Dark and Deeply Personal: Midnights by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift has done it again. She has created a lyrically and sonically perfect album. It’s been a busy few years for Swift, from new albums to rerecording old ones. Folklore and Evermore, the two new pandemic-born folk-indie albums sound like they’re meant to be played in a mysterious forest. She has also re-recorded her iconic albums: Red and Fearless. She doesn’t seem to have a specific sound we can expect from her. So when she announced she would be releasing a brand-new album called Midnights, with thirteen songs inspired by her sleepless nights– no one was quite sure what to expect. Would she go for the pop of 1989, the vengeance of Reputation, the dreamy sound of Lover, or the more recent folk-indie mystical feeling of Folklore and Evermore? As it turns out: all the above. She somehow managed to successfully combine all those sounds into one incredible amalgamation. The album is a mix of the pop of 1989 and Lover, the lyricism of Folklore and Evermore, and the revenge plot of Reputation. Ultimately, at it’s core, Midnights is an album about the pressure of living as a scrutinized, and constantly observed public figure.
The album starts with the song Lavender Haze, a playful, upbeat homage to her six-year relationship with her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. When introducing the song, Swift explained the judgement they faced from the tabloids, and how this song is meant to sound like “an all encompassing love-glow.” The lyrics, “I been under scrutiny, you handle it beautifully,” summarize their relationship perfectly. The album then moves to Maroon, a song reminiscent of the Reputation-era sound, and to Anti-Hero, a dichotomous track with a shimmery, upbeat sound with deeply self-loathing lyrics. Her biggest enemy is no longer the public’s harsh judgements, rather, she has become her own worst enemy. She sings, “Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism, like some kind of congressman?” It is in songs like this that Taylor Swift is at her best, as she sings self-burns over a peppy drum beat.
Swift is also at her best in songs like Vigilante Shit, a revenge track that sounds straight out of her album Reputation. The lyrics: “Don’t get sad, get even,” and “Draw the cat eye sharp enough to kill a man,” and “I don’t start shit, but I can tell you how it ends,” could easily be written in pink gel pen in Rae Dunn font on a coffee mug. However, these phrases are quintessentially Taylor Swift. Sure, maybe they sound a little cringe millennialgirlboss, however at her core, this is who Taylor Swift is. So really, these lyrics make sense. Vigilante Shit is a different approach to the cold-hard fury to the songson Reputation. The song is sung with the air of someone who knew they were right all along.
Similar lyrically, however different sonically, is Karma, a bubbly petty track where you can practically see in the lyrics Taylor Swift flipping her hair off her shoulder and walking away after getting the last word. She’s finally watching her nemesis get what they deserve, she proclaims: “Karma’s a relaxing thought, aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?” This song could this song possibly be aimed at her famous nemeses Scooter Braun and/or Kanye West.
Midnights isn’t just an album about love or revenge, however, it also includes poignant tracks like You’re on Your Own, Kid. This track is a love letter from now-Swift to her inner child, highlighting deeply personal struggles, like her eating disorder and the feeling she grew up too fast. Oh, and speaking of growing up too fast, one of the songs on the 3AM Edition of Midnights (an extended release put out at 3AM) is Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve. Think of this song as the song Dear John’s older sister. In case you forgot, John Mayer and Swift dated in 2009 when she was nineteen, and he was thirty-two. She calls him out in Dear John for their age gap and, twelve years later, she’s calling him out again. The heartbreaking lyrics: “Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first,” caused the internet to finally move on from hating Jake Gyllenhaal after the re-record of All Too Well and remind us of the real villain: John Mayer. Midnights is a culmination of all the things that keep Taylor Swift up at night. She sings about eating disorders, bad relationships, and the struggles of overcoming those past experiences in her current relationship. She also touches on public scrutiny, and celebrates finally seeing karma served. The album’s sound may be different from the wild fame of Folklore and Evermore, but that didn’t stop this album’s record-breaking success. On the night it was released, Midnights broke Spotify’s record for most-streamed album in a single day. Midnights takes listeners on a hazy, lavender-colored late night drive through Taylor Swift’s sleepless mind.