‘Midnights’ is a synth pop masterpiece

Taylor Swift is unapologetically herself in latest studio album

‘Midnights’ gave Swift fans what needed to be given.
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When fans met Taylor Swift at midnight, they received a sleepless night conceptualized, a whole lot of Jack Antonoff, and the sentiment “life is emotionally abusive.” 
 
It was the perfect formula.
 
Swift released her tenth studio album, Midnights, on Oct. 21. On her Instagram, she called it “the story of 13 sleepless nights throughout [her] life,” and “a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams.”
 
No one can describe Midnights better than Swift herself. Each song is a synth pop dream—creative, complicated, and dwelling on the ideas, fears, and encounters that keep us up at night. 
 
Midnights is reflective, self-aware, and brutally honest. It’s like if 1989, Reputation, and Folklore had a baby—it’s poppy, upbeat, heartfelt, dark, complicated, vengeful, thoughtful, and introspective, all at once. 
 
Swift released an extra seven songs at 3 a.m. on Oct. 21 in the form of Midnights (3am Edition), but said she sees the original 13 songs as a “complete concept album.” Together, the 13 songs read like a coherent narrative, exploring the nooks and crannies of Swift’s midnights.
 
The tracks are composed of fantasies, nightmares, and ethereal dreamscapes, like “Labyrinth,” which makes you feel like you’re floating above the clouds.
 
On “Snow On The Beach,” Swift captures the beautiful rarity of someone feeling the same as you do over Lana Del Rey’s graceful back-up vocals. With its lovely images—like “stars by the pocketful”—and beautiful harmonies, it really does sound like a sweet dream.
 
It perhaps doesn’t get any sweeter than “Sweet Nothing,” which is co-written by Swift’s boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, under his pseudonym Willian Bowery. It’s reminiscent of Reputation’s “Call It What You Want” in its treasuring of beautiful, unconditional love in a vicious world.
 
“Anti-Hero,” on the other hand, is a distorted—albeit paradoxically upbeat—nightmare. It delves into Swift’s self-loathing, as she sings, “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror.” 
 
It’s critical and self-aware; it feels like what you wake up in the middle of the night stressed about. Swift plays with her self-loathing, singing, “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.” 
 
On Midnights, Swift picks out what she hates most about herself and makes fun of it. This self-awareness is the key to the album: not only being yourself, but having fun with it. 
 
On Folklore and Evermore—released during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic and without the pressure of a tour—Swift finally let go of other people’s expectations. On Midnights, she takes this newfound freedom and runs with it.
 
There are lots of bops on this album, like “Bejeweled,” which invokes sparkle and dazzle. Swift declares, “I’m going out tonight,” and insists, “don’t put me in the basement when I want the penthouse of your heart.” It’s a celebration of the self, in all its flaws and mistakes.
 
In the series of metaphors that make up “Karma,” Swift says, “karma is a cat”—a ridiculous line, but perhaps the most Taylor Swift line she’s ever sung. The Swift of Midnights isn’t afraid to be a little ridiculous; she doesn’t take herself too seriously. 
 
In keeping with its theme of reminiscence, Midnights also calls back to Swift’s old albums, in sound, style, and lyrics. “Lavender Haze” sounds like it came straight off Lover, and “Question…?” is the most Jack Antonoff song Jack Antonoff ever Jack Antonoff-ed—it screams 1989
 
The colour imagery in “Maroon” is reminiscent of Red, as its depiction of the transition from something beautiful to something toxic.
 
In a way, the album is a collection of all the things Swift does best. There are bops like “Midnight Rain,” middle-fingers like “Vigilante Sh*t,” and heart-wrenching track-fives like “You’re On Your Own, Kid”—a standout in which Swift “hosted parties and starved [her] body like [she]’d be saved by a perfect kiss.”  
 
Overall, Midnights is trapped in memory but pushes forward. Swift recalls old struggles, fears, and words sung without being contained by her past. 
 
The final track, “Mastermind,” is the perfect finale; the listener is left with the notion that, indeed, Swift is a mastermind. After all, she’s “only cryptic and Machiavellian ‘cause [she] care[s].”
 

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