Album Review: “Midnights”


Credit: WSPN Staff

Join WSPN’s Talia Macchi, Hallie Lou and Penelope Biddle in a review of Taylor Swift’s latest work, “Midnights.”

Talia Macchi, Hallie Luo, and Penelope Biddle

Out with the old and in with the new album, “Midnights.” After a long 57 days since singer-songwriter and global superstar Taylor Swift first announced her tenth studio album, “Midnights,” Swift finally gave the world the 20-track synth-pop record on Oct. 21, 2022. There were many speculations as to what this era of Swift’s music career would sound like, look like and feel like, and so fans were happily surprised by the love, revenge and grief-filled tracks.

After releasing her re-recordings, or what Swift labels as “Taylor’s Versions” of her albums, “Fearless” and “Red” in response to former-producer Scooter Braun buying her work, many fans expected the release of “1989 (Taylors Version),” or “Speak Now (Taylors Version).” Swift is notorious for leaving all sorts of clues throughout her messages to the public, so many were shocked a with her “Midnights” release announcement.

“’Midnights,’ the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life, will be out October 21. Meet me at midnight,” Swift said on her Instagram on Aug. 29.

After that post, Swift immediately got to work on dropping several “easter eggs” for her clue-hungry fanbase – “Swifties.” She began using TikTok to announce the track titles of “Midnights” through a segment she called “Midnights Mayhem with Me.” Then, a week after Swift announced all 13 track titles, she dropped a short clip of a calendar, or a timeline, through Oct. 20 to Oct. 28. This calendar was full of hints, which many Swifties were able to pick up on. One of which was the release of several more songs at 3 a.m. after the original midnight release of “Midnights,” fittingly labeled the “3 a.m. edition.”

So in total, Swift gave us 20 full songs of her late-night thoughts. As usual, her “co-pilot,” or right-hand man producer, Jack Antonoff, was there to help create this moody, dark, lively piece of artwork that is in our opinion, her most deeply personal album yet. While it’s not surprising that this album took off the second it was released, it did surprise us that within the first 24 hours. “Midnights” absolutely shattered streaming services and sales. Some even claimed that Spotify crashed as the clock struck midnight on the 21st due to the high Swift demand. On Oct. 31, she became the first artist to claim all top 10 spots on Billboard’s Hot 100 in one week. The album is also one of highest grossing pop albums of all time on Apple Music by first-day streams, and it surpassed over one billion global streams in one week on Spotify! This means she also broke many records of her own.

So, does “Midnights” deserve the attention it received? Does it live up to the hype it received on the charts? We think, without a doubt, it does.

The first “midnight” she mentions is in the first few seconds of Track 1, “Lavender Haze.” She coined this phrase from an episode of “Mad Men,” and explains that it means an “all encompassing love glow.” Within the first 10 seconds of the tune, she sets the scene for the album, with a loud bass thump and the echoing lyrics: “Meet me at midnight.” The track then dives into a playful, yet tempered rhythm which transitions into the pop-techno heavy chorus. This track was crafted with some of rap artist, Kendrick Lamar’s, collaborators, and is more explicit than what most “Swifties” are used to, yet many seem to welcome this rebellious side of Swift. Further, many expect this love song to be about a possible engagement between Swift and her boyfriend of six years, Joe Alwyn, with lyrics like “All they keep asking me / Is if i’m going to be your bride” and “The only kind of girl they see / Is a one-night or a wife / I find it dizzying.” So are you still feeling dizzy, Taylor? Or was the question asked long ago?

Swift first hinted at the meaning of Track 3, “Anti-hero” which is the official lead single for “Midnights,” in a video posted on Instagram on Oct. 3. She explains that this track may be one of her personal favorites she has ever written, and that it highlights her insecurities and feelings of self doubt. Nevertheless, this track is an upbeat number with simmering synths and honest lyrics. Swift also released a music video for this track to help further explain its meaning.

