By Terrance Turner
Oct. 20, 2022
Taylor Swift’s new album is finally here.
The superstar singer/songwriter released her tenth studio album Midnights today at (fittingly) midnight. Swift cowrote eleven of the album’s thirteen tracks with guitarist & songwriter Jack Antonoff. (They’ve worked together for years.) She wrote “Vigilante” alone. And “Sweet Nothing” was co-written with William Bowery. Midnights is a concept album that Swift described as “the story of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life.”
“This is a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams,” she wrote. The floors we pace and the demons we face. For all of us who have tossed and turned and decided to keep the lanterns lit and go searching — hoping that just maybe, when the clock strikes twelve… we’ll meet ourselves.”
Opening with an arresting falsetto hook, “Lavender” is a meditation on love in the public eye. It clearly references Swift’s romance with British actor Joe Alwyn. “I’ve been under scrutiny/You handle it beautifully,” she sings after the first verse. And she addresses rumors of an engagement on the second verse: “All they keep asking me is if I’m gonna be your bride,” she muses. “The only kinda girl they see/Is a one night or a wife.”
Swift, who has a history of highly publicized romances, credits Alwyn for not being bothered by that. “They’re bringing up my history/But you weren’t even listening,’ she continues. And then, she goes up high for a mesmeric, catchy chorus:
I feel the lavender haze creepin’ up on me
I’m damned if I do give a damn what people say
The 1950s shit they want from me
I just wanna stay in that lavender haze
So what inspired the song? “I happened upon the phrase ‘Lavender Haze’ when I was watching Mad Men,” Swift explained. “I looked it up because I thought it sounded cool, and it turns out that it’s a common phrase used in the ’50s where they would describe being in love. If you were in the lavender haze, then that meant that you were in that all-encompassing love glow, and I thought that was really beautiful.”
“I guess theoretically, when you’re in the lavender haze, you’ll do anything to stay there and not let people bring you down off of that cloud,” she said. “I think a lot of people have to deal with this now, not just ‘public figures’, because we live in the era of social media. If the world finds out that you’re in love with somebody, they’re going to weigh in on it.”
Swift stressed the need for her to block out all the noise and tabloid chatter. “My relationship…for six years, we’ve had to dodge weird rumors, tabloid stuff, and we just ignore it,’ she said. “This song is sort of about the act of ignoring that stuff to protect the real stuff.”
UPDATE (Jan. 26, 2023): The music video for “Lavender Haze” will be released at midnight. Here’s an arresting still from the video:
The mood shifts with “Maroon”, a vivid counterpoint to her previous work. A decade ago, Swift sung about how ‘loving him was red”. Now, the color is maroon:
And I chose you
The one I was dancing with
In New York, no shoes
Looked up at the sky and it was
The burgundy on my t-shirt
When you splashed your wine into me
And how the blood rushed into my cheeks
So scarlet, it was
The mark thеy saw on my collarbone
The rust that grew bеtween telephones
The lips I used to call home
So scarlet, it was maroon
On the album’s third track, “Anti Hero,” Swift explores feelings of self loathing and depersonalization. “I have this thing where i get older, but just never wiser,” she notes. “Midnights become my afternoons. When my depression works the graveyard shift, all the people that I’ve ghosted stand there in the room.”
And things get realer (and darker) from there. “I should not be left to my own devices/ They come with prices and vices,” Swift states in the song. Its lyrics are some of her darkest and most confessional to date:
I should not be left to my own devices
They come with prices and vices
I end up in crisis
I’ve realized all this time
I wake up screaming from dreaming
One day I’ll watch as you’re leaving
‘Cause you got tired of my scheming
Swift says “AntiHero” is “one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.” In a clip posted on her Instagram page, she explained why. And the answer might surprise you. “I don’t think I’ve delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before. You know, I struggle with the idea that my life has become unmanageably sized. And…not to sound too dark, I struggle with the idea of not feeling like a person.”
But if you’re hearing this song and worried about Swift, don’t be. “Don’t feel bad for me. You don’t need to. But this song is a real guided tour of all the things I tend to hate about myself.” And that’s normal, she says. “We all hate things about ourselves, and it’s all of those aspects of the things we dislike and like about ourselves that we have to come to terms with if we’re going to be this person. So I like ‘Anti-Hero’ a lot because I think it’s really honest.”
“Snow on the Beach”
Then the mood shifts once again. Vaguely orchestral sounds start the fourth track, “Snow on the Beach”. It’s the album’s only collaboration; Swift (subtly) duets with Lana Del Rey. The track is another ode to Alwyn.
