6 takeaways from Taylor Swift’s Midnights
Midnights is the fourth album Taylor Swift has released in the past three years (her sixth if you include the re-recorded Red and Fearless), but it’s still a very big deal. It took less than 24 hours for Swift’s 10th studio album to become Spotify’s most streamed album in a single day, with Swift becoming the most streamed artist in a single day in Spotify history. In just three days, it became the first album in five years to shift a million physical copies in the U.S.
Bringing together the self-assured venom of Reputation, the wide-eyed shimmer of 1989 and the expansive beauty of folklore, Midnights is Swift’s return to pop spectacle, without losing any of the growth of the past few years. It’s by far her darkest work to date, but there’s still plenty of space for revenge fantasies and inside jokes.
The release of Midnights (Oct. 19, exactly 12,000 days since Swift was born) came after a Bingo-style tracklisting reveal as well as billboards sharing choice lyrics, but the fun didn’t stop when the album finally dropped. Promising a “chaotic surprise,” the extended 3 a.m. edition came with seven bonus songs written during the same sessions as the 13 that made up Midnights, with Swift explaining how “lately I’ve been loving the feeling of sharing more of our creative process with you, like we do with From The Vault tracks. So it’s 3 a.m. and I’m giving them to you now.”
In the days that followed, the internet has become obsessed with Easter eggs, revenge dresses and vintage memes, as the many secrets buried within Midnights come to light. Well, as Swift herself explained during an appearance on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon last year, “I think that it is perfectly reasonable for people to be normal music fans and to have a normal relationship to music. But if you want to go down a rabbit hole with us, come along. The water’s great.”
Below are six takeaways from Midnights.
She’s been teasing Midnights since May
Midnights was announced at the 2022 MTV VMAs in August, but the teasing started a long time before that. Back in May, Swift was awarded an honorary doctorate before she gave a speech at New York’s Yankee Stadium. Of course, she couldn’t resist quoting her 2014 track “Welcome To New York” during her speech, but it turns out, Swift also used lines from Midnights throughout the address.
“As long as we are fortunate enough to be breathing, we will breathe through, breathe deep and breathe out. And I am a doctor now, so I know how breathing works,” she says at one point, using lyrics from Midnights track “Labyrinth,” in which Swift sings: “It only hurts this much right now/Was what I was thinking the whole time/Breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out/I’ll be getting over you my whole life.”
Elsewhere, she used the line "You're on your own now," which is taken from “You’re On Your Own, Kid.”
It’s inspired a Janet Jackson/Taylor Swift love-in
“Snow On The Beach” not only features vocals from the incredible Lana Del Rey, but it also includes a shoutout to Janet Jackson. “Now I’m all for you like Janet,” Swift sings, a nod to Jackson’s 2001 album All for You, which has inspired a mutual love-in from the two pop titans. Soon after Midnights was released, Jackson shared a clip of her listening to “Snow On The Beach,” calling it “stunning” and telling Swift she loved it.
"I feel like I’m dreaming,” Swift responded. “I have so much love and gratitude for you and all you’ve done to inspire female artists everywhere."
Not everyone likes a "sexy baby"
There’s always one lyric on a Swift album that’s going to raise some eyebrows, from “Spelling is fun” on the Brendon Urie-featuring “ME!” to “You could've been getting down to this sick beat” on “Shake It Off.” Midnights is no exception, with “Anti-Hero” featuring the divisive line “Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby and I'm a monster on the hill.”
A continuation of the themes explored in 2019’s “The Archer” and 2020’s “Nothing New,” this bridge sees Swift tackle her fears about getting older in an industry that celebrates youth. It also references the 30 Rock episode “TGS Hates Women,” which features Tina Fey’s character Liz Lemon telling new staff writer Abby to “drop the sexy baby act” after she sexualizes herself in numerous situations. It’s later revealed that Abby was playing a “sexy baby” to disguise herself from her deranged ex-husband.
At one point, Taylor Swift really did believe she was the problem
For as long as Swift has been detailing heartbreak and breakups in her songs, there have been misguided calls that maybe she’s the issue, with variations of the meme “Taylor Swift’s next song should be called ‘maybe I’m the problem’” doing the rounds on social media. Now, Swift has taken the blame before, from 2010’s “Back To December” (“Standing in front of you saying, ‘I’m sorry for that night’”) to 2019’s “Afterglow” (“I’m the one who burned us down”), but “Anti-Hero” has her take those criticisms to heart, with the sunny chorus “It’s me, hi/I’m the problem, it’s me” allowing Swift to give listeners a “guided tour” through the things she hates about herself.
How on earth will her tour work?
Swift had a lofty world tour planned for 2019’s Lover, which included a headline slot at the iconic Glastonbury Festival. “The Lover album is open fields, sunsets, + summer,” Swift wrote on Twitter at the time. “I want to perform it in a way that feels authentic. I want to go to some places I haven’t been to and play festivals. Where we didn’t have festivals, we made some.”
However, COVID-19 eventually scrapped those plans, and in the years since, Swift has released five more albums. Following Midnights, Swift has once again been talking about touring, saying how she “really misses it” as well as pretty much confirming a U.K. run of shows.
The thing is, with such a brilliant back catalog to pick from, alongside an impressive number of new hits, it’s impossible to tell what the vibe is going to be. Lover was all about togetherness, and folklore dealt in escapist fairytales, while Midnights… Well, it has a song called “You’re on Your Own, Kid,” which tells you everything you need to know about the isolating mood there. Will there be album-themed residencies in key cities, some sort of hectic megamix, or will Swift simply have to play for five hours a night?
There’s probably a Speak Now re-record coming next
The music video for “Bejeweled” features, in Swift’s own words, “a psychotic amount” of Easter eggs, with the star needing to keep track of them using a dedicated PDF file. Taking the classic story of Cinderella, with Jack Antonoff playing Prince Charming and HAIM taking on the roles of the cruel step-sisters, the video features call backs to “New Romantics” and “Wildest Dreams,” as well as hinting at what’s to come.
The video was released Oct. 25, the 12-year anniversary of the original release of Swift’s Speak Now, while some color-coded elevator buttons suggest a re-record is next on her agenda, due to the fact both the third and 13th (whatever she releases next will be 13th) buttons are the same shade of Speak Now purple. She also used her Speak Now guitar in the video for “Anti-Hero.”