Taylor Swift has been happily dating Joe Alwyn for the better part of three years now, and we love that for her, but based on lyrics from her new album, Lover, things might have hit a breaking point at one time. She has expressed, both publicly and in her music, that the pressure the public eye puts on a relationship can sometimes be unbearable.
Two songs on her album that are arranged one after the other, “Afterglow” and “ME!,” tell the story of moments in a relationship and when things feel like they’re falling apart but you hope they don’t. The songs document the arc of reaching a breaking point and choosing to work through it together. “Afterglow” seems to be about an argument that Swift is worried went too far. “I blew things out of proportion, now you're blue / Put you in jail for something you didn’t do / I pinned your hands behind your back, oh / Thought I had reason to attack, but no,” Swift sings in the first verse. “Why'd I have to break what I love so much?” she repeats throughout the song. It’s a song about realizing you have hurt someone you love and wanting to work things out.
Right after “Afterglow” is Swift’s single “ME!,” which is much more upbeat but continues the theme of wanting to stay together even when things are difficult. The overarching theme of the song is that the person she’s singing to, presumably Alwyn, will never find someone else like Swift. She’s not perfect, but they work together. “And when we had that fight out in the rain / You ran after me and called my name / I never wanna see you walk away,” Swift sings, giving the impression that they both know they’re better together and are willing to fight for their relationship.
Swift has been very protective over her relationship with Alwyn, and rightfully so. Her past relationships have been the subject of public criticism and endless tabloid fodder from the moment they step out together and long past when things end. She reflected on that precautionary instinct in a diary entry from January 2017 that was published in a booklet included with the deluxe version of Lover. Though Swift doesn’t mention Alwyn by name, the diary entry is clearly about the early months of their relationship. “I’m essentially based in London, hiding out trying to protect us from the nasty world that just wants to ruin things,” she wrote. “We have been together and no one has found out for three months now. I want it to stay that way because I don’t want anything about this to change or become too complicated or intruded upon.”
Swift and Alwyn remain out of the public eye as much as possible, but it seems like they were able to work things out and are better for it. We’re happy to be left to speculate a bit if that means they get some much-deserved privacy.