Life is emotionally abusive
And time can stop me quite like you did
And my flight was awful thanks for asking
I’m unglued thanks to you
And it’s like snow at the beachFrom “Snow on the Beach”
Weird but fucking beautiful
Flying in a dream
Stars by the pocketful
You wanting me
Tonight feels impossible
She’s clearly smitten. And it shows. Swift writes about him as if awed by the sight. “I’ve never seen someone lit from within/Blurring out periphery,’ she says. “My smile is like I won a contest/And to hide that would be so dishonest.” She adds that “your eyes are flying saucers from another planet/Now I’m all for you, like Janet.” (She’s referencing singer Janet Jackson’s similarly moonstruck hit song and album All For You.)
“‘Snow on the Beach’ is about falling in love with someone at the same time as they’re falling in love with you, sort of in this sort of cataclysmic, fated moment where you realize someone feels exactly the same way that you feel, at that same moment,” Taylor said on Instagram. “…And you’re kind of looking around going, ‘Wait, is this real? Is this a dream?…Is this for real? Is this really happening?’ Kind of like it would be if you were to see snow falling on the beach.”
“Lana Del Rey, in my opinion, is one of the best musical artists ever. The fact that I get to exist at the same time as her is an honor and a privilege, and the fact that she would be so generous as to collaborate with us on this song is something I’m gonna be grateful for…for life.”
“You’re On Your Own, Kid”
Subsequently, the mood shifts again on the album’s fifth track. And the song takes the listener back in time. In “You’re On your Own, Kid,” we meet a teenage Taylor, who longs for love but ultimatley realizes she’s on her own.
Summer went away, still the yearning stays
I play it cool with the best of them
I wait patiently, he’s gonna notice me
It’s okay, we’re the best of friends
I hear it in your voice, you’re smokin’ with your boys
I touch my phone as if it’s your face
I didn’t choose this town, I dream of getting out
There’s just one who could make me stay
All my days
From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes
I waited ages to see you there
I searched the party of better bodies
Just to learn that you never cared
You’re on your own, kid
You always have been.“You’re On Your Own, Kid”
Towards the end, the final chorus adds a note of hope, with the line “You can do this.”
“Midnights” smashed records once released. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, selling 1.5 million copies in its first week. “Midnights arrives with the biggest week for any album in nearly seven years,” raved Billboard. “Midnights is already the year’s top-selling album by overall sales through the year, and tallies the largest sales week for an album since her own reputation debuted in 2017.”
Furthermore, the album broke records on multiple streaming platforms. Midnights is the most-streamed album in a single day on Spotify. It also achieved a similar feat on Apple Music.
Additionally, ten of the album’s songs landed in the top 10 of the Billboard singles chart. Swift became the first artist to occupy all ten spots on the chart simultaneously. “Anti-Hero” hit No. 1 in November, and “Lavender Haze” peaked at No. 2.
UPDATE (Oct. 25): Swift appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” tonight to discuss the album. Fallon informed her that Midnights has broken the one day streaming record and is now on track to sell over a million copies in its first week. She seemed overcome by the news.
“I’m feeling very overwhelmed by the fans’ love for the album,” Swift said. “I’m also feeling very soft and fragile.”
Swift opened up about the process of making the album. And she said this was the most enjoyable process to date. “This is a pretty dark album, but I had more fun making it than any album I’ve ever made,” she said. “I don’t think that art and suffering have to be holding hands all the time.”
Additionally, Fallon addressed the fact that Swift hasn’t toured in four years. “I know,” Swift replied. “I think I should do it.”
UPDATE (November 15) Tickets for Swift’s “Eras” tour went on sale today. But millions of fans made a run on the site. And demand was so high that the Ticketmaster ticketing website appeared to crash or freeze during purchase. Customers turned to Twitter to complain about Ticketmaster not loading or allowing them to access tickets, despite having a pre-sale code for verified fans.
“I got a code and am logged in to the correct account but it’s saying I’m not verified?! What do I do?,” a fan wrote on Twitter. Others echoed that complaint, with some calling on Ticketmaster to “FIX THIS.” Ticketmaster responded to the fracas by that afternoon, citing consumer demand.
“There has been historically unprecedented demand with millions showing up to buy tickets for the TaylorSwiftTix pre-sale,” Ticketmaster said in a statement Tuesday. It added that hundreds of thousands of fans did successfully purchase tickets, and that those who did were “all set”. Ticketmaster also rescheduled the pre-sale window for Capital One to Wednesday at 2 pm. So Capital One card holders will be able to purchase presale tickets for the tour. But some fans are still having problems with the purchase process.
This story will be updated.