The Archer
The popular artist is out with another emotional, yet cryptic song. (Illustration by Alexa Finkelstein, Pratt Institute)

On the night of July 23, Taylor Swift dropped a new song from her highly anticipated album “Lover,” which will be fully released on August 23. “The Archer” is markedly different from the two previously released singles, “ME!” and “You Need to Calm Down.” The song’s calm, ethereal aura is worlds away from the vibrant, loud pop beats of the first two singles, making it a refreshing addition to Swift’s repertoire.

Despite the seemingly tranquil nature of “The Archer,” the lyrics of the song are extremely cryptic. Swift is known for making her music personal, but in an oblique manner. She hints toward specific people or situations in her personal life but fails to reveal what she’s referencing. This is undoubtedly one of Swift’s marketing strategies, and it’s wildly effective. Taking her past into account, what is Swift referencing in “The Archer”? Here’s a speculative study of Swift’s newest song.

The Sound

Within the first five seconds of “The Archer,” it’s easy to tell that the song is mellow and soothing. Combined with Swift’s alluring voice, the melody is as dreamy as the millennial pink clouds on the song’s cover art.

The song’s sound obviously deviates from the first two singles from “Lover.” It also fails to resemble Swift’s most recent album, “Reputation”; the only exception to this would be “Delicate,” which sonically matches “The Archer” in beat and tone. However, “The Archer” more closely aligns with the musical aesthetic of Swift’s “1989” album with its otherworldly pop sound.

One notable element of “The Archer” is its slow build. The rhythmic, plodding beat of the drums combined with highlights of synth seem to signal an eventual beat drop. However, the song never crescendos, leaving intrigued listeners with a sense of incompleteness.

The Lyrics

Swift co-wrote “The Archer” with Jack Antonoff, who also co-wrote her albums “Reputation” and “1989.” So, it comes as no surprise that the deeply raw and emotional lyrics of the song match with the other track 5’s on her previous two albums, “Delicate” and “All Too Well.”

In “The Archer,” Swift once again reaffirms her position as one of the most captivating songwriters in the industry. With lyrics like, “Easy they come, easy they go / I jump from the train, I ride off alone / I never grew up, it’s getting so old / Help me hold onto you,” Swift proves herself a master wordsmith.

The Meaning (?)

Like many Swift songs, “The Archer” is chock full of emotionally-charged lyrics that undoubtedly reference experiences in her personal life. But who, or what, could Swift be addressing in her new single?

“I’ve been the archer / I’ve been the prey / Who could ever leave me, darling? / But who could stay?” The chorus depicts a wounded Swift as she decries the unfairness of life. She specifically addresses her inability to trust in relationships. The lyrics seem to be addressing a feud between Swift and one of her friends: “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.”

Swift’s most famous friend-feud was with Katy Perry, who supposedly stole some of Swift’s backup dancers in the middle of her “Red” tour. Swift stated, “She [Perry] basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me.” However, the two pop stars recently reconciled, with Perry making a guest appearance in the music video for “You Need to Calm Down.”

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One of the most out-there theories is that the song concerns the supposed falling out between Swift and her maybe-former bestie Karlie Kloss. Although neither Swift nor Kloss have publicly stated that their friendship has fallen apart, the fact that Swift didn’t include Kloss in her list of best friends in a magazine interview raised the suspicions of many.

The Kloss feud theory points to the title of the song as further evidence. “The Archer” is a reference to Swift’s status as a Sagittarius, since the archer is the symbol for the constellation. Kloss, on the other hand, is a Leo, who are known for their larger than life personalities, like Sagittarians. Swift dropped “The Archer” at the beginning of Leo season, which means she is possibly trying to assert her dominance over Kloss.

But, as previously mentioned, this theory is a big stretch. The most realistic explanation for this song is that Swift is just trying to grapple with the rise and fall of friendships in her life, which is extremely relatable.

Did Swift Give Early Hints?

Looking beyond the scope of the song, it appears that “The Archer” might be a sequel to Swift’s “Reputation” track 5, “Delicate.” On Twitter, a Swift fan discovered that “The Archer” is a dive bar located on the East Side of London, which is obviously a reference to lyrics in “Delicate”: “Dive bar on the East Side, where you at? / Come here, you can meet me in the back.”

The “Delicate” music video included the words “track 5” in graffiti behind Swift’s head while she reads a note, the contents of which are never revealed. Perhaps the fifth track from “Lover” will finally uncover what the note said. The video also included a cupid fountain in the background, possibly foreshadowing “The Archer.” If these Easter eggs are legitimate, it would mean that Swift planned the release of “The Archer” almost two years in advance, which would make it her biggest and longest kept secret to date.

In Conclusion

“The Archer” is following in the footsteps of Swift’s other albums’ fifth tracks by being honest, emotional, vulnerable and personal. “There’s a lot that’s covered emotionally, and I really wanted to give you track 5 before the album came out,” Swift stated. There’s no way of knowing the true meaning behind the song’s lyrics, but one thing is for sure: With “The Archer,” Swift is proving that emotions paired with excellent songwriting makes for a successful song.

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