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The Man

Single | Lover (2019)

“The Man” is a song written and recorded by Taylor with Joel Little, for her seventh studio album, Lover (2019). The song was serviced to US adult contemporary and pop radio formats on January 27, 2020, as the fourth and final single from the album.
“The Man” is a synth-pop and electropop song with flashy harmonies, murky synths and rumbling beats. Over an uptempo production, Taylor imagines the media’s treatment of her if she were a man.

Background and Release

The recording process for Lover took under three months and concluded in February 2019. Joel Little was revealed as one of the producers for the album with the release of the lead single “ME!” in April 2019. He co-wrote and co-produced four of the eighteen tracks for the album, including “The Man.” The song title was revealed along with the lyrics in Taylor’s Vogue cover interview for the September 2019 issue.

In 2022, “The Man” was featured in the official Record Store Day compilation album Portraits of Her, a 16-track limited-edition vinyl album featuring tracks donated by groundbreaking female artists, with sales of the album benefitting “We Are Moving The Needle,” a nonprofit organization that supports female recording industry professionals, including audio engineers and producers. Portraits of Her was available at independent record stores on Record Store Day, April 23, 2022, which was the 15th anniversary of the global celebration of the independent record store. Taylor was named “Global Ambassador” of the occasion.

Lyrical Theme

Taylor challenges societal sexist double standards, with lyrics including a reference to American actor Leonardo DiCaprio. She uses the actor as an example to explain sexism. During the iHeartRadio “Lover Secret Session“, she said:

«This is a song that I have wanted to write for a very long time but never knew exactly how to. I often think about what my career and the headlines about it would have been like, if I had been a man instead of a woman. Not, 'What would I do differently?', but if I had the same accomplishments, the same mistakes, the same dating history, the same statements…What would have been different? So ‘The Man’ is about what would have been, if I had been a dude and my approximations of it.»

Taylor Swift
In outtakes from an interview with Billboard in December 2019, Taylor said she wrote the song not only from personal experience, but also from hearing the general experiences of women working across all parts of the music industry. She added: “We [women] have to curate and cater everything, but we have to make it look like an accident. Because if we make a mistake, that’s our fault, but if we strategize so that we won’t make a mistake, we’re calculating. There is a bit of a damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don’t thing happening in music.”

Music Video

On February 25, 2020, Taylor announced via her social media accounts that the music video would be released in two days. The video was directed by her, making it her official solo directorial debut. Taylor answered fan questions in the hour before the music video’s premiere on YouTube on February 27, 2020. She stated that the entire preparation for the music video — including planning meetings, creating mood boards, scouting locations, and costume and set design — took several months. She also confirmed that there would be many of her trademark “easter eggs” in the video.

«With 'The Man' music video, I wanted to show a heightened reaction of how the world reacts to someone who's male, hot, rich, young and cocky. I wanted to show how there's immediate approval and benefit of the doubt given, in a ridiculous way.»

Taylor Swift
The video features cameos from TikTok stars Loren Gray and Dominic Toliver, actress Jayden Bartels, and Taylor’s father Scott Swift; actor Dwayne Johnson appears in a brief voice role. The video’s production team includes producer Jil Hardin, executive producer Rebecca Skinner, assistant director Joe Osborne, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, production designer Ethan Tobman, and makeup artist Bill Corso. Taylor’s transformation involved a “muscle suit”, prosthetic makeup, eyebrow wigs, and facial sculptures, which took between four and six hours to apply each day. She also worked with movement coaches Stephen Galloway and Spenser Theberge, as well as editor Chancler Haynes. Visual effects were handled by Ingenuity Studios.

Critical Reception

The song received a positive reception from critics, who praised its feminist message. According to Billboard‘s Gil Kaufman, “The Man” is a pointed statement about “how much harder women need to work than men to get to the same finish line”. Jason Lipshutz of the same magazine described the song as a “biting look at gender dynamics within both the pop industry and celebrity-driven culture”, noting that it is sonically composed of a rumbling beat and crackling synths and lyrically provides wry humor and an honest perspective.

Commercial Performance

In the United States, following the release of the album Lover, “The Man” debuted at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was eventually serviced to the US adult contemporary and pop radio formats on January 27, 2020, as the fourth single from Lover. The single quickly became pop radio’s most added song of the week dated January 27, 2020. It also topped the list of most added songs of the week by adult contemporary radio.

