Taylor Swift is in an incredibly prolific stretch of her career. Midnights, her third studio album release in less than two and a half years, doesn’t disappoint.
As the artist’s career enters the home stretch of its second decade, her genre-crossing art hasn’t lost any momentum.
Overall, Midnights brings Swift back to her pop side. Landing somewhere between 1989, Reputation, and Lover, Midnights elegantly balances classic Taylor Swift lyrical poetry while still serving something wholly original. While Swift has evolved her voice over her discography, Midnights finds the singer hitting masterful levels of vocal texture spanning from airy falsettos to raspy murmurs over slow burn synth pop beats.
In Netflix’s 2020 Miss Americana, Taylor says “As I’m reaching 30, I’m like, I want to work really hard while society is still tolerating me being successful.” Lucky for all of us, Swift has proven herself a cut above other stars. The world cannot get enough of her art — and she continues to deliver on impossibly high expectations.
Here’s our ranking and insights on every track on Midnights in ascending order.
The questions Swift poses in Question…? are ones that might never be answered by the person they are directed at — and they don’t need to be.
They are rhetorical, and they serve a different purpose. Taylor works through memories and misgivings of a past lover who let the perceptions of others affect the relationship between them. The resulting behavior turned out to be quite offensive — leaving in the middle of the night, walking away, treating the relationship as something to be ashamed of until eventually, and unsurprisingly, it fell apart.
Had others not been around, were it just the two of them, would things have panned out differently? Does the person in question regret letting Taylor Swift get away? The real question at the center of this song is, and indeed, where it finds its universality is, can this love withstand social scrutiny?
Told from a post-mortem perspective, these questions are more about processing than they are about discovery. Whoever it’s really about, it’s likely safe to assume that yes, they probably do “wish they had put up more of a fight.”
Fans speculate this song is about Harry Styles, which would suggest it was written during Swift’s Red era.
You’re on your own, kid
This song was listed as track five on this album, and if you’re a Swiftie, you know that song #5 tends to be the emotional tear-jerker on Taylor Swift albums.
YOYOK seems to be the biggest throwback on Midnights. In it, Taylor sings “I didn’t choose this town, I dream of getting out,” suggesting this was written when Taylor was still a small town girl, or at the very least, fresh out of it. Additionally, the rhythms and tempo of the verses are reminiscent of Fearless and Speak Now — more supporting evidence that this song was written in the earlier stages of Taylor’s career.
This song is an ode to stepping out into the world. Its key musical progression captures the mixed feelings of the moment: part excitement, part vulnerability, part anticipation of leaving the nest.
It’s melancholy, yet optimistic.
Taylor goes into a high-tempo verse about the challenges of unlearning, relationships changing, new chapters starting, letting go, taking it all in, and invites listeners to appreciate it for what it is.
A true-blood romantic, Swift never fails to capture the beauty and depth of life’s trials and tribulations. She reminds us that its all part of the journey, and that everything is temporal.
In Sweet Nothing, Taylor describes little moments of shared joy between lovers (presumably, her and longtime boyfriend Joe Alwyn). The sweet-and-simple melodic progression reflects the core concept of the song: At the end of the day, the little things are the big things.
Taylor has repeatedly expressed anxiety that those closest to her might have some secret agenda, and when you’re Taylor Swift, it’s understandable.
But in Sweet Nothing, Swift finds relief from these fears when she says “all you ever wanted from me was nothing.” And beyond quelling these fears, this lover gives her a sense of peace from the chaotic world where everyone buried her in expectations. It’s something we all universally crave — to find someone who can offer us peace from the stressors of our daily lives.
Zooming out, Swift has been in the most productive stretch of her career to date. This may be, at least in part, due to a partner who she trusts and encourages her craft in the right ways.
So on behalf of Swifties everywhere, thank you, Joe Alwyn, for giving Taylor the personal validation she deserves (hey, we all need that) for her incredible gift and doing your part to ensure Swift is both inspired and fulfilled.
On the way home,
I wrote a poem,
You say “what a mind.”
This track is has an airy feel that is reflected in the lyrics and overall theme of falling. Swift comes in with high register, breathy vocals describing various modes of height and altitude — elevators, airplanes, rising.
