Liner Notes: Taylor Swift meets us at midnight with “Midnights”


Illustration by Daniel He

“Midnights” released Friday, marking Swift’s latest new album amid her re-recordings.

Isabel Funk, Print Managing Editor

Taylor Swift has finally released the perfect album for sad insomniacs.

“Midnights,” Swift’s 10th studio album, released Friday at midnight EST. The album marked an interruption of her ongoing journey to re-record her first six albums and reclaim her masters catalog. Swift last released “Red (Taylor’s Version)” in November 2021, the second of her re-recordings. “Midnights” is a return to original new music — the first she’s released since her surprise drop of “evermore” in December 2020. 

The latest album release draws on strengths from across Swift’s career, which has traversed from country to pop to indie, dipping briefly into rock and country pop. Upbeat tracks like “Lavender Haze” would feel right at home on “1989,” while “Vigilante S–t” could just as easily fit on “Reputation.” At the same time, Swift slows down on contemplative tracks like “Sweet Nothing.” The album shows the artistic growth Swift underwent from her more experimental pandemic albums (“folklore” and “evermore”). While “Midnights” feels tonally like “folklore,” it aesthetically presents more like “1989” or “Lover.” 

“Midnights” takes listeners on an emotional journey. The most devastating lyrics often come with synth beats and high energy, while the slower songs reflect the sweetness of love. On “Anti-Hero,” which Swift has described as the farthest she has dived into her insecurities, she characterizes herself as the problem, singing cheerfully about depression and anxiety. The very next track, “Snow On The Beach” (feat. Lana Del Rey) feels almost mournful, but the lyrics reflect on the beauty of unexpected love (though Lana fans may be disappointed she doesn’t have her own verse). 

While the original album featured 13 songs, Swift, known for surprising her fans, dropped an additional seven songs just three hours after the album’s initial release. “Midnights (3am Edition)” is just as filled with yearning, introspection and wondering what could have been.

The album has been critiqued by some for having less literary lyricism than “folklore” and “evermore,” (I’m looking at you, “Karma”) but Swift herself recently said her catalog can be categorized into three types of songs: Glitter Gel Pen songs, Quill Pen songs and Fountain Pen songs. “Midnights” features a number of Glitter Gel Pen Songs, which Swift said make listeners want to dance and “remind you not to take yourself too seriously.”

At the same time, “Midnights” is not lacking in Fountain Pen songs, which focus on “brutally honest” confessions and feel like “modern…poetry.” 

Ahead of the album release, Swift took to TikTok to randomly announce the titles of the songs one at a time. Although a few of these announcements were accompanied by descriptions of the songs’ meanings, the majority of “Midnights” was left unexplained and open to interpretation.

While Swift is well known for emotionally-wrecking track fives, “Midnights” offers “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” which concludes on a seemingly hopeful note. Set to a slow but light beat, Swift reflects on growing up feeling out of place and left behind, singing “I didn’t choose this town, I dream of getting out / There’s just one who could make me stay / All my days.” But soon, Swift realizes that the one who could make her stay never cared about her. By the end of the song, she changes her outlook, saying “You’ve got no reason to be afraid,” which concludes that loss and pain only helps you move forward. 

Swift marketed “Midnights,” a collection “written in the middle of the night,” as an album filled with deep confessions and personal reflections. Without releasing a lead single or music video prior to the album’s release, she managed to both exceed expectations and continue surprising her fans.

On the closing track of the album, “Dear Reader,” Swift sings directly to her fans. She advises listeners to reinvent themselves, be cautious and keep their secrets. The song is the perfect ending to an album that both reveals Swift’s insecurities and emotions while withholding literal details of the events described. “Midnights” is a reflection of all the desire, heartbreak, love and grief that keep Swift — and the rest of us — awake at night.

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Twitter: @isabeldfunk

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