Taylor Swift’s newest album, Midnights, finds the singer at her most authentic and vulnerable state—and most confident in her abilities. While Swift does not take any huge risks in this album, with Midnights having a consistent tracklist, she does deliver a solid and satisfying addition to her catalogue.
Midnights is mellow and reflective throughout its entire duration, evoking lyricism from the singer’s past albums, folklore and evermore. With the help of producer Jack Antonoff, Swift has shed the indie-folk aesthetic of the aforementioned efforts, instead opting for a moody, electronic production.
In this article, sophomores Turner Edwards and Elise Anderson briefly review each song in Midnights as well as seven bonus ‘3am Edition’ songs that Swift released alongside the album.
Opening with “Lavender Haze,” Swift instantly transports the listener into her headspace—she’s “under scrutiny,” but support from her partner helps her remain carefree, just like the song. Despite the production being more pulsing and electronic, “Lavender Haze” sounds very similar to “I Think He Knows” from Lover – catchy, lighthearted and fun.
Standout lyric: “Staring at the ceiling with you/oh, you don’t ever say too much/and you don’t really read into/my melancholia”
The title of “Maroon” immediately makes one think of Red, but as the song progresses any listener can hear that Swift has grown more mature, and her signature color has fittingly darkened. The song’s production and lyricism is reminiscent of “Dress” from reputation; the synths especially are very similar. The maturity from something off the second half of reputation combined with Red’s emotional honesty creates something really special.
Standout lyric: “The rust that grew bеtween telephones/the lips I used to call home/so scarlet, it was maroon”
“Anti-Hero” is definitely a standout track, filled with quotable and incisive lyrics about self-loathing (and it has a great music video). Swift, thankfully, does not wallow in self-pity on this song; she is able to find some levity in how she views herself. Through sharing her insecurities, Swift uplifts and entertains on what is (finally!) a good lead single from a Taylor Swift album.
Standout lyric: “I have this thing where I get older, but just never wiser/midnights become my afternoons”
“Snow On The Beach ” is a spiritual successor to “gold rush” from evermore. The track is written beautifully and features delicate, crystalline instrumentation; Lana Del Rey’s presence is unfortunately negligible and reduced to whispering in the background. While “Snow On The Beach” is one of the most ornate and carefully embellished songs on the album, the lack of a real verse from Del Rey holds the song back from being even more.
Standout lyric: “This scene feels like what I once saw on a screen/I searched ‘aurora borealis green’/I’ve never seen someone lit from within”
“You’re On Your Own, Kid” may be the most autobiographical song on the album; unable to find love and realizing that she is indeed on her own, Swift vents by writing songs. Swift realizes that as her talent has elevated her career and status, she has lost the “natural” image that initially propelled her to fame. The song soars in its bridge – were it underwhelming, the song would not succeed.
Standout lyric: “From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes/I gave my blood, sweat and tears for this/I hosted parties and starved my body/like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss”
“Midnight Rain” is a slightly inferior attempt of a song off of Lorde’s Melodrama. Though the song has its high points, Swift’s vocals often fail to measure up to the intense production throughout the track. The warped and distorted intro is very similar to “Sober” from Lorde’s album, but unlike “Sober,” “Midnight Rain” does not build to a crescendo. Additionally, the song somewhat serves as a centerpiece to Midnights as a whole, delivering more on Swift’s promise of “songs about 13 sleepless nights” than anything else on the album. A listener can almost feel Swift’s regret and “what-if” thoughts in this song.
Standout lyric: “I guess sometimes we all get/some kind of haunted, some kind of haunted/and I never think of him/except on midnights like this”
“Question…?” is a definite weak point on the album. Swift fails to say anything meaningful with the lyrics and seemingly overproduces the song in a poor attempt to compensate. Interpolating “Out Of The Woods” from 1989 fails to save the track from its meandering pointlessness. This song is the worst on the album.
