Revisiting Midnights A Year Later

A pop classic by now, Taylor Swift’s Midnights is a sultry experiment that forces you to face your darkest, deeper emotional demons.

When it came out in 2022, I remember I was on a day trip with my favourite person in the whole wide world, visiting one of his friends before he embarked on a journey to the end of the world. I was grateful to be able to listen to Midnights on our way there, and explore the sounds in our really old Honda CR-V.

I remember feeling upset because it didn’t sound like the 70s promised by the promotional pictures, and it seemed more reflective and introspective than I thought. Everything seemed tainted with salty tears and fears of being found out, which is a very odd combination.

Kicking off with Lavender Haze, with its very deep sounds from behind the haze indeed, Taylor seems to imply she’s content with what she wants, and not think of marriage or limiting beliefs. But somehow her voice seems to ache for the validation that comes from solidifying a connection in the most tangible way… there’s a deeper need than being wifed up, she sounds like she’s asking to be acknowledged.

Maroon was my personal favourite for the longest of time, and Swift’s deeper rich tone with the melody anchored in the drums makes this an otherworldly experience. The longing, the reminiscence of someone who got away, the whispered wishes, the intensity of the chorus, the ghost of that someone lingering in between words… I remember listening to it and feeling like I’m regretting someone, even though I’m not missing anyone, and feeling bad, almost ashamed for looking back into someone’s life and feeling their feelings. Taylor’s enunciation makes my blood boil, and I can see the needle spinning on a vinyl.

Anti-Hero is the designated lead single, and while it is a perfect single, it pales in comparison with other songs. It rehashes the old narrative that Swift is the underdog and is a bit tiresome to witness it. While it’s dressed as a way to self deprecate and show self awareness, I think it lacks precisely that, and sadly it doesn’t stand the test of time. Yes, Swift can write a hook like no one else, but this is one of her weakest ones, even though it was meant as an update copy of Blank Space.

Snow On The Beach, in all its iterations, makes me wide eyed and curious for sweet nothings and just happy to be here. I prefer the original, with Lana del Rey harmonising with Swift, and the sounds flow like warm honey, and I want to wear mittens and a fluffy hat in the crisp morning air… just lovely.

The coveted track 5, You’re On Your Own, Kid, it’s another brand of mirrorball and this is me trying. I must say I prefer the other two songs about trying too much and never being enough, trying to mirror others and never getting it right. I think the lament specific to the subject matter is what makes this track 5 a bit more in your face and lacks subtlety.

There’s very few songs of Taylor with her squeaky clean image that could make you think that she’s a sexy vicious mastermind, but Midnight Rain is one of them. Few things are so intense in this world like knowing you want something different, you’re different from everyone, and you just NEED to explore the darkness in you. Midnight Rain achieves ruin perfectly, along with taking accountability and embracing the temptation. If champagne problems evolved into something, it was midnight rain.

Long speculated to be about Harry Styles, Question…? is intense lyrically, but the sound is too repetitive and stale to matter. I do like how Swift says “oh” with resignation and sultry…

I can see the appeal of Vigilante Shit. As an artist long plagued with questions about their own personal brand of feminism, Swifts allegiance with scorned women is more prevalent on later albums, and vigilante shit is the way she achieved it this time. I would say it’s a bit too performative for my liking, but I appreciate the intention and not the execution. It’s always a skip, despite its huge popularity with the fans.

Bejeweled was my first favourite song off the album, back in 2022 when Midnights was released. There was a familiarity to it, and after several listens, I could tell it’s because of a chord progression similar to The Knife’s Heartbeats, which is one of my favourite songs ever. Obviously, it’s not a note for note reproduction, maybe a simple coincidence, but the song is still a earworm, a year later. Something about the timing, the assertiveness of the lyrics, the focus on allowing oneself to shine despite feeling so dull in a relationship just makes it perfect. And like everyone else, I am obsessed with how Taylor Swift says „shimmer”.

Labyrinth is another one of those songs that verges on the edge of being great. The breathy vocals are the best thing about it, but also it’s somehow instantly forgettable, relatable and iconic at the same time. I never liked it or added it to my Spotify playlist, but then when I give it a chance, I am entranced.

