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Album Review: ‘Midnights’ sees Taylor Swift alone with her thoughts, past and present

It’s only been two years since Taylor Swift released her last album, but in between that time, she’s managed to drop re-recorded versions of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” and “Red (Taylor’s Version),” and of course, create an entirely new album. This new album, “Midnights,” is Swift’s 10th studio album, a glorious array of new songs that are a result of restless nights and faraway memories.

Collaborating with an iconic group of creators such as Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey and Zoe Kravitz, Swift has created a concept album centered around the ideas of self-loathing, heartbreak, love, lust and most importantly, karma, making it her darkest and most revealing album yet.

“Midnights” could easily be a companion to Swift’s 2014 pop breakthrough, “1989,” with lush, glossy and energetic tracks that transport you to the singer’s bedroom fantasies and nightmares. Yet, unlike “1989,” this album is more mature, coming now from the perspective of a singer in her 30s, looking back on her career and past relationships with the idea in mind that not everything has to work out, but when it does, it’s important to savor the beauty of love. 

With 20 tracks instead of the 13 previously teased since late August, Swift becomes a storyteller, giving listeners an insight into her life throughout all of its eras, definitely hinting at events that date all the way back to her days during “Speak Now,” and thus producing a work that is in itself an open book.

“Lavender Haze” opens the album, a reference to a “Mad Men” episode that Swift takes into her own hands. “Meet me at midnight” is the first line, painting a picture of the singer falling deep and fast in the beginnings of a relationship, a definite reference to her own with actor Joe Alwyn. “Talk your talk and go viral / I just need this love spiral / Get it off your chest / Get it off my desk (Get it off my desk)” is a perfect bridge, a lyric that Swift uses to acknowledge how all of her relationships go viral as soon as they’re discovered by the public, encouraging critics to say what they want about her significant other; it simply won’t affect her anymore.

An interesting turn in the album happens just two tracks later with “Anti-Hero.” In this track, Swift lays out all her flaws, singing, “It's me, hi / I'm the problem, it's me / At teatime, everybody agrees / I'll stare directly at the sun, but never in the mirror / It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero.” While this song is super upbeat, reminiscent of “Death By A Thousand Cuts,” deep down it’s extremely sad, proving that even the singer still struggles with her insecurities amidst the success and accolades she receives.

Meanwhile, “You’re On Your Own, Kid” and “Question…?” are more standouts where Swift reflects on the sexism she’s faced in the music industry, as well as missed opportunities. In the first of the two, it contains some of the album’s most telling lyrics, “I hosted parties and starved my body / Like I'd be saved by a perfect kiss / The jokes weren't funny / I took the money / My friends from home don't know what to say / I looked around in a blood-soaked gown / And I saw something they can't take away,” a dig at Swift’s past of being a people pleaser and letting her body image take control of her everyday life. On the other hand, “Question…?” doesn’t stray away from asking the hard questions revolving around a lost chance at love, with Swift creating a scenario that she’s probably been in herself, one where the person she wants to love is struggling to admit their feelings.

Revenge is another theme that arises towards the middle of “Midnights,” especially with the songs “Vigilante Shit” and “Karma.” “Vigilante Shit” could be a direct allusion to Swift’s past feuds, particularly with Kanye West. The lyrics of this track raise eyebrows, especially as the singer targets them toward him, “Draw the cat eye, sharp enough to kill a man / You did some bad things, but I'm the worst of them / Sometimes I wonder which one'll be your last lie / They say looks can kill and I might try.” Swift also makes the claim that she, as well as other women, have been deceived by this man, making it her job to now get revenge, but to also avenge the other women involved, hence the vigilante theme.

“Karma” is Swift being comforted by the thought that all her past enemies will eventually be called out for their misdeeds, making light of her past drama and actions by accepting what happened and fully moving on, making this track a sequel to the storyline of “reputation.” Swift sings, “Karma's a relaxing thought / Aren't you envious that for you it's not? / Sweet like honey, karma is a cat / Purring in my lap 'cause it loves me,” coming to terms with the new woman she’s become and letting go of drama that doesn’t concern her anymore.

The 13th track, “Mastermind,” is all about Joe Alwyn, and if you don’t believe it, the lyrics reveal Swift’s initial thoughts when they first met, comparing herself to a mastermind of how she tactfully planned her way into the actor’s life. The track overall is sweet and a touching shoutout to him, lifting the mood momentarily as the singer counts her blessings.

Additionally, fans suspect “Bigger Than The Whole Sky” to be about a miscarriage Swift endured due to its lyrical content and dark undertone. “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye / You were bigger than the whole sky / You were more than just a short time,” Swift sings, the "short time," representing a false pregnancy. 

In the last stretch of the tracklist comes “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” another allusion to her teenage years. “Would've, Could’ve, Should’ve / If you’d never looked my way I would've stayed on my knees / And I damn sure never would've danced with the devil / At nineteen,” is Swift possibly calling out her previous relationship with singer John Mayer, and is a beautiful track nonetheless.

Overall, “Midnights” is a catastrophically beautiful feat, an album that is mature in subject matter and a work one can listen to alone in the dark with their thoughts. Swift has truly come into her shell not only as a singer and songwriter but as a woman who is no longer being controlled or forced as a commodity.

Ranking: 5/5


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