MIDNIGHTS // TAYLOR SWIFT ALBUM REVIEW

Midnights is the highly anticipated tenth album from Taylor Swift, which she called "the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life" when she announced its release. She also said alongside the announcement, "This is a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams. The floors we pace and the demons we face. For all of us who have tossed and turned and decided to keep the lanterns lit and go searching - hoping that just maybe, when the clock strikes twelve...we'll meet ourselves." 

Although Taylor is in the middle of re-recording her first six albums, after the massive success of Fearless (Taylor's Version) and Red (Taylor's Version) in 2021, Midnights is actually made up of all brand new songs that she wrote for this album. This album feels like a reflection from her present-day self on different periods of her life through a new lens. 

Midnights in its entirety feels like a retrospective of every album Taylor has released prior. All of her strengths as an artist are explored on this album with every single song having at least one moment, melody, or lyric that directly connects to something from her past work. In many cases, I think she ended up making better versions of those songs she was referencing too. In the midst of her Taylor's Version journey where she is revisiting her first six albums at a macro level, that aspect feels like it was a very intentional in that regard. 

Midnights is the first album she made fully with Jack Antonoff, who is the producer and co-writer of every song on the standard edition of the album. The two of them can really do no wrong for me musically, their collaborations over the past almost 10 years have equated to so much of my favorite music - to have a whole album made by them for the first time is everything! 

Aspects of this album very much feel like Taylor having her own Melodrama moment with some of the darker production and lyricism. With songs like "Labyrinth", "Maroon", and "Midnight Rain" in particular, those influences feel very prominent. Other parts of the album remind me of Haim's Women In Music Pt. III or St. Vincent's Masseduction as well. A few tracks are very reminiscent of Red Hearse, which is a group made up of Jack Antonoff, Sam Dew and Mark Spears, also known as Sounwave. Their 2019 EP is incredible and so underrated, so I love to see that they collaborated with Taylor on this album too. 

"Lavender Haze" is the first song on the album, which is the perfect intro track to all that was to come for the rest of Midnights. Taylor talked about the meaning of the song's title alongside her announcement on Instagram, "I happened upon the phrase 'lavender haze' when I was watching Mad Men, and I looked it up, because I thought it sounded cool, and it turns out that it’s a common phrase used in the 50s where they would just describe being in love. Like, if you were in a lavender haze, that meant that you were in that all-encompassing love glow, and I thought that was really beautiful." This song is her response to a lot of the tabloid gossip about her relationship, singing "I'm damned if I do give a damn what people say" and "All they keep asking me is if I'm gonna be your bride, the only kinda girl they see is a one-night or a wife". It reminds me so much of her 2019 song "I Think He Knows", but with a Red Hearse vibe to it. The production and her vocals both sound amazing, this song is one of her best in every aspect.

"Maroon" is the second track and also my favorite from the album, there is so much warmth and beauty to it. The symbolism in the lyrics when she relates very specific memories and feelings to color feels very reminiscent of all the meaning that Red holds in her music. While that love was "burning red", the love she is singing about is now "so scarlet it was maroon". I also love the lyrical imagery of New York, which sets the tone beautifully - paired with all of the small details of "the burgundy on my t-shirt" and the "rust that grew between telephones". The chorus is incredible and truly one of the best she has ever written, I haven't been able to get it out of my head since I first heard it. 

"Anti-Hero" was the lead single of Midnights upon the album's release. In terms of subject matter, it reminds me of "The Archer" or "This Is Me Trying" by how confessional it is, but with upbeat pop production. In the opening lines she sings, "I have this dream where I get older but just never wiser, midnights become my afternoons, when my depression works the graveyard shift all of the people I ghosted stand there in the room". When she announced the song, Taylor delved into the meaning it holds for her, "'Anti-Hero' is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. I really don’t think I’ve delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before. I struggle with the idea that my life has become unmanageably sized and I, not to sound too dark, but I just struggle with the idea of not feeling like a person. This song is a real guided tour throughout all the things I tend to hate about myself, and it’s all those aspects of the things we dislike and like about ourselves that we have to come to terms with if we are gonna be this person..."