Karma, in all it’s iterations, is just a song that I avoid at all costs. Nothing is being gained with the Ice Spice remix, and nothing is actually being said with the standard version either. Another rehash of Swift trying to pose as a peaceful, patient, underdog waiting for other forces to avenge her. After lifelong accusations of being cunning, intentional, ruthless, she might as well lean into that persona, instead of trying to pose as this innocent bystander and witness of everyone else’s downfall. And lyrically, Swift effectively hammers it down with such lack of grace and subtlety, in a way that feels forced and disingenuous.

Sweet Nothing was a shock was I saw it on the track list, since one of her exes has a similarly named song. But Calvin Harris’ version couldn’t be further away from this tiny sounding love song. It almost sounds like a nursery rhyme, pointing out at intimacy, comfort, and lack of judgement. If I could hold a song in the palm of my hand, and cherish it forever, it would be this song. It makes me feel like I’m walking on a side street in Amsterdam, at sunset, and observe a kitchen scene with two people in love. Everything is soft, sweet, and safe. I won’t judge the relationship that inspired the song, I’ll just let myself love it.

I feel like Swift achieved what she wanted to do with Labyrinth in Mastermind. It is its more polished cousin, and a confession of Taylor’s penchant for being analytical and intentional about her conquest, and it’s still missing something. It still doesn’t feel genuine, but maybe the people pleasing element is to blame.

This would be the album closer, but since I prefer the 3am edition of the album, I think it’s worth discussing the other 7 tracks, even briefly. Like most fans, I prefer these 7 tracks, as they’re honest and raw, and a lot more confessional and subtle than the big pop of the standard edition.

The Great War employs Taylor’s preferred method to describe a fight. She seems infatuated with the metaphor of a relationship breakdown being akin to a war, and she does this superbly. This is by far one of my favourite songs off the album.

Bigger Than The Whole Sky sits in a place reserved for False God. I don’t see the metaphors other fans see, and I always skip it. Something about it so fake deep, it feels like I’m listening to Taylor Swift pretend to be someone else.

Paris, on the other hand, is such a fun little gem. I can’t get enough of it, it’s so cheesy and playful, and instantly makes me want to go on a holiday.

High Infidelity is a revelation. Swift is taking accountability for overlapping lovers, and it’s refreshing to see that. Sonically, the song drags you in and holds you hostage, in a way that rewires my brain so intensely…

I never know what to say about Glitch. It has somewhat of a cult following, but then again swifties are all a bit of a cult. The sound is again sultry, but it feels unfinished. Swift does magical things with her voice, the way she enunciates „glitch” is sweaty, hazy, mesmerising.

The masterpiece of the album is undoubtedly Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve, and I’m sure no one will argue otherwise. Looking back at a very damaging relationship (with fuckboy central John Mayer), the song doesn’t have the wistfulness or hope of other songs, nor the anger and heartbreak conveyed in other. This song is therapy in action, holding a mirror to a lot of children and teenagers preyed upon by adults, that have now enough understanding and strength to understand what was lost. It’s a song about mourning who you were and who you could’ve been, before growing into that person. The lyrics are scathing and harsh, and well deserved. And the best part of it is that as you go deeper into the song, is sounds like a confessional where all the emotions come overwhelming you, and you have to let it all out, and experience everything you bottled up all at once. The way Swift sings the words, almost like she never has time to finish them, gives me a very intense imagery of a dam bursting and all the emotions pent up are just being released. Lyrically, it’s so hard to top this with anything, but I have no doubt Swift will try to out do herself, she always does.

Dear Reader is the perfect unofficial closer. Such a soft gem, cut from the same cloth as You’re On Your Own, Kid, but perfectly executed. I would’ve preferred this as the track 5, instead of what we got, but I do not make decisions, am I?

This album is intense at times, with contrasting melodies and lyrics, but the choices in what ended up on the standard album make it sound unfinished most of the times. It feels a bit unfair having to dig through CDs and vinyls to get the full picture, to get Hits Different, more Lana Del Rey, and You’re Losing Me, but at the end of the day, Midnights achieves what it sets out to – showing us snapshots of Swift’s sleepless nights, plagues with memories, wishful thinking, rebellion, secrecy, and maturity.

