As the clock struck midnight, Taylor Swift dropped the soundtrack for all of our future sleepless nights.
Taylor Swift’s Midnights album dropped on October 21, 2022 to fans who’d been anxiously waiting for and speculating over “the story of 13 sleepless nights, scattered throughout (her) life.”
She dropped a few hints about the album’s contents in the form of the sultry, 70s esthetic she employed in her promotions, the album’s track list, and some explanations on the meaning behind a few of the songs, but fans were left largely in the dark. Dark like midnights!
Taylor Swift has reinvented herself countless times, from pure country, to pop country, to the varying shades of pure pop present in 1989, Reputation, and Lover, and finally, the alternative, folk style of folklore and evermore, but she’s never released an album that showed off every side of her.
Based on the brief, I thought Midnights might be a multi-genre concept album that would bring together all of the sounds she’s experimented with, reaching throughout her life in terms of the content and style of all these “scattered midnights.”
However, although the lyrics clearly span years, if not decades, Taylor Swift’s Midnights is actually one of her most sonically cohesive pieces yet! Completely produced by Taylor Swift and long-time collaborator, Jack Antonoff, the album has a consistent sound that, in my opinion, falls somewhere between 1989 and Reputation.
Much like the hour it describes, it is sultry, reflective, emotional, and dreamy, on the precipice of tomorrow but still clinging on to yesterday. Whether you want to dance, cry, reflect, or smirk the night away, Taylor Swift’s Midnights album has plenty to offer you, but this album has a distinct vibe from start to finish that ties it all together so nicely.
Taylor Swift’s Midnights album is certainly not a rehash of any previous works, but it’s also not such a departure that I feel like we’re seeing a whole new level of her creativity and versatility. The sound isn’t new to her at all, although it has been fine tuned and turned up in certain areas. It feels fresh, but familiar. Again, kind of like midnights themselves.
To Swift’s eternal credit, it actually stands out as an act of confidence that Midnights is not another reinvention. The singer said it best herself in Netflix’s Miss Americana when she discussed feeling the need to constantly reinvent herself to maintain her shine. She also very vulnerably outlines those feelings in “Nothin’ New,” on Red (Taylor’s Version), where she dreads the day that the world grows weary of her. With Midnights, she lets go of that compulsion and lets her talent shine for itself.
While the sound of Midnights is more akin to her pop pursuits, it’s in this album’s confidence that the influence of folklore and evermore creep in. These albums were such a strong departure from the norm for her, both sonically and lyrically, and they were also a departure from the expectations of who she felt she was supposed to be as an artist. She gave herself the freedom that allowed her to flourish, and in that discovered, without a doubt, who she actually is an artist and what that means to her.
The confidence also shines through in her vocals on each song and in the subdued melodies with bold accents. Every track manages to feel both full and understated. The listener never feels bored and gets plenty of surprises, but every element must stand on its own, with no place to hide under elaborately layered production.
Although the folklore and evermore albums were incredible, deep, and intricate works, there was a piece of Taylor Swift’s style that I missed from them. And no, I’m not just talking about the bops!
The thing that I’ve always loved most about Taylor Swift is her keen ability to relate to her audience, despite the ever-growing chasm separating our lifestyles. Whether she was a 15 year old marching down to the mall with her acoustic guitar, or a pop megastar selling out stadiums and being described as “the music industry” incarnate, she has maintained her ability to speak the words straight out of our hearts and into a catchy or heart-punching melody.
Her alternative projects still captured that in many moments, but as she dove into the stories of others and buried her true feelings under elaborate metaphors, the path to access them became more convoluted.
On Midnights, she is still speaking with specificity, as she always has, but her supreme relatability has returned in full force and in all of its angsty glory. Her lyrics are as delicately spun and as tightly woven as ever as she tells your life story more completely and succinctly than you could ever dream of. But it’s in the simplicity of the feelings that she manages to capture that this album really shines and calls back to her earlier works.
It’s hard not to relate to the feeling of wanting to shut the world out and stay in “that lavender haze” when you’re experiencing new love and those “ruts that grow between telephones.” Then there’s the deep desire to get on your “vigilante shit” when someone wrongs you, and the glorious feeling of knowing “karma” is on your side when you don’t give into those urges!
The thought that you might be the anti hero of your story is completely heartbreaking but also so real sometimes. Even if you’re sometimes happy about it because it meant you were able to “mastermind” your way into something great.
The idea of leaving your home town and becoming a new person while your high school sweetheart stays behind and starts a family that could have been yours, as she describes in “Midnight Rain,” is so universal, even if you didn’t grow up to become Taylor Swift.
This song gets to the core of what Midnights is. It’s that dark, and often lonely hour that you spend dreaming about all of the things that “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” been. It’s also the time that you spend planning your future schemes, and working your way through the “labyrinth” that you currently find yourself in.
As always, Taylor Swift gets straight to the heart of these ubiquitous thoughts and feelings in the most beautiful way, finding the perfect blend of her signature relatability and her new found confidence. If this is the trajectory she’s on, we can’t wait to hear what’s next.