Taylor Swift released her tenth studio album, Midnights, on Friday, Oct. 21. The country-star-turned-pop-queen blessed fans with thirteen tracks at 12 a.m. and dropped an additional seven songs on Midnights (3am Edition). While any new music from Swift is cause for celebration, Midnights was a return to the shackles of mainstream music, from which Swift had just narrowly freed herself in the past few albums.
Swift announced her new album Midnights at the MTV Video Music Awards in August. Since then, the artist’s publicity team has done a lot to ensure that fans were heavily anticipating the album’s release. Swift started “Midnights Mayhem with Me,” a TikTok series in which she revealed the track titles one by one. Also, in partnership with Prime Video, she released a teaser trailer for a music video during the NFL football game last Thursday night.
Let me start by saying that I don’t consider myself a Swiftie. I think Taylor Swift is one of the best lyricists of our generation, and I love her music. However, I can’t recite all of her songs on command, and I don’t troll her Instagram looking for Easter eggs (hidden messages Swift encodes in her music and posts) like her most serious fans. When choosing between going to bed and staying up to listen to Midnights, I chose my eight hours of beauty sleep and listened the next day.
Conceptually, the album is beautiful and incredibly creative. Midnights tells the story of thirteen sleepless nights throughout Swift’s life. I’m utterly obsessed with the premise of the album and am also quite jealous that my insomnia doesn’t result in such lucrative works of art.
The music, however, falls flat. While none of the songs are offensive, I don’t see myself adding any of them to my playlists, outside of a few knockouts. I wanted to feel permanently changed by Midnights like I was after listening to “Speak Now” and “Evermore” for the first time, but I wasn’t.
Perhaps the best way to describe my feelings towards the album is by using Swift’s own words. As she says in the song “I Forgot that You Existed” on the album Lover: “It isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference.”
From the first song on the tracklist, “Lavender Haze,” it’s evident that Swift is moving away from the folk sound she explored in recent albums “Folklore” and “Evermore” and is once again working in the pop genre. The catchy beats and synths from “1989” and “Lover” have made a return.
A major theme of the album is perception. This makes sense contextually, as sleepless nights are often filled with anxiety about past interactions and the way we present ourselves to the world. The album also touches on gender roles, referencing the public’s obsession with her relationship status.
“Vigilante Shit” sounds like it’s right off Reputation with lyrics like, “I don’t dress for women/I don’t dress for men/Lately I’ve been dressin’ for revenge.” While it’s the perfect song for when you’re feeling petty or entering your villain era, it’s nothing new from Swift.
“You’re On Your Own, Kid” was an instant favorite of mine. It highlights Swift’s lyrical genius and offers meaningful commentary on what it means to be alone. Lyrics like “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 the perfect kiss,” resonated with me, as they poetically capture all the sacrifices women make to be loved and accepted given the beauty standards these lyrics reference.
Like many, I was ecstatic to see that Lana del Ray is featured on Midnights. “Snow On The Beach” is a lovely song about the beauty of unexpected occurrences, but you can barely hear del Ray’s vocals. I doubt I’d know it was a collaboration just from listening to it. This was a missed opportunity, as Swift and del Ray’s voices would complement each other perfectly.
While Midnights isn’t the lyrical masterpiece I was hoping for, it’s undoubtedly relatable. I’ve seen countless Tiktoks describing “Mastermind” as an anthem for anxious girls who manifest their reality and “Anti-hero” as the perfect tune for a little bit of self-loathing.
As of now, I’m a little disappointed by Swift’s most recent drop. I desperately wanted another “Folklore” or “Evermore” to get me through this Fall, but Midnights has a completely different vibe.
That said, part of the magic of Swift’s music is how beautifully it ages. “Dear John” and “Enchanted” came out in 2010, yet I didn’t start appreciating them until last year. At this rate, I might be on my deathbed by the time I learn to love Midnights. I’m confident, however, that the day will come.
~ Claire Campbell `26
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