Review: Taylor Swift – folklore

Life’s too short to pretend Taylor Swift is (still!) a guilty pleasure for some people. Ever since I met her (metaphorically speaking, of course), probably 12 years ago, I used to think she’s just a harmless pop princess, the one that won’t go awry with bad habits, drugs and alcohol.

Little did I know, she would embark on a journey in the spotlight to try and defend herself in very gruelling situations, some of which no one could ever think of before the internet. Heavily scrutinized because of her dating life and her (supposed) inspiration from her relationships, I think she was always assumed to be the whiney, mean girl, always playing the victim and yelling “wolf” when things didn’t go her way.

I also realised she’s a crafty wordsmith, with interesting ideas in terms of artistic expression, so she moved from ‘unphased pleasure’ to ‘fun pleasure’, ‘quirky moments’, and, in later years, ‘pop icon’ status.

On 24th July 2020, Miss Taylor Alison Swift has released her 8th album, and oh boy… where do I start?!

Nothing like her previous albums, but effectively smelling, tasting and feeling exactly like Swift’s poetry, which in itself is a phenomenon in her field, folklore manages to gather around her lyrics the faint feeling of love you’re feeling in the pouring rain, when you’re walking barefoot in the forest, when you’re dreaming under the stars, and when you’re remembering things from centuries ago, without the added weight of anxiety and shame. Shameful to say, but I wouldn’t know what to do if I had Swift’s ability to write poetry in such a natural way.

Because we’re talking about Taylor Swift, the track list is an Easter Egg on its own. Starting with the 1, the album sets the tone for this new Swiftian era. the 1 is that story you wish you’d share with an ex love that you always thought it would be the one who got away. Starting from a more mature point, past her usual pettiness, Swift masterful word crafting gets her towards imagines of the ‘roaring 20s’ and penny tossing, reminiscing about someone who could’ve been fun for her. Given her current situation, I’d say this is just a revisit with nostalgia glasses, pondering what could’ve been if only one thing would be different. The song itself is a different beast from Taylor Swift’s catalogue, having some electronic accents, on top of a trickling piano and with minimal percussion. The whole song feels like summer afternoon in a small town, somewhere in the mountains, and I am so happy in a very calm way about it.

But we were something, don’t you think so?
Roaring twenties, tossing pennies in the pool
And if my wishes came true
It would’ve been you
In my defense, I have none
For never leaving well enough alone
But it would’ve been fun
If you would’ve been the one

Next song, cardigan, sees Swift putting on her folk/soft rock jacket on. This piano ballad is again filled with literary references, because Taylor Swift likes to poke fun at herself, and her army of dedicated fans. The song talks about young, innocent love, plagued by battle scars, lack of confidence and bitterness. cardigan is the lead single, and it does a good job in setting the expectations high for this new work of art. It’s also worth noting that this is part of the ‘young love trio’, along with august and betty.

And when I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed
You put me on and said I was your favourite
A friend to all is a friend to none
Chase two girls, lose the one
When you are young, they assume you know nothing

the last great american dynasty lets Swift borrow from urban legends on a pop track. Here we see Swift telling the story Rebekah Harkness, the woman previously owned Taylor Swift’s home in Rhode Island. Because this album is supposed to be a collection of stories, more or less based on reality, we witness Swift’s talent in full glory – building stories from nothing, and romanticizing them and making them work to her favour. Although not a favourite song of mine, the song has a certain appeal, especially because of the brazenness of the lyrics.

There goes the most shameless woman this town has ever seen
She had a marvellous time ruining everything

Bon Iver is a guest on the fourth track, exile, and I think there are very few people who can actually deny the greatness of this music dialogue. Adding Justin Vernon’s deep baritone next to Swift’s breathy vocals proves to be a very successful mix, and drawing comparisons to The Last Time, from Taylor Swift’s Red album. The song is imagined as a dialogue between two exes, but no one seems to be listening. Over the piano and the dramatic strings, the vocals manage to create to such a build-up, taking the song to a different plane.

