Review: ‘Midnights’ is a return to Taylor Swift’s pop past with added lyrical vulnerability
Review: Taylor Swift's 'Midnights' offers lyrical vulnerability
“I can still make the whole place shimmer,” Taylor Swift sings on “Bejeweled,” the 9th track of her 10th studio album Midnights. Not that anyone doubted she could.
After the release of Swift’s surprise indie projects, Folklore, Evermore, and her two re-recorded albums, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift and her fans have been busy. The genre whiplash, from alternative to country to pop, has given the no-single release accompanied, Midnights an aura of mystique. Swift’s “Midnights Mayhem with Me” posts on TikTok, each revealing a track title from the album and featuring the singer in 70s-inspired outfits, abounded theories of the album’s inspiration from the decade and curiosity about its sound.
While the album was advertised as “the stories of 13 sleepless nights,” Swift released a 3 a.m. surprise consisting of seven bonus tracks. The project itself can truly only be described, though, as a combination of all of Swift’s previous work to date. It sounds completely new with synthy and shimmering production, which is the perfect backdrop for a night of reminiscing and spending time with old friends. But it is also a reminder of the past, a mix of the artist’s previous works, Lover, Reputation, and 1989.
View this post on Instagram
Midnights opens with “Lavender Haze,” a track that begins with “meet me at midnight,” a phrase often repeated throughout the album’s promotion. Reminiscent of Lover-era “I Think He Knows,” the song has clear R&B influences and reflects Swift’s defiance of society’s perception of who they think she should be. Living in a lavender haze with her lover, away from these expectations, is where she’s happiest.
“Anti-Hero,” the first song to receive a music video on Midnights, is quite possibly the most vulnerable Swift has been in her music. She admits that she is “the problem” in her failed relationships and is not shy about her struggles with self-loathing. The juxtaposition of the upbeat production and the lyrics show the façade Swift has had to maintain throughout her life in the spotlight.
“Snow on the Beach,” arguably one of the most anticipated tracks on the album because of its Lana Del Rey feature, transports the listener directly into the set of Little Women. Cue a candlelit room and a dreamy voice lulling the daughters to sleep. While a full verse of Del Rey’s would have made the song more magical, Swift’s flowery songwriting characterizes her self-doubt with classic Del Rey romanticization flair.
The fifth track of a Taylor Swift album is well-known by fans as the emotional core of the album. And “You’re On Your Own, Kid” is no different. It begins unassumingly, describing a kid who longs to escape their hometown. Then, the lyrics become more and more personal, referencing Swift’s battle with insecurities and the downfall of her emotions. The track serves as a cautionary tale and a reminder to remember the good in difficult situations.
The 11th track, “Karma,” was a shock to fans, who saw the word thrown around in easter eggs around the release of Swift’s Reputation (see “The Man” music video) and believed it to be the title of an unreleased album. The song itself is poppy and sassy, and Swift also adds humorous notes about how “Karma is a cat/Purring in my lap ‘cause it loves me.” Despite Swift’s desire for revenge against the people who wronged her (“Vigilante Shit”), Swift is content that she is successful and karma stays on her good side.
Swift’s emotions are on a broad spectrum in Midnights. At some points, she is confident and self-assured, while at others the most self-hating she has ever appeared. Sometimes she wants to get revenge, other times, she wants to confess her devoted love for her partner. Regardless of how arbitrary these feelings may seem, they accurately depict a woman contemplating different parts of her life at different stages.
While Swifts’ Midnights could be perceived as a not entirely cohesive collection of twenty songs, the album is definitively fun and new. Although Swift’s lyrics explore topics that leave her at her most vulnerable, her return to pop makes some of the darkest situations beautiful in their disarray. Swift is dazzling like a mirrorball throughout every song, and the project is unabashedly a delve into her mind when the clock strikes midnight.