Stuck Between Yesterday and Tomorrow: Midnights Review

Sabeen Al-Khasib, Staff Writer

The clock strikes midnight and suddenly, you are face-to-face with all your problems: people of the past, pent-up anger, your scariest nightmares, and a good time. 

“Midnights,” Taylor Swift’s tenth album, is a synth-pop album that she described as “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life.” The album dropped at 12 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on Oct. 21, followed by the release of a deluxe edition at 3 a.m. EST, which added seven additional songs to the initial 13 tracks. Taking influence from her past albums and Lorde’s “Melodrama,” Swift combines humor and her deepest emotions to explore personal themes of revenge, intrusive thoughts, love, feminism, and everything in between.

Swift added to the excitement of the highly anticipated release by revealing the tracks on the album through a social media series called “Midnights Mayhem With Me,” during which she randomly drew numbers from one to thirteen to reveal the tracks on the album a month prior to its release. Every reel posted to the artist’s social media featured song teasers and contained various lyric excerpts from the newest album, with some references dating back to her commencement speech at NYU

As we all know, public feuds and rocky relationships are the artists’ main sources of inspiration when writing her poetic songs. In an exploration of her mixed emotions, Swift has made it her trademark over the years to encapsulate these experiences in a string of lyrics. “Did you hear my covert narcissism/ disguised as some kind of altruism/ like some kind of congressman,” and “the only kinda girl they see/ is a one night or a wife” along with many other lyrics showcase Swift’s critique of society and its standards, especially those that have been put upon her. Combining humor, her feelings towards past relationships, and self-image issues, she manages to tell a compelling, intimate story throughout the album’s 44-minute duration.

Without the release of a single prior to the album’s release – as is typical of Swift –  fans were curious as to what the tone of the album might be. Via Instagram, Swift described “Midnights” as “… a collage of intensity, highs and lows and ebbs and flows. Life can be dark, starry, cloudy, terrifying, electrifying, hot, cold, romantic or lonely.” I had assumed an album with an eerie folklore-esque vibe, but as soon as I hit play, I noticed the pop elements of “1989” and “Lover,” and parallels to Lorde’s “Melodrama” album with a similar storyline, use of voice distortion, and a tracklist that is a play-by-play of reckless emotions and efforts to find clarity in oneself. 

The tracks “Bejeweled” and “Karma” are where Swift delves into her revenge persona adapted during her “Reputation” era, where she was very transparent about being fed up with the media, all the while healing from trauma that comes with being a member of the public eye. While rehashing these wounds might sting, her wide-eyed vulnerability contrasts the hyper-independence she exhibits. Songs like “Labyrinth” and the leading track “Anti-Hero” represent Swift at her most vulnerable state, commenting that she has, “… never delved so far into her own insecurities before.” Overall, “Midnights” felt like a huge collaboration of each individual Taylor era, melted into one album.

Spotify crashed due to the massive amount of fans that raced to play the album within the minute of release, simultaneously becoming the most streamed album on its release day. Although official numbers have not been released, loyal “Swifties” broke Bad Bunny’s record of 183 million streams of his album, “Un Verano Sin Ti” back in May

Witty lyricism and wordplay has played a huge role in Swift’s success and the massive fanbase she’s grown over the years. Spanning from folk music to pop in a span of a year with albums “Evermore” and “Red (Taylors Version),” predicting the tone of the album wasn’t necessarily easy. What remained constant were her complex lyrics, so I didn’t expect her lyricist strike to end here. The two-minute songs and lack of bridges throughout didn’t leave much room for deep analysis, but the straightforward lyrics struck me within the short duration of the songs. Listening to the album felt like those restless nights where I’d lie awake decoding conversations I’ve had months before, just piecing together details while I’m barely awake. If you are looking for an album that can describe the highs and lows of a breakdown, “Midnights” is for you.