So far, Taylor Swift‘s ‘Lover’ era has felt like… a lot. Lead single ‘Me!’ and its video are as sugary as a McDonald’s McFlurry. Follow-up ‘You Need To Calm Down’ is classier, but the pro-LGBTQ message of its fabulously extra video is undercut somewhat by the line “Shade never made anyone less gay”. It’s not as clever as it first sounds, and suggests Swift doesn’t fully understand what “shade” actually means.
Because of all this, it’s a relief to hear Swift dial things back a bit with new song ‘The Archer’. Co-written and co-produced by Jack Antonoff (of Bleachers, and Lorde’s ‘Melodrama’), it’s a relatively minimal midtempo track with an airiness that recalls ‘State Of Grace’ from the ‘Red’ album and a compelling use of repetition in the style of ‘Out Of The Woods’, which she also co-wrote with Antonoff. “I’ve been the archer, I’ve been the prey”, Swift sings on the chorus. “Who could ever leave me, darling, but who could stay?”
The whole thing has an elegant simplicity to it that recalls vintage Swift because it doesn’t sound as though she’s trying too hard. Sure, the lyrics are incredibly self-referential. When she sings “All of my enemies started out friends”, it’s presumably another nod to Kanye West and Katy Perry and…. zzzz. But if you don’t like self-referential lyrics, why would you be listening to Taylor Swift to begin with?