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Anti-Hero

Lead Single | Midnights (2022)

“Anti-Hero” is the lead single and third track from Taylor’s tenth studio album, Midnights (2022). It was released on October 21, 2022, through Republic Records and became Taylor’s ninth No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Written and produced by her and Jack Antonoff, the song discusses self-loathing, depression, and anxiety. It is also one of Taylor’s favorite songs she’s ever written.

Background and Release

On August 28, 2022, Taylor announced her tenth studio album, Midnights, set for release on October 21, 2022. Exactly one month later, she began unveiling the track-list in a randomized order through a video series on TikTok, called Midnights Mayhem With Me. It consisted of 13 episodes, with one song revealed in per episode. In the sixth edition on October 3, 2022, Taylor announced the title of the third track as “Anti-Hero”.

On October 16, Taylor posted a short video on her social media that presented a schedule of the days leading up to the album release, entitled “Midnight Manifest”. The sheet specified that a music video for “Anti-Hero” was set to be released the same day as the album. The schedule also mentioned a #TSAntiHeroChallenge on YouTube Shorts. Universal Music Group sent “Anti-Hero” to Italian radio stations on October 21, 2022. Republic Records released it to the US Hot Adult Contemporary radio on October 24, and Contemporary Hit radio on October 25, as the lead single from Midnights.

Lyrical Theme

Driven by drums and shiny synthesizers, “Anti-Hero” was inspired by Taylor’s nightmares, her issues with depersonalization and self-hatred, as well as critiquing her shortcomings and societal pressures. When describing the song, Taylor said:

«'Anti-Hero' is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. I really don’t think I’ve delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before. You know, I struggle a lot with the idea that my life has become unmanagably sized and not to sound too dark, I struggle with the idea of not feeling like a person...This song really is a guided tour throughout all the things I tend to hate about myself. We all hate things about ourselves, and it’s all those aspects of the things we dislike and like about ourselves that we have to come to terms with if we are going to be this person. Yeah, I like 'Anti-Hero' a lot because I think it’s honest.»

Taylor Swift
In a short video posted to Spotify, Taylor further confirmed that “self-loathing” is one of five themes that inspired the Midnights album. In the bridge of “Anti-Hero,” she goes on to describe one of her nightmares, in which her daughter-in-law murders her to inherit her fortune. The lyrics also contain a reference to American sitcom series 30 Rock in the lyric “Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby, and I’m a monster on the hill.”

Music Video

The music video premiered on YouTube at 08:00 EDT on October 21, 8 hours after the album’s release. Taylor wrote and directed the music video herself. In it, she sings the first verse in a 1970s-style suburban home kitchen at night, briefly surrounded by ghosts in tablecloths. She opens the front door, revealing a second version of herself with her early-2010s appearance and tour dance outfit, and they drink shots together. A third, giant version of Taylor crawls into a neighbor’s dinner party, whereupon a guest unsuccessfully tries to subdue her by shooting her in the heart with a bow and arrow. The bridge describes Taylor’s fear of her funeral, attended by her sons (Mike Birbiglia and John Early) and daughter-in-law (Mary Elizabeth Ellis), the latter of whom a fourth version of Taylor, peeking from inside the coffin, implicates in her apparent murder. The three attendees bicker over various family issues, before learning that her last will leaves them with no money and makes the metafictional claim that the video contains no hidden symbolism. The video ends when the first two versions of Taylor sit on the rooftop and offer wine to the giant version, who happily accepts.

Critical Reception

“Anti-Hero” received positive reviews from music critics. Olivia Horn of Pitchfork said the song confronts Taylor’s flaws and fallibility, and described it as a blend of “the lacquered synth-pop of 1989, the neurotic image analysis of reputation, the dense lyricism of folklore and evermore.” Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone dubbed “Anti-Hero” an album standout, featuring a “Blank Space-level burn of both herself and her critics”, and praised the “deliciously diabolical” bridge. Chris Willman of Variety lauded the song’s confessional lyrics, quirky mood and “earworm” hook. The Guardian critic Alexis Petridis stated “Anti-Hero” offers “a litany of small-hours self-loathing”, but sensed “an appealing confidence” in Taylor’s approach — that she “no longer feels she has to compete on the same terms as her peers.” Billboard journalist Jason Lipshutz ranked it as the best song on Midnights. He commended its “wondrously scathing self-examination”, “sardonic masterstrokes”, and Antonoff’s “sleek, shiny” production.

