by Therese Askarbek
On October 21, 2022, Taylor Swift released her highly anticipated Midnights album at — you guessed it — midnight. Unsurprisingly, many of her fans stayed up late that night, patiently awaiting more content from the prolific artist, who has released an impressive total of 229 songs throughout her career.1 As I scrolled through my Instagram feed that day, I saw countless reposts of her album announcement, which was a picture of her album cover captioned with a cryptic, intriguing, and all too enticing message: “Midnights, the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life, will be out October 21. Meet me at midnight.” Swift, known for her penchant of exploring a variety of genres, has clearly left a lot unsaid here. And so, with very little idea of what is to come, I will be diving into this album and seeing if it will beat out folklore and evermore in my fall listening queues.
- “Lavender Haze” – The production of the song and the background vocals give it a very dreamlike quality. Nothing too out of the ordinary compared to what Swift has done before. Really interesting significance behind the phrase “Lavender Haze.” Reminiscent of “the lakes,” a bonus track from folklore, mainly because of the context (it is about being in love with her fiance). 7/10
- “Maroon” – The song has a much darker mood than “Lavender Haze,” which causes a quick shift in tone. Possibly the best imagery in the album, and has some good lyricism. 6/10
- “Anti-Hero” – I would say this song has better lyricism and more reliability than Maroon. It is the first song that looks inwards with a tone of self deprecation. The “sexy baby” lyric has been received controversially, but even if I hadn’t known it was a 30 Rock reference, I still kind of love that Swift isn’t afraid to be unconventional, especially with such a large fanbase. The song is, as many of hers are, for lack of a better word, “cringe.” But, with her music, you have to kind of lean into it, and once you do, it can be a very fun time. The song is catchy, but I’m still waiting for a genuinely and solidly good song. 7.5/10
- “Snow on the Beach” – I had very high expectations for this song because of the Lana Del Rey feature. Cue: the song. Cue: Me, growing increasingly confused as to when Del Rey is featured. I can still definitely hear her influence in the lyrics though, but where her singing could’ve made the song work, Swift’s couldn’t. Del Rey’s voice has a certain depth that Swift’s lacks, as hard as she might try. The production is less noticeable in this song, which is problematic because the track really needs that support. 6.5/10
- “You’re On Your Own, Kid” – It reminds me of one of her previous albums, Red. This song invokes feelings of nostalgia and childlike innocence. Overall a solid “middle of the album” type song. 7/10
- “Midnight Rain” – I can start to see a lot more experimentation in the production of the song. Although, in terms of melody, it is almost exactly the same as “my tears ricochet” from folklore. My only qualm with this song is that I cannot take the muted part seriously; it really sounds like the bear voice filter on Snapchat. 6/10
- “Question…?” – I really liked that she had a bit more fun with this song, and you can detect a certain cheekiness and coyness. I do wish it was less mellow because, at this point in the album, I was hoping for something intense and catchy that fits this definitively pop album. The clapping sound effect at the end, although it made me laugh, knocked it down a point. 6/10
- “Vigilante Sh*t” – This is my least favorite song. Can it even be considered a song? I think my main issue, besides it not being very catchy, is that it’s not edgy in the fun way that songs from Reputation were. 4/10
- “Bejeweled” – I love the way she says “shimmer.” I’m noticing her experimenting more here and she’s really fulfilling the overall vibe of the album; I actually think this song best encapsulates the atmosphere she was going for. It has a much more unique, discernable quality than the previous songs. 9/10
- “Labyrinth” – This song also fits the vibe in a similar way that “Bejeweled” does. It feels like a prelude preparing the audience for “Karma” (kind of the “Cruel Summer” of Midnights). So, while this song might not be the best, it serves a very important purpose in the arc of the album and in creating buildup for the listener. 7/10
- “Karma” – This song is so fun. The lyrics are quite simple, which works really well here. Swift can often get caught up in long sentences or complex words in this album, which creates a disconnect and confusion. 10/10
- “Sweet Nothing” – Joe Alwyn’s influence on this song is very apparent. It is piano driven and has charming, endearing lyrics about the subtle parts of romance and love. It is much more emotionally effective after a song like “Karma.” 8/10
- “Mastermind” – It’s catchy, with a lot of emotion and variance in tone while moving at a good pace. I have very few thoughts on this song aside from the fact that I think it was a good end to the album. 7/10
“The mark you saw on my collarbone, the rust that grew between telephones / The lips I used to call home, so scarlet, it was maroon” (“Maroon”)
“No one wanted to play with me as a little kid / So I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since / To make them love me and make it seem effortless” (“Mastermind”)
“I picked the petals, he loves me not.” (“You’re On Your Own, Kid”)
“On the way home / I wrote a poem / You say, “What a mind”
This happens all the time” (“Sweet Nothings”)
Favorite tracks: “Karma,” “Bejeweled,” “Sweet Nothing,” and “Lavender Haze”
Overall, this album had some really good songs, but the overt similarity to Lover, along with her other more recent albums, made my listening experience generally passive. With a few exceptions like “Bejeweled” and “Labyrinth,” I don’t feel like she really explored past what she has already done before. I was really optimistic about the concept,but I think she failed to create a cohesive set of songs that really worked together. Her cryptic, vague lyricism contradicts her simple pop song melody and I wish she would lean more into simplicity sometimes. There wasn’t much of a variance in song quality, and I think that they were all slightly above average. I did enjoy the production, which was mostly done by Jack Antonoff, and I noticed a lot of 80’s influence. Some of the production felt very unserious, which made the album feel unserious, and honestly, that was one of my favorite qualities. Shoutout to “cat eye sharp enough to kill a man.” I liked Reputation, but I do not think Taylor Swift has an edgy bone in her body. Maybe she does, but the way she tries to show it never fails to make me laugh just looking at her. Although this album didn’t come off as personal or genuine like I expected, I still enjoyed listening, and will be listening many more times in the coming weeks.
1 Sheffield, Rob. 2022. “All 129 of Taylor Swift’s Songs, Ranked by Rob Sheffield.” Rolling Stone. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/taylor-swift-songs-ranked-rob-sheffield-201800/.