Standout lyric (if we have to pick one): “We had one thing going on/I swear that it was something ’cause I don’t remember who I was/before you painted all my nights a color I’ve searched for since”
“Vigilante S**t” is a definite callback to the reputation era. The production on this song also seems to borrow from Billie Eilish’s WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? On this song, Swift establishes herself as a definite threat to people who have wronged her, but she does so in a way that is more intimidating and dark than on any of reputation’s songs. Swift is out for revenge on “Vigilante S**t” and unafraid to say so; the bass drop intro is not necessarily surprising in a vacuum, but it is harsh for Swift.
Standout lyric: “Don’t get sad, get even”
On “Bejeweled,” Swift is bubbly and carefree. Taking the role of a narrator, she resents the lack of attention she gets from her boyfriend, but she doesn’t mope or let her negative emotions overpower her; instead, she decides to go out and enjoy herself. Just like the imagery present in the chorus, the production sparkles and shines, filled with synths that practically glitter.
Standout lyric: “Puttin’ someone first only works when you’re in their top five”
“Labyrinth” serves as a strong homage to Swift’s folklore and evermore albums, and the gently layered vocals do an excellent job of conveying the cathartic, reflective atmosphere of the song. Although Antonoff’s overindulgence as a producer remains a problem on the album, on this track, the understated synths paired with the metronome of the bass drum alludes to a heartbeat, or, more aptly, ocean tides ebbing and flowing. As Swift is lost in a labyrinth of her own thoughts, she reminds herself to breathe, and allows her pain and struggle to wash over like lapping ocean waves. She finds solace in her newfound love, one that she is unprepared for and almost resistant to. She reminds herself that pain is temporary, and even though she may be tormented in this moment, surely in the next, she may be just fine.
Standout lyric: “You would break your back to make me break a smile/you know how much I hate that everybody just expects me to bounce back”
On “Karma,” another enjoyable pop cut, Swift serenades the concept itself. This song’s production is some of the best on the album, and its hook is definitely the catchiest (aside from possibly “Anti-Hero”). Quick, light keyboard flourishes before and during the chorus add some depth to the already delightful instrumental. Equally as witty are her quips taking jabs at her enemies, encapsulated in the song’s second verse.
Standout lyric: “And I keep my side of the street clean/you wouldn’t know what I mean”
“Sweet Nothing” is a definite standout on Midnights, but it has an uncharacteristically weak bridge for a song by Swift. The song has a contextually inappropriate and abrupt shift from memories and habits that Swift and her partner share to “industry disruptors” and “smooth-talking hucksters.” The song would have been stronger if its bridge was more akin to “invisible string,” which has a bridge that is more distinguishable from the chorus and verses. Regardless, it is a sweet and loving track, and its electric-piano, lullaby-esque instrumentation is unlike anything Swift has put out before.
Standout lyric: “On the way home/I wrote a poem/you say, ‘What a mind’/this happens all the time”
In the album’s scintillating closer, “Mastermind,” Swift is the titular character, plotting and scheming in order to make her relationship come to fruition. However, when Swift finally reveals this to her partner, he smiles. Swift was not as clever as she thought, as he had known the entire time. He was willing to play along with her schemes. As this information is revealed, the song’s instrumentation swells with the addition of strings that sound cinematic; “Mastermind” is another high point on Midnights.
Standout lyric: “You knew that I’m a mastermind/and now you’re mine/yeah, all you did was smile/’cause I’m a mastermind”
Now for the ‘3am Edition’ bonus songs:
While “The Great War” is certainly a standout lyrically, the production unfortunately draws back from the beauty of the lyrics. Swift uses the concept of war to allude to the most difficult periods of a relationship, times of strife and tension for what seems to be forever. Surviving this war is a point of pride for Swift, and she relishes the strengthened connection felt as a result of emerging victorious. This song may be referencing Swift’s withdrawal from the public eye for around a year between 2016 and 2017, in which her relationship with actor Joe Alwyn was likely under duress. Throughout the song, Swift makes clever references to wartime imagery, such as poppies, a symbol of remembrance for the first world war. As is an issue with the album as a whole, the often loud synths and keys distract from the lyricism, though they still manage to find a place to shine.
