Taylor Swift‘s song “Anti-Hero” is an emotional and introspective journey that delves into themes of self-awareness, personal growth, and the complexities of relationships.
The song’s lyrics convey a self-deprecating, self-aware tone that highlights the singer’s emotional vulnerability and willingness to confront her own shortcomings.
Through this lyrical analysis, we’ll examine the meaning behind each verse and chorus to better understand the message Swift aims to convey.
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Before we delve into the story behind this song, let’s take a closer look at each verse of the lyrics.
“I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser
Midnights become my afternoons
When my depression works the graveyard shift
All of the people I’ve ghosted stand there in the room”
In the opening verse, Swift acknowledges that growing older doesn’t necessarily bring wisdom. She illustrates her struggle with depression, which often makes her days blur into nights. The mention of “ghosted” individuals could represent past relationships or friendships that have been abandoned, hinting at the guilt and regret she may feel for pushing people away.
“I should not be left to my own devices
They come with prices and vices
I end up in crisis (tale as old as time)”
This pre-chorus line shows Swift’s awareness that her own behavior can lead to turmoil and crises. The reference to “tale as old as time” suggests that this is a recurring pattern in her life, one she acknowledges but struggles to overcome.
“It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me
At tea time, everybody agrees
I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror
It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero”
The chorus is a direct admission of self-blame, with Swift identifying herself as the source of her problems. The line about staring at the sun but never in the mirror implies a reluctance to confront her own issues, while also highlighting her self-destructive tendencies. The term “anti-hero” suggests that she sees herself as a flawed, complex character, and she acknowledges the fatigue that others may feel in supporting her.
“Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby
And I’m a monster on the hill
Too big to hang out, slowly lurching toward your favorite city
Pierced through the heart, but never killed”
In this verse, Swift compares herself to a monster, implying feelings of isolation and alienation. Despite being hurt (“pierced through the heart”), she remains resilient and continues to carry on. This juxtaposition showcases her vulnerability and strength simultaneously.
“Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism
Like some kind of congressman? (Tale as old as time)”
Here, Swift questions if her seemingly selfless actions are actually fueled by narcissism. This self-awareness and willingness to examine her motives demonstrate her desire for personal growth and authenticity.
“I have this dream my daughter in-law kills me for the money
She thinks I left them in the will
The family gathers ’round and reads it and then someone screams out
“She’s laughing up at us from hell””
This verse is an imagined scenario where Swift envisions her own demise at the hands of a greedy family member. The imagery serves as a metaphor for the darkness and deceit that can lie beneath seemingly close relationships.
True Meaning Behind “Anti-Hero”
This track is one that Taylor herself dubbed as “one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written” in an Instagram video back in October 2022. It’s a deep dive into her insecurities and self-loathing, a topic that isn’t often addressed so directly in her songs.
Swift has never been shy about putting her feelings into her music, but with “Anti-Hero,” she’s given us an intimate guided tour of her self-doubt and the aspects of herself she dislikes. It’s a testament to her courage and honesty as an artist.
In “Anti-Hero”, Taylor sings about her struggles with depression and the tendency to retreat from social interactions. She also addresses her fear of people leaving her due to her flaws and the self-sabotaging behavior she engages in. Her raw confession of feeling like she’s “always the problem” and her exhaustion from battling negative self-worth hit home for many of us who’ve had similar struggles.
A line that caught many people off guard was “Sometimes, I feel like everybody is a sexy baby / And I’m a monster on the hill.” What’s up with the “sexy baby” reference, you might ask? Well, it turns out, Taylor might’ve been referencing an episode of the NBC sitcom “30 Rock.” In the episode, “TGS Hates Women,” Liz Lemon, played by Tina Fey, hires a female writer who adopts an over-sexualized, baby-voiced persona. The line could be Taylor’s commentary on how women are often objectified, pointing out her feelings of not fitting into the conventionally attractive mold.
The music video for “Anti-Hero” is another layer of the cake. It stars Mike Birbiglia, John Early, and Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Taylor’s future children, who bicker over her will which leaves them only “13 cents”. This scene reflects the song’s bridge where Taylor sings about her hypothetical death and her family’s reaction to her will. It’s a dark, humorous twist that adds depth to the song’s narrative.
“Anti-Hero” is an eye-opening track that lays bare Taylor Swift’s innermost insecurities, fears, and struggles. It provides a poignant and candid exploration of the artist’s psyche, and its relatable themes of self-doubt and self-sabotage resonate with many listeners.
The song, along with its music video, is an example of Swift’s ability to weave her personal experiences into her music, making her one of the most relatable and honest artists of our time.
Whether you’re a long-time Swiftie or new to her music, “Anti-Hero” is a track that’s worth exploring for its depth and honesty.