Life is emotionally abusive and so is Taylor Swift’s album “Midnights”


Beth Garrabrant

Taylor Swift’s new album Midnight is a journey of emotional turmoil and turbulence.










Taylor Swift is the best friend we’ve never met, except at midnight. 

Her 10th studio album, “Midnights” made history as Spotify’s most streamed album in one day on Oct. 21, and the new tracks dominated the top 10 spots on the Billboard Hot 100. Swift should pride herself on her deliberate, masterminded success. Yet the new album’s most streamed song, “Anti-Hero,” says otherwise, exposing self-deprecating jabs she makes at herself in the darkest hours of night. Why?

Because it’s her. She’s the problem.

Swift admits what no one else wants to admit: that at Midnight, when everyone else lays dormant, our fears, uncertainties, memories, hysterics and everything else unspoken erupt, unbarricaded by the distractions of the world. As students, we never let ourselves linger on our thoughts: we frantically scribble equations at 11:49 p.m., chain ourselves to never-ending notes at 11:56 p.m., and brave the final stretch to the submit button finally glowing brightly at 11:59 p.m. 

But for Taylor Swift, when the clock strikes 12, her night has just begun, her flashlight glowing brightly, ready to illuminate the darkest corners of herself. Each track on the album feels like an unexpected branch snapping beneath your step. A Pandora’s box unfolded; a long-deceased fossil excavated. “Midnights” sowed seedlings of thoughts into the labyrinth of our minds until the vines invaded the crevices of our consciousness. And next thing we know, we’re wide awake. 


Our self-proclaimed anthem which particularly keeps us up at night is the lead single of this insomniac album: “Anti-Hero.” At first, we got a bit of whiplash listening to the optimistic and upbeat instrumentals while interpreting the painful lyrics of the song. The superficial lightheartedness seems to poke fun at her insecurities, probably to cope (relatable). The lyrics dropped us into a nightmare of unwanted insecurities that our minds constantly remind us of.

Even in her music video, Swift lives in a normal house but is constantly taunted by figments of her imagination that seem utterly real to her. The more we listened to it, the more real the insecurities seemed and the more we believed it. The lyrics became like daily affirmations. However, three weeks after the album being released, we are beginning to see the willow-fication of “Anti-Hero” with the release of eight different remixes (yes, EIGHT) of the same song, with each one being worse than the last, and it’s gotten annoying. It’s making us agree with her; she definitely is the problem. 


Listening to “Bejeweled” instantly reminded us of “mirrorball,” one of the tracks on her previous album, “folklore.” But the lyrics made us realize that in contrast to a mirror ball shedding light on wandering partygoers, if one is bejeweled, they are the object of the attention, rather than the partygoers. Even the instrumentals of “Bejeweled” had the perfect tempo for strutting down the carpet to the sound of pearls hitting the floor. Though “folklore” and “evermore” were huge successes, Swift reminds us of her pop queen roots with this catchy and confident song.

As all three of us are pop girlies, we were relieved to hear a new pop song from Swift. However, despite the fun instrumentals, she juxtaposes lyrics with an underlying sadness that even she cannot outgrow: “familiarity breeds contempt” speaks to Swift’s constant reinvention of her aesthetic and music to remain shiny to the public. It was our favorite upbeat song on the album because it felt like we’re finally moving out of our “mirrorball” era and into our “Bejeweled” era, even if we’re all still “mirrorballs” sometimes. 

Taylor Swift in the “Bejeweled” music video (Taylor Swift, “Bejeweled”)

Snow On the Beach (feat. Lana Del Rey)

“Snow On the Beach” creates an almost fairytale-like melody that emulates the feeling of a teenager flopping onto bed, lying awake at night, wonderstruck from a sweet encounter with their significant other. Swift captures the bewilderment of having a mutual admiration and vulnerability between two people, comparing her experience to “stars by the pocketful,” “aurora borealis green” and “eyes like flying saucers.”

The wistful guitar interwoven with a soft lullaby compliments Lana Del Rey’s emotive voice that teases us at the ending note of the chorus. As avid Lana Del Rey listeners, we had hoped to hear her sing a few verses and were initially disappointed when the song was first released. We believe that it would have been a better marketing decision to not announce that Del Rey would be featured prior to the release, and instead surprise us with her soft voice finishing off the chorus in a series of weird, but f**king beautiful, quivering runs. Overall, it was a heavenly song, and we all collectively ascended. 

You’re On Your Own, Kid

“Midnights” is a reflective album more than anything, and “You’re On Your Own, Kid” might be the most reflective song of all. It takes a quote from her NYU 2022 graduation speech, “Scary news is: You’re on your own now. Cool news is: you’re on your own now,” and made a song out of it. She sings about how being on your own seems scary, but it’s not. It’s just a fact. Nonetheless, she doubts herself in the line “just to learn that my dreams aren’t rare.”