All this time
I never learned to read your mind (Never learned to read my mind)
I couldn’t turn things around (You never turned things around)
‘Cause you never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)
So many signs
So many signs (You didn’t even see the signs)

As fan favourites go, the 5th track of a Taylor Swift album is usually the best song off the album. My personal favourite, my tears ricochet, is a hauntingly beautiful song mourning a past relationship. The POV of the story is that of a deceased lover, reflecting on the toxicity and tension. The funeral imagery of the lyrics, on top of the instrumentals, give the song the gravitas to carry the message home. And if it’s to be believed, this is a message to be delivered to Swift’s former record label. And even if it’s not, I can guess we can all rely on the lyrics in various situations.

We gather stones
Never knowing what they’ll mean
Some to throw
Some to make a diamond ring
You know I didn’t want to
Have to haunt you
But what a ghostly scene
You wear the same jewels
That I gave you
As you bury me

I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace
And so the battleships will sink beneath the waves
You had to kill me, but it killed you just the same
Cursing my name
Wishing I stayed
You turned into your worst fears
And you’re tossing out blame
Drunk on this pain
Crossing out the good years
And you’re cursing my name
Wishing I stayed
Look at how my tears ricochet

mirrorball talks about being a reflection of others, rather than being yourself, and damn, isn’t that sometimes the truth. This confession is scary and dangerous, as Swift’s music was oftentimes scrutinized by the media due to the personal nature of her lyrics, when all she wanted was to be relatable and to be able to give her fans honesty and a deep connection.

I want you to know
I’m a mirrorball
I’ll show you every version of yourself tonight
I’ll get you out on the floor
Shimmering beautiful
And when I break it’s in a million pieces

Reminiscing about a childhood friend, seven is the – you guessed it, 7th track. Packed with queer hints, the story unfolds about two friends who enjoyed their time together, but with one of them living in a possible abusive home, the dark tones of the song cannot be missed. Still revelling in the innocence of kids at 7 years old, when you’d dream you can go anywhere, seven captures that freedom of being who you are when you’re still young and not yet moulded into a useful member of the society.

And I’ve been meaning to tell you
I think your house is haunted
Your dad is always mad and that must be why
And I think you should come live with
Me and we can be pirates
Then you won’t have to cry
Or hide in the closet
And just like a folk song
Our love will be passed on

The eighth song had to have Swift poking fun again, because the track is called august. Tasting like summer, this pop rock ballad evokes young love again, with a hint of sadness. Singing about love you can never attain, and yet being so intertwined with feelings of belonging to someone who doesn’t belong to you. It’s Swift poetry, and Swift guitar, and Swift anguish, and it should be trademarked. Also, it’s part of the ‘young love trio’, with cardigan and betty.

‘Cause you were never mine
Never mine
Do you remember?
Remember when I pulled up
And said „Get in the car”
And then cancelled my plans
Just in case you’d call
Back when I was living for the hope of it all
For the hope of it all
„Meet me behind the mall”

this is me trying reveals even darker moments, talking about feeling alone when it becomes too difficult to cope with the insane standards you put for yourself, struggling with mental illness, alcoholism. Probably the most insane lyrics belong to this song – I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere.

They told me all of my cages were mental
So I got wasted like all my potential
And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad
I have a lot of regrets about that
I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere
Fell behind all my classmates and I ended up here
Pourin’ out my heart to a stranger
But I didn’t pour the whiskey

illicit affairs is another favourite of mine, its subject so simple, yet such a compelling study material. Finally we see Swift becoming more mature, more understanding to the prospect of a trio, not pointing blame on the third person anymore, but rather trying to be understanding and empathetic.

And that’s the thing about illicit affairs
And clandestine meetings
And stolen stares
They show their truth one single time
But they lie and they lie and they lie
…a million little times

In a very innocent switch to the more romantic side of things, invisible string is a verbal painting of Swift’s current relationship, and includes references to past life, songs and places. Built on an acoustic guitar, the song is a very childlike, candid glimpse of Swift’s current universe.

Time
Mystical time
Cutting me open, then healing me fine
Were there clues I didn’t see?
And isn’t it just so pretty to think
All along there was some
Invisible string
Tying you to me?

Sarcastic Taylor is at it again, with mad woman. Bringing back the torches and lighting them and going against the ones who come after her, Swift brings fire over the piano keys in the gentlest way possible. Aimed at her old record label, this song is her fight song against the people she feels wronged by.

