On October 21, 2022, the highly anticipated Midnights by Taylor Swift was released on all streaming platforms. It has now been a good amount of time since the release, enough time to fully understand, analyze, and appreciate the songs in their entirety. The album dominated the Top 10 of the Billboard Top 100, the first time an artist has achieved that. Below are my thoughts on each song on the album, including the 3am bonus tracks.
A wonderful album opener beginning with her newly iconic phrase, “Meet me at midnight,” Swift starts the album with a wonderfully pop sound. When I first heard the song, I was shocked, as it officially signaled her return to pop, after folklore and evermore’s distinctly folk sound. The bass starts the song off, a strong beat that creates momentum for Swift’s lyrics. The song, describing her relationship with actor Joe Alwyn, details her contempt for the public’s opinions. She sings, “All they keep asking me is if I’m gonna be your bride/The only girl they see is a one-night or a wife.”
Second on the album, Maroon details a rollercoaster relationship, using the color Maroon as the string that ties it all together. She begins with describing a scene in which two people are in love. She then describes the maroon items in the song, starting with “The burgundy on my t-shirt when you splashed your wine into me/And how the blood rushed into my cheeks.” She then transitions to, “The rust that grew between telephones/The lips I used to call home/So scarlet it was maroon.” The second verse describes the toxic part of the relationship, as she describes, “Sobbing with your head in your heads/Ain’t that the way it always ends.” The song is obviously a reflection on a past relationship as she is older now than she was then, and she realizes that the relationship was not as good as she once believed. Some believe that this is a song about her ex, Jake Gyllenhaal, as her 2012 album Red focused on their tumultuous relationship, and maroon is another shade of red. Maroon’s sound is distinctly slower and evokes feelings of a sensuous relationship.
The instant pop beat at the beginning of the song thrusts the listener into a more upbeat mood, but the lyrics in which Swift reflects on her actions are less positive. She describes herself as the anti-hero, and sings, “Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby/And I’m a monster on the hill.” Although this lyric caught me off-guard at first, it describes current society’s obsession with always looking younger, while Swift is increasingly aware of her age. The song feels directed toward her boyfriend, as she sings, “One day I’ll watch as your leaving/Cuz you got tired of my scheming.” Overall, the reflective lyrics don’t fit the upbeat vibe, but the song has hit the Billboard Top 100 at #1, and dominates the radio currently.
“Snow on the Beach (feat. Lana Del Ray)”
Disappointing for many, “Snow on the Beach” excited fans when it was first announced that Lana Del Ray would finally be collaborating with Swift. However, Swift stuck Del Ray with solely background vocals, in which she can barely be heard. Swift sings about the magic of falling in love likening it to seeing “Snow on the Beach/Weird but beautiful.” The sound is similar to her past two albums, folklore and evermore, with a slow and etheral vibe. The production evokes a scene of snow falling, however Del Ray’s lack of a real feature dominated the opinions and criticisms that the song received.
“You’re On Your Own, Kid”
An instant fan favorite, “You’re On Your Own Kid” is a love/hate letter to Swift’s life in fame. Beginning at age 13, Swift has worked to stay in the music industry for her whole life. Now 32, she reflects on her isolation due to fame. She details her road to fame, stating, “Something different bloomed/Writing in my room/I play my songs in the parking lot/I’ll run away.” She repeats that “You’re on your own kid/You always have been.” Her reflection on what she’s sacrificed for her unique life hits hard, even for those of us with no experience with a life of fame. As a senior, the song provides a comforting piece of advice, as Swift sings, “Everything you lose is a step you take/So make the friendship bracelets/Take the moment and taste it/You’ve got no reason to be afraid,” reminding me to appreciate what I have now as I look into the future.
Beginning with a very off-putting distorted voice, “Midnight Rain” describes another one of Swift’s past relationships. She describes their relationship as, “He was sunshine/I was midnight rain/He wanted it comfortable/I wanted that pain.” She clearly reflects on why she ended the relationship, but experiences some regret. She mentions his kindness and other features she admires about him, but in the end she states, “I was making my own name/Chasing that fame/He stayed the same/All of me changed.” This song goes hand-in-hand with “You’re On Your Own, Kid”, as she reflects on one sacrifice she has made for her life of fame.
