By Staff Writer Lucy Yao
The clock strikes midnight on October 21, marking the release of Midnights, Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album and first body of new work in two years. According to Swift, this concept album specifically contains “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout [her] life,” which soon grew to 20 with the addition of seven songs in Midnights (3am Edition). Despite the overwhelming expectations she faced being one of the best-selling musicians of all time, Swift did not disappoint as she continues to use imaginative lyrics and immersive production to perfectly encapsulate her memories.
Sonically, Midnights is reminiscent of her previous albums, such as reputation with its similar synth-pop aspects, and folklore, which contains a signature fog-like reverb now found in most of Midnights. While this is likely due to co-songwriter Jack Antonoff who produced all of these albums, the similarities in composition leave some pieces in Midnights sounding nearly identical to her older works. For example, the album’s opening track, “Lavender Haze,” features a snare beat similar to her 2019 song, “I Think He Knows,” which fans immediately pointed out on social media. However, her experimental tracks stand as the best in her discography. She includes specific flairs that build on the atmosphere of each track, such as sleigh bells or autotuned runs. Most notably, the eighth track, “Vigilante Sh*t” is a minimalistic bass-heavy revenge piece where Swift incorporates rumbles with her lower register to achieve a song that fits perfectly into the trap genre.
While all the songs are enjoyable on their own, the album order makes certain pieces hard to differentiate from the rest of the tracks. Both the opener and closer are surrounded by stylistically experimental tracks, with the rest of the album continuing in an alternating pattern of exploratory instrumentals and standard pop. When paired with more unique acoustics, some of Swift’s generic beats stand out much more, leaving some parts so sonically cohesive it’s hard to differentiate one song from the next. This can be seen within the first few tracks which all host similar kick drum beats, only in different tempos. In fact, some of the tracks from the album’s bonus extension Midnights (3am Edition) would fit better on the main album, such as “Bigger Than The Whole Sky,” one of the few truly heartbreaking songs on the album that, if added, would bring diversity among her upbeat tunes.
Once again, Swift’s greatest strength is her lyricism, but instead of writing descriptive narratives found in her previous two albums, she leaves intriguing, complex messages and rhythmic wordplay. For example, the song, “You’re On Your Own Kid,” deals with Swift’s cruel realization of working in the industry, telling her fans, “Everything you lose is a step you take/So, make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it.” Although there are repetitive themes about fame and love, Swift takes a new approach that leaves the listener pondering over these situations just as she would have. She starts the album with a retrospective look at her paranoia and how it has affected her relationships, as seen most prominently by the line “I’m the problem, it’s me,” in her third track “Anti-Hero.” However, she realizes that she was only bringing herself down which leads to inspiring power ballads about regaining her self-worth. In the last song, “Mastermind,” she leaves a final message: “I’m only cryptic … ‘Cause I care.”
While Midnights does host tracks similar to her past, there’s been a clear and mature reevaluation of her mistakes, flaws, and failures that’s especially present in her lyrics. The album isn’t a soul-searching fairytale or a collection of party songs for listeners to scream out at the top of their lungs, but rather for sitting on a rooftop and reminiscing over the lessons learned in life.
Photos courtesy of the artist/Beth Garrabrant