’s cancer diagnosis, she sings, “Holy orange bottles, each night, I pray to you / Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus, too.”
What a jolting line—shifting from the secular, imagistic, everything-is-enchanted sort of mysticism Swift has always excelled at to one rooted in actual theology. Significantly, the couplet comes from real-life struggle. Writing in Elle recently, Swift said that her mother’s illness “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.”