Art by Vivian Hsia
Transparency Item: This review is the opinion of the writers.
Taylor Swift released her 10th original album titled “Midnights” on Oct. 21, at midnight ET. The album has 13 songs with an additional seven songs on the deluxe album titled “Midnights (3am Edition).”
The album reached instant success, breaking two Spotify records — most-streamed album in a single day and most-streamed artist in a single day. Swift became the first artist to claim Billboard’s entire Top Ten in a single week, according to Billboard.
“Midnights is a collage of intensity, highs and lows and ebbs and flows,” Swift wrote in an Oct. 21 Twitter post. “Life can be dark, starry, cloudy, terrifying, electrifying, hot, cold, romantic or lonely. Just like Midnights.”
Swift’s 10th Album — “Midnights” — showcases a wide range of genres and themes. While this range may make the album more enjoyable for different listeners, the overall cohesion of the album suffers as a result.
Many of the songs include ties to Swift’s life, referencing feuds, past relationships, deep-seated insecurities and a current romance. While the album is strong, there are certain elements that do not match up to these expectations.
The first song, “Lavender Haze,” is a strong opener. The song is upbeat and promises an album that speaks both about the pressures of Swift’s famed life and her journey toward love — setting the trend for the rest of the album.
The second song, “Maroon,” is a slower-paced song, in which Swift reminisces about a past relationship, but the faster pace resumes with “Anti-Hero.” “Anti-Hero” is a look at Swift’s insecurities — however, certain lyrics ruin the illusion of the song like “Sexy Baby,” for example, which some have taken as a reference to “30 Rock,” is jarring in the song.
In the song “Midnight Rain,” Swift uses electronically-mixed vocals to create a distinct synth feeling, especially within the repeated chorus — “All of me changed like midnight.” However, this mixed element does not return until much later in the song “Labyrinth.”
“Labyrinth” is a slower song, sandwiched between upbeat tracks like “Bejeweled” and “Karma.” However, it does continue the theme of referring to Swift’s life — in this case, an answer to public backlash, which has been intense since her public clash with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian in 2016.
In the songs “Question…?” and “Bejeweled,” Swift stays upbeat. While most of the songs on the album have become instant successes, “Bejeweled” seems to have garnered a lot of attention on TikTok, morphing into a trend called “The Bejeweled strut.“
In the songs “Vigilante S***” and “Karma,” fans have expressed disappointment with the lyrics and theorize the songs to be about Scooter Braun. He is Swift’s former record executive and is currently in a feud with her. The song “Karma” has also sparked another TikTok trend with various groups acting out the lyrics.
“Sweet Nothing,” which is the slowest song of the album, talks about a blissful relationship. Swift co-wrote this song with William Bowery — an actor more widely known by his pseudonym, Joe Alwyn— who is presumably her long-term partner. Swift revealed in her Folklore: The Long Pond Sessions film that “William Bowery” was Alwyn.
In her final song, “Mastermind,” the narrator tells the story of how she courted her significant other, presumably Joe Alwyn, continuing the references to previous relationships.
Three hours after the initial release, Swift announced the arrival of her 3 a.m. tracks via social media. She created these songs while brainstorming the original 13 tracks of the album, she wrote on Twitter.
“I’m calling them 3 a.m. tracks,” Swift wrote on Twitter. “Lately, I’ve been loving the feeling of sharing more of our creative process with you, like we do with “From The Vault” tracks. So it’s 3 a.m. and I’m giving them to you now.”
The songs, “The Great War,” “Bigger Than The Whole Sky,” “Paris,” “High Infidelity,” “Glitch,” “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” and “Dear Reader” are less upbeat, and in many cases, more vulnerable than the original songs in the album.
These songs, with the exception of “Paris” and “Glitch,” tackle large issues. “Bigger Than The Whole Sky” speaks about grief, though it is unclear who Swift is talking about, fans have theorized a link between this song and “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.” The strongest evidence for this theory is the link between a lyric in “Bigger Than The Whole Sky” and “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.”
In “Bigger Than The Whole Sky,” the song says, “I’m never going to meet/ What could’ve been, would’ve been/ What should’ve been you.”
Fans believe Swift wrote “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” about John Mayer, one of Swift’s ex-boyfriends, whom she dated when she was 19 and Mayer was 32. This would not be the first song Swift allegedly wrote about Mayer. After their breakup, Swift wrote “Dear John,” which John Mayer said was about him in a Rolling Stone article.
With the exception of some of the 3 a.m. tracks — such as “The Great War” — “Midnights” is less lyrically complex than Swift’s previous two albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore.” However, the strong instrumentals and storytelling in many of the songs make “Midnights” an album worth listening to.
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