Now that fans, critics, and the indifferent alike have had time to digest the already-record-breaking Midnights, let’s dive into some key takeaways from the album. What statements has Taylor Swift made about her vision for herself as an artist?
1. Taylor continues to be the arbiter of her own mythology.
In a video before the album’s release, Taylor revealed “Anti-Hero” is inspired by “the idea that [her] life has become unmanageably sized.” This certainly sounds like a bizarre and unpleasant experience, but Midnights has only reinforced how her own writing style, proclivity for easter eggs, and consumption with her own image has made Taylor the Person balloon into Taylor the Concept, the Story, the Myth. She’s made her personal and public lives into folklore of its own kind, and Midnights is a first-of-its-kind deep dive into her private moments throughout her history. folklore and evermore were intentionally fictionalized, but Midnights openly personal.
As the bridge of “Anti-Hero” depicts, Taylor is so conscious of her legacy, she can’t even help but envision what might transpire after she’s gone. It’s a testament to both her writing chops and her business know-how that the public has been consumed by Taylor for this long, and though folklore and evermore might have implied otherwise, Midnights proves Taylor isn’t shying away from adding more cryptic footnotes to her story of her life anytime soon.
2. Midnights incorporates a more personal brand of feminism.
Though she’s tried in a myriad of ways, Taylor has never been known for integrating an airtight understanding of feminism in her music. But on Midnights, Taylor introduces a new theme at play; even a multi-millionaire music industry titan isn’t exempt from the weight of womanly domesticity.
On “Lavender Haze,” she resents the pressure to marry her partner (“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”). On “Midnight Rain,” she reminisces on a past relationship and her choice to pursue her career over domestic bliss. And though this interpretation has not been confirmed by Taylor, “Bigger Than the Whole Sky” has been praised as a retelling of a miscarriage, a common pain that most women are pressured to keep private.
After some genuine missteps (“Better than Revenge”) and cringey attempts (“The Man”), it’s refreshing to hear Taylor unpack her gendered experiences in a way that feels authentic and not engineered for cultural capital. Perhaps Taylor is learning that self-righteousness, when attempting to universalize the female experience in her music, isn’t the way to go. For a woman as privileged as she is, focusing on quiet relatability can be a more effective avenue.
3. Taylor has finally surrendered the urge to appear “good.”
Remember when “Back to December” made headlines as “the first time Taylor Swift apologized in a song?” We’ve certainly come a long way from that point; Taylor has subtly introduced her listeners to her flaws and mistakes over time in songs like “Afterglow” and “Getaway Car.” She’s fleshed herself out to be a more complex character than the passionate protagonistic teenager of her early career. But Midnights is Taylor’s first truly morally ambiguous project.
On the album, she explicitly refers to herself as Machiavellian and covertly narcissistic. She makes no excuses for her missteps and integrates her self-doubt, impulsivity, and pride as key elements in several tracks. Songs like “High Infidelity” and “Bejeweled” even imply varying shades of disloyalty.
Most explicitly, in “Dear Reader,” she sings “You should find another guiding light,” seemingly absolving herself of the responsibility of being some sort of moral leader for legions of fans. After over fifteen years of trying her best to play the hero, Taylor is hinting on Midnights that she’ll be telling more complex and mature stories from now on.
4. Taylor, at her core, is a pop artist.
Make no mistake; folklore and evermore were not final destinations on the winding road of Taylor’s career. Always the relentless experimentalist, Taylor has made it clear on Midnights she will not be resting on her laurels in a cabin in the woods. Big budget music videos, a stadium tour, and general pop domination seem to be on the horizon, and Taylor’s chosen direction on Midnights shows she has no intention of slowing down.
Check out our previous coverage on all things Taylor Swift here.