Ten years after the release of their first collaboration, singer-songwriters Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift released their most romantic and vulnerable song yet: “The Joker And The Queen.”
I have to make it clear right off the bat: I am a notoriously proud Swiftie. As you can imagine, I am also a very big fan of Sheeran and Swift’s previous collaborations. In the past decade, Sheeran and Swift have released three other songs together: “Everything Has Changed,” “End Game” and “Run (Taylor’s Version),” each of which were incredibly successful. But “The Joker And The Queen” is different. It’s easily their most vulnerable song together, and for the first time, this collaboration is on Sheeran’s turf as a single from one of his albums.
“The Joker And The Queen” is a romantic duet in the form of a fairytale-esque waltz featuring whimsical strings and delicate vocals. The song is absolutely beautiful and sounds like what love could sound like. But at first listen, it is definitely a bit boring. The same soft sound that starts out in the beginning carries throughout the entire song, with only a slight climax at the second chorus. While hearing the contrast of Swift’s smoother tone from Sheeran’s raspier sound definitely creates dimension within the remixed version, it does not mean the song is by any means incredibly interesting to listen to. However, I like to think that with many of Sheeran and Swift’s songs,there is always more than meets the eye.
What initially intrigued me was the ongoing metaphor they used of a deck of cards, comparing falling in love with playing a card game. That might feel slightly cheesy, and I won’t disagree with that. But what sets Sheeran and Swift’s lyricism apart is that they committed to this metaphor and used it to their advantage. Throughout the song, you are constantly being reminded of the imagery of a deck of cards. Sheeran literally starts the song with “How was I to know / It’s a crazy thing / I showed you my hand / And you still let me win,” which clearly alludes to showing your hand in a game of poker. The chorus also uses language that plays into this metaphor by talking about kings, diamonds, and folding.
The metaphor and Sheeran and Swift’s lyricism in “The Joker And The Queen” allows them to tell the story of this young couple coming back together after a while apart. Even without listening to the lyrics, you can tell that this is easily going to be the most vulnerable of Sheeran and Swift’s tracks together. But the lyrics truly do deliver it over the finish line. The highlight of the remix for me was Swift’s first verse: “I’ve been played before / So I kept my cards close / To my foolproof vest / But you called my bluff / And saw through all my tells / And then you went all in / And we left together.” I don’t understand how she does it, but yet again, Swift manages to sum up the anxieties, fear, and freedom that come with falling in love in a few short lines.
However, because this collaboration involves Taylor Swift, the remix arguably wasn’t the most exciting thing about this release. During the build up to releasing the song, Sheeran seemed to take a page out of Swift’s book when he included an easter egg in his “Graffiti Overpass” music video. Fans noticed that the back of Sheeran’s leather jacket had a Joker and a Queen playing card design with “Taylor Swift” printed in small letters. Because the queen of easter eggs couldn’t skip out on all the fun, Swift dropped her own easter egg at the end of her “I Bet You Think About Me” music video just a few weeks later on November 15. She is seen marking the wedding cake with an equal sign, referencing the title of Sheeran’s album.
Another exciting piece of the song’s release was that Sheeran and Swift framed the song as the sequel to their first collaboration “Everything Has Changed,” from Swift’s album Red back in 2012 (and re-recorded for Taylor’s Version in 2021). The songs themselves actually have very little similarities or references to the other, but Sheeran and Swift used the same actors in the “Everything Has Changed” music video and “The Joker And The Queen” music video. It was a small detail, but it was enough to make fans adore the remix just for this reason.
“The Joker And The Queen” seems to be Sheeran and Swift’s love letter to fans for sticking with them throughout their careers and friendship, a letter that we’ll hold close to our hearts until the next time. Hopefully, we can continue to expect more of their collaborations for another decade to come.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Ed Sheeran / Youtube.