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  • Writer's pictureIshita Agarwal

Taylor Swift's "Anti-hero" lyrical analysis

As most of you may know, we are well into the Eras Tour. For those of you who don’t even know what the Eras Tour refers to, it’s Taylor Swift’s concert tour where she’s been singing songs from all of her albums as well as two surprise songs at each concert.

I’m going to play it safe and assume that some of us may not even know who Taylor Swift is, so, here are some facts to familiarise yourself with so that both the swifties and non-swifties can appreciate her lyrical genius.

A 33-year-old American Singer-Songwriter, she has revolutionized the music industry by being the first artist to claim the entire top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 with her album Midnights. She has 12 albums so far, including her two rerecorded ones. (She has also released the information that Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) will be released on July 7th. #prayforjohn

  1. Taylor Swift (2006)

  2. Fearless (2008)

  3. Speak Now (2010)

  4. Red (2012)

  5. 1989 (2014)

  6. Reputation (2017)

  7. Lover (2019)

  8. Folklore (2020)

  9. Evermore (2020)

  10. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) (2021)

  11. Red (Taylor’s Version) (2021)

  12. Midnights (2022)

  13. Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) (2023)

In case you’re wondering what’s the need for her re-recorded albums, here’s a short explanation.

In 2019, Taylor Swift’s former record label, Big Machine Label Group, was acquired by music executive Scooter Braun, which included the rights to her first 6 albums.

As a result of this acquisition, she felt her artistic vision was no longer in her control and to regain this control, she announced in 2020 that she would be re-recording her first 6 albums. This will allow her to license and distribute her music on her own terms and ensures that she’ll receive full compensation for her work. The albums with (Taylor’s Version) beside it refers to the albums she owns.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get straight into it. Midnights is her latest album with the 3 am edition having 20 songs. Inspired by her “sleepless nights”, Midnights delves deep into topics like insecurities, anxiety, and self-awareness among more. I’ll be diving into Anti-Hero, the third track on her album. This track is one of Taylor’s personal favourites because of how much she divulges about her insecurities. “A real guided tour about all the things I tend to hate about myself” is how Taylor described it. I think more often than not, we only see the successes of successful people. So much so that they start becoming less human in our minds and more like a concept. By breaking down this song, I want to showcase how she too, is kind of just like us.


I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser

Midnights become my afternoons

When my depression works the graveyard shift

All of the people I've ghosted stand there in the room

I should not be left to my own devices

They come with prices and vices

I end up in crisis (tale as old as time)

I wake up screaming from dreaming

One day I'll watch as you're leaving

'Cause you got tired of my scheming

(For the last time)

As we reach the end of verse 1, let me take you through some important images in this verse. One is that of aging without gaining wisdom which is what the first line essentially means. Using this as the starting line also gives us some insight into this poem being a critical reflection of one’s self.

This isn’t the first time that Taylor has brought up the notion of aging without wisdom, another instance is the TikTok famous audio “How can a person know everything at eighteen but nothing at twenty-two?”. This is from her song “Nothing New”. However, this seems to go one step further in saying that as one grows older, not only do they not gain wisdom but they seem to lose it as they can “know everything” at eighteen but “nothing at twenty-two”.

“Where my depression works the graveyard shift” uses personification in which human characteristics are given to a non-human item. This makes her depression feel more tangible, something that can’t be brushed away. The graveyard shift being from late in the night to early in the morning signifies how her depression seems to be most prominent during the nighttime which then nicely ties to the lyric “Midnights become my afternoons” as midnight, which should be a time for peace and rest is now a disrupted busy period. This perhaps causes hair to feel more alienated from the rest of society who sleep at night and work in the day.

The next part is more self-explanatory in the sense that when Taylor is left alone to her “own devices”, she doesn’t feel that it ends well, leading her to a state of “crisis”.

The next line, “I wake up screaming from dreaming” can be tied back to the first few lines where her sleep is interrupted hence causing her to “wake up screaming”. The next line, “One day I’ll watch as you’re leaving” shows the expression of her anxieties about people leaving her which is also evident in her song, “The Archer” through the lyrics, “Who could ever leave me darling? But who could stay?”. As “The Archer” is from her album, Lover, her persisting anxieties show us how long she’s dealt with this for and how ingrained its become in her mind.

As you may have realised by now, a lot of her lyrics can be linked to other notions in other songs such as in the case of “Cause you got tired of my scheming”. This notion of “scheming” can be seen in her song “Mastermind” from the same album where she talks about being a mastermind to manipulate those around her to control the situation.

It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me

At tea time, everybody agrees

I'll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror

It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero

Now, it’s time for the chorus. ”Tea time” connotes a scene of people chattering about trivial things as they drink tea together, hence could be referring to the gossip that is seen in the media which blames Taylor for various different things. Her next line conveys how she is afraid to reflect on herself and would rather physically inflict pain by staring “directly at the sun”. This also conveys a sense of denial as perhaps Taylor does not want to look in the mirror as she wants to avoid facing her own insecurities due to the mental turmoil it brings her. The chorus finishes off with Taylor showing herself as an outsider through the phrase “anti-hero”. An anti-hero being someone who does not possess typical heroic qualities shows how she views herself as someone who is perhaps an imposter as she feels like an outsider in her own story.

Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby

And I'm a monster on the hill

Too big to hang out, slowly lurching toward your favorite city

Pierced through the heart, but never killed

Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism

Like some kind of congressman? (Tale as old as time)

I wake up screaming from dreaming

One day I'll watch as you're leaving

And life will lose all its meaning

(For the last time)

The second verse delves deeper into Taylor’s insecurities as she uses words like “monster” and “too big” to describe herself. This contrast between “sexy baby” and “monster” further emphasizes on how out of place she feels and how she does not fit in with those around her. This could be a reference to her age as she has publicly expressed her fears about growing older before. Building on that, perhaps she also feels “too big” as she wants to be a particular version of herself but can’t fit into it.

The imagery of being “pierced through the heart” is rather vivid and gruesome that is associated with death as the heart, the most vital human organ, is damaged. However, stating that she is “never killed” implies a sense of exhaustion where she has to constantly endure such unbearable pain. Perhaps in some ways, this is worse than death.

“Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism like some kind of congressmen” essentially talks about the media’s portrayal of her and the rumors that are constantly surrounding her.

That’s all for this analysis! Hopefully, we get international dates soon (it’s been more than 200 days…)

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