A fun pop hit, “Question…?” Is one of my favorite songs off the album. The song describes the perspective of someone who has been broken up with, and is comparing the other person’s current relationship to the one they had previously. The chorus is a series of questions, starting with, “Did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room?” She ends with, “Do you wish you could still touch her?” The production of the song, done by the icon Jack Antonoff, reflects the upbeat vibe of the same party Swift describes.
A nod back to her 6th studio album, Reputation, Swift describes her thirst for revenge in the face of the people that have wronged her. She sings, “Don’t get sad/Get even,” as the strong base almost overpowers the song. She describes a new friend of hers, saying, “Picture me thick as thieves with your ex-wife/Lately, she’s been dressing for revenge.” My personal favorite lyric from the song is “While he was doing lines/And crossing all of mine/Someone told his white collar crimes to the FBI.” Although I doubt that Swift has any experience reporting someone to the FBI for white-collar crimes, the song is still fun.
A fun, sparkly, pop hit, “Bejeweled” describes the bounce-back of someone after a breakup, as she sings, “I miss you/But I miss sparkling.” She also states, “And when I meet the band/They ask, “Do you have a man?”/I could still say, “I don’t remember.” The song is fun, upbeat, and reminiscent of dressing up before a big event. While the lyrics aren’t her best, the production is fun and I personally enjoy the confidence boost that the song brings.
An ode to the fear of falling in love, Swift details her personal anxieties when falling in love with someone (I’m assuming Alwyn). She begins with “You know how scared I am of elevators/Never trust if it rises fast/It can’t last.” The analogy reflects her fear of relationships actually working out for her. In addition, the production once again adds a pop beat to an ethereal sound. She repeats, “Uh oh, I’m falling in love/Oh no, I’m falling in love/Oh, I’m falling in love,” capturing the stages she experienced, beginning with anxiety and transitioning into acceptance. She repeats this multiple times throughout, as the beat is reminiscent of a beating heart, again reflecting Swift’s anxieties around falling in love.
My personal favorite off of the album, “Karma” is a fun pop hit that was meant to blast in a car with the windows down. The word “Karma” was featured as an easter egg in her 2019 music video, “The Man,” and fans everywhere freaked out at the realization that she truly does plan things 3 years in advance. Swift sings about her love for karma, singing, “Karma is my boyfriend/Karma is a god/Karma’s a relaxing thought/Aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?” She brags about the luck that she has had, as anyone who has wronged her has experienced karma. In the bridge, she sings, “Ask me why so many fade/But I’m still here,” attributing a part of her successes to karma.
A simple piano medley, “Sweet Nothing” is a collaboration between Swift and Alwyn, as Alwyn was featured on both folklore and evermore. Swift sings, “All you ever wanted from me was sweet nothings.” The song is a precious ode to their love, countering Swift’s many songs about her anxieties about not being able to give Alwyn the love he deserves due to her fame. In Peace, a song off of folklore, she sang, “No, I could never give you peace.” In the bridge, Swift sings, “To you I can admit/That I’m just too soft for all of it.” The song is slow, countering the upbeat pop songs off the album. The sound is reminiscent of her folk albums.
The last track on the original album (without the bonus tracks), “Mastermind” is Swift’s admission to her partner of her true plan all along. She sings directly to him, stating, “What if I told you none of it was accidental/And the first night that you met me/Nothing was gonna stop me.” Swift is known as a mastermind to her fans for her use of easter eggs, and this song reveals that aspect of her in her personal life. Her word choice in the song further increases the belief in her mastermind, as she sings, “The touch of a hand lit of the fuse/Of a chain reaction of countermoves/To assess the equation of you.” Her use of language commonly associated with academics reveals her genius. However, the song turns to one that reveals the truth of her relationship with Alwyn, as in the last chorus, she sings, “So I told you none of it was accidental/And then I saw a wide smirk on your face/You knew the entire time.” Personally, I love the plot twist as it reveals that Alwyn loves Swift as she is, mastermind and all.
A song only included on the Target CD versions of the album, “Hits Different” is a super fun pop song that is reminiscent of her 7th album, Lover. She sings about her current relationship as she sings, “Oh my, love is alive/It hits different.” I was lucky enough to secure a Target CD of Midnights and I would highly recommend getting it, as it comes with Hits Different, a piano remix of “Sweet Nothing” and a strings remix of “You’re On Your Own Kid.” I personally believe that “Hits Different” should have been included on the album, as it’s fun, upbeat vibe evokes feelings of happiness.
