Taylor Swift pulls a late night of emotional self-examination on her 10th album
Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated 10th studio album “Midnights” was released Friday at midnight, featuring 13 songs that reflected “13 sleepless nights” throughout her life. At 3 A.M. EST, seven extra songs were released on the “Midnights (3am Edition).” Swift also released a Target-exclusive version of “Midnights,” featuring two remixes and yet another song. There are a total of 21 songs across all versions, not including the two remixes. The entire record was produced by Swift and longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff.
Within the first second of “Lavender Haze,” it is clear this album is unlike anything Swift has released before. Boasting the most writers of any song on the album at six, Swift collaborates with some unexpected names. Actor-singer Zoë Kravitz, daughter of famed rockstar Lenny, as well as hip-hop artists Sounwave, Jahaan Sweet, and Sam Dew, all contributed to this piece. In an Instagram reel, Swift said the song is about dodging tabloids and rumors to protect her six-year-long relationship.
Favorite Lyric: “I’m damned if I do give a damn what people say.”
Taylor Swift is no stranger to shades of red, made clear by her 2012 album Red (and 2021 re-recording of that same album), but “Maroon” is, in many ways, a more mature reflection of a failed relationship. Reflecting on how things fell apart in the usual way, Swift says, “Carnations you had thought were roses, that’s us,” alluding to the fact that her partner believed what they had was more valuable than it turned out to be. This song was co-written by Swift and Antonoff, and another frequent collaborator, Laura Sisk, produced it.
Favorite Lyric: “The mark they saw on my collarbone, the rust that grew between telephones.”
The first song to get a music video for “Midnights,” Swift describes “Anti-Hero” as a “guided tour” of all the things she hates about herself. The song is upbeat, with crushing lyrics, a technique Swift has used in the past (see “Death By A Thousand Cuts” from 2019’s Lover). The chorus is accented by the artist declaring, “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.” Already a controversial song due to the depiction of Swift’s eating disorder in the music video, the general public seems to have proven Swift’s fears for her, that she’s the problem, and that “at tea time, everybody agrees.”
Favorite Lyric: “I’ll stare directly at the sun, but never in the mirror.”
Snow On The Beach (feat. Lana Del Rey)
Another song that received an Instagram reel explanation, “Snow On The Beach” is about “falling in love with someone at the same time as they’re falling in love with you.” Swift continues her tradition of only allowing Del Rey to sing backing vocals (Phoebe Bridgers was the first female artist to have her own verse on a Swift song on 2021’s Red (Taylor’s Version).) The bridge features a reference to Janet Jackson with, “Now I’m all for you like Janet,” which Jackson has reacted to on TikTok.
Favorite Lyric: “Flying in a dream, stars by the pocketful.”
“You’re On Your Own, Kid”
Track 5 on any Swift album is the most emotional, per Swift’s own description, and “You’re On Your Own, Kid” is no different. If “Anti-Hero” is a guided tour of everything Swift hates about herself, “You’re On Your Own, Kid” is a painstakingly detailed map. This song will come as no surprise to fans of Swift who have read her 2017 poem, “If You’re Anything Like Me,” which details a struggle with her body image and her need for validation through friendship. The bridge is shockingly candid, detailing, “I hosted parties and starved my body like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss.” The song ends, though, echoing another poem by Swift, “Why She Disappeared,” also from 2017, which says, “without your past, you could never have arrived — so wondrously and brutally, by design or some violent, exquisite happenstance…here.”
Favorite Lyric: “Everything you lose is a step you take.”
In the second song on Midnights to deal with the societal expectation of marriage, Swift describes a past relationship with a man who wanted something serious, but she wanted to make herself known. The second verse goes a bit deeper, explaining that her former partner came from a happy family, and Swift could not relate to that. Leading up to the album, Swift shared on Spotify that one of the things responsible for her sleepless nights was “wondering what might have been” and that is abundantly clear with this song.
Favorite Lyric: “I broke his heart ‘cause he was nice.”
To the trained Swiftie ear, “Question…?” seems to interpolate a few different aspects of “Out Of The Woods” from “1989”: the lyric “I remember” and the ad-lib Swift did during the 1989 World Tour. The first line of the chorus, “did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room?” was teased by Spotify on a billboard in Nashville. The chorus feels like an interrogation of Swift’s partner, but she shrugs it off by ending with “it’s just a question.”
Favorite Lyric: “Do you wish you’d put up more of a fight when she said it was too much?”
The only entirely self-written track on “Midnights,” “Vigilante Sh-t” would not have felt out of place on 2017’s “reputation.” Although Swift discusses her own personal revenge, and the end of a rival’s marriage, she punctuates the song with the advice, “don’t get sad, get even.” The chorus calls back to the second track on “reputation,” “End Game”, where Swift explains that she doesn’t love the drama, it loves her. The FBI has tweeted about this song, which you can make your own judgments about.
Favorite Lyric: “You did some bad things but I’m the worst of them.”
In her acceptance speech for the Nashville Songwriters Association International, Swift explained that some of her songs contain “glitter gel pen lyrics,” which she further explained as, “frivolous, carefree, bouncy, syncopated perfectly to the beat.” The fun of this song does not take away from the clear message: you cannot contain the sparkle of a mirrorball. After all, “a diamond’s gotta shine.”
Favorite Lyric: “They ask, ‘do you have a man?,’ I could still say, ‘I don’t remember.’”
Taylor Swift has written about the anxiety of entering a relationship more than once, most notably with “Delicate” on “reputation.” “Labyrinth” highlights the moment the panic sets in as Swift realizes she’s moved on from her ex and found someone new. Swift’s music is often self-referential, and “Labyrinth”’s “never trust it if it rises fast” harkens back to “gold rush” from 2020’s “evermore,” which includes the line “I don’t like the falling feels like flying ‘til the bone crush.” The song features a low voice in the background at the beginning, and the album booklet confirms that the voice belongs to Jack Antonoff.
Favorite Lyric: “I’ll be getting over you my whole life.”
There has been a popular conspiracy theory among Swifties since 2017 that Swift had a scrapped sixth album named “Karma.” Upon the announcement of this track via Swift’s “Midnights Mayhem With Me,” it was anticipated that this track might be from that mythical scrapped album. Instead, it is a glitter gel pen song about being rewarded by the universe. It was co-written with Jahaan Sweet, Keanu Beats, and Sounwave.
Favorite Lyric: “Karma’s a relaxing thought, aren’t you envious that for you, it’s not?”
The penultimate track on the standard edition of “Midnights” was written by Swift and her long-term partner, Joe Alwyn. Similar to “Call It What You Want” from “reputation” or “Paper Rings,” from “Lover,” “Sweet Nothing” highlights the safety Swift has found in domesticity. The standout is in the second verse, where Swift sings, “On the way home, I wrote a poem, you say ‘what a mind,’ this happens all the time.”
Favorite Lyric: “To you, I can admit that I’m just too soft for all of it.”
The final track on the standard edition of the album was also the first song announced in Swift’s “Midnights, Mayhem With Me.” Although Swift said the point of her TikTok series was to take away the guessing and leave the track list announcement up to fate, this song makes one question if that was truly the case. The chorus confesses, “What if I told you none of it was accidental?”
Favorite Lyric: “So I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since to make them love me and make it seem effortless.”
With a stunning, record-breaking first weekend, Swift maintains her place on the pop music podium. Constantly reinventing herself, she showcases her ability to adapt and excel. Barbara Walters put it best in 2014: Taylor Swift is the music industry.