Updated: Nov 10
After dabbling in the melancholy sounds of indie folk with Folklore and Evermore, Taylor Swift has made a triumphant return to pop music with her tenth studio album, Midnights. Deemed the lovechild of the singer’s successful albums Reputation and 1989 by fans, Midnights tells the story of thirteen sleepless nights throughout Swift’s life. Once again, Swift’s articulacy and wordsmith qualities shine through her lyricism in this record. Despite being a pop album at heart, Midnights still has that emotional depth Swift is renowned for.
Lavender Haze, the opening track, conceals a feminist message under a synth-infused dance beat. Since her personal tell-all Miss Americana documentary, Swift has become more vocal about her experiences as a woman in the music industry; the objectification, sexualisation and expectations she faces are explored in this song (“I'm damned if I do give a damn what people say/No deal/The 1950s sh*t they want from me/I just wanna stay in that lavender haze”), swept along by a current of an R&B-inspired rhythm. Anti-Hero is another anthem of reliability; after a sixteen-year-long career, Swift’s fans still connect with her through her brutally honest songs like this one. Swift stated that “self-loathing” was the driving force for a majority of the songs on Midnights and under the guise of the bubblegum pop sound of Anti-Hero, she softly introduces us to her vulnerability as an artist. “It’s me, hi/I’m the problem,” sounds candid and self-deprecating in a way that’s humorous, which could be why fans have already taken to TikTok lipsyncing to this song to humble themselves alongside Swift.
Swift teased each song title through short TikTok videos, and when she announced Snow On The Beach featuring Lana Del Rey, fans were overjoyed at the news of the collaboration. However, muted and understated, this song falls flat in comparison to the other anthems on this album, which has left many fans in a state of disappointment. Del Rey is known for her dreamy, liquid smooth vocals but merely features in the background of this song. It almost feels like a wasted opportunity, especially since both stars’ voices harmonize and blend beautifully together. The song is followed by You’re On Your Own Kid, where we see Swift at her strongest: storytelling with that personal flair she’s celebrated for. Through lyrics such as “I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this/I hosted parties and starved my body/Like I'd be saved by a perfect kiss”, Swift is reckoning with how her life has turned out, and through this uptempo ballad, we get an honest confession of what fame has done to her. Beautifully raw, this song is a gem, with the soft percussion beat building up to a crescendo of remembrance, and self-reflection with a glimmer of hopefulness.
Reminiscent of her scorched-earth album Reputation, Vigilante Sh*t tells the story of a woman who’s on a mission to destroy her ex. Sultry and dripping with mystery, this song uses a heavy synth sound to create revenge best served sweet. Just like in Reputation, Swift reminds us to not get sad, but to get even. But the album does have a gentle side. Sweet Nothings and Labyrinth are more mellow tracks, where Swift shows off her ethereal higher register to tell heartwarming stories of falling in love. Maroon, Bejeweled, Karma and Question…? all have their own special zing, supported by dazzling percussive pop sounds; Swift is still that girl when it comes to feel-good songs for any feeling or moment in life. In Mastermind, the closing track, Swift acknowledges that she and long-time partner Joe Alwyn were meant to be together, like a plan she hatched from when they first met: “I laid the groundwork, and then/Just like clockwork/The dominoes cascaded in a line/What if I told you I'm a mastermind?/And now you're mine.” It’s also a nice little nod to her fans, who always exclaim that Swift drops hints and Easter eggs for upcoming albums, songs and projects.
Dark and cryptic, Midnights is the kind of record that leaves you wanting more; it’s possible that it is Swift’s most personal album yet. After breaking Spotify’s Single-Day Album stream record, it’s clear that Jack Antonoff and Swift are a match made in heaven in terms of producing pop perfection.
Photo: Taylor Swift