Now I breathe flames each time I talk
My cannons all firing at your yacht
They say „move on”
But you know I won’t
And women like hunting witches, too
Doing your dirtiest work for you
It’s obvious that wanting me dead has really brought you two together

And because Taylor Swift isn’t here to sing only about old boyfriends, current boyfriends and her old label, epiphany exists. Paralleling World War II atrocities with the COVID-19 pandemic, her lyrics speak about the trauma of trying to fight on the front, be it invisible or not. Trying to explain how difficult it is to continue serving after fighting death day after day, epiphany sounds more like a hymn than anything.

Crawling up the beaches now

Sir, I think he’s bleedin’ out

And some things you just can’t speak about

Coming back to young love, betty is folksy track based on a harmonica, with a pretty upbeat rhythm, but continuing the cardigan-august story. Probably the least creative of the three, or maybe because of that, betty sounds like a song that Bruce Springsteen himself could sing, and I’m not sure that’s too bad.

You heard the rumours from Inez
You can’t believe a word she says
Most times, but this time it was true
The worst thing that I ever did
Was what I did to you

An ode to her current love, peace sees Swift confessing her vulnerability in front of her loved one, and her fear that sometimes her love is not enough. Despite her being such a high-profile celebrity, Swift manages to keep her love under wraps, and as normal as possible, but also worries about not being able to give her boyfriend the normality they both crave.

But I’m a fire and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm
If your cascade ocean wave blues come
All these people think love’s for show
But I would die for you in secret
The devil’s in the details
But you got a friend in me
Would it be enough
If I could never give you peace?

Easily forgotten, hoax tells the story of a toxic relationship, where the resolution is to keep whatever unhappiness you have rather than start anew. Not necessarily my preferred method, but hey. When I’ll write better music, I’ll let you know.

My only one
My kingdom come undone
My broken drum
You have beaten my heart

Don’t want no other shade of blue
But you
No other sadness in the world would do

Swings

There’s nothing more you love than dreaming wide awake,

It’s like a whole galaxy hides in your eyes,

And whenever you blink a new one gets born.

The fire in you is warm and peaceful,

Like your arms are home, and your heart is not deceitful,

And you taste like coffee in the evening,

And smell like love in the morning,

And isn’t that exquisite?

As if you’ve planted your courage in me and gave me wings,

And now everything tastes like summer and feels like swings.

Easy Swipe

How are words easy, the soul’s uneasy,

With touches so cheesy,

Swipes of left and right so breezy,

Tell me is it worth it

To set everything on fire,

Like a hit man for hire,

Slashing my tire,

Making me tired,

Making me feel like everything I desired

Was uninspired.

How are your words so uneasy,

My soul is easy,

And now everything is breezy

Again.

Siren

I am the song,
And sometimes I am the siren,
And sometimes I bring the fire
And your whole house down.
There’s good and bad in me,
There’s bad and good in you,
And in the middle of the night,
In your dreams
You only see nightmares of me
And taste the dreams you could have with me.
Sometimes I cut, bring on the harsh truths,
And sometimes you cut me,
Indifferent and apathetic.
Someday we’ll switch the roles,
The pain will stay the same.
I am the siren,
And sometimes I am the song.
But most of the times I am that poor fisherman
Drawn out by waves and sounds and voices.

Time

And I always thought life was hard,

Demanding,

Tiring,

Upsetting even.

Some mornings were definitely difficult,

And some nights were sleepless,

My body was not my own,

My thoughts were not the best,

And yet I’ve powered through.

We’ve powered through it all.

We thought there’s going to be more time

To reach to where we want to be,

To go to all the places we want to see,

To feel all of the love we want to feel.

The truth is simple, hard, demanding,

Tiring, even upsetting.

The only time we have left is now.

We can’t go back and change the past,

We can’t go forward and fix what we don’t know.

And day by day, and night by night,

We draw in breath; we draw in life.

There is no dark, there’s only light,

The death is silent, no more strife.

faith

faith requires so little of you,
and gives so much of it instead,
it’s just a door that remains open always,
and you can choose to follow that,
or you can choose to stay.
but fear not, my friend, you’ll always be welcome.