The chorus has one of my favorite lyrics, "I'll stare directly at the sun, but never in the mirror", to which she follows by repeatedly saying "It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me".  Some of the lyrics are kind of weird and confusing when you first hear them (one specifically comes to mind lol), but it has overall really grown on me so much. I also love the Bleachers remix that was released a few weeks later, there are elements of that version that I actually wish were a part of the original, like the "Taylor, you'll be fine" lyric. I have been wanting an official Taylor and Bleachers song for years, so that was definitely very exciting too!

When Taylor announced the title of the fourth track, "Snow on the Beach", it immediately became my most anticipated song from the album. It is featuring my other favorite artist ever, Lana Del Rey - for me, it really doesn't get much better than Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey and Jack Antonoff collaborating on a song together! Their music separately has served as endless inspiration in my life, so I love that they came together for "Snow on the Beach". Alongside the announcement of the song on Instagram Taylor said, "...Lana Del Rey is, in my opinion, one of the best musical artists ever, the fact that I get to exist at the same time as her is an honor and a privilege, and the fact that she would be so generous as to collaborate with us on this song is something I’m gonna be grateful for life." She also described the song is "...about falling in love with someone at the same time as they’re falling in love with you, in this sort of in this cataclysmic, faded moment where you realize someone feels exactly the same way that you feel, at the same moment, and you’re kind of looking around going, 'Wait, is this real? Is this a dream? Is this for real? Is it really happening? Kinda like it would be if you were to see snow falling on a beach."

It has all of the elements that make songs like "August", "Mirrorball", or "Gold Rush" so special - there is such a gleaming, twinkling, dreamy sound to it. The vocals and production have such a beautiful ambiance too - it's truly such a gorgeous song. Lana is primarily the background vocals, and I do wish she had a bigger part of the song in that regard, but the presence of her voice at all elevated it to a new level. 

There are so many gorgeous lyrics on this song that paint such a vivid scene of the setting and emotions they are conveying. The opening lines especially set the tone, "One night, a few moons ago, I saw flecks of what could've been lights, but it might just have been you passing by unbeknownst to me". My favorite part of the song is the second verse, "This scene feels like what I once saw on a screen, I searched 'aurora borealis green', I've never seen someone lit from within, blurring out my periphery, my smile is like I won a contest, and to hide that would be so dishonest, and it's fine to fake it 'til you make it 'til you do, 'til it's true".

"You're On Your Own, Kid" is the beloved fifth track on the album, which very much feels like it was written as a letter to her younger self, but I think many will be able to take something away from the message. Throughout the song, she talks about many specific experiences she's had in her life, from growing up, to getting her start in the music industry and the journey to realizing that only she is responsible for her own fate, only she can save herself. Each verse gives a glimpse into her past at certain moments in time that were formative for her. The second verse is a particular standout moment in the song, "I picked the petals, he loves me not, something different bloomed, writing in my room, I play my songs in the parking lot, I'll run away" to which she follows it in the chorus, "From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes, I called a taxi to take me there, I search the party of better bodies, just to learn that my dreams aren't rare, you're on your own, kid, you always have been". 

It is reminiscent of Lorde's "Secrets From A Girl (Whose Seen It All)" in the way it is written from the perspective of someone who has overcome the fears and insecurities they had when they were younger and wishing they could say to that version of themself that everything will work out. All of those emotions build up during the bridge of "You're On Your Own, Kid", to what I personally believe is one of the best verses Taylor has ever written - it still gives me chills every time I hear it. "From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes, 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, the jokes weren't funny, I took the money, my friends from home don't know what to say, I looked around in a blood-soaked gown and I saw something they can't take away, 'cause there were pages turned with the bridges burned, everything you lose is a step you take". The closing lines are also so powerful, "You've got no reason to be afraid, you're on your own, kid, yeah you can face this, you're on your own, kid, you always have been". 

"Midnight Rain" is the song that feels the most like a reflection of her life during the time she was making her 2017 album Reputation. It takes all of the emotions that inspired so much of that album with a new outlook. On the song she sings, "He was sunshine, I was midnight rain". It is written in a way that feels like she was looking into a portal of a version of her life that could have been, but ultimately one she walked away from. The production feels very Melodrama, "Hard Feelings" and "Sober" come to mind right away, the latter especially because of the heavy synths and vocal effects throughout. The lyric, "I guess sometimes we all get some kind of haunted, and I never think of him, except on midnights like this," feels like the thread that ties the whole album together and the Midnights concept as a whole.

