I'm Clifford Stumme, and I use literary analysis and research to explain the deeper meanings of pop songs. Feel free to leave a comment or to email me at with questions or ideas!

What does "End Game" (ft. Ed Sheeran and Future) by Taylor Swift mean?

What does "End Game" (ft. Ed Sheeran and Future) by Taylor Swift mean?

"End Game" Lyrics Meaning 

Taylor Swift released Reputation on November 10th, and "End Game" is the first song new song that many of us heard when we started listening. This second track, which comes right after "...Ready For It?" is one of the most noteworthy tracks on the album because not only does it feature Ed Sheeran and Future, but it also heavily features the title of the album--Reputation--which suggests that this song is tightly tied to the meaning of the album overall. 

"I wanna be your end game" 

"End Game" centers around the idea of Taylor wanting to be some guy's "end game" or the one that he's aiming for. While she doesn't make it clear who this fellow is, the Internet seems to be conjecturing that since he has a large "reputation," he must be Tom Hiddleston. Of course, others will disagree, but in this explanation, I want to focus on the core of what the song's about. You can follow the clues and draw your own conclusions from there. 

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I wanna be your end game
I wanna be your first string
I wanna be your A-Team (woah, woah, woah)
I wanna be your end game, end game

Unlike the four singles from Reputation, Swift starts "End Game" with a chorus, which makes leading into guest verses more convenient since an artist doesn't necessarily want another artist being the first thing listeners her. In this chorus, she tells some mysterious fellow that she wants to be his "end game," "first string," and "A-Team." Respectively, she wants to be his goal, his first pick, and the one he relies on. She wants them to be close, and she wants to be his focus.


Big reputation, big reputation
Ooh, you and me, we got big reputations
Ah, and you heard about me
Oh, I got some big enemies (yeah)
Big reputation, big reputation
Ooh, you and me would be a big conversation
Ah, and I heard about you (yah)
Oh, you like the bad ones, too

The post-chorus shows Swift claiming that they both have big reputations, but almost sardonically. Are these reputations ones for personal success, or are they for dating too many people? Swift doesn't make it clear, but whatever the case, Swift and this person are certainly well know, and when they date it's going to "be a big conversation." In addition, while Swift has "some big enemies," it doesn't care her intended because he "heard about" her and apparently "like[s] the bad ones." Since that's the persona Swift seems to be adopting currently, he's very interested in her

[Cliff's note: Tom Hiddleston doesn't strike me as someone who likes "the bad ones," so I wonder either if this song is about him or if it's completely accurate, but what do I know about celebrity gossip? Not much.] 

Verse 1 by Future

You so dope, don't overdose
I’m so stoked, I need a toast
We do the most, I'm in the Ghost like I'm whippin’ a boat
I got a reputation, girl, that don't precede me (yah)
I'm a call away whenever you need me (yeah)
I'm in a G5 (yeah), come to the A-Side (yeah)
I got a bad boy persona, that's what they like (what they like)
You love it, I love it too, 'cause you my type (you my type)
You hold me down and I protect you with my life

In the first verse, Future raps about the main themes of the song. He almost takes on the role of the person Swift is singing to, but there are some differences between Future is and who this fellow is, so it seems more likely that he's rapping on Taylor's side of things just from a male perspective. He claims that the girl he's interested in is "so dope"; and when he tells her to not "overdose," the listener wonders if he's telling her she doesn't have to try too hard. 

Future is excited about her and wants to celebrate. They're going to party and drive around in fancy cars together. The fact that Future's "reputation . . . don't precede me" probably means that he's able to outrun his reputation and is always doing bigger and crazier things. He offers to be a "call away" when his girl needs him and claims to be in a G5 (or small private jet and encourages her to "come to the A-Side," a reference to the main side of a vinyl record--the place where the best music is kept while the less good music is put on the B-side. 

Future claims to be a "bad boy persona" and is confident that's what women "like." This woman in particular seems to "love it" and also happens to be Future's "type." But beyond liking each other and being a good match, they also complement each other's strengths. She keeps him grounded, and he protects her "with my life." 


I don't wanna touch you, I don't wanna be
Just another ex-love you don’t wanna see
I don’t wanna miss you (I don't wanna miss you)
Like the other girls do
I don’t wanna hurt you, I just wanna be
Drinking on a beach with you all over me
I know what they all say (I know what they all say)
But I ain't tryna play

In the pre-chorus of "End Game," Taylor Swift takes the lyrics a step deeper. She claims that she doesn't just want casual sex because she's afraid that the relationship won't be grounded and won't last. She doesn't "wanna be / Just another ex-love you don't wanna see." She doesn't want him to leave her broken-hearted. She doesn't want to have to "miss you / Like the other girls do." 

