Review: Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ is cryptic and vengeful, with a comforting sense of nostalgia

Photo courtesy of Beth Garrabrant

Taylor Swift released her 10th album, “Midnights,” on Friday, Oct. 21 at midnight (of course). The superstar’s new album made history on the first day of its release, officially breaking Spotify’s record of most streamed album in a single day and making Swift first artist to hold all top-10 songs on the Billboard Hot 100. 

As fans mourn the end of the “Red (Taylor’s Version)” era of falling leaves and red scarves, a new, very different era has emerged. If the “Red” era was a cup of hot coffee on a rainy day, the “Midnights” era is a sleepless night after walking home from the bar at 3 a.m., singing “midnights become my afternoons.” 

Illustrating the aesthetic of dark blue and deep purple hues, Taylor asked her fans to “meet me at midnight” for her most cryptic and defining album yet. In “Midnights,” Taylor presents 13 main tracks that take the listener on a journey through 13 of her sleepless nights, scattered throughout her life. 

The album diverts from Swift’s recent recordings of intimate, alternative folk albums back to her pop core, which was last seen in original albums like “Reputation” and “1989.”

As if 13 original tracks weren’t enough to make big waves in the music industry yet again, Swift released a surprise “3am Edition” of the album just three hours after the album’s original release.

This edition of the album includes seven bonus tracks, illustrating nights where Swift stayed up way past midnight, hence the title “Midnights (3am Edition).”

Swift explores revenge, regrets and love. Her lyricism in this album lives up to her irrefutable reputation of mature and deeply authentic language. Yet, this album remains scattered with simplistic and whimsical metaphors.

In “Midnights,” Swift’s most explicit album yet, she is painfully honest with her regrets and shares a sense of confidence in her revealed flaws.

[Press shot for Taylor Swift’s 10th album “Midnights.”]
Photo courtesy of Beth Garrabrant

She presents an almost unsettling sense of tragic self awareness, repeatedly singing, “I’m the problem, it’s me,” in the song “Anti-Hero,” and “No one wanted to play with me as a little kid / So I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since,” in the song “Mastermind.”

She describes herself with brutally expressive language, singing “Did you hear my covert narcissism / I disguise as altruism / Like some kind of congressman?” in the song “Anti-Hero.” This was a shocking line, strikingly similar to the unanticipated new line “‘F— the Patriarchy’ / Key chain on the ground,” in last year’s release, “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version).”

In contrast to her prior most recent release, “Red (Taylor’s Version),” which included five collaborative tracks with other artists, “Midnights” only included one collaborative track, her song “Snow On The Beach” featuring Lana Del Ray on back-up vocals.

Although Lana Del Ray did not have her own verses in the song, merely back up vocals, their vocal collaboration is beautiful. It’s one of the few songs on the album with an ultimately positive undertone paired with a fun and upbeat melody.

Although this may be her darkest and most villainizing album yet, a listener cannot ignore the precious and delicate songs such as “Labyrinth,” “Sweet Nothing” and “Bigger Than The Whole Sky,” that play a strong role in creating emotional diversity in the album. 

The song “Sweet Nothing” is the most uplifting song on the album. Swift sings, “You’re in the kitchen humming / All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothing,” which illustrates the small poetic details of being in love, and that what may seem small and mundane can sometimes mean the most.

Critics are claiming that this album depends on the narrative of Swift’s life, as it is deeply personal to her experiences. This dependence is revealed through striking, specific details in her lyrics.

Though understanding the stories of Swift’s relationships, struggles and her pursuit of fame would make for a more comprehensive listening experience, Swift once again creates an album that anyone can connect with.

Although the album explores very emotional topics, it wouldn’t be a Swift pop album without a couple of lighthearted and fun songs scattered throughout. Songs like “Paris” and “Bejeweled” will get you dancing around the room with your friends all night.

“Midnights” is an album of deep love and sorrowful regret, glittered with a comforting sense of nostalgia. It creates a soundtrack you can cry to, scream to, fall in love to and, ultimately, stay up all night listening to. 

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