Another song that represents the theme of Midnights perfectly is track 10, "Labyrinth". With this song, she is opening up about her innermost thoughts and fears in an even deeper way than before. Sonically, it reminds me so much of "The Archer", but from a new perspective. The lyric "Who could ever leave me darling, but who could stay?" feels very connected to the emotions explored on "Labyrinth". She sings, "Uh-oh, I'm fallin' in love, oh no, I'm fallin' in love again, oh, I'm fallin' in love, I thought the plane was goin' down. how'd you turn it right around?" Another lyric I love is, "Lost in the labyrinth of my mind, break up, break free, break through, break down, you would break your back to make me break a smile".

A few of the songs in the second half of the tracklist I am more indifferent to than the others, each feel like they are lacking in certain areas lyrically and aren't as strong as other parts of the album. "Question...?" especially feels like it's missing something from the chorus and just doesn't really make any sense. It is my least favorite off of Midnights for that reason. Other than the chorus, it does have redeemable moments, like the sample of "Out of the Woods" very briefly in the beginning and the lyric, "'Cause I don't remember who I was before you painted all my nights a color I've searched for since" - both of which are great. "Vigilante Shit" is also one of the more experimental tracks on the album for Taylor. It feels like it is trying to be "Mad Woman" mixed with "I Did Something Bad", but if it was made by Billie Eilish. The vengeful tone and energy was better executed on those two songs, whereas "Vigilante Shit" feels forced at times. 

"Bejeweled" is the song that has grown on me the most since I first heard it, probably in part due to the cute music video and all of the TikTok trends with this song. In the chorus she sings; "Best believe I'm still bejeweled, when I walk in the room, I can make the whole place shimmer", which has been stuck in my head for weeks now! As always, the bridge is a really strong and memorable part, I particularly love the line, "Sapphire tears on my face, sadness became my whole sky, but some guy said my aura's moonstone just cause he was high".

The long-awaited "Karma" was finally released and is the eleventh track on the album. I honestly couldn't even believe that this was going to finally be a real song when she announced the title! If you're unaware of the lore behind "Karma", there has long been speculation about it being the original title for Reputation, or even a completely different scrapped album she never released. There have been rumors for years about "Karma", so I love that it is finally real! The vibe is completely different than what I thought it would be, but it is still truly one of the best songs on the entire album. It has a similar energy as songs like "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" and "Gorgeous", which are very light-hearted and airy songs that really aren't trying to be anything serious.

In the song she credits everything good in her life to karma as she sings lines like, "karma is my boyfriend", "karma is the breeze in my hair on the weekend", and the funniest line "karma is a cat purring in my lap because it loves me" because "me and karma vibe like that". In an interview with iHeartRadio, Taylor said "'Karma' is written from a perspective of feeling really happy, really proud of the way your life is, feeling like this must be a reward for doing stuff right. It’s a song that I really love because I think we all need some of those moments, we can’t just be beating ourselves up all the time. You have to have these moments where you’re like, 'You know what? Karma is my boyfriend,' and that’s it."

"Sweet Nothing" is absolutely beautiful, I truly can't say enough about how much I love it. She co-wrote this song with William Bowery, which is the alias for Joe Alwyn. They have written so many amazing songs together on both Folklore and Evermore, but "Sweet Nothing" actually may be their best collaboration yet. This song feels like the answer to the question she asked on Folklore when she sang, "Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?" So many lyrics stand out to me from this song and from beginning to end, it is just so gorgeous. Two of the lyrics that stand out to me the most are, "On the way home I wrote a poem, you say, 'What a mind', this happens all the time" and "And the voices that implore, 'You should be doing more', to you, I can admit that I’m just too soft for all of it". 

