Taylor Swift never misses. On the coattails of two award–winning new albums and two re-recordings of old classics, Swift’s newest album, Midnights, transports us from the folksy woods of folklore and evermore and places us right in the middle of a euphoric cityscape of new beginnings and introspective evenings. An accumulation of 13 thoughts from Swift’s restless nights, Midnights combines her masterful songwriting ability with a groovy, exciting new sound.
Swift is no stranger to genre-switching and exploring new paths throughout her nearly 20-year career. With her jump from country to pop with Red and 1989, and then to the stripped-down sound heard on folklore and evermore, Swift constantly reinvents herself, and does a damn good job at it, too. Though the main focus of her career since the end of 2020 has been her highly anticipated re-recordings, the announcement of her 10th original album Midnights back in August 2022 was something no one was expecting but everyone was excited for.
Midnights is the matured love child of Swift’s three biggest pop records: 1989, Reputation and Lover. While Swift has frequently touched on her insecurities and struggles in life both in interviews and in her past music, these themes come to the forefront on Midnights. In the lead single for the album, “Anti-Hero,” Swift speaks on what keeps her up at night, from body image issues to fearing the loss of loved ones. While the song itself is a synthy dreamscape with a bouncy hook, the almost absurd lyrics replicate the wild and crazy thoughts of self-doubt and overthinking that take place on a sleepless night. The much-talked-about lyric, “Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby and I’m a monster on the hill,” is a fine example of one of the many jarring and strange lines from the song. It reflects Swift’s fear of no longer being seen as an attractive young thing in a world that puts youth and beauty on a pedestal.
This theme is maintained throughout the album, from Swift talking through the gossip surrounding her current relationship on songs like “Lavender Haze” and “Paris,” to reflecting on her past self trying to fit in and be loved on “You’re On Your Own, Kid.” Despite this, a lot of the album’s heavy material and mature self-reflection is backed by upbeat instrumentals and catchy bridges, which create a beautiful harmony between the more serious and fun songs. While Swift might be best known for her ballads and love songs, she continuously excels in creating the quintessential shimmery pop track.
“Karma” is one of the album’s shining moments — a confident, bright tune about how karma has given her great things in life, while those who have wronged her — like Kanye West and record executive Scooter Braun — have had their fair share of bad energy. The only title on the album where Swift is the sole writer, “Vigilante Shit,” is a Billie Eilish-esque vengeance track that follows a similar theme of Swift exacting her revenge on those who deserve it most, specifically the aforementioned West and Braun. And of course, it isn’t a Taylor Swift album without a wholesome love song, and “Sweet Nothing,” co-written by Swift and William Bowery — an alias for her boyfriend, actor Joe Alwyn (“Catherine Called Birdy”) — fits that shoe perfectly.
At 3 a.m. on Oct. 21, three hours after releasing Midnights, Swift surprised fans by dropping seven more bonus tracks. These songs could not close out the album more perfectly. While the first 13 original tracks featured Jack Antonoff’s signature alternative pop production, the last seven, produced by Aaron Dessner of The National, contain some serious tearjerkers. Songs like “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” and “Bigger Than The Whole Sky” are heart-wrenching stories of loss and pain from past moments of Swift’s life as she looks back on traumatizing relationships and people who left her too soon. The obvious yet harmonious contrast between the album’s initial release and the seven additional tracks is the perfect example of Swift’s duality and ability to masterfully create a perfectly balanced record that showcases Swift’s raw and vulnerable side as well as her more powerful and certain self.
While Midnights might not be what many were expecting after the rustic, raw sound of folklore and evermore, it brings out a new side of the grown-up pop Taylor, giving a glimpse into what the next era of her music will be like. We can only hope Swift continues to bring us along on her sleepless nights and deep into her consciousness like she did on Midnights.
Daily Arts Writer Gigi Ciulla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org