Maturity, Moving On, and Taylor Swift’s Midnights

Arunima Chaudhary, Staff Writer

Taylor Swift, an 11-time Grammy Winner, is best known for writing songs about her encounters with love and passion. But her new album, Midnights, is more about reflection than romance. She sets the stage in her promotion, stating “Midnights tells the stories of thirteen sleepless nights scattered throughout my life”. Each song stands on its own as a separate sleepless night, and is nostalgic for a different time in her life.

On “Maroon,” the second track of the album,  Swift’s lyrics are reminiscent of those in the titular song of her 2012 album “Red.” Though in both cases Swift writes of a wrecked love whose memory continues to plague her, the lyrics of “Maroon” are a calmer, more mature counterpart to the young passion expressed in “Red.” Swift describes love as the corresponding color in both songs, depicting “Red” as the sinful end of young love, while “Maroon” shows the darker, older, hurt of heartbreak.

Towards the middle of the album, in “Vigilante Shit,”  Swift calls on her calculating, revenge-seeking alter-ego. An established character in Swift’s newer albums, her alter-ego is portrayed as a vengeful troublemaker who cares less about her reputation, and more about righting the wrongs of the universe. And yet in “Vigilante Shit,” Swift is unable to find the balance between being mysterious and interesting. Though the song vaguely describes Swift’s involvement in causing a divorce, the specific yet disconnected lyrics leave the story hard to understand. Additionally, Swift’s attempt to be dark and enigmatic by using monotone music eliminates any possibility to enjoy the song simply for its sound. In their review of the album, Pitchfork explains that “[Swift] was a far more believable killer on Evermore’s murder-mystery ballad ‘No Body, No Crime.’” In this song, Swift was able to suggest enough of her involvement in the crime without ever truly incriminating herself. But in “Vigilante Shit” she does the opposite, blatantly saying “she needed cold hard proof so I gave her some”. The confusing lyrics seemingly written to sound cool without much meaning behind them leave the song sounding disorganized and unrealistic. 

In the 3 a.m. songs, Swift writes a part two to Speak Now’s “Dear John” in “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.” But while “Dear John ” explores the messy ending of love between a teenage girl and her older suitor, the mature reflection in “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” sees the relationship as the abusive manipulation of a teenager by an older man. The song is spent building up to the bridge, where she sings “Living for the thrill of hitting you where it hurts/Give me back my girlhood it was mine first.” A demonstration of her growth and reflection, the older and wiser Swift mourns for her loss of self rather than the loss of her partner.

In a sense, Midnights is meant to put Swift to sleep. It is an album of understanding, realization, and reflection which hopes to ease her mind. Regardless of whether it works, Midnights contains a sense of closure on Swift’s past worries: she has revisited them and reflected on them so she can move on to the worries of future midnights.