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.