Taylor Swift strikes again with her latest album ‘Midnights’


Photo Courtesy of Republic Records

Released on Oct. 21, ‘Midnights’ took over all Top 10 spots on the Billboard Hot 100, making Swift the first artist to achieve the feat.

Cynthea Wang, Arts Writer

Every chart and listening platform in the past few weeks has been dominated by “Midnights,” Taylor Swift’s latest album, which is said to be inspired by thirteen sleepless nights throughout her career. The album presents itself as a raw self-portrait, with a synth-heavy sound distinctly different from her other recent releases. At first listen, “Midnights” is not particularly remarkable, but its appeal grows with time (a fact my Spotify Wrapped will attest to.) Overall, in my very unbiased opinion, I would rate the album a solid 8.5 out of 10.

“Lavender Haze” is an apt album-opener, with modern beats and soft vocals that set the tone for the rest of the album. The title is a colloquial way to describe falling in love and has been used in the LGBTQ community. The lyrics describe Swift’s personal struggles with romance and the public’s desire to label her as a “one night or a wife.” While the messaging is cliche, the musical execution, notably the breathy vocals in the chorus, makes the song a welcome earworm. 

In stark contrast to the previous track, “Maroon” interposes a darker tone. Immediately the low synths kick in, giving it an edgy but sorrowful feel. “Maroon” also has the most cohesive meaning of the tracklist. In the chorus lyrics, Swift mentions past instances that were “so scarlet” (probably a reference to one of her earlier albums, Red). It’s about how Swift’s “scarlet-tinted” glasses are gone and now when she reflects on her past, the events seem “darker” and more twisted. This track is a prime example of the metaphorical storytelling Swift excels at.

The album’s title track, “Anti-Hero,” is typically the first song people listen to. It is synth-heavy, like her other songs, but the acoustic guitar underneath the track becomes more noticeable as the song goes on. This evokes a feeling of vulnerability, almost akin to an unmasking of her feelings. Lyrically, it follows the theme of Swift’s attempt to face her past critiques and embrace her own flaws. One of the most striking lines is her self-diagnosis of “covert narcissism in disguise as altruism,” a nod to her past status as a social justice warrior. It was surprising and somewhat refreshing to see Swift address her flaws, but it seemed like overkill to call herself an “anti-hero.” Overall, it’s the obvious choice for the lead track.

Pre-release, “Snow On the Beach” was one of the most highly anticipated songs because it featured Lana Del Rey, but in reality, it does not meet expectations. Del Rey, who co-wrote the song, is essentially treated as a background vocalist. Her voice sounds so similar to Swift’s that it is difficult to differentiate between the singers. The repetition of the same two lines in the chorus can only be appreciated on the third or fourth listen, when the subtleties in the mixing and the distinctness in their voices become more apparent and make the song more interesting to listen to.

“Midnight Rain” opens with a unique instrumental that can only be described as similar to rising bubbles. Like many of the other tracks, this one heavily features Swift’s warped voice changer vocals. The song describes a relationship that failed due to differing goals, with Swift singing, “He was sunshine, I was midnight rain.” When it comes to the musical and lyrical aspects, this song didn’t really stick out among the others. It is a good song to play in the background while studying.

One of the mediocre songs on the track is “Question…?” It gets better after a few listens, and definitely is a song fit for calm, long car rides. On the other hand, the lyrics are rather awkward. The song is formatted like a conversation with a lover who still has not gotten over someone else. Fortunately, the instrumental ties everything together. The first section feels tentative, but the melody becomes stronger throughout the song as more layers kick in. The musical highlight of this track is the way the synth bends so cleanly with her voice just before the final refrain.

I have never pressed skip so fast in my life before “Vigilante S**t” existed—it 100 percent should have stayed in the drafts, and is easily the worst song on the album. My primary complaint is that it does not mesh with the rest of the songs at all, both in its soundscape and its lyrics. To me, the whole point of this album is to portray a mature side of Swift—an objective that is not aided by an edgy monotone melody and a generic message about getting revenge. Besides its disjointed role in the artistic vision, the song overall doesn’t suit her voice. 

The synth introduction of “Bejeweled” is perfect for setting the scene for this song, which is the musical embodiment of what sparkles sound like. The lyrics are refreshingly clever, making the song more memorable. My only gripe is that I wish the chorus was more energetic, so it would feel less like an extension of the pre-chorus. Besides that, it is all around an empowering, feel-good song with strong potential to be played in stores or belted out in the car. 

“Mastermind” is yet another soft song on the album with an anti-drop chorus. The main idea behind this song is that Swift was the genius behind all her relationships. While the lyrics are satisfyingly full of rhymes, the song comes off as silly because she sings “I’m a mastermind” five times. One of the highlights of the entire album is the line “I’m only cryptic and Machiavellian cause I care.” This peculiar, six syllable word again showcases Swift’s creativity in songwriting.

Swift’s Midnights takes a few listens to love—which is on brand for her discography. After all, she is popular for her unique melodies and instrumental but beloved because of her skilled lyricism and storytelling, both of which take time to truly appreciate. For those who want more, I would strongly recommend listening to the bonus tracks on “Midnights (3 AM Edition).”