Despite having been released just a day ago, Midnights, the tenth studio album from Taylor Swift is a critical and commercial success. While tracks like “Lavender Haze” and “Sweet Nothing,” are about love and revenge, “Anti-Hero,” sees Swift battle against herself. So of course, it’s set the internet abuzz.
As the lead single to Midnights, “Anti-Hero” is about Swift’s insecurities and anxieties in life both publicly and privately. The song itself has been described as a collision of synthpop, neurotic image analysis, and dense lyricism brought together by “a methodical drum loop” and “simmering synths.” The track is a depressingly relatable one, as Swift deals with the fear of nothing, anxiety from everything, and doubting the ones she trusts the most.
On Instagram, Swift said the track is her favorite on the album. “This song really is a real guided tour throughout all the things I tend to hate about myself. We all hate things about ourselves,” she said. “So yeah, I like ‘Anti-Hero’ a lot because I think it’s really honest.”
Swifties and pop heads alike have spent countless hours breaking down every line and phrase in “Anti-Hero” (and we’re not even including the music video, which is rife with easter eggs of its own). Each lyrical interpretation paints a different picture, depending on who you’re talking to, which app you’re on, and just how much Taylor Swift lore you already know. So to help out anyone not in the loop, we’ve compiled the internet’s best (and hottest) takes on the most confusing lines from “Anti-Hero.”
I have this thing where I get older, but just never wiser
Does old age imply maturity? Swift doesn’t feel like this is the case for her. According to Twitter users well-versed in Swift lore, this is a sentiment Swift has expressed for years in her music. In the 2019 song “Archer,” Swift sings “I never grew up, it’s getting so old.”
It’s been pointed out in the past by critics that the singer’s actions have been “immature” and “petty” after the release of her 2017 single “Look What You Made Me Do.” One critic described the song as “the ramblings of a teenage girl scorned and on a warpath.”
It’s me, hi / I’m the problem, it’s me
Heading down to the chorus is the lyric that’ll dominate your Tiktok feed for the next several weeks. Opinions on the correct interpretation of this line differ based on the perspective of the listener. To some, the lyric is Swift’s intrusive thoughts, that she knows she’s the problem and that she’s actually the antihero. She says later in the chorus “It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero.”
The statement is repeated later at the end of the track, however, the vocals suggest she’s exhausted from having to always admit that she’s the problem.
For context, the running joke on the internet is that for every breakup Swift has, she writes an album about the relationship. Swift has been in a lot of relationships with celebrities in the past and is, at times, unfairly and extremely criticized for her dating life and for using that as material for her songs.
As probably the most relatable line on the track for many, Twitter users are letting it be known that they don’t appreciate Swift calling them out like this.
Sometimes, I feel like everybody is a sexy baby
This is the line that has confused the internet the most. When you first listen to it, it’s weird, jarring, and just comes out of nowhere. Social media users have defended it, pointing out that the line and the subsequent lyric “And I’m a monster on the hill / Too big to hang out, slowly lurching toward your favorite city,” is a commentary on the sexualization of youth and innocence.
The “sexy baby” lyric itself is a possible reference to this scene in 30 Rock as Twitter user @parkersrodrigo points out. In the episode titled, “TGS Hates Women” Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) hires a writer named Abby (Cristin Milioti) to join the TGS with Tracy Jordan staff. However, after the meeting, Lemon accuses Abby of putting on a “sexy baby” act for male attention.
While it may or may not be a direct reference, the tragic idea that men prey on young women and only value women by their attractiveness, which in turn causes self-esteem issues in young girls trying to appease the male gaze is still present. Reddit users in the r/TaylorSwift subreddit also agree:
I have this dream my daughter-in-law kills me for the money / She thinks I left them in the will / The family gathers around and reads it…
This is perhaps the most talked-about lyric on the entire album.
Fans have noted a striking similarity between these words from the song’s bridge and the 2019 film Knives Out. The imagery of a presumed will-reading gone bad is echoed in the will-reading scene in Knives Out.
However, even though the music video expands on what Swift meant by her dream, some fans have their own ideas about who exactly Swift’s dream daughter-in-law is:
It’s a pretty fitting summary of the reaction to the album as a whole. These lyrics are definitely about Swift herself, but maybe, just maybe, we the fans fit in there too.