Don’t fall asleep too Swiftly! ‘Midnights’ is sure to keep you up

Hannah Herbst

For fans accustomed to Taylor Swift’s indie sound and lyrical storytelling from her past two albums, her new album,“Midnights,” may seem like a departure. But upon first listen, it’s reminiscent of many aspects of her previous albums. In a series of videos released on Spotify in conjunction with the album, Swift shares specifically what “kept her up at night” and led to inspiration for the album: self loathing, fantasizing about revenge, wondering what might’ve been, falling in love and falling apart. The album is an entirely new melody for Swift, but not an unfamiliar trajectory. Just like the stars in a midnight sky, each song sparkles against a darker backdrop. 

Evoking a mysterious theme, Swift’s album cover is reminiscent of the songs inside. (Image courtesy of Complex)

The first 13 sleepless nights…

For many Swifties, it was unsurprising that the opening lyrics of the album are, “Meet me at midnight.” That’s about the only part of the first song that caters to initial expectations of the song’s similarities to previous albums. The quick, seemingly lighthearted beat of “Lavender Haze” is an interesting juxtaposition to the lyrics themselves. In a twist from the typical love song, Swift monologues about the meddling and nosiness that comes with her said love, starting with, “I’m damned if I do give a damn what people say about me.”

 Listeners are next transported into a whole new dream, “Maroon.” The name itself is eerily similar to Swift’s past album, “Red.” However, if anything, “Maroon” is its big sister, full of adult experiences, which Swift makes painfully clear with lyrics like, “Your roommate’s cheap-ass screw-top rosé.” While “Red” was full of juvenile longing and nostalgia, “Maroon” is (quite literally) darker, full of angst and classic melodrama. It’s searing, it’s snide and, as Swift says repeatedly, it’s “a real f*cking legacy to leave.” However, as seen in the juxtaposition between Swift’s first two songs, it’s sometimes difficult to tell her perspective throughout the album. Although the album follows 13 different nights, they’re not always cohesive. 

“Anti-Hero” represents Swift’s struggles with self-loathing. Agitating repetitiveness aside, it cuts sharp, especially when paired with witty, all too relatable remarks such as, “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror,” and intricate syntax like, “Did you hear my covert narcissism might disguise as altruism, like some kind of congressman?” 

The clear theme of “Anti-Hero” is then muddled by the next track; consider this a formal apology to Lana Del Rey fans. “Snow on the Beach” is mediocre at best, and despite Del Rey being featured in addition to Swift, her voice is imperceptible. 

Swift has written strong songs about childhood nostalgia in her career (looking at you, “Never Grow Up”). “You’re On Your Own, Kid” focuses instead on the childhood feeling of having  independence but longing for something more. There’s mention of the impetus of a previously developed agony: “I didn’t choose this town, I dream of getting out.” Other lyrics are vaguely reminiscent of Swift’s past songs, like, “You Belong With Me.”

“Midnight Rain,” is an interesting shift for the album. And again, at what cost? Its synth beat is a jarring direction to take, though it still delivers a strong point with lines like, “He wanted a bride, I was making my own name.” Similarly, In “Question,” Swift’s masterful lyrics evoke a strong story. The line, “Did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room? And every single one of your friends was makin’ fun of you,” is a standout. Catchy and calculating! 

Things start to get messy on the track list here. “Vigilante Shit” evokes many of the similar aesthetics and emotions as Swift’s album, “Reputation”; that about sums it up. The song is fine, but its aesthetic doesn’t feel like it exactly fits in with the rest of the album.  “Bejeweled” is as shiny as it’s namesake with a unique, fun tune. The lyric, “Did all the extra credit, then got graded on a curve,” is a good representation of the song’s

Sparkling like the song’s namesake, Swift in the “Bejeweled” music video (Image courtesy of W[omens] W[ear] D[aily])
message — and sure to be relatable for many students on a more literal level. Next, Swift is clearly “Lost in the ‘Labyrinth’ of [her] mind” in the ninth track. It’s another interesting change in direction, with a slower, more introspective feel. Together, these songs are a perfect example of the variation in the album, which doesn’t always work in its favor. 

Then maybe it’s “Karma” that the next track struggles so much lyrically? The line, “Cause’ karma is my boyfriend. Karma is a god,” is all that needs to be said, case in point. Catchy? Maybe.

Ah, the last two final nights. “Sweet Nothing” gives nothing entertainment-wise. It’s more melodious, but the lyrics aren’t strong enough to make it as entrancing as it should be. 

But, fear not! Swift is an absolute “Mastermind” with the last track. Another prime example of paramount lyrical storytelling, without an ounce lost in the vocal department. The chorus is everything and more, and the bridge delivers on all expectations.

But wait! There’s more?

There are seven more tracks Swift released as a surprise, providing a further insight into the album. Most are more stripped down versions of the previous 13 tracks, many reminiscent of her days before discovering autotune and Jack Antonoff (think “Speak Now,” etc). 

In “Midnights,” Swift showcases some of her best storytelling and range. Each song’s uniqueness is a double-edged sword, as sometimes it’s hard to follow her perspective. Holistically, the album may struggle at times, but like anything Swift produces, it’s worth a listen…or two, or 13…or maybe take a page out of Swift’s book and stay up all night?