When The Archer was released last summer, back when “corona” was simply the name of a beer, most analyses vilified and victim-blamed Taylor as if the reputation era had never happened. They falsely claimed that she admits to initiating vapid feuds, loving petty drama, seeking tabloid attention, and being the real mean girl and villain.
Which are blatant lies and character assassination, if you consider the objective truth: she hasn't started a single fight or betrayed a single person. On the contrary, she was the one who was bullied relentlessly and publicly (by Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Calvin Harris, Scott Borchetta, Justin Bieber, Scooter Braun, and the list goes on), then sexistly labeled as whining or problematic when she stood up for herself. But when an individual is openly hated, it grants permission for others to join in on the hatred party to boost their own social status, while burying the truth in the process. Whenever there’s smoke, doesn’t mean there's always an actual fire.
So now I’ve written my own analysis which is based on facts… and doesn’t blame Taylor for feuds too lengthy to rehearse here, that others had started. Out of convenience, I referred to her as the narrator or writer. (By the way, I’m not saying she’s perfect as no one is. But she was at the receiving end of endless bullying and humiliation cases for years without reason).
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”
In the first verse, the narrator learned from past experiences to prepare to defend herself because sudden attacks and backstabbing happen too frequently. The second line could be interpreted as: she had never liked fighting, but now she’s willing to boldly step outside of her comfort zone, unapologetically stand up for her values, and fiercely battle the evil to ensure cruelty doesn’t win in real life too.
Fighting was never her natural instinct but now she trains herself to want it so justice could win. Some people interpreted these lines as having Taylor admit she has been playing the victim and starting conflicts, but it’s simply isn’t true, hence the entire reputation album.
2. “I’ve got a hundred thrown out speeches I almost said to you”
A continuation of the first lines, she wished to resolve the conflict even after previous tryings have failed, so she wrote down what she didn’t say in person. But the narrator holds herself back from sharing it because it’s ineffective and futile. Why would you fight for a person that wouldn’t fight for you? Relationships should be two-sided, otherwise, it's just exploitation. My addition is, she could have realized this is more than a situation of outgrowing the relationship- this person is a malicious, conniving one so he doesn’t deserve a faithful, caring person like her.
3. “Easy they come, easy they go/I jump from the train, I ride off alone”
People bond with her and then abandon her so hastily with so little reason. “Jump from the train” means rejecting peer pressure, ditching group mentality, and escaping the loneliness all of them are heading towards, in favor of forming an independent identity of your own, not compromising, and searching for everlasting connections. It means preferring to be alone for a while instead of suffering from disloyal friends. The image that’s painted here is of someone possibly rushing, running, jumping off a moving train as his enemies try to lurch onto him, and improvising an escape route with a lost horse to ride away with.
4. “I never grew up, it’s getting so old/Help me hold onto you”
A callback to her Never Grow Up ballad from 2010’s Speak Now. Her childlike enthusiasm and innocence only brought her continuous disappointments and suffering. She needs to be more suspicious, less sharing, less giving, and build more walls because people take advantage of her mercilessly. When she didn’t let evilness paint her blue and remained with the same levels of openness as before she was betrayed, it still didn’t work since she hasn’t found true friends. As another one comes and another one goes, desperation grows deeper.
Therefore it’s time to grow up- to take the time to get to know someone in varied situations, and not blindly give yourself away without proof of their integrity. Whoever wants her, needs to show his loyalty and prove himself. Trust is not something you give but earn, so her childish nature of immediately trusting from the starting point has faded away. It’s a pleading to help her open up but on her terms, and her terms alone.
5. “I’ve been the archer, I’ve been the prey/Who could ever leave me darling, and who could stay?”
Taylor was born on December 13th, meaning her zodiac sign is the Sagittarius (symbolized by the archer). She uses this metaphor to state she doesn’t escape from the fact she has offended people too. No one is immune to wounding another. It’s a metaphor for switching from extreme confidence to extreme fear.
6. “Dark side, I search for your dark side/But what if I’m alright, right, right here?”
The writer searches for early signs of betrayal. But she comes up empty-handed- this person hasn’t worn any masks but provided practical reasons to trust him. So there’s no threat anymore.
7. “And I cut off my nose just to spite my face/Then I hate my reflection for years and years”
When she exacted revenge on an enemy, it wound up as a boomerang that hurt and haunted her instead. She hated herself for lowering down to their level. It also doubles up as a self-image issue.
8. “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”
The second verse describes anxiety from disasters that haven’t occurred yet. She’s scared to end up with the same lonely fate as her heroes because their circumstances and lives are similar (most reasonably, other famed singers that are known to have plenty of relationship issues and marriage breakdowns).
9. “‘Cause they see right through me, they see right through me/I see right through me, I see right through me”
The narrator feels invisible like a ghost because others ignore who she truly is inside, and it’s possibly a callback to 2017’s Delicate music video. They are swarmed with lies and gossip that ruined her reputation, and can’t see the good in her. The repetition in those lines evokes the anxious feeling of “Out of The Woods” from her 2014 album 1989.
10. “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”
A reference to the popular nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty”: “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, Couldn’t put Humpty together again”. Even if the writer does meet kindhearted and loyal friends, she’ll never be the same again. She’ll never give so much of herself. She’ll never fully trust because of how damaged she is. And maybe she’s better for it.
11. “Who could stay? You could stay/Combat, I’m ready for combat”
The song comes to a full circle with those closing lines, essentially asking who could barrel through all the noise and obstacles? Who could not desert her? Now she’s willing to combat for the uplifting and authentic relationships to stay in her life.
You’re most welcomed to leave your opinions below! Art is open for interpretation after all, and I’d love to hear what The Archer means to you.