The music emulates suspension in air, distance to fall. It crescendos with a beautiful, textured layering of vocals and synth sounds, including a vocal distortion that is a distinct departure from earlier versus. Distorted vocals are a motif throughout the album. You can feel the suspension, the hesitation — you can hear it in Swift’s falsetto.
It’s a similar combination of emotions that get triggered with a fear of flying or heights, which Swift uses as a metaphor for falling in love.
Uh oh, I’m falling in love
Oh no, I’m falling in love again
Snow on the Beach
Perhaps the album’s biggest enigma. The song itself is beautiful lyrically and musically. It has the tragic, melancholic, borderline haunting feel that are key parts of Lana del Ray’s signature aesthetic.
But Lana’s minimized presence is hard to ignore. The main issue with this song was an expectation that Lana’s vocals would have been more than a faint apparition. Ultimately, Lana blends in, and when they harmonize, it’s hard to differentiate them.
Still, the song paints beautiful imagery and caries the retro, beautiful, haunting, vintage vibe Taylor. It’s an easy listen and will certainly be dominating the radio come December.
Bejeweled is Taylor Swift’s way of saying “Yeah, I still got it.” After all, Midnights is Swift’s third album in less than two and a half years, and it’s still crashing Spotify.
And while many of us can’t relate to that particular hallmark, most of us fully pick up what Swift is putting down in the uplifting synth pop song Bejeweled. Feeling taken for granted in a relationship conjures up a craving for appreciation and specialness. And sometimes, a girl’s got to go get that appreciate and specialness.
As Swift puts it, “a diamond’s gotta shine.” It would be a damn shame if it didn’t.
So what’s a girl to do? Obviously, dress to the nines, hit the town, and wherever she goes, “make the whole place shimmer.” She gets her flirt on, feel the stares from everyone in the room, and remind herself that, yeah, she’s still got it.
This song lands somewhere between 1989 and Reputation. Sonically, it’s very reminiscent of Gorgeous.
It’s flirty. It’s fun. It’s infectious.
When I walk in the room,
I can still make the whole place shimmer
At its core, Karma is an uplifting song about coming out of a conflict on top, something Taylor knows a thing or two about.
The songstress found herself at the center of several drama-laden feuds a few years ago, most significantly, with Scooter Braun and Kimye. Coupled with several other personal conflicts with friends and other artists, Taylor was buried with bad press. That caused her retreat from the spotlight before coming back out with her side of the story in the form of Reputation.
While there was a period in which Swift’s reputation was dragged, time has pretty much vindicated her from that. Her career continues to thrive.
Moreover, Taylor Swift has from oft dismissed as a flash-in-the-pan, cookie-cutter pop star to well-respected, impossible-to-deny true artist — and a gifted one at that.
Meanwhile, the people that took aim at her have revealed themselves to be the antagonizers: Kayne continues to seek out controversy-fueled publicity, Kim Kardashian was recently fined by the SEC for misleading fans, and Scooter Braun went through an ugly divorce in which the FBI was involved.
Meanwhile, Taylor is at the height of her game, crashing Spotify with back-to-back releases, and in a healthy relationship (“Karma is my boyfriend”).
In other words, she’s risen above the nonsense.
In Karma’s peak bridge, Swift gleefully exclaims: “I’M STILL HEEEERE!”
Swift is a big believer in Karma and justice. More importantly, she will go to bat for what she thinks is right.
The star successfully leveraged her tremendous platform to renegotiate payment terms for all artists on Apple’s streaming platform in 2015. Likewise, she took down handsy a Colorado radio host in court for groping her for no monetary gain, just to prove a point.
As Swift says in Karma, “I keep my side of the street clean.”
No one has bested Taylor Swift.
Stripped down and mysterious, Vigilante Shit is a walk along a knife’s edge. The song drips with spite and Reputation era energy.
Juxtaposing outer appearances with interior agendas, the song hits like a diary page of a femme fatal.
Vigilante Shit reveals an awareness around the power of the feminine mystique and taps into a familiar motif in Swift’s songs and personal story: Women who try to meet all of society’s expectations will only find themselves drained and empty-handed.
That is, unless they learn how to play the game. Understanding these expectations and assumptions can be quite a strategic if leveraged in the right way. Swift has dabbled with the idea of alter egos before to express this more strategic, going-to-get-mine side of herself in songs like Look What You Made Me Do.
Vigilante Shit comes from a perspective of a woman who understands that justice doesn’t just happen – it is executed.
