Release Radar: Taylor Swift changes her narrative with ‘Midnights’ album


Emma Coppolo, A&E editor

On Friday, Oct. 21, Taylor Swift released her tenth studio album titled “Midnights.” Before its release, Swift issued a statement addressing the general theme. “This is a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams,” said Swift. This album, even from the first listen, is clearly different than Swift’s usual sound. “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,” Swift said about the album’s tone.

Unlike many of her previous albums, Swift approaches “Midnights” with a different view of both love and herself. Historically, she has been both praised and criticized for her discussion of break-ups as well as fairy tale-esque romances. This album creates a clear image of growth and change from the rose-colored filter placed over adolescence.

A recurring theme throughout the album is the idea of experiencing life in one’s own time rather than rushing everything to fit into society’s predetermined timeline. The most obvious example of this occurs in the album’s opener, “Lavender Haze.” The lyrics describe the pressure to settle down, create clear boundaries defining a relationship, start a family and be the perfect wife and mother. “All they keep asking me/Is if I’m gonna be your bride/The only kinda girl they see/is a one night or a wife,” writes Swift.

Unlike past songs such as “Love Story” or “Teardrops on My Guitar,” this song offers a sort of indifference to these traditional ideas. Swift has grown into herself and realized that the only opinion that matters is her own. Whether it be onlookers or her partners, Taylor does not owe anyone an explanation. She frees herself from the image that has been perpetuated since her career began, and she allows herself to reclaim privacy and intimacy.

Swift is on a journey of reclamation, which has been clear with her re-recordings and the controversy surrounding them. “Midnights,” is the most important act in this fight yet. Swift seems to be critiquing her own past views, which in turn critiques her past albums. As “Lavender Haze” addresses the romantic side of this change, “Karma” offers another take.

At this point, nearly everyone knows about the Kanye West/Kim Kardashian feud with Swift. There has also been a great deal of speculation regarding her friendships, such as a potential falling out with Swift’s previous best friend, Karlie Kloss. “Reputation” as an album blatantly addressed this aspect of Swift’s life as songs like “Look What You Made Me Do” and “Bad Blood” directly confronted these public feuds. Over the past few years, Swift has become much less visible to the public eye, leading to more speculation than confirmation.

“Karma” notes the freedom that comes with letting go of grudges and allowing people’s own actions to deflate them. Swift writes, “Ask me what I learned from all those years/Ask me what I earned from all those tears/Ask my why so many things, but I’m still here.” She describes the freedom and power that come from focusing on oneself rather than being concerned with others. Swift has been in the spotlight for the majority of her life; from her first encounter with Kanye at the VMAs, she has been constantly scrutinized for her methods of handling situations like this. “Karma” is Swift’s lived experience. She has been through controversy after controversy, but she has pulled herself through to the other side.

This sentiment isn’t only embedded in the lyrics—it is proven by the album itself. Swift broke her own record with “Midnights,” selling a million records in the first week alone. She was the last to accomplish this five years earlier with “Reputation.” Unsurprisingly, she has also broken Harry Styles’ Spotify record for single-day streaming. Not only is “Midnights” about growth and success, but its performance in the Billboard charts proves the truth behind the lyrics.

While the re-recording trend is certain to continue, Swift has proven that her classics are not her only legacy. Her collaborations with Jack Antonoff have time and time again struck a cord with Millenials and Gen Z alike. Swift had every opportunity to coast on her early success for the rest of her life. Instead, she continues to prove her musical genius to the generations already indebted to her for the soundtracks of their childhoods. Her commitment to crafting genuinely beautiful songs over generic cash-grabs is clear.

While some have disliked her shift into more of a pop style, “Midnights” has a modern, romantic, yet realistic tone that is new yet familiar. Swift has grown alongside part of her audience while providing hope for the other portion. It will certainly be interesting to see which tracks are ultimately most successful, but “Midnights” is quite honestly a no-skips album. Swift is one of the most talented and profound musicians of our generation, and no one knows what magic may come next.