Taylor Swift’s new album Midnights has broken the record for the most streamed album on Spotify in a single day and is predicted to go number one in the charts in both the UK and US.
Released at midnight (EST) on October 21, the 13-track album Midnights was quickly boosted to a 20-track version when Swift announced seven more songs on a deluxe version titled Midnights (3am Edition).
Back in September, Taylor Swift was named the Songwriter-Artist of the Decade at the Nashville Songwriter Awards. Swift spoke about her passion for lyricism in her acceptance speech and revealed insight into her song writing process. She went on to talk about the admittedly “dorky” way she categorises her lyrics and the imaginary tools she uses to write them. The three categories are: Quill Pen (giving Ivy as an example), Fountain Pen (All Too Well) and Glitter Gel Pen (Shake It Off).
Swift made an impact with the decadent way she talked about song writing. She says: “That rare, pure moment when a magical cloud floats down right in front of you in the form of an idea for a song, and all you have to do is grab it. Then shape it like clay. Prune it like a garden. And then wish on every lucky star or pray to whatever power you believe in that it might find its way out into the world and make someone feel seen, feel understood, feel joined in their grief or heartbreak or joy just for a moment.”
On Midnights, her tenth studio album (if you don’t count Fearless and Red Taylor’s Version), Swift explores yet another style of music in her nearly 20-year career as a musician.
With cool lyrics and a synth-pop theme, the sophisticated album is a message that Swift no longer feels a need to compete in a music industry obsessed with the “new, next mentality” she referenced back in her Songwriter-Artist of the Decade award acceptance speech.
Alongside her long-time collaborator Jack Antonoff, Swift set out to: “Tell the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout [her] life.” The album achieves this through what you would imagine late-night song writing sounds like.
The unhurried tempos and soft beats make for songs that feel like drifting in and out of consciousness, the very nature of how it feels to have a sleepless night when your thoughts and emotions are wide-awake.
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Despite the songs being reminiscent of times throughout her life, the overall album feels modern even though certain songs certainly link to a past era in Swift’s music. The album’s Mad Men-inspired title opener, Lavender Haze is about the dauntlessness she has shown whilst being “scrutinized” her entire career. “Talk your talk and go viral,” she sings, about the constant headlines regarding her dating history. In the song, Swift rejects the drama surrounding her, as if she is the only artist to have ever written about an ex. She continues to break through the belief that she is a basic pop artist; she tells stories with meaning and is brave enough to share the thoughts that haunt her in the middle of the night.
Midnights is an eye-opening wonder about the mayhem inside Swift’s head. It lets us in on the pressures of fame and the battles Swift fights with herself, as well as society, alongside the bliss of her relationship with long-term partner, Joe Alwyn, who co-wrote on the album under his William Bowery pseudonym. Anti-Hero, the lead single from the album, offers an 80s-esque vibe and sets the new direction for Swift’s music. It showcases the groovy and atmospheric rhythms that deal with Swift’s late-night anxieties, insecurities, and depression.
Perhaps one of the most anticipated songs on the album was Snow on the Beach, written and performed with Lana Del Rey, an artist who is renowned for her deeply melodic and hypnotic music. The song is about falling in love with someone unexpectedly and having that moment of realisation that something is true. Swift sings, “My smile is like I won a contest, And to hide that would be so dishonest.”
There are several tracks on Midnights that are reminiscent of similar sounds from Swift’s fifth album, 1989. The song Question…? samples Out Of The Woods and centres on asking a question to a past lover and seeking closure. Out Of The Woods begs for an end to conflict within a relationship and Question…? acts like a second-part song as Swift seeks to navigate her way after the storm.
In Bejeweled, another song reminiscent of 1989, Swift is disheartened at the feeling of shining for the benefit of another. The song is about reminding herself she has the ability “to make the whole room shimmer” and that she shouldn’t be treated with less than what she deserves.
“On the first listen, I found it repetitive,” says music journalist, Elisa Rollinson, “From what I could hear, it was a lot of similar sounding instruments, beats, keys, audio effects. It made it easy for each song to blur into one.” Rollinson went on to say that she thought that this was intentional, “I think that’s what Midnights sound like, this sort of blurring experience of what’s-what and where’s-where.”
Rollinson goes on: “I wouldn’t say it was disappointing. The 3am drop was a power move. I’ve seen people online say it was too soon, that they’d barely digested the core 13 tracks but then that’s the point. The further tracks are what 3ams are. They suddenly creep up, and they’re sad, and you’re overthinking, and everyone’s gone home and you probably should’ve too.”
Talking about Midnights fitting in with Taylor’s musicality, Rollinson says: “This album feels like the ribbon that’s tying all the narratives of her discography together … it felt like an album that said ‘I have survived it, here’s the story of it all.’” It’s without a doubt that this message is sent through the album, it is noticeably darker not only in music but lyrics. Swift doesn’t necessarily share things she hasn’t shared before but she is more open with us about the things she is going through.
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“Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first” Swift sings in the 3am track Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve. Heart breaking and gut wrenching, it is a cry out at all the men who have come at Swift during her career. The bonus tracks further the confessional style of lyric writing in this album about Swift’s darkest thoughts. For a moment it’s possible to feel truly hand-in-hand with Swift as she lays out the raw truths about experiences other women can also relate to.
There is a newfound style of music from Swift in Midnights. The album is filled with subtle but wonderful moments that make Swift’s music so distinct. Every song tells a story, it feels mature and effortlessly eloquent. It is packed with a night-time ambience, perfect for sleepless nights. As ever it is different from what was expected of the album, but then again you can never predict what Swift’s next music will sound like. But you can expect it to be good. There is one quote from a Barbara Walters interview with Taylor Swift that said it best: “Taylor Swift is the music industry.”