Taylor Swift, indie underground punk singer-songwriter and hotly tipped One To Watch in 2019, has a new song out.
It’s called “The Archer,” released on Tuesday (July 23), and it’s the third song released thus far off of her forthcoming album, Lover – and the must vulnerable from the album to date, by far.
Ironically enough, it seems she’s taken her own advice and calmed things down, musically speaking, just one song after the Twitter Gay-dividing, Pride Month-timed rainbow sparkle party bonanza that was “You Need To Calm Down,” and two songs after her Kidz Bop-suited, family-friendly sugary-sweet bree-hee-heezy “ME!” with Brendon Urie.
While I’m not a Swiftie (please don’t come for me and/or serve me with legal papers, TAS Rights Management), this particular offering feels exponentially more “her” – or, at least, supplies much more meaty stuff to dig into and analyze, which some of her more diehard fans have likely been waiting to do.
Musically, the dreamy track is much more in the vein of reputation‘s “Delicate” or Red‘s “All Too Well” – which makes sense, because like those songs, it’s Track 5 on Lover. And, being the easter egg #Lover she is, Miss Swift reserves that slot for especially emotional numbers on her albums. (This was previously only a prevailing fan theory, until she herself confirmed it on her Instagram Live earlier today.) It’s also reminiscent of 1989‘s “This Love,” which is not Track 5, but anyway.
The atmospheric, ’80s-style synths and gentle pulsations from Jack Antonoff are a nice touch, but the star of the song is the lyricism. No disrespect to recent profundities like “hey kids, spelling is fun!” of course, but this feels like a reassurance that she’s still got denser material up her sleeves.
She opens the track by calling out, well…herself: “Combat, I’m ready for combat / I say I don’t want that, but what if I do?”
Does Taylor live for the drama, after all? Even she’s questioning her own motives at this point.
“I’ve got a hundred thrown-out speeches I almost said to you.” We’ve seen the statements she’s released in her defense over the years. Can you even imagine what she’s opted not to post, still sitting in her Notes app?
Elsewhere, she acknowledges self-destructive patterns and insecurities: “I cut off my nose just to spite my face / Then I hate my reflection for years and years.”
The insecurities mount: “All of my heroes die all alone / Help me hold on to you,” she pleads to her #Lover. A reference to some of her perpetually single music idols and a fear of following suit, perhaps?
The paranoia around her own persona peaks during the bridge: “Can you see right through me? / They see right through me / I see right through me,” she sings, seemingly spiraling.
The line that will get the most attention, of course, is this: “All the king’s horses, all the king’s men / Couldn’t put me together again / ‘Cause all of my enemies started out friends / Help me hold onto you.”
As a pop star who’s no stranger to drawing battle lines between former pals in the public eye – most recently, Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta regarding the ownership of her masters, which has spun out into an all-out Stan War – the “Humpty Dumpty”-inspired lyric feels especially relevant to the most recent headlines about her business dealings.
I’m not interested in participating in the endlessly exhausting debate about whether Taylor Swift is Good or Bad in her actions, nor if she’s the Villain or the Victim. Like all things in life, it’s never just that simple. We don’t actually know any of these people beyond their public-facing personas and apparent motives – it’s tricky to remember that for some.
I can, however, appreciate hearing Taylor Swift sing about her own mixed emotions and conflicted ego. “Who could ever leave me, darling? Who could stay?” Of course she’s a hypocrite sometimes, and she knows it. That comes with being human. If only more of us could be as self-aware.
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