REVIEW: Taylor Swift explores new sound in ‘Midnights’


Courtesy Republic Records

Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated tenth studio album, “Midnights”, was released on Oct. 21, 2022.

Katherine Wu, Riya Mahanta, and Kate Michel

Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album, “Midnights”, is unlike any of her previous work, and comes together to tell unique, complex stories inspired by Swift’s insomnia. 

“Midnights” was released on Oct. 21. Swift first announced the album’s release at the Video Music Awards (VMAs) on Aug. 28, and began revealing track titles one by one on her “Midnights Mayhem with Me” series on TikTok and Instagram. 

The album opens with “Lavender Haze”, a track evidently inspired by the retro 1950s sound. According to a video posted by Swift on Oct. 7, “Lavender Haze” was a common phrase used in the 50s to describe being in love. Many of Swift’s lyrics, including “I’ve been under scrutiny/You handle it beautifully” in the pre-chorus, describe how she dealt with rumors during her current six-year relationship while still being in love. With lots of synth instrumentals and a catchy beat, “Lavender Haze” accurately reflects what the rest of the album will sound like, making it the perfect opening track. 

“Maroon” is the second track on “Midnights”, which caught the attention of dedicated fans when it was first announced through “Midnights Mayhem with Me”. Swift’s fourth studio album featured a track two titled “Red”, and “Maroon” can be interpreted as a more mature version of the heartbreak narrated through “Red”, presumably because the color maroon itself is a darker shade of red. “Maroon” is far less upbeat than “Lavender Haze” and demonstrates Swift’s songwriting prowess through its metaphors (“Carnations you had thought were roses, that’s us”) and vivid imagery.

The third track and first single from the album, “Anti-Hero” is a raw account of Swift’s insecurities. In the chorus, Swift sings “I’m the problem, it’s me…everybody agrees/I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror”. The lyrics help many listeners feel less alone, as they may be able to relate to Swift’s insecurities. The music video for “Anti-Hero” premiered eight hours after the album was released. Directed by Swift, it manages to be emotional yet humorous, including a scene at Swift’s funeral, where her children are fighting over her inheritance (but she dedicated all but 13 cents to her cats). Another notable scene in the video symbolizes Swift’s body dysmorphia and criticism from the media, with imagery of her stepping on a scale and seeing the word “FAT”. However, due to criticism stating that Swift invalidated the experiences of the fat community, this scene has since been edited. It remains a controversial topic, as it was supposed to be a vulnerable moment but resulted in censorship. 

The album consists mainly of solo songs because it shows Swift’s loneliness in the middle of the night, but Lana Del Rey collaborated with Swift in writing and providing vocals for “Snow on the Beach”, the only feature on the album. This track is peaceful, yet not boring. The use of imagery and layered vocals in the song makes it one of the best on the album. Although we would have liked to hear more vocals from Del Rey, the harmonies and vocals between Swift and Del Rey were beautiful and essential to the whole feel of the song.  

The eighth track, “Vigilante Sh*t”, is definitely the standout song of the album. Immediately, the bass and beat with the presence of the synth create a dark yet powerful tone. Her metaphors and cold delivery of each line makes the song empowering for listeners. This song and beat reminds us of Billie Eilish, more specifically her song “you should see me in a crown” due to metaphors and the overall sound. The bridge is so satisfying with all of the minor chords and notes, adding to the dark tone. This song is definitely going to be one of the most popular and played songs, for good reason.

“Bejeweled” is the ninth track and second single. It’s the most upbeat song on the album, with lyrics that reflect Swift’s confidence. Its music video tells a Cinderella-inspired story, with Swift as a servant who transforms into a (bejeweled) princess and wins a proposal and castle from a prince. In the end, Swift ghosts the prince and keeps the castle for herself. The music video, also directed by Swift, has a playful tone to it, with lots of dialogue before and after the song.

The standard album consists of 13 tracks, closing with “Mastermind”. It was the first track title announced in “Midnights Mayhem with Me” and was probably one of the most anticipated songs, as 13 is Swift’s favorite number. In “Mastermind”, Swift describes herself as one, describing her relationship by saying “none of it was accidental” and that “it was all by design”. Melodically, “Mastermind” has layered vocals and an upbeat tone for the verses but gets darker during the stripped back chorus.

“The Great War” is the first track off of “Midnights (3am Edition)”, which was released three hours after the album and is essentially the deluxe version, featuring seven new tracks. Unlike the standard album, which was mainly produced by Jack Antonoff, “The Great War” and some of the other “3am tracks” were produced by Aaron Dessner, giving them a different, more upbeat feel. The military drums align with the title, making the song feel more cohesive. With a catchy beat and clever lyrics, “The Great War” is a great way to start the bonus tracks.

The 19th track on “Midnights (3am Edition)”, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”, is strategically placed, with the number 19 being referenced multiple times in the song. “Would’ve Could’ve Should’ve” describes a relationship Swift had at age 19 that continues to haunt her to this day and credits it for the loss of her childhood and innocence. Swift’s songwriting shines yet again in this intense track, set to a fast-paced beat that builds to a powerful climax. 

The final track on the 3am Edition is “Dear Reader”, which opens with a steady beat and slow, echoing vocals. Both the title of the track and its repetition of the phrase “dear reader” references Charlotte Brontë’s novel “Jane Eyre”, giving the song a sophisticated energy. While “Dear Reader” is not a standout track on “Midnights”, we think it’s a great closing for the album. Swift advises the listeners to “Never take advice from someone who’s falling apart”, continuing the theme of Swift referencing her insecurities throughout “Midnights”.

“Midnights” has already broken so many records, as it is now the album with the most first-day and first-week streams on all platforms, as well as the album with the most physical sales this year. This is impressive, especially considering that Swift has been in the music industry for so long, and she continues to pioneer the way for other artists. Overall, we are happy with this album and can’t wait to see what Swift does next.