I don’t start shit, but I can tell you how it ends
Don’t get sad, get even
Lavender Haze has serious Lover vibes. Midnights opening track is an uplifting and heady testament to the intoxicating escapism of new love.
In it, Swift basks in the freedom of a blank slate, in-the-moment love that insulates from the opinions of the world, past regrets, and future anxieties.
Lyrically, Lavender Haze has parallels with Delicate from Reputation. Taylor expresses deep appreciation for her lover’s ability to tune out the noise and gossip surrounding her fame — and all the mud slinging that comes with it. It’s about being seen for who she are, right now, in this moment. And perhaps more importantly, being loved for it.
It’s a feeling worth preserving for as long as possible, something to savor.
Don’t we all just want to “stay in that lavender haze?”
Midnight Rain uses nature-based imagery to contrast the trajectories of two former lovers’ lives who intersected early on before diverging for good. This song raised questions among the Swiftie fan base, namely over the vocally distorted course refrain. Is it Swift? Is it not? Jury’s still out.
Sonically, the song is masterfully crafted, an interesting blending of distortions that, when guided by Swift’s voice, spin together harmoniously.
Lyrically, Swift contemplates “the life I gave away,” a life that would have been simpler, more predictable, more conventional.
But Swift, who has successfully reinvented herself several times over, needed more. What’s interesting about Midnight Rain is that though she doesn’t expressly regret giving up this could’ve-been path in pursuit of “making her own name,” she reflecting sings, “I never think of him…except on midnights like this.”
It almost seems like Swift isn’t longing for the person, but occasionally yearns for the simplicity of the life he might of offered.
If we were going to try and place this song in the timeline, it was probably somewhere around the Speak Now era when Swift’s fame had irreversibly changed her life forever. It’s likely “midnights like this” references times when Taylor Swift may have felt overwhelmed by the complexities that fame brought into her life.
All of me changed like midnight rain
He wanted it comfortable, I wanted that pain
The most production heavy of the bunch, Maroon’s lynchpin undertow plays with a Doppler effect: A sustained, single note that sounds like its coming, arrives, then passes. The lyrics are about a love that follows suite.
The song invokes a host of red shades — scarlet, ruby, wine, blood, burgundy, rust, and of course, maroon — possibly a clue as to where this particular midnight fell in the timeline (during Taylor Swift’s Red era).
Likewise, it follows Red‘s themes of a passionate love that came fast and hard, but fell apart just as passionately and intensely. Of course, Swift famously re-recorded Red in 2021, meaning it may have been written more recently. But subject and theme wise, it fits Red‘s archetype like a glove.
The first verse describes a star-crossed lovers rapidly falling into each other; by the second verse, things were falling apart and getting ugly.
Though Taylor has used used explicit language in her songs before, Midnight clocks a palpable uptick.
Maroon puts emphasis on “fucking,” an anomaly for Swift, in the song’s final bridge. The singer croons “that’s a real fucking legacy to leave,” before transitioning into the song’s final course sung in a distinctly different register. While Swift’s first recital of the course is charged, passionate, beautiful, by the song’s end, it rings resigned, disappointed, and raw.
And I wake with your memory over me
That’s a real fucking legacy to leave
Swift says that Anti-Hero is one of her favorite songs she’s ever written, and it must have been a cathartic one to get out.
A concise list of Swift’s self-described “intrusive thoughts,” Anti-Hero weaves in and out of Swift’s insecurities and anxieties. From fears of driving loved ones away, a major thread in Swift’s work (Peace and Out of the Woods come to mind), the isolation and loneliness Swift’s tremendous success has brought with it, a deep-seeded suspicion that she can never really know someone’s intentions in their relationships with her.
The album’s leading single was accompanied with a video which depicted Taylor’s unborn children fighting over her wealth at her funeral.
“Don’t feel sorry for me,” Taylor says in a teaser reel on TikTok about the song. Despite international success, an unparalleled ability to break records and charts with every release, and a career that is shining in the evening of its second decade, Taylor Swift still finds a way to be relatable.
From body insecurities, to oscillating between caring and ignoring what people think, and creeping fears about people’s true intentions, it turns out the world’s most successful musician still has an incredible amount in common with the rest of us.
taylor swift releasing a new album: pic.twitter.com/zw2woKDZ4Q
— t (@swifterous) October 20, 2022