Album Review: ‘Midnights’ turns insomnia into hits

Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ is the singer-songwriter’s  first completely original album since 2020. (Photo courtesy of Pitchfork)

Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ is the singer-songwriter’s  first completely original album since 2020. (Photo courtesy of Pitchfork)

On Oct. 21, Taylor Swift asked us to meet her at midnight – a record-breaking number of people did. In its first weekend, Swift’s highly anticipated 10th studio album “Midnights” became the top-selling album of the year.

Swift takes listeners on a journey through 13 sleepless nights throughout her life in an honest and introspective, but energetic album. A notable departure from the folksy sound of Swift’s 2020 releases “Folklore” and “Evermore,” “Midnights” marks a return to pop for the singer-songwriter. Overall, the album’s sound is vibrant and electronic. Swift swings effortlessly between upbeat dance songs for when you are feeling yourself to melancholic tracks about falling in and out of love. 

Swift uses this album to address her own insecurities, focusing heavily on self-loathing. In “Anti-Hero,” the album’s single, she reveals her deepest fears to the beat of a cheerful melody. She writes, “Did you hear my covert narcissism/I disguise as altruism” and “I’ll stand directly in the sun/But never in the mirror.” In the music video, Swift witnesses her own chaotic funeral.

While the album lacks a gut-wrenching, tear-jerking ballad, Swift does not fail to rip open emotional wounds with her lyricism. In the rhythmically upbeat “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” which was given the infamous track five spot, Swift writes, “I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this/I hosted parties and starved my body/Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss.” 

There are many songs on the album inspired by Swift’s relationship with actor Joe Alwyn (“Snow on The Beach [ft. Lana Del Rey],” “Mastermind”), but none hold a candle to “Sweet Nothing.” The song — a collaboration between Swift and William Bowery, Alwyn’s songwriting pseudonym — relies heavily on the piano and is slow and simplistic in the best way as it describes the solace she finds in her relationship.

As an exploration of her past, the album is reminiscent of her earlier releases without feeling redundant. There is a song for fans of every one of Swift’s eras. “Reputation” lovers will be drawn to “Karma” and “Vigilante Shit” (my personal favorite on the album), “Maroon” is a grown-up version of “Red” and “Question…?” features Swift sampling her own 2014 “1989” hit “Out of the Woods.”

In addition to the 13 anticipated tracks, Swift surprised fans with the release of seven more songs, collectively called the “3am tracks.” These songs were written for “Midnights,” but ultimately did not align with what Swift envisioned for the album. The tracks feature some of the most devastating lyrics of the album including “Give me back my girlhood/It was mine first” and “I miss who I used to be/The tomb won’t close … I regret you all the time” from “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.”

Even after sixteen years in the spotlight, “Midnights” shows that Swift is still able to produce exciting and refreshing music that keeps people interested – that’s a real legacy to leave.