Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” Lyrics Meaning

As successful as she may be, we can now add Taylor Swift’s name to the list of female artists who have dropped songs about their “insecurities” and ‘things they tend to hate most about themselves’. 

Indeed in explaining the meaning of “Anti-Hero”, Tay Tay seems to also express an understanding that such self-esteem issues, if you will, are common amongst the human experience. Yet and still, she felt the need to release a single speaking to such matters within herself.

But with that said, “Anti-Hero” may be the most lyrically complex of such pieces we have come across thus far. Therefore, it may be best if for the most part we take a linear approach to analyzing this song. In the process of doing that, we would focus on the parts that are generally discernible.

Verse 1

It is firmly established from the beginning of the first verse that yes, the vocalist definitely has self-esteem issues. In other words, she perceives that she is in fact getting “older”. However, at the same time, her wisdom is not keeping up with her age.

In the process, Taylor reveals forthrightly that she is dealing with depression, and in doing so she references a “graveyard”.

Due to the context in which said reference is used, it’s not abundantly clear exactly what she’s getting at. But needless to say, such terminology adds a more-serious dimension to this piece than may have been presumed beforehand.

Verse 2

Skipping ahead to the second verse, this is the segment of the song that has been deemed the most esoteric. But what it is Taylor may be getting at, once again most generally interpreted, would be an acknowledgement of her massive celebrity. However, as influential as she may be, everything about her, particularly internally, is not all gravy.

The Bridge

In the bridge, we find the singer is alluding to some type of alternate future she is imagining. And in that fantasy, Swift apparently ends up being murdered by her own daughter-in-law, who is after her fortune. 

But upon getting her hand on the actual will, she and the other relative survivors discover something shocking. They discover that Taylor has left them nary a dime. As such, it is actually Taylor who gets the last laugh, albeit “from hell”.

Pre Chorus

And yes, dear reader, these lyrics do indicate that Taylor’s mind can go wild at times. This is something she also realizes, as in the pre-chorus the vocalist asserts that she “shouldn’t be left to her own devices”. 

It almost feels like, in a way, in this regard Swift is channeling the likes of Britney Spears, i.e. a celebrity who has not been deemed mentally fit enough to process her own thoughts, if you will. 

But interesting to note is that the ending of the pre-chorus is similar to that of the first verse, which we did not expound on earlier. That is to say that the first verse concludes along the lines of the vocalist actually identifying what may be the main source of her depression based on her self-analysis. And that would, most simply explained, feeling guilty about the people whom she “ghosted”.

To ‘ghost’ someone, colloquially, means that you unceremoniously excommunicate them. Swifties have seemingly come to their own conclusion that who it is Taylor would be speaking of specifically is those she left behind, presumably in her quest for stardom. But that is never specified in the lyrics.

Now going back to the conclusion of the pre-chorus, it would appear that the vocalist is also haunted by bad dreams. These visions are marked by a scenario where someone(s) she apparently loves rather decides to cut Taylor off, as they’re ‘tired of her scheming’. 

So basically, we have Swift acknowledging that sometimes, she can be a less-than-ideal associate or what have you. The further implication is that one day she expects such behavior to catch up with her, as if it isn’t already.

Chorus of “Anti-Hero”

The chorus buttresses the notion that this is indeed a song of self-depreciation. In this passage, similar to the second verse, the superstar singer also introduces another standard we tend to find in pieces like these. The said standard is Taylor insinuating that her fandom perceives her as being more pious or untroubled than she actually is. 

Or as inferred, in their minds, she’s a hero. But Swift, being more familiar with herself, rather understands that this isn’t the case. She knows that in the grand scheme of things, she is an “anti-hero”. 

Or put otherwise, Taylor can “stare directly at the sun” yet not in her own “mirror”. That’s another way of saying that the way she boldly approaches her career – and succeeds accordingly – is indeed something to look up to. But she’s actually more admirable when it comes to dealing with such outside matters versus her internal shortcomings.

Final thoughts on “Anti-Hero”

So ultimately, we can conclude by saying that sentiment-wise, with the exception of the bridge, “Anti-Hero” does read similarly to likeminded pieces by female music stars, as in those who feel compelled to let their listeners know that they experience anxieties in tune with that of your everywoman. 

But being that in this case we have Taylor Swift, working alongside the likes of Jack Antonoff, said message is relayed in a way that is more creative than most.

Lyrics to Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero"

Taylor, the Amazing!

There’s so stopping Taylor swift, as “Midnights”, which Republic Records got around to releasing on 21 October 2022, marks her third studio album since the onset of the 2020s. 

Of course by the time this decade rolled around she had nothing to prove, as virtually all of Tay Tay’s albums to date have been chart toppers. Even her 2021 re-recordings of 2008’s “Fearless” and 2012’s “Red” were also chart toppers.

And what makes Taylor’s case even more interesting is that she doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon.

When was “Anti-Hero” released?

“Anti-Hero” was released on the same day as its album (“Midnights”). It serves as the album’s lead single.

Credits

Taylor Swift wrote and produced this song alongside Jack Antonoff. Jack is noted behind-the-scenes’ musician she has been working with for years. There are a total of 13 tracks on “Midnights”. Jack co-wrote 11 of these tracks.

In regards to the music video of “Anti-Hero”, Swift holds sole credits for writing and directing it. This video sports a plotline which reads as if it were in part inspired by WandaVision. This is because it features a couple of aged sons of the songstress, even though Taylor doesn’t actually have any children to date. 

Said sons are portrayed by the following professional actors:

  • John Early
  • Mike Birbiglia. 

Tay Tay’s future-fictional daughter-in-law (who, as aforenoted, is referenced in the lyrics, makes an appearance, in the form of actress Mary Elizabeth Ellis).

Anti-Hero

Things Worth Noting

This post’s writing is being conducted just a couple of days after “Anti-Hero” was made public. Owing to this, we are not yet privy to its chart showing. But all indications are that this will be a number one song. For instance, upon issuance it set a Spotify record by being streamed nearly 17,500,000 times upon debuting.

The first time Taylor made the forthcoming release of this particular track known was on 3 October 2022. 

Tay Tay has noted that amongst the songs she has actually written (i.e. her entire catalog), this ranks amongst her personal favorites.

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