Taylor Swift released “Midnights” on October 21st.
I wasn’t sure what type of sound to expect, since she is known for switching her tune on almost every new album. I prepared myself for something totally different; a lot of people were suspecting a rock record. The promo photos had a 70s, vintage aesthetic, which sparked rumors of a 70s-rock-ballad genre.
Taylor actually stuck with a very familiar sound that she has been doing for the past few years. I was surprised to hear such a strong resemblance to “Folklore/Evermore,” her indie, cottagecore, pandemic albums. There’s also a similarly strong resemblance to 2019’s “Lover.” It’s definitely pop, with upbeat haziness of “Lover” in addition to the melancholy and nostalgic vibes of “Folklore/Evermore.” You could also say that there are slight traces of “Reputation” as she plays with vocal pitch and electronics, as well as a tiny hint of “1989.” But it’s fair to say that she has left her country era long behind her.
Upon announcing the record, Taylor explained that “Midnights” is about sleepless nights that she’s had throughout her life, full of torture and turmoil. This reveals that each track can be described as a snapshot at a certain point in her life that still stands out to her today. While the songs could be written from the POV of Taylor from a previous time, it’s also telling that she wrote all of these songs just recently — unlike re-releases or from the vault tracks that came from “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” and “Red (Taylor’s Version.)”
Much of “Evermore” and “Folklore” was written from the perspective of others — both factual and fictional people floating in Taylor’s head. But now with “Midnight,” the audience gets to feel more personally connected to Taylor’s real life and deepest feelings, bringing back the intimacy that her pandemic albums were missing.
Track by track review
“All they keep asking me is if I’m gonna be your bride. The only kind of girl they see is a one-night or a wife.”
I like how the first song begins with the line “meet me at midnight.” The term “lavender haze” is a popular phrase from the 50s, describing the honeymoon phase of a new relationship. This track is about yearning to stay in that phase, without the pressure from society of moving forward to get married, which she calls “the 1950s shit they want from me.” This can certainly be compared to her current six-year relationship, and how people keep asking why they aren’t engaged yet.
“The mark they saw on my collarbone, the rust that grew between telephones, the lips I used to call home. So scarlet, it was maroon.”
This song definitely makes me think about her “Red” album from 2012, which was re-released just last year. I think that this song could serve as a closure or wrap-up to the process of re-recording the entire album and living through all of those emotions again. It also shows that even after so many years have passed, there were feelings that can never be forgotten.
“I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror. It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero.”
I really love the beat of this song, but it’s definitely the lyrics that stand out the most. It’s self-loathing and self-critical. It’s very much, “I have to be perfect, but I will never be good enough.” This reveals her tendency to put herself on a pedestal and then inevitably become disappointed about not reaching those heights. It shows a strong distrust towards others, but then realizing that you are actually your own worst enemy.
Snow on the Beach (ft. Lana Del Rey)
“Your eyes are flying saucers from another planet.”
This song is really magical and reminds me of Christmas, colorful lights, and the first fall of light snow. It’s a pure song about two people falling in love with each other at the same time, no obstacles getting in the way. It feels like a miracle, hence the snow on the beach. A lot of people are upset that Lana Del Rey only sings backup vocals. I do wish that she could’ve gotten at least one verse to sing by herself. But their voices do blend nicely together, which was unexpected because they have such different voices. Well, I guess, it’s like Taylor is the snow and Lana is the beach!
You’re On Your Own, Kid
“I hosted parties and starved my body like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss.”
It seems that this song takes her back to her childhood and teen years, before fame, facing an unrequited love. And then it flashes forward to post-fame, where she is yet again dealing with unrequited love, likely with other people now. It’s a prevailing theme in her life, that she keeps chasing after fame and money, but there is always this void that she believes will be saved through romance, or friendship, or overall the love and validation of others. There will always be someone who leaves you, or dislikes you, and your life should not revolve around fixating on those people. Ultimately, all you have is yourself, and there is peace in accepting that.
“He was sunshine, I was midnight rain; he wanted it comfortable, I wanted that pain; he wanted a bride I was making my own name, chasing that fame.”
This song is looking back on a prior relationship: he wanted to get married and settle down and live a comfortable life, she wanted to focus on her career and be a star, despite the hardship that it comes with. In the end, they both got what they wanted — of course with other people. He is likely married with kids, living a steady and simple life. And she, Taylor, is obviously rich and famous, but that doesn’t mean that she never looks back in occasion and wonders what could have been.
“Do you wish you put up more of a fight?”
There is quite a resemblance to “Out of the Woods” from her 1989 record. “Out of the Woods” was about the anxiety of wanting to end a relationship, now “Question…?” is about questioning the past, perhaps having regrets over ending things so soon. It’s not necessarily a yearning for the past, but an innocent curiosity.
“Draw the cat eye, sharp enough to kill a man.”
Easily, this song can be summed up in one word: revenge. It’s a great villain song. It can be about getting revenge on someone, or simply fantasizing about it.
“And when I meet the band, they ask ‘do you have a man?’ I can still say ‘I don’t remember.'”
I think this song is about being treated badly by your man, and in turn deciding to get dressed up and go out and feel good about yourself. I like the tune and the sound, it’s very “shiny!”
“Uh oh, I’m falling in love again. I thought the plane was going down, how’d you turn it right around?“
This song is really haunting, in a positive way, though. It’s about the shock of falling in love when things go right, when you’re expecting things to go wrong. It’s really the same message as “Snow on the Beach.”
“Karma is a cat, purring in my lap, cause it loves me!”
I think this is my favorite one on the album! I like how she compares karma to all of these happy things in life: a relaxing thought, the breeze in your hair on the weekend, and so forth. It also has that “shiny” sound that Bejeweled has, I don’t know how else to describe it!
“I find myself running home to your sweet nothings.”
I like this song, but it doesn’t fully stand out to me! The message is nice, it’s about being complacent with a relationship all for its simplicity. It means not expecting much out of someone, just being happy in their presence. I just feel like this is a repeating message in most of her recent music.
“What if I told you none of it was accidental.”
This song basically says, “I had to scheme for us to be together. It wasn’t fate, it was me and my mastermind.” I think it’s a clever song, but it’s also extremely unromantic, like you had to trick someone into falling in love with you. Personally, it’s not my favorite.
At 3 AM, we were surprised with an additional seven tracks! “The Great War” is about surviving hardship in a relationship, which in turn gives you more confidence and faith in one another, because now you know that you can handle anything together. “Bigger Than The Whole Sky” is slow and sappy, it’s touching and heartfelt. “Paris” is sweet; getting away from the world and imagining that you and your honey are in Paris together.
“High Infidelity” was a bit of a shock to hear; seemingly a confession of cheating and not necessarily feeling that remorseful about it. “Glitch” is about the miracle of falling in love and a the same message of “Snow on the Beach” and “Labyrinth.” “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” is about regretting a relationship from a very, very long time ago — the anger will still not go away. As she mentions being 19-years old at the time, it’s not too difficult to figure out who she is specifically referring to. And finally, “Dear Reader” is an anthem of wisdom.
I believe that what makes Taylor Swift so successful is her ability to create intimacy with millions of fans who have never once met her, yet feel like a close friend of hers, because her lyrics share such personal details. She genuinely pours her heart out on her records, despite her value of privacy. This is what separates her from many other pop singers, from actors, from reality stars and other famous icons — that she can admit to the whole world, little details of her current relationship, along with intense regrets about her past relationships, plus dynamics between her and her friends and family. I think that singing is pretty easy, writing lyrics is not that hard, but revealing such vulnerable parts of you takes enormous strength.