“Track 3, ‘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,” Swift said, adding that ‘she faces challenges with a life that has become “unmanageably large” because of her fame.” I don’t want to sound too dark, but, like, I just struggle with the idea of not feel like a person.”
At this point, Swift quickly added, “Don’t feel too bad for me – you don’t need it. But you know, this song is really a real guided tour through all the things that I tend to hate about myself. We all hate things about ourselves. … So I really like ‘Anti-Hero’ because I think it’s really honest.
How searching for clues in Taylor Swift’s music became an all-consuming mission
Maybe that was an understatement. “Anti-Hero,” the album’s first official single with a Friday morning music video premiere, is an anthem of genuine self-loathing, and ticks off Swift’s deepest insecurities as he kicks off with the line, “ I’ve got this thing where I’m getting older but never wiser.The song instantly struck a nerve among listeners, even as social media exploded overnight with reactions to the album as a whole.
One of the most instantly quoted lines: “Midnights become my afternoons, when my depression works the night shift / All the people I’ve ghosted are standing there in the room.” Although Swift has spoken openly about going through tough times, like thinking her career was over in 2016 after the internet called her a ‘snake’, she’s never used the phrase ‘depression’ – she usually talks of “less low” or “bad” moments. It was a new level of candor from an album that, as several reviewers agreed in early reviews, was pretty dark music for Swift.
“It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me,” she sings in an earworm refrain that will instantly get stuck in your head. “I will look directly at the sun, but never in the mirror. / It must be exhausting, always rooted for the anti-hero.
The lyrics contained another classic Swift conundrum: you have absolutely no idea what she’s singing, yet know there’s probably a deeper meaning you’re missing, which you’ll probably find out later when she will drop a hint or hidden message. In “Anti-Hero,” that honor went to the line, “Sometimes I feel like everybody’s a sexy baby / And I’m a monster over the hill.”
People on social media have been losing their minds trying to figure out what “everyone’s a hot babe” could mean: is this a joke? A veiled insult? A reference to the 2011 episode “30 Rock” which poked fun at the idea of men being attracted to women who act young and helpless, guest starring Cristin Milioti as a self-proclaimed “very sexy babe”?
The internet was puzzled, and the song offered additional mystery with “Did you hear my secret narcissism lightly disguised as selflessness / Like some kind of congressman?” Not to mention the verse where Swift admits, “I’ve got this dream that my stepdaughter kills me for the money / She thinks I left them in the will.” Swift previously described the album as “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life,” and those lyrics certainly sound like the restless, paranoid thoughts that cross a person’s mind in the middle of the night.
Still, it’s clear that despite its dark message and confusing lyrics, Swift wants the world to pay special attention to “Anti-Hero” – not only is it the first single, but she immediately changed her tunes. Twitter and Instagram bios on the album’s release to read, “I’m the problem, I’m.” Fans know she could eventually post a detailed explanation of exactly what she means in the song or leave it a mystery forever — with Swift, there really is no in-between.