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Meet Me At Midnight? | Review

Review of Taylor Swift's new album, Midnights (3am Edition)

By Elena Melis

Content warning: this article discusses anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and grooming.

Taylor Swift is undoubtedly one of the most prominent voices in modern music. While she started out singing country music as a teen, the singer has since crossed over into pop, dabbled in folk, and has even sung a rock anthem or two. Amongst fans, she is known for her lyricism as well as her ability to drop hints about future albums. These teasers often cause frenzies within her fanbase, to the point where some fans think even Swift’s nail polish colour could indicate her next release.

It is not surprising, then, that Swift’s brand-new album Midnights was highly anticipated by fans, and has since broken countless streaming records. Released at midnight on October 21st, the album follows Swift through thirteen sleepless nights throughout her life. Before it hit the shelves, Swift promoted the album by releasing the tracklist bit by bit on TikTok. In classic Swift fashion, she did the unexpected and simultaneously released a version of Midnights with seven extra songs, now known as Midnights (3am edition). These extra songs were left off the original album as, to Swift, they had slightly a different theme than the other thirteen tracks. After the successful album release, Swift also announced that tickets for her new world tour will be on sale soon, which of course will include songs from Midnights.

Midnights is an incredibly multifaceted album, with an overarching 70’s glam aesthetic. It is as diverse sonically as it is thematically. The songs range from self-reflective pieces about mental health, to love songs, to revenge songs reminiscent of her Reputation era. Interestingly, Midnights seems to parallel many of Swift’s past albums, with some songs even sampling Swift’s own music. For example, in the new song ‘Question…?’, Swift includes a soundbite from her 1989 track ‘Out Of The Woods’. ‘Lavender Haze’, the first track on Midnights, is similar to ‘I Think He Knows’— an upbeat pop song from Swift’s album Lover. However, Swift’s writing skills have steadily improved since her previous albums, making the lyrics in Midnights layered and complex. Unsurprisingly, the word ‘midnights’ appears numerous times throughout the album (11 times to be exact).

Courtesy of IMDb

To understand the context behind many of Swift’s new songs, you are expected to know things about her personal life and career. She rose to fame at a very young age and was scrutinised by the media through most of her teenage years. She was often criticised for her way of dressing, her attitude, and most commonly her dating life. These criticisms seem more than unfair given the fact that many of Swift’s boyfriends were significantly older than her, namely John Mayer, who was 32 when he had a relationship with 19-year-old Swift. This relationship is addressed in one of Swift’s Midnights (3am Edition) tracks, ‘Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve’.

‘Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve’ is perhaps my favourite song on this album. The lyrics mention the age 19 (and the song is cleverly placed at 19th on the track list). This makes it easy for fans to conclude that the song is about John Mayer’s supposed grooming of Swift. Using heavy religious imagery, Swift says that she regrets her relationship, at one point singing, ‘Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first.’ Swift’s voice makes her anger and regrets palpable, creating an incredibly sad and incredibly impactful song. Honestly, this track is a 10/10 from me (but count your days, John).

While I love ‘Would’ve, Could've, Should’ve’, Swift’s collaboration with Lana Del Rey, entitled ‘Snow on the Beach’, falls flat for me. While the collaboration was highly anticipated, many fans were disappointed to find that Del Rey does not actually sing a verse, but instead only contributes background vocals. Swift has been criticised for things like this before, as many of her collaborations consist of guest artists singing background vocals only. This song is not my favourite lyrically, either, which makes it overall the weakest song on the album to me.

Besides ‘Snow on the Beach’, Swift’s album is extremely strong and cohesive. One of the singles from Midnights, ‘Anti-Hero’, is undoubtedly a highlight. While Swift has publicly addressed her mental health problems in the past, she has rarely discussed these problems through her music. ‘Anti-Hero’ is unique, as this track discusses Swift’s anxiety, depression, and disordered eating. The chorus of ‘It's me. Hi! I'm the problem’ is fun to sing along to, but it is also devastating emotionally. It resonated with me as a listener on many levels. I would highly recommend this track to anyone who likes deep lyrics set to a catchy tune.

I enjoyed the music video for ‘Anti-Hero’, although it did receive some backlash. The original music video depicts Swift struggling with her intrusive thoughts and eating disorder. In one scene, Swift steps on a scale, and when she looks down the scale reads ‘fat’. Unfortunately, the scene where Swift weighs herself has been criticised, as some fans believe Swift’s fear of the word ‘fat’ is inherently problematic and fatphobic. Other fans have come to Swift’s defence, myself included, by saying that the scene is not offensive but is instead an honest depiction of Swift’s body image issues. The video has since been edited, so the camera no longer pans down to show the word ‘fat’ on the scale. I found it heart-breaking to see Swift open up about her struggles only to be scrutinised and invalidated. She did a great job at depicting body image issues and insecurities, and I didn’t think the video needed to be edited.

The second single from Midnights is ‘Bejeweled’, which is upbeat and peppy. ‘Bejeweled’ seems to be Swift’s response to criticisms of her femininity. I interpret the chorus as Swift making fun of the way she's described in the media; i.e, a dumb blonde who loves parties and boys. The music video is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this song. It references many of Swift’s past albums, especially Speak Now, which has yet to be re-recorded. Visually, ‘Bejeweled’ is truly a spectacle, with Swift dressed in sparkly, yet elegant outfits. The sets are elaborate, and the acting is excellent. While ‘Bejeweled’ might not be my favourite song, I think it is a great choice for a single. I especially like the lyric ‘When I walk in the room I can still make the whole place shimmer.’

My biggest problem with the album has to do with Swift’s 3am Edition tracks. As merch, Swift released four versions of the Midnights vinyl and CD. However, since the bonus tracks are some of my favourite songs from the album, I was sad to learn that the records and CDs in Swift’s merch shop do not contain the seven extra songs. I was also disappointed to learn that Swift partnered with Target to release an exclusive CD, which includes a new track and two remixes. These new tracks are entirely inaccessible to international fans, as people outside the U.S. cannot purchase Target exclusives. I love Swift’s music, but I truly disagree with her business strategy here. Also, most of Swift’s Midnights clothing merch is not my taste. I can’t imagine who would purchase any of these products given the style and exorbitant prices.

Although the album has caused some controversy, there is a lot more on Midnights to love than hate. The song ‘Sweet Nothings’ is a wholesome and loving tribute to Swift’s long-time boyfriend, which I was touched by. ‘Karma’ is fun, upbeat, and catchy, while ‘Vigilante Shit’ is dark but also empowering. Some of the tracks allude to Swift’s public feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, while others discuss the pain of having her masters sold from under her. In essence, Swift has enough material from her past to fuel this album, so nothing feels forced. I enjoyed deciphering the lyrics and figuring out who or what each song was about.

Overall, I really enjoyed this album and would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t had a chance to listen yet. When I first listened, the vibe was different than what I expected. It is not reminiscent of her previous two albums, Folklore and Evermore. However, I have grown very fond of Midnights since its release. I love that it touches on themes from Swift’s previous albums while still remaining unique. Midnights is a solid album that I, and many others, will continue to stream for years to come. Swift has certainly made history with this album, which I believe is fully deserved.


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