Review: Taylor Swift reflects on sleepless nights in 10th album Midnights

UMG (on behalf of TS/Republic); Sony Music Publishing, UMPG Publishing, SOLAR Music Rights Management © 2022 Taylor Swift

Zoe Iorizzo, news correspondent

With dark blue glitter, wine stains and anxious introspecting, Taylor Swift made her record-breaking return to pop Oct. 21 with the release of her 10th studio album Midnights. 

The album had been highly anticipated since its reveal in August, leaving fans drooling over the moody 1970s-style photoshoots and speculating as to what genre the album would be. Swift’s last record drops, folklore and evermore, solidified her as an artist of versatile songwriting ability, as the albums had strong indie and alternative roots — a far cry from their pop predecessor, Lover. Because of this range, Swifties puzzled over the contents of Midnights, with some hoping it would be the 32-year-old artists segue into rock music. 

 Though Midnights was released as a pop album officially, the 13-track record is unlike anything Swift has produced before. Rather than settling on a singular storyline or theme, Swift described Midnights as “a complete concept album with those 13 songs forming a full picture of the intensities of that mystifying, mad hour.” 

Midnights creates an atmosphere that represents the complex multitude of thoughts, experiences and emotions that one may experience when the clock strikes 12. Despite the upbeat synth-pop instrumentals that are present throughout the album, the lyrics cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from a revisitation of past loves in “Paris” to an intimate depiction of Swift’s insecurities in “Anti-Hero.”

Many of the lyrics seem to echo the moody imagery that Swift promoted the album with — several songs feature deep, personal lines that reveal her inner struggles and anxieties. In “Lavender Haze,” she calls out the societal expectations she and her long-term boyfriend, Joe Alwyn face, saying, “All they keep asking me is if I’m gonna be your bride / the only kind of girl they see is a one-night or a wife.” Here, she vents against the media’s constant prying eyes into her relationship and the pressure that many women face in modern dating. 

“You’re On Your Own, Kid,” is a tear-jerker about unrequited love and independence, painting her transition from a young girl to a self-reliant woman. The bridge features a memorable yet gut-wrenching line: “I hosted parties and starved my body,” a reference to her struggle with disordered eating, which she previously opened up about in her Netflix documentary “Miss Americana.” Swift’s personal and touching lyricism creates a bridge between her and her listeners, allowing them to truly delve into her midnight thoughts. 

As usual, Swift’s songwriting skills adorn the album with gorgeous visuals and metaphors, stealing the audience away into the late-night atmosphere. Right off the bat, Swift washes listeners in cool, earthy colors, with the first two songs titled “Lavender Haze” and “Maroon.” 

In the much-anticipated “Snow On The Beach” featuring the alternative pop artist Lana Del Rey, the two stars depict the unreal yet euphoric feeling of falling mutually in love with someone. They write, “And it’s like snow on the beach / weird but it was beautiful / flying in a dream / stars by the pocketful,” painting love as a bizarre, surreal state. The two singers’ voices are overlaid on the chorus, creating a heavenly, almost choral ambience.

Similarly, “Labyrinth” compares the intensity of romance to the confusion of a complex maze: “It only feels this raw right now / lost in the labyrinth of my mind.” This use of metaphors is similar to her songwriting in folklore, where songs like “mirrorball” and “my tears ricochet” are prime examples of her imagery-focused songwriting style. Though the instrumentals of Midnights are predominantly electronic, a stark departure from the acoustic guitars and pianos of folklore and evermore, the lyrics show consistency in Swift’s style.

However, not everyone is a fan of all of Swift’s decisions. Many critics pointed out certain lyrics in the album for being “cringey” or otherwise “too millennial.” In particular, the song “Vigilante S[***]” — an anthem about getting revenge on an enemy — has caught flack for its opening line, “Draw the cat eyes sharp enough to kill a man,” a lyric that admittedly would be fit for a Forever 21 graphic tee. This is not a new trend for Swift, who often includes playful lines in her albums — remember when “Hey kids, spelling is fun!” was removed from “Me!” due to the backlash?

In addition, some critics claim many of Midnights’ tracks sound similar, either to others on the album or songs Swift has released in the past. For instance, the chorus and bridge of  “Lavender Haze” sound eerily like “I Think He Knows” from Lover, leading to several mashups on TikTok and Twitter. “Maroon” and “Mastermind” both seem to have the same medium-paced, sensual vibe that is seen in “Dress” from Reputation.

Whether or not this was an artistically sound choice is ultimately up for debate, as some listeners argue that Swift and longtime co-producer Jack Antonoff are beginning to lack creativity. Yet the fact that certain songs fit into prior album eras by echoing Swift’s existing lyricism and production proves that Midnights is truly a collection of moments, reinforcing its role as a concept album drawn from the artist’s own past midnights. 

With the release of Midnights, Swift has once again managed to captivate millions with her intimate lyricism and stunning visuals. Her triumphant return to pop directly after folklore and evermore cement her prowess as a genre-defying — even, genre-defining — artist. As of Oct. 31, Midnights has dominated the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart by claiming the top 10 tracks, making Taylor Swift the first artist to do so in the 64-year history of the chart. And although Midnights has finally been released, her fans aren’t free of anticipation yet. On Nov. 1 she announced the dates for her upcoming tour, titled “The Eras,” leaving Swifties wondering how on earth she would fit her nearly two decades-long career into a single performance. 

It seems as though Swift has a tendency to keep her fans on their toes with one question: What’s next…?