Rather than hurt him too (as her "reputation" might suggest she could), she would rather them be happy together, "Drinking on a beach with you all over me." And despite the media and other saying that she's a "player," she claims that she doesn't wanna "play." She just wants to be with him. 

Verse 2 

Now well, when I was young, we connected
When we were little bit older, both sprung
I got issues and chips on both of my shoulders
Reputation precedes me and rumors are knee-deep
The truth is, it's easier to ignore it, believe me
Even when we'd argue, we’d not do it for long
And you understand the good and bad end up in the song
For all your beautiful traits and the way you do it with ease
For all my flaws, paranoia, and insecurities
I've made mistakes and made some choices, that's hard to deny
After the storm, something was born on the 4th of July
I've passed days without fun, this end game is the one
With four words on the tip of my tongue, I'll never say it

In the lyrics of the second verse of "End Game," Ed Sheeran takes his turn to sing to the woman he's interested in. They met "young" and had a strong "connect[ion]," but their relationship really took off once they "were little bit older." And Ed Sheeran isn't perfect; he's got "chips on both of my shoulders," his "[r]eputation precedes" him, and the rumors surrounding him are "knee-deep." However, he assures his girlfriend that the "truth is easier to ignore"--his reputation is worse than the reality. 

They're actually pretty happy together and don't argue too hard or for too long. Of course, some of this will show up the lyrics of Ed Sheeran's songs who (like Taylor Swift) relies heavily on his own experiences for inspiration for his music. 

He goes on to contrast himself with his girlfriend and claims that she's at "ease" and has truly "beautiful traits." On the other hand, he's painfully aware of his own "flaws, paranoia, and insecurities." He knows he's made "mistakes," many of them wrong. But he doesn't view getting together with her as a mistake. For them, "something was born on the 4th of July" when they got together, and even though Ed has had his share of difficult days, he views his current girl as his "end game" and even hints at engagement when he mentions "four words on the tip of my tongue," which we can guess are "Will you marry me?" But he's still nervous and says perhaps not quite truthfully, "I'll never say it."

Verse 3 

I hit you like bang
We tried to forget it, but we just couldn't
And I bury hatchets, but I keep maps of where I put 'em
Reputation precedes me, they told you I'm crazy
I swear I don't love the drama, it loves me
And I can't let you go, your hand prints on my soul
It's like your eyes are liquor, it's like your body is gold
You've been calling my bluff on all my usual tricks
So here's a truth from my red lips

Finally, Taylor Swift takes her own verse on her song, and she uses it to continue to develop her "bad girl" persona. She comes in hard to the relationship, but when it ends, she knows it'll be unforgettable. She holds grudges even if she pretends not to--she keeps "maps of where I put" hatchets that she's buried. And this slightly crazy "reputation precedes" her; any guy who wants to date her is going to have to deal with everyone telling him that she somewhat unhinged. 

But Taylor Swift fights for herself and claims that she's not motivated by the drama--the drama just happens to her for some reason. She hopes that doesn't keep this guy from being with her because they've already been so close. He has "hand prints on my soul"; he's heavily influenced and affected her. His liquor-like eyes and golden body entice her and draw her in. They mesmerize her and show her that he's very valuable. Not able to keep up the tough-girl facade around him, she sings that she'll tell him a "truth from my red lips" as she leads back into the chorus about wanting to be his "end game."

Deeper Meaning of "End Game (feat. Ed Sheeran and Future)" by Taylor Swift: Truth or Facade

What strikes me about "End Game" and several other songs from this album is how Taylor tends to develop her devil-may-care-do-what-I-want facade in the verses and then reverts back to the sweeter, pure-sweet-relationship-craving Taylor that we're more familiar with. Usually, pop artists use verses to tell stories and keep a narrative moving, and then they use the chorus to highlight the major themes or big ideas of a song. If Taylor's doing that here in the lyrics of "End Game," then the meaning of the song could very well be that while she feels she has to play a role in a narrative that the media has given her, what she truly wants--who she truly is--is still the old Taylor that we know and love. 

But I'm curious to hear what you think. Let me know your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

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