We’re getting closer, y’all. The further Taylor Swift progresses through the campaign for Lover, her seventh record, the songs likewise speed towards her usual quality. On “The Archer” — her third pre-release track and first not produced alongside Joel Little — the singer slows things down and indulges in her most romantic tendencies. Competing synths that simultaneously twinkling and rumble open the song before giving way to an incessant, house-lite beat, creating a feeling of urgency as the track propels itself forward; a Jack Antonoff co-production, “The Archer” feels like it would fit well on a lighter version of St. Vincent’s 2017 album Masseduction, another Antonoff-helmed project.
In the Swift canon, track five of her albums are often some of the most emotionally vulnerable on the record — namely Speak Now’s “Dear John” and Red’s magnum opus “All Too Well” — and “The Archer” is (so far) no exception. Keeping with the image conjured by the song’s title, the singer declares herself “ready for combat” before contemplating just how interested in confrontation she truly is. Moving through the track, she describes the self-destruction she’s experienced in trying to maintain past relationships and asks her partner to “help [her] hold on” to what’s beautiful about them. Vocally, it’s her most delicate song — the way she sings the word “darling” is surprisingly intoxicating — withholding any kind of power in her voice for the last minute. Though still not yet hitting the highs of her previous output, Swift finally delivers on the overarching theme of Lover with “The Archer.”