‘Lover’ Decoded: What Every Song On Taylor Swift’s New Album Is Really About

The lyrics of Taylor Swift songs are meant to be broken down. So that’s just what we’re going to do here. Presenting every decoded track off her new album, Lover.

‘I Forgot That You Existed’

Kanye West and Taylor Swift
Kanye West and Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV VMAs | Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The generally accepted theory is that this first song is the one and only diss track on the album. It’s aimed, naturally at Kanye West. Lyrics like, “Would’ve been right there, front row / Even if nobody came to your show” certainly point to that. 

But then again, it could also be about her ex, Calvin Harris. When Swift sings in the chorus “I forgot that you existed / And I thought that it will kill me, but it didn’t,” it sounds a bit more like getting over heartbreak than a platonic feud. Our guess? It’s both.

‘Cruel Summer’

The second track on Lover is the first (of many) that’s almost certainly about Swift’s current beau, Joe Alwyn. Specifically, it’s about the summer when they first met, when she was trying to keep their relationship under wraps. 

From the timeline of one of her diary entries, Swift and Alwyn had been together for three months as of Jan. 2017, meaning they got together in October. However, that’s likely when they made things official, but Swift realized she was falling for him earlier than that.

‘Lover’

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There’s a dazzling haze…

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The title track of the album is also about Alwyn. But this time, it’s a much more recent version of the couple. Alwyn and Swift are very settled into their relationship, having known each other for “three summers,” as she sings.

“Lover” reveals that they live together (most likely in London), and that Swift sees a future for the two. The romantic bridge reads like wedding vows, which many have speculated to indicate that she’s ready to settle down with Alwyn very soon.

‘The Man’

Swift takes a quick break from the romance with “The Man,” which is, very obviously, about the sexism she and all women endure. She sings, “When everyone believes ya / What’s that like?” which may be a reference to her 2017 lawsuit against a DJ who once sexually assaulted her.

Generally speaking, though, the song is about the different ways in which we talk about women and men; how it’s socially acceptable for men to be “players” (she references Leonardo DiCaprio in this instance), and how much more difficult it’s been for her to get where she is as a woman.

‘The Archer’

Back into the world of relationships, Swift sings in this longing track about how her relationship with Alwyn is different from those of the past. The title “The Archer” and the chorus describe how she’s had relationships in the past that haven’t lasted.

The tone here is desperation: Swift wants to stay with Alwyn, but she’s worried that he’ll see her for her past mistakes, or that there’s a catch that’s going to be revealed. 

‘I Think He Knows’

Swift once again jumps back in time to the beginning of her relationship. “I Think He Knows” is about being infatuated, and most assume she’s referring to Alwyn again, especially when she sings about “indigo eyes” and his “boyish look.” 

Additionally, Swift closes out the song by singing, “He better lock it down,” once again talking about marriage. However, the reference to 16th Avenue (in Nashville) has led others to believe it’s about a crush from her teen years.

‘Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince’

Arguably the most debated track on Lover is “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince,” as it’s filled with (alleged) allegory. It sounds as though it’s about a high school romance, but it doesn’t match up with any specific relationship from Swift’s life.

That’s likely because the song is actually about politics. Specifically, how the U.S. is struggling under the leadership of Donald Trump, and how disillusioned we (including Swift herself) are about the state of the country. Before speaking out recently, Swift’s image was lauded by members of the right, but she’s working to put a stop to that with this track. 

‘Paper Rings’

Swift jumps back into her thriving romance with Alwyn on “Paper Rings.” She again sings about the beginning of their relationship but languishes in the comfort of their current, contented state. And once again, the marriage theme comes up, in the chorus, with “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings.”

Additionally, it’s worth noting that this is just one more track where the number three is used a multiple times: “Cat and mouse for a month or two or three,” and then again in the chorus with the number of times they kiss.

‘Cornelia Street’

“Cornelia Street” gets its title from a street in the West Village where Swift once rented an apartment. In fact, it’s where she was living when she met Alwyn — so once again, we assume he’s the subject of the song, which refers to the early months of their time together.

“It’s about the things that took place, the memories that were made on that street,” Swift said on the Elvin Duran Show. She also calls it one of her favorites and notes that she wrote it alone.

‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’

Swift has always sung about heartbreak. But for this album, she didn’t have much personal inspiration in that area. So she turned to a film she had seen recently, which inspired her. She confirmed this in multiple interviews.

Someone Great, which on Netflix, is about a woman who ends a long-term relationship before she moves across the country. The story was inspired by writer/director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s own life. 

‘London Boy’

Time to return to Alwyn. We’re back at the more comfortable stage of their relationship. Swift sings about her “London Boy,” as well as all of the places that they go together. She considers London her home now.

The song is also, in part, about Swift’s public image. She’s seen as an all-American girl, and the media loves to tell “rumors” about her. 

‘Soon You’ll Get Better’

Swift is known for writing heartbreaking tunes, but it’s unlikely that any will ever top the sadness of “Soon You’ll Get Better.” That’s because it’s about her mother’s battle with cancer, which has been ongoing for a number of years.

During her YouTube Live show the day before the release of Lover, Swift said that it was “a family decision” to put this song on the record, calling it “something that I am so proud of.”

‘False God’

With “False God,” Swift goes heavy on the religious imagery. The song is about her relationship with Alwyn, referring to the hard times (“I can’t talk to you when you’re like this) and how they manage to work through them.

There’s also quite a bit of sex in these lyrics, especially the chorus, where she sings “Religion’s in your lips” and “the alter is my hips.” Once again, she’s singing about doubts she has about her and Alwyn, but they’re still attracted to one another.

‘You Need to Calm Down’

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We all got crowns

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The second single off Lover is “You Need to Calm Down,” which Swift released just in time for Pride Month in June. That’s because the song directly speaks to the homophobic individuals who go after the LGBTQ+ community. It also talks about the hate that Swift has gotten online herself.

In her interview for the September issue of Vogue, Swift said that she decided to make what some would consider a political track after Todrick Hall (who co-produced the song’s music video with her) asked her about her views. 

‘Afterglow’

Did Alwyn and Swift ever break up? That’s the question many fans are asking after hearing “Afterglow,” which paints a picture of a fight that Swift herself is taking responsibility for. 

Just like with “False God,” though, she recognizes that she wants to fix things. Of course, there’s always the possibility that this song is about someone else entirely.

‘Me!’

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I know I never think before I jump…

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If Swift spends her time apologizing in “Afterglow,” she takes the opposite approach with Lover’s first single, “Me!” The lyrics show that she’s happy and confident with herself. 

The reason this may have been the first taste we were given of the album is that it set an entirely new path for Swift after the darker Reputation. A couple of references, like the one to a “fight out in the rain,” indicate that this is about a specific relationship (likely with Alwyn), but for the most part, it could be about anything. 

‘It’s Nice to Have A Friend’

Swift’s diary entries, some of which are included in the deluxe versions of Lover, date back to her early teen years. So we assume that, while looking through those, she drew some inspiration for this album — namely “It’s Nice to Have A Friend.”

The song seems to be about a childhood friendship that grew into something more. Or, if it’s taken less literally (as there are quite a few “school” references on this album that aren’t actually about school), it could just be about how she and Alwyn were friends first.

‘Daylight’

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Step into the daylight and let it go.

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As with most of her albums, Swift closes with a dreamy track. “Daylight” reflects upon her past relationships, as well as her current one. She sings about coming out of the “dark night” into the “daylight.” Once again, Alwyn is the subject here.