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The Archer

Promotional Single | Lover (2019)

“The Archer” is track five on Taylor’s seventh studio album, Lover (2019), written and produced by Taylor and Jack Antonoff. Praised for its artful lyrics expressing vulnerability, the song introspects on Taylor’s insecurities, anxiety and existential crisis. It was released as the only promotional single from the album on July 23, 2019.

Background and Lyrical Theme

“The Archer” was written by Taylor and Jack Antonoff within two hours when they were in California. It is a ballad that features heavy synthesizers and minimalistic sounds. The imagery of the archer is a connection to Taylor’s zodiac sign: born on December 13, 1989, she is a Sagittarius, which is otherwise known as the archer sign. She described the song as “darker and more introspective” than preceding singles. It showcases a more vulnerable and confessional side of her, as it features her as both hunter and hunted. Taylor introduced her acoustic performance of “The Archer” on BBC Radio 1 with an in-depth analysis of its meaning:

«Maybe in our lives if we’ve been let down, or things haven’t turned out the way that we wanted to in relationships. Often times we can kind of have this phantom fear of tragedy, where you’re like, if you ever find something really great, or a situation that is solid, or a situation where your trust isn’t being broken… sometimes you have to deal with your demons from all those times that it didn’t work. You have to stop yourself from thinking the worst is always going to happen. And this is a song that touches on anxiety, and how to break patterns and cycles that aren’t healthy, because we learn a lot in life. Some of the lessons are good, and some of the habits are good, and some of the habits are bad. So it’s a song about having to unlearn some bad lessons that you learned in the past.»

Taylor Swift
Taylor interpolates lyrics from the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” to describe her emotional anguish, then brings it all back to how her life has been marked by betrayal. “The Archer” showcases her introspective side, over a skittering synth line that has the 80s sensibility, typical of Jack Antonoff’s works.

Release

Taylor first teased “The Archer” in the music video for “ME!,” which features a scene with a band of Cupid-esque angels — Cupid is often depicted as an archer, who shoots arrows at people to make them fall in love. Taylor later teased the song as one of the easter eggs in the music video of “You Need to Calm Down“, the second single from Lover. In the video, Hayley Kiyoko appears to be wielding a bow and arrow, hitting a bullseye in the center, which has the number 5 stamped on it; fans interpreted it as something to do with the fifth track on Lover. On July 22, 2019, the fifth track on the album was revealed to be a song entitled “The Archer”, through an accidental leak in the pre-order tracklist of the album on Apple Music. The following day, “The Archer” was released as the only promotional single from Lover.

Track Five Tradition

Regarding the song’s placement at number five on the track list, Taylor explained that she intenionally put the most “honest, emotional, vulnerable, and personal” track at the position. “The Archer” was described as darker and more introspective than preceding singles, showcasing a more vulnerable and confessional side of Taylor, as it features her as both hunter and hunted.

«I didn’t realize I was doing this, but as I was making albums, I guess I was just kind of putting a very vulnerable, personal, honest, emotional song as track five. So because you noticed this, I started to put the songs that were really honest, emotional, vulnerable, and personal as track five, so that has definitely happened in the case of track five on this album, Lover

Taylor Swift

Critical Reception

“The Archer” received acclaim from music critics. Rolling Stone‘s Claire Shaffer called the song “a somber, synth-heavy ballad centered around the metaphor of the archer”. Rania Aniftos of Billboard opined that it is “sparkling, airy”, and that Taylor “tears down the wall she puts up, asking the person she loves to accept all of her as she chants”. Other critics also compared the song to her classic “All Too Well” (2012). Stereogum named “The Archer” as one of the top 10 best songs of 2019. Slant named it the sixth-best song of 2019.

Commercial Performance

In the United States, “The Archer” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 69, becoming Taylor’s 80th song to enter the chart, later repeaking at No. 38 after the release of Lover — becoming one of the seven top-forty hits from the album. The song debuted at No. 100 on the UK Singles Chart, later peaking at No. 43. Additionally, the song entered and peaked at No. 17 in Scotland and No. 31 in Ireland. Other places where it charted include No. 28 in New Zealand and No. 41 on the Canadian Hot 100. In Australia, the song debuted at No. 55 and moved to No. 19 the following week.

Live Performances

Taylor’s first live performance of the song was an acoustic rendition on the “Lover’s Lounge”, a Q&A session live streamed on YouTube on August 22, 2019. The next day, she again performed the song acoustically at a SiriusXM Town Hall. The song was included in her setlist for BBC Radio 1‘s “Live Lounge” on September 2. On September 9, Taylor performed the song at the City of Lover one-off concert in Paris, France. The audio was released on digital music platforms on May 17, 2020 along with the premiere of the concert film on ABC.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
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

[Pre-chorus 1]
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

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

[Verse 2]
Dark side
I search for your dark side
But what if I’m all right, right, right, right here?
And I cut off my nose just to spite my face
Then I hate my reflection for years and years

[Pre-chorus 2]
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 onto you

[Chorus]
I’ve been the archer
I’ve been the prey
Screaming who could ever leave me, darling?
But who could stay?

[Bridge]
‘Cause they see right through me
They see right through me, they see right through me
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 onto you

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

[Outro]
Who could stay?
Who could stay?
Who could stay?
Who could stay?
You could stay
You could stay (You)
Combat, I’m ready for combat

General Information
AlbumLover
ReleasedJuly 23, 2019
StudioElectric Lady (New York City)
GenreSynth Pop
Length3:31
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
ProducersJack Antonoff
Taylor Swift
LOVER CHRONOLOGY
The ManThe ArcherI Think He Knows
Single Certification
Single Artwork
Live Acoustic Performance
Lyric Video
Official Audio
Official Live Audio