‘Midnights’ proves Taylor Swift is a true ‘Mastermind’

New album at first confusing, but ultimately ‘Hits Different’


Sophie Leung-Lieu

‘Midnights’ was, fittingly, released at 12 a.m. EST. The album is Swift’s first new all-original album since the release of ‘Evermore’ in Dec. 2020.

Taylor Swift Official YouTube Channel

Lanie Sepehri and Naomi Di-Capua

The blank space in all of our hearts was filled with the release of Taylor Swift’s 10th studio album, Midnights. After a surprise announcement at the VMAs, we knew all too well that it was going to be big—beyond our wildest dreams. Swift revealed the tracks one-by-one through a social media series named Midnights Mayhem with Me. All the trademark Taylor teasing led us to the edge of our seats in anticipation of this album, especially when we considered that this was her first all-new album since December 2020. Needless to say, the bar was extremely high. 

As soon as the album’s concept was announced—songs based on 13 sleepless nights sounded perfect—our expectations were through the roof. But after folksy, indie-ish albums like Folklore and Evermore, the pop-py, mildly futuristic sound of Midnights was a bit jarring. While Swift tends to 180 away from the sounds of her previous release, this transition felt especially harsh. We’ll be honest: the first listen of this album was honestly a bit underwhelming. After a while, however, Midnights’s charm had us under its spell.

Sonically, the album is reminiscent of the Stranger Things theme or even Minecraft music. Each song on Midnights is synthy and futuristic. While the theme of the album was sleepless nights, it feels more like outer space: the tracklist could best be described as stellar or cosmic. In terms of Taylor Swift’s music itself, it feels like Lover and 1989 had a child and Reputation is its fun uncle.

Midnights’s tracks seemed to fall into one of two categories: upbeat synthpop (“Bejeweled”, “Lavender Haze”) or slow and syrupy (“Sweet Nothing”, “Labyrinth”). Similar to Lover, the album is not her most cohesive work; “Vigilante Shit”, in particular, interrupted the galactic flow of the album and dragged it down. “Vigilante Shit” tried way too hard to be Reputation and came off as cringe rather than “girlboss.” It was one of the worst instances of Swift’s inner millennial jumping out—followed only by the lyric “Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby” in “Anti-Hero”.

In terms of Taylor Swift’s music itself, it feels like ‘Lover’ and ‘1989’ had a child and ‘Reputation’ is its fun uncle.

Alhough the album is the product of a full-grown woman, there is still plenty for our teenage selves to relate to. “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” for example, is pure teen angst—just what we like to see. And this album would not be complete without its batch of love songs, a token subject for Swift. These love songs range from young, hopeful and naïve (“You’re On Your Own, Kid”) to songs describing mature love (“Maroon”) with its soft intimacies (“Sweet Nothing”). In fact, the portrayal of love at different stages of life forms a narrative line of its own, reminiscent of the infamous love triangle between fictional characters Betty, August and James in Folklore. 

The romantic evolution begins with adolescent love in “You’re On Your Own, Kid” and continues as “Labyrinth” expresses the fears of new love after a relationship, showing everything overwhelmingly wonderful that love of any kind brings. Our emotional journey ends with “Sweet Nothing,” where now instead of worrying about the risks of falling in love, Swift sings of the comfort she finds in the monotony of that love. 

A soft and nostalgic tune, “Sweet Nothing” delivered such a sense of comfort we were reminded of childhood memories we hadn’t thought of in years. Its simple power caused “Sweet Nothing” to become one of our favorite songs on the entire album. Listening to it not only provided a surreal sense of comfort but also hope and happiness, shifting the theme about love so commonly projected through Swift’s music.

The simple yet powerful poetry of the lyrics throughout only makes Swift’s theme of love more impactful.

Soft, intimate songs like that one stand out against others on the album. The simple yet powerful poetry of the lyrics throughout only makes Swift’s theme of love more impactful, and it is delivered with the ability to let every listener simultaneously relate and morph lyrics to their own life.

That’s the magic of Swift’s writing: her combination of sad lyrics with poppy beats creates an intimacy between her and the listener. Midnights is full of “dance-through-the-pain” bops that allow the listener to connect with Swift’s raw emotional lyrics, without being bogged down by dark, depressing beats. Track three, “Anti-Hero”, is a perfect example of this: while Swift is singing of self-loathing and depression, the song’s catchy chorus, conversational tone and upbeat melody add a certain charm to it. We can laugh with Swift because we’ve been there too.

One thing to note, however: Swift is known for her lyrical genius, but we feel the lyrics on this album fell flat on several occasions (need we mention that one line from “Anti-Hero” again?). Her lyrical game wasn’t exactly on point, which is disappointing after the lyrical punch to the gut that was Folklore and Evermore.

After the initial release of 13 songs on the album, Swift decided to be generous and drop seven more at 3 a.m that night. These additional seven songs were then followed by a bonus song, “Hits Different”, available only on CDs sold at Target. We wish she had included some of these bonus songs on the album instead of some of the original 13; some of the bonus songs are simply better quality than songs like “Vigilante Shit” and “Midnight Rain.” “Hits Different”, for instance, is one of the best Taylor Swift songs we’ve ever heard—put it on Spotify this instant, Taylor!

‘Midnights’ certainly requires you to be in a specific mood, but once you’re in it, it hits you hard.

Part of the album’s shock factor is, again, just how different it was from the releases that immediately preceded it. And while the album was underwhelming and even distasteful on the first listen, it has so much potential that by even the second time around, it had completely grown on us. It certainly isn’t Swift’s best work, but the songs have an addictive quality that has kept it on repeat since its release. Midnights certainly requires you to be in a specific mood, but once you’re in it, it hits you hard. Although it’s not what we were expecting, once we gave ourselves time to adjust to Midnights, it did not disappoint.