Commercial Performance

Upon the release of Midnights, “Anti-Hero” earned over 17.4 million plays in its first 24 hours on Spotify globally, becoming the biggest opening day for a song in the platform’s history. The single debuted atop the Billboard Global 200 and Global Excl. US charts.

In the United States, “Anti-Hero” debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100 as Taylor’s ninth No. 1 song in the country, with 59.7 million streams, 13,500 digital downloads sold, and an airplay audience of 32 million. Taylor became the first artist in history to simultaneously occupy the top 10 spots of the Billboard Hot 100 chart; the second artist to debut atop the Hot 100 with solo songs five times; the female artist with the most top-10 entries (40), surpassing Madonna (38); the first artist to debut atop both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 simultaneously as many as four times; and the first artist to occupy the entire top-ten of the Hot 100, Streaming Songs, and Digital Songs charts simultaneously. “Anti-Hero” also debuted at No. 13 on the Radio Songs chart, a personal best for Taylor. “Anti-Hero” spent two consecutive weeks at number one on the Hot 100, becoming her first song to spend multiple weeks atop the chart since “Look What You Made Me Do” spent three consecutive weeks at the top in 2017.

In Australia, “Anti-Hero” charted at No. 1 for three weeks on both the ARIA Singles and Airplay charts. It marked Taylor’s ninth No. 1 song in the country. According to Universal Music Australia, “Anti-Hero” is the first song ever to debut atop the airplay chart. It debuted atop New Zealand’s singles chart as well.

“Anti-Hero” marked Taylor’s second No. 1 single in the UK after “Look What You Made Me Do”; both debuted atop the UK Singles Chart. Taylor became the first woman in nine years to simultaneously debut atop the albums and singles chart, following the No. 1 debut of Midnights as well. The song debuted atop the Irish Singles Chart, marking her third chart-topper in Ireland. It formed a Chart Double with Midnights‘ debut atop the Irish Albums Chart.

In Germany, “Anti-Hero” scored Taylor her first top-ten song on the Top 100 Songs chart since “Look What You Made Me Do”, debuting at No. 8. The single further entered the Top 10 in Belgium, Finland, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. The song broke the all-time records for the most streams for a song by an international artist in a week and day on Spotify Brazil and Canada. It received a Gold certification from Music Canada by within its first five days.

Remixes

A remix of “Anti-Hero” was exclusively uploaded to Taylor’s official store on November 7, 2022. It features Jack Antonoff’s band Bleachers. When annoucning this version of the song, Taylor wrote:

«Jack’s version of ‘sexy baby’ is ‘art bro’ and we sincerely hope it confuses just as many people.»

Taylor Swift
On November 9, 2022, Taylor released a second remix, called “Anti-Hero (Roosevelt Remix)”. A day later, three further versions were made available on her official store, called “Anti-Hero (Kungs Remix),” “Anti-Hero (Jayda G Remix),” and “Anti-Hero (Acoustic Version)”. On November 17, the Anti-Hero (Illenium Remix)” was added to the store and later uploaded to streaming services.

Lyrics

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
AlbumMidnights
ReleasedOctober 21, 2022
Recorded2021-2022
StudiosRough Customer (Brooklyn, NY)
Electric Lady (New York, NY)
GenreSynth Pop
Length3:21 (Album Version)
3:48 (Bleachers Remix)
4:59 (Roosevelt Remix)
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
ProducersJack Antonoff
Taylor Swift
MIDNIGHTS CHRONOLOGY
MaroonAnti-HeroSnow On The Beach
Single Certification
Single Artwork
Announcement
Taylor Talks About the Song
Music Video
Lyric Video
Official Audio
Remix feat. Bleachers
Acoustic Version
Roosevelt Remix
Kungs Remix
Jayda G Remix
Illenium Remix
Official Instrumental