Vicariously Living Through Taylor Swift’s Midnights in Tenth Studio Album
Meet me at Midnight.
Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated tenth studio album features thirteen tracks equipped with her perennial, signature lyricism exploring her public perception while evoking the storytelling of Folklore and Evermore and brought to life by the musicality of 1989, Reputation, and Lover. Midnights is a diverse collection of bubblegum pop hits, sultry smooth tracks, and insomnia-induced self-contemptful tracks that the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter put out on October 21, 2022.
Following the spontaneous success of pandemic albums Folklore and Evermore amidst rerecords of past albums, Swift slightly strays from surprise albums upon winning Video of the Year for All Too Well: The Short Film at the MTV Video Music Awards, dropping a traditional date and schedule of promotions for Midnights.
The singer-songwriter-director takes to various social media platforms to tease album details, unveiling the 13 track titles with the help of a trusty bingo roller machine and song lyrics plastered on cryptic billboards. Through her official YouTube account, Swift unveils self-directed music videos for Anti-Hero and Bejeweled succeeding the album release.
Upon release, Swift dubs the album “A collage of intensity, highs and lows and ebbs and flows. Life can be dark, starry, cloudy, terrifying, electrifying, hot, cold, romantic or lonely. Just like Midnights.” in a post on Twitter.
Midnights couldn’t have had a better opener than Lavender Haze—inspired by a classic line from the 1950’s about the dreamy love glow of romance, Swift directly addresses all the speculations on the definite score of her relationship with current boyfriend Joe Alwyn, twisting media marriage expectations singing, ‘The only kinda girl they see / Is a one-night or a wife’ and choosing to stay in the lavender haze of love amid all other external clamor, leaving the rest to ‘Talk your talk and go viral / I just need this love spiral.’
Maroon follows suit with Swift’s unwavering allegories to varying shades of red. Made up by greatly missed sensually sultry soundset looking back on a past relationship that begins cleaning incense off vinyl shelves descending into splashing wine onto t-shirts, whose telephones rusted since they saw each other every day now turning into a piquant metaphor for ghosting—the entire song built on thoughtful imagery of how the said relationship goes to rack and ruin. Maroon, both in song and in theory, is a deeper shade of red, with this track exploring a dark love painstakingly mature as opposed to “burning red.”
Swift drops lyrical shade on certain personalities, be it fictional or real-life, who had done her wrong on Vigilante Sh*t—the track fully encapsulating the extent of the morally gray anti-hero agenda. Weaponizing femininity in ‘Draw the cat eye sharp enough to kill a man’ and ‘They say looks can kill and I might try,’ the song reverses misogynist norms as the narrator teams up with the divorcee, seeking revenge and getting even rather than getting sad. Taylor’s version of vigilantism is reporting white-collar crimes and dressing for revenge backed by bass and heavy, reverberated synths of sultry production quality.
As if a 3-minute and 14-second drive through Taylor Swift’s youth and career, You’re On Your Own, Kid joins Swift’s acclaimed collection of Track Fives where she chooses to place those emotionally devastating songs that hit closest to home in the likes of Red (Taylor’s Version)’s All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) and Lover’s The Archer, among others. It is clear from the opening line that the song depicts her personal experience and childlike innocence in her hopelessly romantic search for love, progressing into her discovery of her passion in a parking lot and a slow launch into stardom. In arguably the best bridge on the entire album, she ends with the revelation that you are on your own, kid, you always have been—but you can face this.
As Midnights’ dynamic lead single and proclaimed by Swift herself as “one of my favorite songs that I have ever written,” Anti-Hero reveals Swift’s deepest self-perceptions and insecurities through lyrics both deeply-felt; ‘I stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror’ though sometimes borderline questionable; ‘Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby.’ Through this track, Swift acknowledges her personal shortcomings as an artist and as a person, simultaneously shedding light on her flaws and greatly criticizing her own genuinity, awaking from nightmares of her past experiences and future death, murdered by a prospective in-law. Time and time again she admits that ‘It’s me, hi / I’m the problem, it’s me,’ painting herself as the anti-hero of the narrative—one with morals too ambiguous for an expected hero but ambitions too mild for a villain.
Putting it all together, Mastermind, the last track of the album, furthers her anti-hero plot device by telling tales of how the narrator masterminds their way into a relationship: from the aligning stars so that they end up in the same room and solving the other person like a puzzle one would be sure to win. The song takes a darker turn into ‘love at first sight,’ deliberately maneuvering every bait and switch in order for the other person to notice them first and fall in love unbeknownst to themself. Knowing Swift’s affinity for mind games and trickery, the events that unfold in Mastermind may not be too far from the truth. For good measure, the bridge does provide a reasonable villain origin backstory since ‘No one wanted to play with me as a little kid / So I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since / To make them love me and make it seem effortless.’ Best of all is the plot twist on the last verse where the narrator admits to plotting the entire romance from behind the scenes and finds their partner smirking widely since ‘You knew the entire time / You knew that I’m a mastermind.’
In a fashion only a certain Taylor Swift could pull off, duly titled Midnights (3am Edition) released a good 3 hours after midnight at 3am EST (otherwise, 3pm in the Philippines) featuring seven brand-new bonus tracks mildly deviating from the overpowering electronic pop vibe of the standard version. All in all, the bonus tracks exhibit the emotional, poetic lyricism and creative narrative that Swift had developed over the course of her pandemic songwriting, coupled with toned-down tunes reminiscent of past eras.
Fans and the general public alike receive the music in swift style, #Midnights and related hashtags occupying top Twitter trends on opening night and flooding the rest of the internet with posts of praise and in-depth album reviews. The record-smashing album achieves over a hundred #1’s on iTunes worldwide, becomes the most-streamed album on Spotify in less than 24 hours of release with 185 million plays, and makes history as the only album to occupy the entire top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. “I AM IN SHAMBLES,” posts the ever-lyrical singer-songwriter, excusable given that the album’s success speaks for itself.
Swift never runs out of surprise announcements: The Eras Tour is set for 2023, dropping dates for the North American leg. Said tour encompasses all of Swift’s works, spanning from her debut days up to her most recent hits, the best way to celebrate her timeless collection and the artist she has come to be today.
All in all, Taylor Swift’s diverse discography knows no bounds, traipsing from her early Country days to a full-blown transition to Pop to an unexpected but nonetheless spectacular dabble in indie-folk and alternative rock, she circles back to a matured version of her Pop persona. Although arguable that her songwriting had been taken down a notch on Midnights compared to Folklore and Evermore’s narratives, Swift takes to the 3am Edition to share more of her creative process with additional songs she wrote on the journey to find “that magic 13”, as she said so herself. Dropping bonus tracks with lyrics so impassioned backed by more modulated production that, though stray from the high-key bop feel of the standard edition, would have been a shame not to launch entirely. With each release, Swift delves deeper and deeper into the lore of her own imagination, concocting lyrical pieces overflowing with metaphor and meaning accompanied by dark, downbeat undertones hidden by unsuspectingly light tunes—a rightfully revered musical mastermind explicitly unmasked on Midnights.