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Album Review: Midnights by Taylor Swift


Front Cover of Midnights CD (Photo: Taylor Swift’s Website)

As the clock struck midnight on Friday, Oct. 21, fans bubbled with excitement as they stormed streaming services to listen to Midnights, Taylor Swift’s newest album.

Taylor Swift is a global icon whose discography spans a variety of genres and who has a plethora of awards under her belt. She released her debut album at the age of 16, and has since released ten studio albums, two re-recordings of previous albums, and many singles for movies and television.

Her tenth studio album is co-produced with Jack Antonoff and originally dropped with 13 songs. When Swift announced the album on Instagram, she described each song as the “stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life.” However, three hours after the album’s release, she dropped an additional seven more new songs for the album, dubbing it Midnights (3am Edition). All 20 songs of Midnights add up to a little over an hour of listening time.

The album has instantly become another hit for Swift. After just one day, Midnights was already the top selling album of 2022, selling more than 800,000 copies across all music formats. Fans even caused Spotify to crash as everyone clamored to listen to Midnights as soon as it was released.

Listening to the Album on Repeat

I went into the album not knowing what to expect as Swift did not release any singles prior to the album’s release. I was one of the fans who stayed up till midnight to catch the album, and I immediately fell in love with the opening track “Lavender Haze.” The breathy vocals and the pop vibes grabbed my attention because it was such a difference from tracks on her previous albums “folklore” and “evermore,” Swift’s eighth and ninth studio albums respectively.

Maroon, the second track followed the same breathiness but with a more slowed down tempo that sounded both romantic and passionate. She sings about a relationship that may have ended prematurely but she looks back at the relationship with a certain fondness and yearning. The bridge made me fall even more in love with Swift’s vocals, especially when she says:

And I wake with your memory over me/

That’s a real fuckin’ legacy, legacy

It sounds like she is singing through gritted teeth, as if she is upset that she misses this person so much and as if the memories, though good memories, are painful.

Track three, Anti-Hero became my favorite right away and is definitely a song that I will blast while driving in the car. The vulnerability Swift shows as she sings about her insecurities such as feeling like “a monster on a hill” and her “covert narcissism” paired with the upbeat tempo and instrumentation is done cleverly. In the chorus, Swift sings:

It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero

And immediately follows it with distinct synth instrumentals that sound pretty and that even distracts you from the weight of Swift’s lyrics. I also admire the word choice of “anti-hero” instead of “villain” because even though the words are similar, an anti-hero is a much more morally gray individual who may have good intentions but struggles with internal conflict, whereas a villain is usually evil for the sake of being evil.

Snow on the Beach features Lana Del Rey and in my opinion, upon first listen, this is one of the more forgettable songs. The song still has elements of pop, but is much more subdued and the vocals are even haunting. I was expecting Lana Del Rey to have a more prominent singing role in this song, such as a whole verse or bridge to herself, and was a bit disappointed when that wasn’t the case. Despite that, I appreciate how her vocals layer well with Swift, and their blended harmonies shine in the choruses.

Track 5, You’re On Your Own, Kid, was the perfect choice for track five. Swift’s track fives are typically her most emotional and vulnerable tracks of the album, and this one definitely fits that label. The song follows someone who is yearning for love, but realizes that they are instead on their own. They realize that they are the only constant in their life. The song builds up to the bridge, which is simply so raw and mirror into Swift’s own life:

I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this/

I hosted parties and starved my body/

Like I'd be saved by a perfect kiss/

The jokes weren't funny, I took the money

I feel the struggle that Swift has gone through, and I also love the encouragement and acceptance at the very end when she closes the song with:

You're on your own, kid (Ah)/

Yeah, you can face this (Ah)/

You're on your own, kid/

You always have been

While yes, you are on your own, but that’s okay. Swift hammers on the point that you can face this new chapter of your life, you can get through this because you have been on your own before and you’ve accomplished so much still. I will admit, this song had me in tears by the time it finished.

Midnight Rain goes back to the same vibe that the album opened up with. It’s a song that describes an incompatible relationship: one person wanted comfortability and the typical wife, yet the singer wanted something more exciting. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with the other person, the two are simply not the right people for each other. It’s a good song, but it is not one of my favorites.

