Breaking Down the Tracklist of “Midnights” by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is back, and she’s gone pop, again.

On Oct. 21, 2022, Taylor Swift released her 10th studio album, “Midnights.” This album is the most recent release of new music Swift has put out since her 2020 sister album’s, “folklore” and “evermore”. Her main focus as of late has been her re-recorded, or “Taylor’s Version,” records.

Here is a breakdown of the 13 tracks, excluding the additional “Midnights 3am Edition” songs.

The album begins with an incantation from Swift, who whispers, “Meet me at midnight.” The first song, “Lavender Haze” sets a strong tone as Swift catches us up on what she has been up to. She addresses the pressure she faces from the media to marry her boyfriend of 6 years, Joe Alwyn. There have been rumors of whether or not they are secretly married, and she addresses them, singing, “All they keep asking me / Is if I’m gonna be your bride.” She’d prefer to stay in the “lavender haze” of her relationship with Alwyn.

Fans immediately began theorizing if “Maroon” is about Harry Styles. The title alone provides likely reasoning, as Swift was frequently pictured wearing maroon when the two dated from 2012 to 2013. The imagery, “The burgundy on my t-shirt / When you splashed your wine into me,” implies a bloodstain, which feeds into the conspiracy that Swift and Styles committed vehicular manslaughter while dating. Overall, this song reinforces Swift’s tendency to use colors to represent her emotions. In this case, the maroon Swift refers to is a passionate, burning love, which is a motif fans have seen before on her record, “Red (Taylor’s Version).”

“mirrorball” girlies have met their toxic match with “Anti-Hero,” as Swift reflects on feeling inadequate and the source of her own issues. She sings, “I’ll stare directly at the sun, but never in the mirror,” stating she’s more comfortable burning her eyes than facing her insecurities. When discussing her new album, Swift said that many of the songs on “Midnights” are more personal than she’s ever been before. This song certainly falls under the category of personal but also immensely powerful and worth sharing.

I was most hopeful for the highly anticipated collaboration between Swift and Lana Del Rey on “Snow On The Beach,” but was duly disappointed to find that Swift continues her trend of diminishing the presence of female artists she collaborates with. If you aren’t sure what I am talking about, you should check out Swift’s other tracks, “Breathe (feat. Colbie Caillat)” and “no body, no crime (feat. HAIM).” Despite this, the shadow of Del Rey’s voice at the end of the first chorus sent shivers down my spine. “Snow On The Beach” describes two people slowly falling in love with each other. There is nothing special about this song, and most Del Rey fans were disappointed by her lack of spotlight on the track.

“You’re On Your Own, Kid” resembles something out of a movie with the perfect amount of cheesiness  and wisdom. Swift reflects on the things people tend to do in their adolescence in order to be noticed: “I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this / I hosted parties and starved my body.” However, at 32, Swift offers advice to young people, and most likely, her own teenage self: “Everything you lose is a step you take / So, make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it.” This track may sound like the end of a Pixar movie, but the message is one we all need to hear.

“Midnight Rain” is an anthem of ambition and love. This album alone is proof of Swift’s impact on the music industry, as “Midnights” broke the record for the most-streamed album in a single day in Spotify history. A career like Swift’s does not come idly, it is something that has to be worked towards. In this song, Swift reflects on relationships that may end in order to pursue a career: “He wanted a bride, I was taking my own name,” paralleling the traditional belief that a woman takes her husband’s last name when married. 

When a relationship ends, it’s not always clear why. “Question…?” depicts someone searching for answers about a failed relationship. This song is haunting, forcing listeners to reminisce about astray relationships in their own lives, inviting them themselves to ask the question, “Did you wish you’d put up more of a fight / When she said it was too much? / Do you wish you could still touch her?” Although these questions may not always bring closure, Swift implies the importance of evaluating relationships old and new. 

“Vigilante Shit” brings fans back to the golden days of “reputation.” With the synth beats to the malicious, salty lyrics, Swift clearly still has some grudges. Swift encourages listeners to get even, instead of sad. She comments on gender roles, specifically, the passive demeanor with which women are taught when dealing with conflict: “Ladies always rise above / Ladies know what people want / Someone sweet and kind and fun / They simply had enough.” 

“Bejeweled” encourages self-confidence through the narration of a woman who feels under-appreciated by her lover. Swift emphasizes how even when people are in a relationship, individuals are still powerful on their own: “Best believe I’m still bejeweled / When I walk in the room / I can still make the whole place shimmer.” Relationships that don’t allow the individuality of each partner to shine through may not be relationships worth having.

“folklore” lovers (myself included) were transported back to that glorious pandemic summer with “Labyrinth,” which is the first slowed down track of the album. This song is about falling in love while experiencing severe heartbreak. This could be a reference, once again, to her relationship with Alwyn, who she began dating when she was under extreme scrutiny by the media. She describes this kind of love as “the plane goin’ down” but her lover was able to “turn it right around.”

“Karma” is the new song to excuse poorly thought out choices. This song is about learning not to care about what everyone says, not because they don’t matter, but because what goes around comes around. Interesting is how “Karma” portrays the exact opposite message of “Vigilante Shit,” promoting the idea, “Karma’s a relaxing thought / Aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?” instead of feeding into the act of revenge.

A sweet nothing is a word of affection exchanged between lovers. In this song, Swift describes the little things that give her security in a relationship in track twelve, “Sweet Nothing”: “Outside they’re push and shoving / You’re in the kitchen humming’ / All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothing.” This is another likely reference to Alwyn, who has been Swift’s longest and most private relationship to date. This song is reminiscent of the song “Cornelia Street” on her album “Lover,” where Swift recounts the little, small moments that occur as the pair fall in love: “Windows swung right open, autumn air / Jacket ‘round my shoulders is yours.” Swift uses similar imagery in “Sweet Nothing” to describe a true love built of mundane, private moments.

Although “Mastermind” is not the strongest conclusion to this record, this song excellently sums up Swift’s media portrayal. From conflicts for the royalties of her songs to the constant belittlement she has faced due to her numerous relationships, “Mastermind” addresses the fire media fuels in an ironic way, saying, “What if I told you none of it was accidental?” This creates an eerie conclusion, but it reinforces the yield Swift has over her own career and the music industry.

I’d classify this album as “1989” but with “Reputation’s” attitude. If “folklore” and “evermore” were a flop for you, “Midnights” may be the perfect, pop-infused key to getting you back into the world of Taylor Swift.