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Taylor Swift’s new single, “Archer,” is Swift at her most intimate and vulnerable

Why fans are excited about the mythic “track 5” on Taylor’s forthcoming album, Lover.

Taylor Swift
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Taylor Swift has released the third single from her forthcoming album, Lover, and her fans are delighted. That’s because this new song, “Archer,” is track five on Lover — and among Swift fans, track five always has a special significance.

Swift built her reputation as a songwriter on her ability to do two things: write an impossibly catchy pop hook and get incredibly messy and intimate and personal in her lyrics. Traditionally, she uses the first single for her new album to showcase that former skill (“Shake It Off,” “Me!”), and track five on the album is where she showcases the latter (“All Too Well,” “All You Had to Do Was Stay,” “Delicate”). And with “Archer,” she’s sticking to her pattern.

“Archer” is spare and minimalist, and it’s a little bit self-hating in the way Swift can occasionally get when she’s at her most vulnerable as a songwriter: “I never grow up, it’s getting so old,” she sings here. It’s exponentially more emotional and powerful than the singles she’s already released from Lover.

“Archer” is also an opportunity for Swift to reinforce the “track five” mythology she’s built up with her fan base. (She’s always liked to ascribe special significance to particular numbers: all Swift fans know that her lucky number is 13.) To tease “Archer,” she threw an Easter egg into the video for “You Need to Calm Down,” which saw singer Hayley Kiyoko shooting a bow and arrow at a target with a giant 5 on it. Swift has also started a “track five” collection in her merch line, where fans can buy rose gold cropped sweatshirts and rose gold mugs emblazoned with cupids.

These kinds of numerical codes and other hints are an integral part of Swift’s celebrity: She uses them to build up intimacy with her fans. To those not in the know, “track five” is a meaningless phrase. But to hardcore Swift fans, “track five” is a shared secret, a link between them and Taylor. “Track five” is part of how Swift keeps telling her fans, over and over again, that she’s not just an untouchable pop star. She’s their best friend.