As CVHS students, this struck a chord with us because here we feel like everyone seems to be reaching their dream faster than we are. It made us realize that we’re just ourselves and that might not be enough. The song’s emotional and all-consuming bridge, one of our favorite trademark features of Taylor Swift songs, seemed to go on forever, making it the first song we shed tears to on first listen. But that doesn’t distract from the message that you can choose the life you live and “you’ve got no reason to be afraid.” The song was an epiphany for us, in the best way. 

Midnight Rain

Not every song on “Midnights” was love at first listen. These wise words from Nicki Minaj best describe listening to “Midnight Rain”: “You’re not gonna get the song the first time you hear it. After the second and third time, you’re gonna be like ‘Woah, what is this.’” On our first listen, we were greeted by a distorted and robotic timbre (which was surprisingly similar to James Charles’ internet famous singing voice), with a dramatic leap to a higher octave on the last word of each verse: “he was sunshine; I was midnight rain/he wanted it comfortable I wanted that pain.

The sudden shifts and slants in the song were a bit of a jump scare, but we realized she was comparing the two in the relationship. The moody synth-pop production of this song welcomes a familiarity to Lorde’s album “Melodrama,” one of our top albums, also produced by Jack Antanoff, and created melancholy and thrumming electronic ambience, though redundant. This song could have been a hit or miss, but after it grew on us, it was a big hit.

3am Edition

When the clock struck three, she nearly gave us a stroke by deciding to have a surprise drop of seven additional tracks, which she referred to as the deluxe “3am Edition” of the album. These tracks live up to their title as thoughts that could only be deepened by a true insomniac. With the exception of “Paris,” a perfect “Barbie” movie bubblegum pop song, most of the deluxe tracks felt like a step back into the forestial world of “folklore” and “evermore.” 

The Great War

Since “reputation,” Swift has created countless tracks about the challenges her fame has created for her relationships, so after our first listen to “The Great War,” we were like, “eh, add it to the pile.” However, the song’s patriotic imagery and an upbeat snare drum tempo punctuated with “uh-huhs” constantly got stuck in our heads.

“The Great War” is what people referred to as World War I as before World War II occurred. After people experienced such a momentous battle, they could never fathom that there was worse to come. We found this comparison extremely clever, because while Taylor sings victory with “say a solemn prayer, place a poppy in my hair,” we realize the dramatic irony of knowing as an audience that there is an even bigger war to come. This smart metaphor made us regret overlooking it initially.

Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve

“Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” was frankly the hardest song out of the entire album to listen to so late at night. The song was Swift’s answer to our pleas for a 10-minute version of her infamously heartbreaking track from “Speak Now,” “Dear John.” This song is a tomb that won’t seem to close, a collection of indelible stains in her mind that she would rather forget.

It is safe to assume that the song is about her relationship from 2010 with John Mayer, who she had a 13-year age difference with. Swift cries out in a plea for her girlhood and innocence that he stole from her with an unrelenting intensity for four minutes and 20 seconds. As fans of belted songs that seem never ending, “Would’ve Could’ve Should’ve” singlehanded became our favorite on the album. 

Taylor Swift contemplates by a phone. (Beth Garrabrant)

Bigger Than the Whole Sky

If we had a nickel every time a fan edit of “Bigger Than the Whole Sky” made us sob like babies, we may just be able to afford tickets to Swift’s next tour. Although the song is up to interpretation, it certainly concerns the loss of someone who, despite being short-lived in her life, left a lasting legacy. The grieving melody tugs at our heartstrings.

She begins by painting a perfect picture of a crying soul whose loss has shaken the ground from under her and only left room for inner self destruction with questioning the why of it all. For us though, the lyrics were the only redeeming part of this song and the composition pales in comparison to the other songs. Since it didn’t resonate with us outside of fictional circumstances, it was the least personally impactful song on the album.

Dear Reader

After an hour and nine minutes of sharing her innermost thoughts with the world, Swift decides to tell us that we should “pick somewhere to just run and stop listening to her advice.” The audacity! In her last song, “Dear Reader,” she expresses her epiphany that after long scrutinizing the events and emotions of her life, she is the furthest thing from a sane person.

She spends her time using up her pen’s ink while others live out their lives and don’t stick around to see her lose a game of solitaire. As people who take pride in understanding and relating to Swift’s discography, her telling us to take her advice with a grain of salt feels like a punch to the gut, considering that we’ve been hanging on to her words like it’s the Bible. She’s left us in the same state she’s been in the whole album: questioning every decision, every thought and every little thing we’ve experienced. Basically, a mess.

So, whose fault is it that we’re up at midnight? Maybe it’s all of us. We’re all the problem. 

What is Taylor Swift's most emotionally abusive song on Midnights?


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