Taylor Swift’s tenth album, Midnights, released on October 21, 2022, and was heavily anticipated since its announcement at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards. Teased through new merch and countdowns, Midnights is the first album since Swift’s release of Folklore and Evermore in 2020.
Midnights, the story of thirteen sleepless nights over the course of Swift’s career has received its fair share of mixed reviews, with some finding it to be one of her best yet, and others considering it to be overrated. Despite the memes that poke fun at the lyrics and have, Midnights is this year’s best-selling album, breaking records for the most-streamed album in a day on Spotify, with 184.6 million streams.
Emmi Green, an undergrad student at Queens College, says that she’s listened to the album non-stop since it came out. When asked which of the thirteen tracks was her favorite, she replied, “I’ve never been good at picking favorite songs of Taylor’s, because I fully believe she’s never written a bad song, but I would say my top three are, in no particular order, You’re on Your Own, Kid, Anti-Hero, and Mastermind, because they all manage to be sad and honest, but still fun.”
To listen to Midnights is like listening to a melange of Swift’s past albums. When announcing the album, the singer-songwriter had explained it to be “a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams.” The tracks featured in the album are unique in that they all came together for Midnights, but are also songs considered and set aside for her previous nine albums. Not just songs, but markers. With milestones, genres, and themes, the album is rife with callbacks and references.
Emmi Green agrees, saying that “I think every song on Midnights is a callback of some kind to her previous albums — from the sampling of Out of the Woods in Question….? to the bridge in You’re on Your Own, Kid. Kind of cataloging her career so far. I thought it was incredible.”
Midnights is the first album of Swift’s that is recorded entirely with Jack Antonoff. The album, with vintage synths and a more understated, moodier yet elegant vocal atmosphere, start with the first track, Lavender Haze. The song aptly begins with the lyrics “Meet me at midnight” and stirs similar vibes as I Think He Knows from a previous pop album of Swift’s, Lover. Lavender Haze seems to follow the narrative of dealing with constant speculating on her romantic relationships.
The next song on the album, Maroon, is of a doomed romance, using the recurring motif of the color red–and colors along that spectrum, such as burgundy–in regards to love and different stages of the relationship, bringing to mind, Swift’s album, Red, an album which she re-recorded and released as Red (Taylor’s Version) on November 12, 2021. The song is so effective with the echoing music and drums at odds with the powerful lyrics.
The track-list continues with Anti-Hero, released with the album’s first music video, and focuses on Swift’s own inner thoughts and battles, combined with external pressures. The music itself is upbeat, but the lyrics are raw and the vocals switch between bubbly and exhausted, serving as a sort of tour through the perception of Taylor by society, as well as her own insecurities.
Track Five, You’re on Your Own, Kid is incredible in its narration, the lyrics doing wonders to paint the story of an unrequited teenage love that serves as an inspiration to pursue a dream, blended with the consistent message of being on your own, and succeeding despite the obstacles. A reflection of the singer-songwriter’s career.
The album has quite a few themes weaved together through its tracks, and among these themes is that of revenge, but also peace. Tracks 8 and 11, Vigilante Shit and Karma respectively, are wildly different in their sounds, with Vigilante Shit being edgy and Karma more upbeat, while Track 13, Mastermind, also brings forth a feeling of being understood and known by a romantic partner. On the other hand, Track 9, Bejeweled, is more about finding confidence after feeling insecure, executed with a pop vibe, and a shimmering music video of jewels and fun outfits.
Overall, Midnights is definitely a unique album, serving as a reflection of Swift’s previous albums and experiences, filled with introspective lyrics and a new, sometimes subdued, sometimes preppy sound. The seven bonus songs — the 3 AM tracks —were also powerful and worth listening to. It does not come as a surprise that Midnights is amongst Swift’s most successful albums.