Review: ‘The Archer’ by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s record, “The Archer”, was released July 23rd, 2019 that alluded to her 7th studio album, Lover, which debuted August 23rd, 2019. The song is the fifth track on the album, where she reveals in a social media live video that since the beginning of her career, she’s unintentionally (up to that point) made the fifth tracks of her albums very confessional, emotional, and some of the more revealing records on the albums.

In her previous albums, track fives have been “Delicate” from Reputation, “All You Had To Do Was Stay” from 1989, “All Too Well” from Red, “Dear John” from Speak Now, “White Horse” from Fearless, and “Cold As You” from Taylor Swift.

The record is attached to an album that is whimsical, dreamy, and filled with pastel colors; a sharp contrast to her previous album, Reputation, which was a much darker and edgier album.

The Lyrics:

Combat, I’m ready for combat
I say I don’t want that, but what if I do?
‘Cause cruelty wins in the movies
I’ve got a hundred thrown-out speeches I almost said to you

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 on to you

I’ve been the archer, I’ve been the prey
Who could ever leave me, darling
But who could stay?

Dark side, I search for your dark side
But what if I’m alright, right, right, right here?
And I cut off my nose just to spite my face
Then I hate my reflection for years and years

I wake in the night, I pace like a ghost
The room is on fire, invisible smoke
And all of my heroes die all alone
Help me hold on to you

I’ve been the archer, I’ve been the prey
Screaming, who could ever leave me, darling
But who could stay?
(I see right through me, I see right through me)

‘Cause they see right through me
They see right through me
They see right through
Can you see right through me?
They see right through
They see right through me
I see right through me
I see right through me

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 on to you

I’ve been the archer, I’ve been the prey
Who could ever leave me, darling
But who could stay?
(I see right through me, I see right through me)
Who could stay?
Who could stay?
Who could stay?
You could stay
You could stay

Combat, I’m ready for combat

*lyrics provided by Genuis.com*

Analysis:

The song contains strong imagery and metaphorical references towards someone having been both a victim and an attacker towards someone or a situation. The song’s goal is to overcome past transgressions and experiences that are almost sabotaging the present.

The song opens up with Taylor questioning her intentions and state of mind about being in conflict singing, “I say I don’t want that, but what if I do?”. This question is a silent confession about her saying she doesn’t want there to be conflict, but doesn’t actually believe in that and is always ready to fight back against the person or situation secretly. This showcases her as trying to be the “innocent” one but really being the sneaky attacker who hold ammunition towards someone just for the day when someone does her wrong.

The song’s chorus sings, “I’ve been the archer, I’ve been the prey,” which are images that symbolize a victim and an attacker. The archer is the attacker and the prey is the victim. The song’s chorus continues with, “Who could ever leave me darling, but who could stay?” which is her questioning how relationships could fail, but also wondering how they could last given her past relationships and partners.

One repetitive lyric throughout the song, “Help me hold on to you”, is a call for action on her present partner, almost begging this person to giver her hope that their relationship won’t end up in tragedy like the others.

The most powerful piece and message in the song is perhaps the ending pre-chorus which sings:

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 on to you

There are two major messages in this section of the song which is the basic overall meaning of the song itself. The first is the infusion of the nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty, where she borrows the phrase “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men / Couldn’t put Humpty together again” and changes it to, “all the king’s horses, all the king’s men, couldn’t put me together again.” This change to talk about herself symbolizes a couple of things. One is her broken state and hopelessness when it comes to relationships and partners. No man or relationship could fix her broken heart and spirit. Nothing could distract her from the real problem and situation. The second part reveals what the situation truly is, which was her failed friendships. The song sings “’cause all of my enemies started out friends,” which reveals that the reason for her brokenness wasn’t any man or relationship, but rather her failed friendships.

This revelation and admission of the true problem shows that she used relationships to try to solve and distract her from a completely different issue, which was her friendships. The relationship between a lover and a friend are almost the same, where someone shares a piece of their heart and soul to someone else. The heartbreak of losing a friend is trying to be covered up with the distraction of a lover, but it isn’t working, in fact, just making it worse. She sees the cycle of unfulfilling partners are stemming from her heart wanting that partner to fill in the crack of a failed friendship.

The song ends by repeating the beginning phrase, “combat, I’m ready for combat”. This ending’s use of the beginning statement holds a different meaning than the first, as it now changes the meaning from being ready to fight the person to being ready to fight the real situation itself.

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