Standout lyric: “Say a solemn prayer, place a poppy in my hair/there’s no morning glory, it was war, it wasn’t fair”
“Bigger Than The Whole Sky” is one of the most tragic songs in Swift’s discography. The lyrics suggest the sudden loss of a loved one with whom Swift did not spend enough time and the shocking and painful sadness that accompanies it. The track perfectly embodies the all-consuming grief felt when someone who was “Bigger Than The Whole Sky” is lost, as it is often difficult to conceptualize that someone that looms so greatly in others lives can truly be gone, captured in the lines “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye/you were bigger than the whole sky.” Interestingly, Swift references praying in times of desperation on Lover’s similarly heart-wrenching “Soon You’ll Get Better.”
Standout lyric: “Did some bird flap its wings ovеr in Asia?/Did some force take you bеcause I didn’t pray?/Every single thing to come has turned into ashes”
“Paris” marries the head-over-heels aspects of Lover with the intensity and snap of reputation. Swift is so smitten that it is as if she is in Paris, gazing at the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower. Escaping to a fantastical paradise, Swift is unable to recognize those that unfairly criticize her, as she is away in some far-flung place that one can only imagine. She longs to take her lover somewhere new, and whisk him away to somewhere they can spend endless hours strolling through tree-lined boulevards. The imagery and unique cadence of this track skillfully contribute to the dancing-with-your-shoes-off feel of the track, though the production is at times almost too drawn back, a sharp contrast to other tracks.
Standout lyric: “I wanna transport you to somewhere the culture’s clever/confess my truth in swooping sloping cursive letters”
On “High Infidelity,” the production shines, though at times it does become a little boring. The matrix-like audio effects are used in a way that could have perhaps been used on “Glitch” to wake the track from its stupor. Swift’s stilted vocals and short, sweet lyrics gives the listener an image of looking at flashes of moments that have passed her by. In sharp contrast to other tracks on the album, Swift doesn’t seem to care all that much about her past actions, rather wearing her calculated actions as a badge of honor. “High Infidelity” serves as a sort of evil twin to “Mastermind,” in a universe where instead of bringing her soulmate to her, she acts as a free spirit that doesn’t care who she draws in, just that there is someone there with her.
Standout lyric: “You know there’s many different ways that you can kill the one you love/the slowest way is never loving them enough”
“Glitch” is under-written and overproduced. Swift sounds somewhat bored on the song; the basic summary is that her love was not supposed to happen, but it did. The idea is more interestingly captured on “Snow On The Beach.” This song is the strangest and weakest bonus track, failing to hold its own against thematically similar songs on the album.
Standout lyric: “I was supposed to sweat you out/in search of glorious happenings of happenstance on someone else’s playground/but it’s been two-thousand one-hundred ninety days of our love blackout”
“Would’ve Could’ve Should’ve” is the definite standout on the record, far and away the best song on the album. Containing desperation and emotion not previously seen anywhere on the tracklist, Swift’s voice reaches crescendos, and even in its moments of imperfection, elicits an incredibly raw bitterness and distress. Akin to Speak Now’s “Dear John,” the singer once again provides insightful commentary on the often predatory nature of the age-gap relationships she experienced in her late teens and early twenties. Aaron Dessner also excels with this track’s production, subverting expectations but always satisfying them.
Standout lyric: “Living for the thrill of hitting you where it hurts/give me back my girlhood, it was mine first”
“Dear Reader” is an undercooked track, and an unfortunate note for Midnights to “end” on (“Mastermind” is the closer of the official tracklist.) Swift takes some risks with some overt uses of autotune, but the production is very lackluster. The writing leaves much to be desired; while Swift’s cryptic maybe-autobiographical songs are usually enjoyable, this one seems aimless (besides warning the listener to not trust the narrator). While Swift conveys the idea of her falling apart effectively on this track, other songs do that and more (and are less of a slog). This song is a new path for Swift but not one that should continue to be explored.
Standout lyric: “Dear reader/when you aim for the devil/make sure you don’t miss”
Midnights is a jack of all trades–there are no songs that will likely reach the heights of fan-favorites such as “Getaway Car” or “All Too Well,” but the worst mistake its duds commit is being boring or a little overproduced. While not perfect, it is a consistent album and a worthy addition to Swift’s discography. Final score: 8/10