Taylor Swift ushered in her new era with pastels and butterflies. Lover, which is on track to debut at No. 1, is a total 180 from the fire breathing on Reputation. Taylor grew tired of defending herself, so she carefully crafted an era that felt effortless. *Be the river not the rock.* It’s hard always being right – especially when you have the money and power to convince us so. That’s why “Afterglow” off her latest release is a breath of fresh air. Swift finally locked up her venomous pet cobra from unleashing another attack. Instead, the singer apologizes for waging psychological warfare. It’s hard continually fighting stalkers and haters, but it’s even harder to admit defeat.

Swift teamed up with songwriters Frank Dukes and Louis Bell for it. Feeney has co-written songs for The Weeknd, Camila Cabello, Nicki Minaj, Julia Michaels and Lorde, among many others. Bell has an equally impressive list of collaborations, including Lana Del Rey, 5 Seconds of Summer, Post Malone, Halsey and more. Dukes and Bell co-produced it with Swift as well. The duo also co-created Lover songs, “It’s Nice to Have A Friend” and “I Forgot That You Existed.”

Swift incorporates the color blue throughout a bunch of songs off Lover, including “Afterglow.” Here, it represents the aftermath of Swift’s unwarranted attacks on a significant other. It’s unclear who Swift is singing about, but it almost doesn’t matter. She’s experienced heartbreak at her own volition, and the pain still lingers.

“Why’d I have to break what I love so much?,” Swift sings over pounding drums and haunting echos of regret. “It’s on your face, and I’m to blame.”

This kind of realization isn’t something you typically grasp when you’re in the moment. It appears Swift thumbed back a couple of chapters from her diaries to find inspiration. She alone caused this and begs for forgiveness. It’s a vulnerable state to be in and reminds us that even someone with millions of dollars and followers is human. Lyrically, Reputation was isolating. Lover is relatable, and “Afterglow” is a hand reaching out for solace.

“Afterglow” is exceptionally well written. That’s a huge compliment considering Lover is jam-packed with lyric gymnastics (see: “I Forgot That You Existed,” “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince”), but “Afterglow” can flex dual meanings. Just pretend for a moment Swift isn’t actually singing to some poor fool after stomping on his heart. Imagine instead if Swift turned inward and… was singing to herself. After all, she can be her own worst enemy. We all can. It’s this self-reflection that breathes more life into the track. It’s one thing to apologize for hurting someone else. But when that self-inflicted pain is something we own then make amends with, it becomes a weapon we wield to protect ourselves from future trauma. Swift is a creative writer, but the gift is a double edged sword. They produce power, but they’re also the monsters living underneath her bed.

“It’s all me in my head / I’m the one who burned us down / But it’s not what I meant / I’m sorry that I hurt you.”

Swift has an arsenal of hits to choose when selecting the next single, but let’s hope she gives “Afterglow” the spotlight. We’ve seen Taylor embroiled in explosive girl fights, riding motorcycles, taming snakes and dancing in splashes of paint. We know she’s badass and unapologetic, but that’s not Lover’s vibe. It’s vulnerable and honest. On “Afterglow,” Taylor nearly drowns in a pool of tears after demolishing someone’s feelings, but finds a precious ember of hope that things will workout anyway – despite the harrowing darkness that surrounds her. In a time when the country is divided, the environment is wilting and the Internet dictates our perception of reality… a little hope can go a long way.

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