The thirteenth and final song on the standard edition of Midnights is "Mastermind". The concept of this song kind of unravels the thread of "invisible string" and completely flips the narrative in a really fun way. "What if I told you none of it was accidental? And the first night that you saw me, nothing was gonna stop me, I laid the groundwork, and then just like clockwork, the dominoes cascaded in a line," she sings, "What if I told you I'm a mastermind? And now you're mine, it was all by dеsign, 'cause I'm a mastermind". In an interview with iHeartRadio, Taylor explained the story behind this song, "...We wanted the verse to sound like romance and this sort of heroes type of soundtrack, and then we wanted the chorus to sound like a villain has just entered the room and the idea that you’re flipping this narrative, and you have been planning and plotting things and making them look like an accident..." It feels reminiscent of her song "I Think He Knows", which is one of my favorite songs from Lover - as well as Lorde's "Supercut" sonically, which also happens to be a favorite from Melodrama

A few hours after the release of the standard album, Taylor also released the surprise deluxe version titled Midnights (3am Edition), which featured seven extra songs. Alongside the announcement she said, "I think of Midnights as a complete concept album, with those 13 songs forming a full picture of the intensities of that mystifying, mad hour. However! There were other songs we wrote on our journey to find that magic 13. I’m calling them 3am tracks. Lately I’ve been loving the feeling of sharing more of our creative process with you, like we do with From The Vault tracks." 

Four of the songs, "Bigger Than The Whole Sky", "Paris", "Glitch" and "Dear Reader", were all produced by Jack Antonoff and feel the most connected thematically to the rest of the main Midnights tracklist. "Glitch" is my favorite of the 3am tracks, along with "Paris", both of which I personally wish were on the main album in place of some of the weaker songs I referenced earlier. The other three bonus songs, "The Great War", "High Infidelity" and "Would've, Could've, Should've" were produced by Aaron Dessner, who was her main collaborator for Folklore and Evermore. The songs produced by Aaron Dessner are great - one of them I would even consider to be one of the best and most important songs she has ever released - but the sound is very reminiscent of the distinct style of Evermore and tends to feel like leftovers from that album. Both Folklore and Evermore will always be two of the greatest albums she has ever and will ever release, but that sound is very different from Midnights, making those particular 3am tracks lack the cohesion the rest of the album has.

One of the best and most important songs I was referring to is track nineteen, "Would've, Could've, Should've". In this song she looks back on a time where she was taken advantage of for her naiveite and the implications it continues to have on her years later as an adult - specifically the relationship her song "Dear John" is about. "I should've stayed on my knees, and I damn sure never would've danced with the devil at nineteen, and the God's honest truth is that the pain was heaven," she sings. "And now that I'm grown, I'm scared of ghosts, memories feel like weapons, and now that I know, I wish you'd left me wondering". It is a really heartbreaking song, one that I never expected from her all these years later with this level of specificity. One of the most heart-wrenching lyrics she has probably ever written is, "Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first," which is just so powerful in it's simplicity. The lines, "I miss who I used to be", "I can't let this go", and "I regret you all the time" reiterate the pain and hurt she continues to hold from that time in her life.

Another notable moment of the 3am Edition is the very last song, "Dear Reader". On this song she is breaking the hypothetical fourth wall and speaking directly to the listener (or reader) when she sings in the first verse some words of advice, "Dear reader, if it feels like a trap you're already in one. Dear reader, get out your map, pick somewhere and just run. Dear reader, burn all the files, desert all your past lives and if you don't recognize yourself, that means you did it right". The advice she gives in the second verse is, "Dear reader, bend when you can, snap when you have to. Dear reader, you don't have to answer just 'cause they asked you. Dear reader, the greatest of luxuries is your secrets. Dear reader, when you aim at the devil make sure you don't miss". She ends each of these verses with the repetition of, "Never take advice from someone who's falling apart" - and reiterates it in the final lines, "You should find another guiding light, but I shine so bright". The message of this song reminds me so much of "You're On Your Own, Kid", but also of her 2017 poem, "If You're Anything Like Me", which is even written in a similar way. It's a beautiful poem that can be best summed up by the final line, "If you're anything like me, I'm sorry. But Darling, it's going to be okay." "Dear Reader" is truly such a perfect final ending to everything this album represents and the stories she tells through each of her sleepless nights that makes up the entirety of Midnights

After over fifteen years and ten albums, Taylor has always found a way to continuously evolve and reinvent her sound. The music she has released over the past couple of years is a testament to her talents and longevity in the industry, and I am always looking forward to what she is going to do next!

Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

-Melissa ♡

Photo Credit: 

Taylor Swift, Taylor Nation, TAS Management and Beth Garrabrant


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