“The Great War”
Starting off the 3AM version of Midnights only available on streaming services, “The Great War” is a sadder song with a pop beat. “The Great War” details a fight between Swift and her partner that she describes as “The Great War.” Swift’s iconic lyricism is truly on display in this song, as she begins with describing, “spineless in my tomb of silence/Tore your banners down.” The song describes her memories of a fight with her partner. In the second verse, she says, “You said I had to trust more freely/But diesel is desire/You were playing with fire.” She only blames herself for the fight in the song. Swift has detailed fights with her partner in the past, with “The Archer.” I really enjoy the lyricism with the song that contrasts with the upbeat vibe.
“Bigger Than The Whole Sky”
With the slow synth evoking memories of 1989 and the lyrics reminiscent of folklore, Swift once again highlights her lyricism as she describes experiencing the death of a loved one. The chorus says, “Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye/You were bigger than the whole sky/I’m never gonna meet what should’ve been, could’ve been, would’ve been you.” Throughout the song, Swift blames herself for the loss, as she sings, “Did some force take you because I didn’t pray?/Every single thing to come has turned into ashes.” The heart-wrenching lyrics, paired with Swift’s airy vocals, create a truly underrated masterpiece.
Another fun pop song, “Paris” details the “haze” of being in love, likening it to being in Paris. The upbeat song is reminiscent of 1989 or “Lover.” She sings, “I’m so in love that I might stop breathing/Drew a map on your bedroom ceiling/No, I didn’t see the news cuz we were in Paris.” While the song is only available on streaming services, the song is perfect for fun drives with friends.
Infeidelity: the action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse or other sexual partner. Swift uses the song to imply her own infidelity with past partner, Calvin Harris. She sings, “Do you really wanna know where I was April 29th?” Immediately, fans raced to find out where she was that day. It has been assumed that she is describing 2016, as she was dating Calvin Harris at the time, but left him for Tom Hiddeston (as detailed in “Getaway Car”). It was discovered that she was at Gigi Hadid’s birthday party that day. The bridge is my personal favorite, as it describes their loveless relationship, saying, “There are many different ways to kill the one you love/The slowest way is never loving them enough.” The beat reminds listeners of evermore. Swift ends the song with the same set of short lyrics that she began the song with, but changing the last line to, “I didn’t know you were keeping count/But oh, you were keeping count.”
Deeply contrasting the previous song, glitch reminds listeners of Reputation. Swift also reflects on a past time in her life, as she sings, “We were supposed to be just friends…Maybe I’ll see you out some weekend/Depending on what kind of mood and situation-ship I’m in.” In the chorus, she expresses no regret, “I’m not even sorry.” She describes falling for this new person as “glitch,” Jack Antonoff’s production really comes into play in this song, and adds another level to the song, as the background sounds like a computer glitch.
“Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”
An instant fan favorite, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is Swift’s older reflection of her relationship with John Mayer at 19. They were 12 years apart. During the powerful bridge, she sings, “Give me back my girlhood/It was mine first.” The rock vibe of the song is a new territory for Swift, but she absolutely slayed it. She provides a perspective of the trauma of a relationship with a big age gap. She sings, “Not that I’m grown/I’m scared of ghosts/Memories feel like weapons.” During the verses, she describes what she wished happened, “If you never touched me, I would’ve gone along with the righteous.” It is a painful reflection and deeply emotional. It also serves as a forewarning to others in the future, as it is unfortunately common for younger artists to date older men in the music industry (Billie Eillish is just one example). Her reflection on how that relationship impacts her all these years later with the soft-rock influence is one of the very best on the album. Her raw vocals and voice cracks evoke powerful emotions that can’t be matched.
Breaking the fourth wall, Swift speaks directly to her listeners and fans. She reflects on her own life experiences and gives advice based on her life. The lyricism is some of the best on the entire album. The song serves almost as a letter. She repeats the phrase “dear reader” while giving advice. However, she then counters her own advice, singing, “Never take advice from someone who is falling apart,” referring to herself. One of my favorite lyrics is, “These desperate prayers of a cursed man/Spilling out to you for free/You wouldn’t take my word for it/If you knew who was talking.” It is a reflection on the lessons she’s learned throughout her career. Jack Antonoff’s influence is obvious here, with a synth beat and occasional voice effects. The outro sings, “But I shine so bright/You should find another guiding light,” obviously telling her fans not to follow her own life path and to find their own “guiding light,” instead of blindly following her.