[Review] Taylor Swift dazzles listeners with her darkest dreams in her new release “Midnights”

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Courtesy of Taylor Swift Official Store

Taylor Swift releases multiple album covers with a collection of multicolored vinyl records. The Moonstone Blue edition, the primary cover, pictures Swift with a lighter and fluorescent blue eye shadow to match the color of the record.

Jessie Gesund, Arts & Leisure Editor

Coming back for a tenth studio album, Taylor Swift takes fans into her darkest dreams with her highly anticipated project “Midnights,” which was officially released on Friday Oct. 21. Fans were sent into a spiral when Swift first announced the album during her acceptance speech for Best Video at the MTV Music Awards on Aug. 28. She has taken a break from re-recording her previous albums to deliver to fans a synth-pop album filled with deep messages and tunes to dance to.

The album is composed of 13 songs that Swift sporadically wrote in the middle of night, too inspired to sleep. With Swift constantly changing direction in her sound, for example going from her pop album “Lover” to her indie-folk album “Folklore,” fans, including myself, were creating chaos to figure out what this album could sound like.

Authentic to her deceptive ways, Swifty has been dropping easter eggs on the album for months. It first started when she slipped lyrics of new songs into her commencement speech at NYU’s graduation ceremony in June, 2022. Keeping fans on their toes, she went on to release the titles of the tracks in a series of videos posted to her social media. Swift rolled numbers in a bingo cage and picked up a red rotary phone to announce the corresponding track title. Leading fans on a guessing game of what the songs sound like, Swift was secretly revealing lyrics and themes all along.

Swift and her long-time friend and producer, Jack Antanoff, are credited on most of the songs, while there are also writing credits for the actress Zoë Kravitz, Lana Del Rey and William Bowery, which is a pseudonym for her boyfriend Joe Alwyn. Since the album is called “Midnights,” staying up until 12 a.m. for the release was a no-brainer.

Though, the excitement of new music did not stop at midnight. A special, “very chaotic,” surprise on Instagram was scheduled for three a.m.. While I could not survive staying awake, I was woken up by my own screams when I saw that the surprise was seven bonus songs titled “3am Tracks.” Never failing to cater to her fans’ demands, Swift was delighted to share the tracks that were produced with her former collaborator Aaron Dessner.

Assorted with dubstep tunes and atmospheric vibes, the album reminds listeners of a mixture of her synth-pop album “Reputation” and her radio-pop album “Lover.” With a powerful combination, the songs are deemed to be played everywhere at any given moment.

The album has been well-received by people around the globe. Breaking Spotify records within the first 24 hours of its release, “Midnights” became the most streamed album in a single day, making Swift the most streamed artist in a single day. Additionally, Swift’s album sold more than 800,000 copies in the U.S. across all formats.

Swift cleverly opens the album with “Lavender Haze,” which starts with the lyrics “Meet me at midnight”. Reminiscent of “Call It What You Want” and “I Think He Knows,” Swift shuts down any marriage speculations between her and Alwyn, whom she has been dating for six years, to imply that they are happy just being in love. Another song on the album, “Glitch,” also expresses Swift’s love for Alwyn in a mellowed out pop tune.

The sophisticated and laser focused title “Maroon” shows off Swift’s impeccable writing skills with lyrics like “The rust that grew between telephones, the lips I used to call home…” Backed by an electronic sound, Swift conveys her sadness over a ghosted relationship by connecting it to a color, which happens to be a different shade of red.

Hits like “Vigilante Shit” and “Karma” show Swift’s vengeful side with a pop-twist to make fans dance around their house singing “Picture me thick as thieves with your ex-wife” and “Karma is my boyfriend.” Sounding like it could have been on “Reputation,” the dark and diabolical sounding track “Vigilante Shit” aims directly towards an enemy in her past. With karma still on her mind from “Look What You Made Me”, Swift gave the word an entire song and a whole new meaning. Embodying the term, Swift explains that the toughest moments rewarded her later in life. “Karma is a God, Karma is the breeze in my hair on the weekend,” Swift sings her snappy and upbeat number.

Disappointingly, Lana Del Rey’s feature on “Snow On The Beach” does not go further than mere whispers of her voice as backup vocals. However, her essence was felt throughout the song in its whimsical and hazy harmony. Symbolic of a relationship between two people who are so unbelievably in love, the song takes listeners to a make-believe place where anything can happen, like snow on a beach.

In “Anti-Hero,” Swift picks at her insecurities through self-loathing in a light-hearted beat and catchy chorus. While sounding confident in a bubbly 80s sound, Swift is far from it as she says, “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror.” Guiding listeners through her troubles, many can relate to Swift’s feelings that she is her own enemy.

On the track, “You’re On Your Own Kid,” Swift cuts deep into the theme of growing up and returning home as a completely different person. In an earnest yet inspiring song, Swift lets memories of childhood come back to remind her that she is on her own now in the big world. Leading to an energy-building bridge, the nostalgia of the lyrics tell listeners to “Make the friendship bracelets, [and] take the moment and taste it.”

“Midnight Rain” and “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” shed details on past relationships that did not work out. “Midnight Rain” surprisingly opens with a dubstepped version of Swift’s voice describing how she was not ready to settle down. While this track is not attacking the past relationship, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” shoots to kill because Swift is still not over this particular situation. Rumored to be about John Mayor, Swift’s memories “feel like weapons” when her feelings of regret come back to the surface. The pain can be heard through her voice as she sings, or screams, “Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first.”

Aside from the upbeat tempos of the album, Swift includes some solemn tunes that make listeners sit down for a moment and think. “Sweet Nothing” is a wistful piano ballad that tenderly describes the love in her current relationship. “I wrote a poem, you say what a mind, this happens all the time” is my favorite lyric from the song and one that gives listeners insight on her relationship dynamic.

An absolute mood changer and hit, “Bejeweled” is a thriving version of the “Folklore” track “Mirrorball”. Instead of shining for other people’s attention, Swift “shimmers” in her own skin. Bringing us back to 2018 with electronic sparkling sounds and a bubbly chorus, jazz hands are required to give the song its full effect. “Mastermind” is a synth-filled song, or should I say master scheme, describing how nothing in her life is an accident. As she said in her song “Paper Rings,” Swift hates accidents; so, it is a no-brainer that she stopped at nothing to be with Alwyn.

Initially, I was unsure if this album would pull me out of the folklorian forests. With a completely different sound and mood, I was surprised, yet disappointed on the first listen. This could have been from the fact that I was overtired, with it being a midnight listening party. After I slept on it and listened to the album five more times, I am sure that this is exactly the album fans needed.

I came to realize that this album is not “Folklore,” and that is perfectly fine. With a surface face of pop and deep, underlying messages, I was wrong to have doubted Swift’s capabilities in making a fantastic body of work. With shade thrown in some songs and sprinkled in others, the album had my hand covering my hanging jaw for the duration of the hour.

Swift takes her fans and listeners on a journey through “terror and sweet dreams.” She has officially entered her vengeful pop era again and I am in full support of it. With Swift and Antanoff together on a record, it was bound to be amazing. The cool sounds and melodic synths rope listeners into the “Midnights” haze Swift is gushing to us about.