The mayhem is finally over as Taylor Swift has released her 10th studio album: Midnights. Since Swift announced the date for her newest album at the VMAs this year, fans scrambled for clues as to what this album might be about or what genre she may explore this time. Swift was generous with details of the album, hosting “Midnights Mayhem” on TikTok and revealing track names on various nights. The anticipation grew more and more, even to the last second as Spotify crashed right at midnight EST, leaving fans stunned for the first few minutes of release day.
Midnights is 13 different diary entries of late nights filled with dark and romantic thoughts. The “3am Edition” includes 7 other songs that didn’t quite make the cut, but still meant a lot to the artist. The songs come together to create a dreamy atmosphere while simultaneously taking from different eras of the singer’s career. You can see hints of Reputation in sultry synth-pop tracks like “Vigilante Shit” (which happens to be the only track solely written by Swift) and remnants of Lover and 1989 in fun bubblegum tracks like “Bejeweled” and “Karma.” But do these tracks hold enough on their own to create an entire album?
The concept is a unique one, but with Swift already in the middle of re-recording her previous albums, it was risky to release a new studio album focused on previously written songs that could have fit in a few of her other albums. I do think she still delivers with Midnights; it is somehow nostalgic and fresh at the same time. It introduces her new fans to the “pop star” side of herself, while also reminding her dedicated fans that she has not lost sight of her past. It was smart for Swift to stick to an indie-pop genre that she has already tried and had success with after spending the last decade experimenting with country, R&B, and indie folk.
Friend and lead singer of Bleachers, Jack Antonoff, was the main collaborator with Swift on this project. Antonoff spent most of 2022 promoting the soundtrack for the new Minions movie, which he worked on with Dallas native St. Vincent, but he was also secretly working again with Swift on Midnights. Antonoff and Swift have been working on projects together for years, and although their partnership is stronger than ever on this album, the lyricism is not as exemplary as it has been in the past. Midnights is not a very sophisticated album, which is what most fans have expected from Antonoff and Swift. It is definitely more of a lighthearted record straight from the heart of the singer, rather than focusing on third-person storytelling like her last two releases. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; of all artists, Swift is definitely not one to be put in a box.
Throughout her career, Swift has not only received praise as a performer, but also as a lyricist. While her sound has changed over the years, her love of storytelling has not. She has ranged from stories of her own life to more creative narratives about others, but Midnights takes it even further, focusing on her nights alone. Her femininity has been the center of so much of her writing, and the first track, “Lavender Haze,” continues that notion with the lyrics “The only kind of girl they see / Is a one night or a wife.” There is confidence in her lyricism, as she is honest with her experiences as a woman in the music industry.
Swift has always written about her personal life, but now she writes about thoughts she may have never even talked about with her friends. “Would’ve Could’ve Should’ve” is possibly the most personal track of the “3am Edition.” Those that have been avid Swifties for years will recognize the villain of the story: John Mayer. There is so much restored power in this track; we are taken back in time to 19-year-old Swift’s haunting relationship. She becomes vulnerable and recounts the moments she wishes she could forget. During the climax of the bridge, she pleads “Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first.” Many artists like Demi Lovato and Rina Sawayama have recently released music criticizing the predatory men of their past, and now Taylor has entered the mix, making other young girls feel seen and heard.
Swift did not need to do anything revolutionary with this album. She has already established herself as one of the best artists of the century and has broken record after record; at this point, she is either releasing music in order to stay relevant, or to give the fans what they want. Every time Swift releases music, she achieves even higher accolades; this time, she broke records in both streams and sales, with Midnights becoming the most streamed album in one day on Spotify and selling the most records in its opening week (an achievement that was previously held by her 6th studio album Reputation). As I’m writing this, she holds all top 10 spots on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first artist to do so. Sometimes it feels as though she breaks records for fun with how much she releases in such a short amount of time, but I believe that this project proves that music is her passion, not just something to keep her name in the news.
Midnights feels like it should have been released before Folklore and Evermore genre-wise, but the creativity that was needed in order to execute a concept album such as this overwhelms the awkward timing. Through this album, Swift proves that she has so much more to show us. Not only can she write and sing, but she can create intricate projects that develop over months of hints and easter eggs. Midnights is so unique that it’s allowed to interrupt the trend that Swift seemed to be following with indie tracks. She does not cease to surprise us with her jumps between genres, and she can do so because she has become a household name. The power that she holds in the industry is so evident that she is able to make whatever changes she’d like in her career without letting that freedom go to waste. If she were to make Midnights her last studio album, her discography would feel unfinished; something tells me she’s not ready to stop now.