A Swiftie’s guide to ‘Midnights’

Nov. 1, 2022, 10:30 p.m.

On Friday, Oct. 21 at 12 a.m. EST, Taylor Swift dropped her tenth studio album, “Midnights.” Swift described it as “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life.” Just one day after its release, it became Spotify’s most streamed album in a single day.

In “Midnights,” Swift gives us insight into what keeps her up at night. Leading up to the album’s release, Swift revealed snippets of the collection’s themes on Spotify: “self-loathing”; “fantasizing about revenge”; “wondering what might have been” and “falling in love, and falling apart.” While this album still contains beautiful, poetic lyrics akin to her most recent original albums, the songs are much more polished and pop-like in production style.

Swift announced “Midnights” at the VMAs in August when she won Video of the Year for “All Too Well: The Short Film.” Many fans were surprised by the news, attached instead to theories that she would follow the re-recording trend of her previous two “Taylor’s Version” releases.

Unlike with her previous studio albums, Swift didn’t drop any singles leading up to the album’s release. Instead, she revealed the thirteen track titles with a bingo-style lottery machine through a process she coined “Midnights Mayhem.” The pop album had been out for three hours when Swift revealed a surprise — seven new tracks on what she titled “Midnights (3am Edition).”

When it comes to her music, Swift loves using colors as metaphors for deeper themes. Red may be the one most widely associated with Taylor Swift because of her album by the same name, which portrays a girl in scarlet lipstick who loses herself in a passionate, fiery love amid falling autumn leaves. In “Maroon,” track two on “Midnights,” Swift continues the trend, but this time in a darker shade.

While the relationship that she describes as “maroon” has long since ended, she is still grieving the loss of a passionate, all-encompassing love.

In the first chorus, Swift sings, “And I chose you / The one I was dancing with / In New York, no shoes.” New York is often mentioned in Swift’s songs, and in this context it provides beautiful, dreamy imagery of living freely in a big city with the one you love. When the lyric changes to  “And I lost you” in the second chorus, the hopeful, nostalgic tone completely shifts, showing that this love wasn’t meant to last forever.

While “Maroon” is dark and contemplative, “Karma” is fun and free. When asked by Vogue in 2016 what she believed to be the most important lesson in her life, Swift said, “Karma is real.” Six years later, her eleventh track on “Midnights” describes “Karma” as an unbothered state of mind.

The term “Karma” has long held special significance among Swift’s most loyal followers. A popular fan theory is that Swift scrapped what was to be her sixth studio album in 2016 due to a feud with Kanye West, leading to a year-long hiatus from the spotlight. Swifties put a name on the “lost album” in 2019 when she referenced “Karma” with the rest of her studio albums in the music video for “The Man.”

Thus, it’s no surprise that “Karma” was the most buzzed-about song on Midnights prior to its release. Swift said the song was 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.” This feeling climaxes in the chorus, as she sings, “Karma is my boyfriend / Karma is a god / Karma is the breeze in my hair on the weekend / Karma’s a relaxing thought.” Despite her struggles with the public in 2016, Swift believes karma has rewarded her with a “Lavender Haze” type of love.

On the warm final track “Mastermind,” Swift gives us some insight into her relationship with boyfriend of six years, actor Joe Alwyn.

The song starts with a synth beat intro, then eases into Swift’s soothing voice. She toys with the idea of fate: “Once upon a time, the planets and the fates / And all the stars aligned / You and I ended up in the same room / At the same time.” But after meeting Alwyn, Swift didn’t leave their relationship up to fate — it was all up to her “design,” thus making her a “mastermind.”

We adore Swift’s vocals in this track, as well as the concept of a fated meeting but intentional relationship. “Mastermind” feels so stunningly romantic that we can’t help but love it.

Track fives are sacred for long-time fans of Swift. What began as a coincidence during her first few albums is now an intention by the artist to put her most vulnerable, gut-wrenching song just where her most dedicated fans know to find it. “You’re on Your Own Kid” is a heartbreaking song that balances self-reflection with narrative.

We hear Swift delve into her path of seeking outside validation through affection and friendships while caving to society’s beauty standards and grasping social capital — all which lead her to conclude that regardless of love, money, beauty or success, what you make of life is ultimately up to you.

In the bridge, Swift moved us by addressing the trauma of her past eating disorder, which she first spoke out about in her 2020 Netflix documentary, “Miss Americana.” Swift’s ability to bring awareness to these issues through her songwriting is just one reason why we love being Swifties.

Swift has a long history of fearlessness in writing vulnerable, hard-hitting lyrics. She shocked the world in 2010 with the release of “Dear John,” a song that conveys her heartbreak and frustration over the way she was treated by ex-boyfriend John Mayer — who was over 10 years her senior when they were together. The infamous track five instantly became a fan favorite for its emotional depth and powerful bridge.

When we first heard “Would’ve Could’ve Should’ve” we immediately saw it as an older sister to “Dear John.” The lyrics, “And I damn sure would’ve never danced with the devil at 19” and “Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first,” similarly express Swift’s regret over a youthful relationship that left her scarred. Now, with over a decade since her controversial relationship with Mayer, Swift reflects on the trauma she experienced from the taking of her innocence.

While these are reflections of only a few of our favorite songs on “Midnights,” we adore the whole album. The combination of the lyricism and dreamy production makes the album perfect for our sleepless nights. With her return to the pop world, we can’t wait to see where Swift takes us next.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

Bridget (she/her) is a writer for The Daily’s news, sports, and arts and life sections. Contact her at news 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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