There is then a smooth transition into the highly-anticipated track four, “Snow On The Beach,” featuring pop artist Lana Del Rey. Since this is the only track with a feature on the entire record, and many Swifties have been dreaming of this collaboration, I felt let down to find Del Rey only singing the background vocals on the ballad. We can hear her harmonies most noticeably in the chorus, but the song is missing the beautiful sounds of Swift and Del Rey together that we were expecting. However, this song is still quite gorgeous as it is about the surreal feelings that occur when you realize someone feels the same way as you feel about them. It is “weird, but beautiful,” as the duo sang.

Right when we heard the first verse of track five, “You’re On Your Own Kid,” we knew it would be one of our favorites. Every listener to Swift’s music can take many of the songs and find a way to make it relate to their own lives, and this is very easy to do with this track. This song reflects the struggles with growing up, chasing your dreams and then looking back on all that you have accomplished. Swift mentions many of the ups and downs she has gone through throughout her life, making this song very emotional. The lyrics “I hosted parties and starved my body / Like I’d be saved by the perfect kiss” refer to Swift’s past struggles with an eating disorder. The title explains that no one can go through such struggles for you, so you are “on your own.” When we primarily heard the bridge hit and the outro fading, we declared that this would be our favorite song on “Midnights.”

Is it a coincidence that many of the tracks sound quite similar to some of her previous work? I think no. “Lavender Haze,” is extremely reminiscent of the rhythm in “I Think He Knows,” from Swift’s sixth studio album “Lover.” It’s the same with the fierce beats of “Maroon” with “King of My Heart” from Swift’s 2018 record, “Reputation.” In the prelude of “Question…?” I immediately recognized her vibrating voice singing “I remember,” which is strikingly similar to how it is sung in “Out of the Woods” from “1989,” her fourth studio album.

After listening to the album a few times, I ranked track nine, “Bejeweled,” in the twentieth spot. However, after the music video was released, my thoughts on this tune were completely altered. The storyline of the video, which is Swift as Cinderella going to the ball, made my ranking of the tune bump up several numbers. Throughout the video, she gives us the obvious glimmer and sass, but she also gives us confidence while she takes over the castle at the end of the video. This song is Swift proving that she is able to shine even after all the hate she has received throughout her life.

Track 13, “Mastermind,” brings a new perspective to Swift’s love life that we’ve never heard before. From the outside, Swift seems like she attracts whoever she wants to pursue. However, this song describes how nothing that happens in a relationship is by accident, that she “laid the groundwork, and just like clockwork, the dominoes cascaded in a line.” This song is very relatable, since there are so many factors and details that go into the beginning of a relationship. This particular song produced our favorite new trend on social media, where people are confessing all the small, slightly unconventional things they have done to architect their current partners into their lives.

“Bigger Than The Whole Sky,” which features in the “3 a.m. Edition,” has gotten a tremendous amount of attention due to the perceived meaning. It is an emotional ballad as it appears to be about grief and the thought of never getting to meet someone. So, with lyrics like “Did some bird flap its wings over in Asia,” referring to a stork, and “Did some force take you because I didn’t pray,” many believe it to be about experiencing child loss or a miscarriage. This meaning allows listeners who have lost loved ones to connect to its melancholy, slow sound.

Songs like “Karma,” and “Paris” are both pure pop songs that make me want to dance my heart out. Other tracks like “Sweet Nothing” and “High Infidelity” are on the kinder side, with softer sounds and sweeter lyrics. Not one song on the record is a skip, and they are all definitely worth a listen. We’ve had the melodies of “Midnights” stuck in our heads since the release date.

“Midnights” is a wild ride of reflection, hope, and fun. From the first listen, it incorporates styles from all of Swift’s eras, with indie-folk aspects from “Folklore” all the way to rebellious and dark tones aligned with “Reputation.” As a final consensus, this album took us back and through all the emotions of the previous nine studio albums, and it easily exceeded our expectations, nostalgically.