Track seven, Question…?, is one of my favorites. I love the upbeat style of this song and all of the echoes and ohs in the chorus. I also love the theme of this song as Swift is reflecting on a previous relationship and wondering if their past lover’s new experiences compare to how good their previous relationship was. I’ve definitely wondered about a relationship in my own life, and now I have a song about it to sing-along to.

Vigilante Shit has much darker Reputation-style production, and is reminiscent of this edgy person who is simply looking for revenge. On first listen I wasn’t fond of this song but it has since grown on me. It’s one of those songs that you’d have to be in the right mood to listen to.

Bejeweled, track nine is such a fun and glitzy song. Swift affirms that even if her lover does not value or love her, she will always shine and wow those in any room she steps into. I can picture myself going out for a night out dressed in a shimmery dress and singing at the top of my lungs. The chorus is my absolute favorite because of the slight twang on the words “shimmer” and “remember:”

When I walk in the room/

I can still make the whole place shimmer/

And when I meet the band/

They ask “do you have a man?/

I could still say, “I don’t remember”

I also appreciate the ambiguity of “I don’t remember.” Is she saying, I don’t have a man, remember I told you? Or is she throwing shade at her partner by saying good question, no I don’t remember if I have a man or not.

Labyrinth has a slower, softer melody, and is another song that could be easily forgotten in my opinion. Swift sings about falling hard for a person again, and the strange uncertainty and fear yet comfort in this fact. It is a pretty song, but not at the top of my list.

Karma, track eleven is another fun, catchy song with upbeat drums, synth, and guitar. She sings about the freeing feeling of knowing that karma will do its justice to those who hurt her in the past, and she has all of these good things in her life now such as her boyfriend, her cats, and her successes. I love this song because it is a flipped perspective, it is about the good kind of karma, which is refreshing to see.

Track twelve, Sweet Nothing, is a calm, idyllic song about a sweet romantic relationship. Swift sounds so happy and at peace in this song. In this relationship, her partner doesn’t expect anything of her or cares about labels, fame or fortune.

Her partner simply values her for who she is, which is all she has ever wanted from anyone. I am enamored with the simplicity of the melody, of the light and airy piano and horns that come in towards the end.

The last track of the original album, Mastermind, is in fact a mastermind of a song. Swift recounts how she initially schemed and planned to ensure her and her current partner would end up together. The beauty of it is that at this confession, her lover simply smiles because he knew the entire time and loves her anyway.

None of it was accidental/

And the first night that you saw me/

Nothing was gonna stop me/

I laid the groundwork/

And then saw a wide smirk

The instruments drop at each chorus and at the bridge which is clever and makes for an impactful closing track. I also like the double meaning of a “mastermind” because Swifties are notorious for calling Swift a mastermind for the Easter eggs and hints that she drops in her media and work.

The seven additional songs are a pleasure to listen to and honestly should have been originally released. Glitch and Paris are pop songs that are definitely meant for the radio. The Great War is my favorite song out of the seven, Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve and Bigger Than The Whole Sky are introspective, softer ballads that are eerily beautiful.

Callbacks to Previous Songs

I noticed in almost all of the songs that there were snippets and similarities to Swifts previously released music. In Lavender Haze, the synth instrumentals in the bridge echo her song I Think He Knows and blend seamlessly into one another. The opening drums of Maroon sound the same as the drums in King Of My Heart. The opening of Question…? has the same snippet of “I remember” from Out of the Woods.

The songs Snow on the Beach and The Great War mirror illicit affairs and betty respectively. I think these callbacks are a great way to tie all of her eras together and even a way to prepare for song mashups.

The album is a true work of art. It encompasses themes of embracing and reflecting on the past, love, sorrow, vulnerability, and insecurities. The production is exhilarating and experimental, a blend of Swift's previous music eras. While some songs come across as bland when standing alone, the overall project is a solid listen.

The lavender deluxe edition of the album only available at Target has three exclusive bonus tracks. Fans can listen to “Midnights” and “Midnights (3am Edition)” on all music streaming platforms.

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