In Europe, “The Man” charted at No. 16 in Ireland, 62 in Netherlands, 24 in Norway, 82 in Scotland, 63 in Sweden and 80 in Switzerland. It reached No. 21 on the UK Singles Chart.

Impact

In honor of International Women’s Day in 2020, “The Man” was added to playlists on streaming platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal. Public figures such as Malala Yousafzai and Kristin Chenoweth added the song to their International Women’s Day playlists. Furthermore, Taylor included the song in her Apple Music “Playlist by ME!”, which was updated to spotlight songs from rising female artists such as Beabadoobee, Clairo, Phoebe Bridgers, Caroline Polachek, Celeste, Charli XCX, Daya, Grimes, Haim, Halsey, Léon, H.E.R., Kesha, King Princess, Marina Diamandis, MUNA, Oh Wonder, Brittany Howard, Margaret Glaspy, Princess Nokia, Selena Gomez, Låpsley, Yebba, and more.

In March 2020, British politician Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for International Trade and Minister for Women and Equalities of the United Kingdom, quoted the song’s lyrics during a special International Women’s Day debate in the British parliament, while talking about the need for gender equality across the workforce and greater protection for women against domestic violence. Truss stated: “And so that, in the words of the brilliant Taylor Swift in her new song, ‘women are left running as fast as they can, wondering if they’d get there quicker if they were a man’.”

American journalist Jody Rosen, writing for The New York Times, listed “The Man” as one of the “25 songs that matter now”. Describing Taylor as “pop’s best humblebraggart”, Rosen termed “The Man” as a “sly protest song”, explaining that Taylor “has been pop’s top bellyacher, turning a now-familiar set of grievances into great songs”. He added that she “channels that indignation into a broader protest against the sexism and skepticism that all women face”. Rosen also opined that the song’s “most hard-hitting line is a plaintive rhetorical question that calls to mind a #MeToo movement slogan: #BelieveWomen”. Naming “The Man” as the “most important” song Taylor has ever written, Brittany Hodak of Forbes, commended that “the magic of “The Man” is not just that it captures a complex (and often misunderstood) issue so brilliantly and simply, but also that it conveys to Swift’s female fans that even she isn’t above the BS that so many of us are regularly subjected to”. Hodak concluded that she is “hopeful that Swift’s spotlight on the issue will spark a national conversation about sexism, power, and equality”.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
I would be complex, I would be cool
They’d say I played the field before I found someone to commit to
And that would be okay for me to do
Every conquest I had made would make me more of a boss to you

[Pre-chorus]
I’d be a fearless leader
I’d be an alpha type
When everyone believes ya:
What’s that like?

[Chorus]
I’m so sick of running as fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man
And I’m so sick of them coming at me again
‘Cause if I was a man, then I’d be the man
I’d be the man
I’d be the man

[Verse 2]
They’d say I hustled, put in the work
They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve
What I was wearing, if I was rude
Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves

[Pre-chorus]
And they would toast to me, oh
Let the players play
I’d be just like Leo in Saint-Tropez

[Chorus]
I’m so sick of running as fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man
And I’m so sick of them coming at me again
‘Cause if I was a man, then I’d be the man
I’d be the man
I’d be the man

[Bridge]
What’s it like to brag about raking in dollars?
And getting bitches and models?
And it’s all good if you’re bad
And it’s okay if you’re mad
If I was out flashing my dollars
I’d be a bitch, not a baller
They’d paint me out to be bad
So, it’s okay that I’m mad

[Chorus Breakdown]
I’m so sick of running as fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man (You know that)

[Chorus]
And I’m so sick of them coming at me again (Coming at me again)
‘Cause if I was a man (If I was a man)
Then I’d be the man (Then I’d be the man)
I’m so sick of running as fast as I can (As fast as I can)
Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man (Hey!)
And I’m so sick of them coming at me again (Coming at me again)
‘Cause if I was a man (If I was a man)
Then I’d be the man
I’d be the man
I’d be the man (Oh)
I’d be the man (Yeah)
I’d be the man (I’d be the man)
 
[Outro]
If I was a man, then I’d be the man

General Information
AlbumLover
ReleasedAugust 23, 2019
StudioElectric Lady (New York City)
Golden Age West (Auckland)
GenreSynth Pop
Electro Pop
Length3:10
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Joel Little
ProducersJoel Little
Taylor Swift
LOVER CHRONOLOGY
LoverThe ManThe Archer
Single Certification
Single Artwork
Music Video
Lyric Video
Live Acoustic Performance
Official Audio