Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” is a Manifesto for the Unapologetically Unhinged

The painfully relatable tracks offer an exploration of internal restlessness, inviting listeners to dissect their vices in the waning hours of night.

Content warning: this review mentions eating disorders, depression and mental health related issues. 

Pack up your red scarves and breakup blues — the “Midnights” era has begun, ushering in a year of self-critique and swanky romance. 

Taylor Swift released her 10th studio album “Midnights” on Oct. 21 at midnight sharp, bringing listeners through an intoxicatingly fun downward spiral, while delighting swifties everywhere. “Midnights” has since broken Spotify’s record for most-streamed album in a single day. 

Unlike the “Red (Taylor’s Version)” era, the 13-track album functions as an ode to imperfection. The world sees Swift at her most vulnerable — and she’s anything but apologetic about it. 

As the “Mastermind” behind it all, Swift is known to tease future plans in music videos, cryptic messages and even Blake Lively’s outfits. Needless to say, the time gearing up to a Taylor Swift album brings overwhelming excitement and curiosity for fans. 

A tale of 13 sleepless nights Swift experienced, the album sounds like a 44 minute and eight second 3 a.m. conversation with a friend, where every deep insecurity and intrusive thought is earnestly dissected. 

Opening with the jazzy “Lavender Haze,” Swift grapples with the pressures of scrutiny. Yet, in true “Reputation” style, she’s completely over it. 

In cohesion with most of the artist’s discography, a lot of the album references the afflictions of being a woman.

“The only kind of girl they see is a one-night or a wife,” Swift sings, expressing dissatisfaction with the press wondering when she will marry partner Joe Alwyn in “Lavender Haze.” 

Swift’s critical inner dialogue reveals itself with “Anti-Hero,” the album’s most unapologetically despairing song yet. The anthem explores Swift’s self-perceived narcissism as well as her depression. 

As the chorus unfurls, Swift identifies herself as “the problem” over a classic bubblegum pop rhythm, contrasting cynical lyrics with groovy beats. 

While most of the lyrics are thoughtfully considered, “Midnights” proves Swift doesn’t need to take herself too seriously. In one questionable line, Swift sings she sometimes sees “everybody as a sexy baby, while I’m a monster on a hill.” 

Many fans hypothesize that the lyric is a reference to NBC’s “30 Rock,” where a character dresses provocatively, using a high-pitched baby voice for further sex appeal from the predatory male characters. 

In this way, the lyric could be a testament to the male gaze and the pressure for women in Swift’s industry to look young. 

The late-night hysterics continue with “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” where Swift explores childhood nostalgia and the perplexities of growing up too fast at the demands of fame. 

“From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes / 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,” Swift sings, referencing her eating disorder for the first time in a song.

Yet, through “Midnights,” the singer reveals her feelings extend beyond self-hatred — she’s also vengeful. In “Vigilante Shit,” the icon embraces revenge, urging listeners to “draw the cat eye sharp enough to kill a man.”

The song could easily fit in a soundtrack to movies like “Black Swan” or “Gone Girl.” 

Hurt and hungry for revenge, Swift assures listeners she has no shortage of fun while her “nemeses defeat themselves,” through the party-worthy tune “Karma.” 

The album dichotomizes severe lyrics with upbeat rhythms in songs like “Bejeweled” and “Midnight Rain,” making this her most energized mental breakdown yet. 

While her past work explores feelings of inadequacy and weakness, “Midnights” offers a refreshingly unraveled Swift on the cusp of embracing her flaws. The sincerity of “Midnights” makes it one of Swift’s most relatable albums thus far. 

Closing out the record, Swift’s “Mastermind,” serves as a final tribute to Alwyn, where Swift paints herself as the orchestrater of her romance. The song provides a touching testament to chasing someone you know you’re perfect for and finally ending up with them. 

“No one wanted to play with me as a little kid / So I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since / To make them love me and make it seem effortless,” Swift belts across the pulsing beat. 

The album, which momentarily crashed the Spotify app, came with a 3 a.m. surprise of seven separate songs not included on “Midnights.” The songs serve as the somber, yet ever-so-honest twin to the album itself.

Songs like “The Great War,” delve into a severe fight between Swift and Alwyn, while “Dear Reader” is a look inside Swift’s mental state during the album writing process.

“So I wander through these nights / I prefer hiding in plain sight / My fourth drink in my hand / These desperate prayers of a cursed man / Spilling out to you for free / But darling, darling, please / You wouldn’t take my word for it if you knew who was talking.” 

Unlike past albums, Swift diverts from social niceties and is her most vulnerable in “Midnights.” The album is altogether less hurt-filled than “Reputation” (2017), but more honest than “Lover” (2019).

The painfully relatable tracks offer an exploration of internal restlessness, inviting listeners to dissect their vices in the waning hours of night. So for those looking to stew in self-hatred, reminisce about the past or reflect on their relationships, Swift extends an offer to “meet her in midnight.”
“Midnights” is now available on all major streaming platforms.

Hanna Houser

Hanna Houser