Reflections on Midnights

A review of Taylor Swift’s latest album.

With twenty songs, Taylor over-delivered on her promise of thirteen new tracks dropping on the 20th of October. Midnights, and the extended 3 AM tracks, is one of those albums that takes a few subsequent listens before the full impact of her words hit you. Like all of her music, I hear sung poetry and could spend days in her worded worlds.

On first listen, I can understand those who will make typical comments about the homogeny of the tracks. However, as you press replay and listen individually to each song, Taylor’s genius shines through each complete encapsulation of the types of thoughts that keep you up, keep you dancing, and keep you dreaming past midnight.

If I were to get into all twenty, we would be here all day. So for your enjoyment, and mine, here are my first five favorites.

I wanna brainwash you into loving me forever

Starting with a this-city-is-too-small scene in her first lines, Taylor captures that feeling that burns just outside the static that clings to you and your bottle. The synapses of electricity and nerves that follow you through nights spent betwixt flashing lights and empty alleyways.

Those spiraling midnights that pass without time into 3 AMs without you caring, so long as they pass with the ones you choose to love tonight.

This track inescapably brings me back to those first nights out when I was eighteen with my new friends in Chicago. Drinking cheap wine through quiet alleys, not knowing the difference between this and champagne in Paris. The only thing we need to feel is the embrace of youth that adorns everything in that hyper-sentimentality of now.

And this is what Taylor delivers.

High Infidelity
Put on your records and regret me
I bent the truth too far tonight
I was dancing around, dancing around it

With the knowledge of Zoë Kravits’ collaboration on this album, it is hard to believe that she did not have a hand in the creation of this song. That being said, the most notable similarities between High Infidelity and the closely named High Fidelity, come in Taylor’s use of record-related imagery.

Telling her lover to “put on [their] records… put on [their] headphones and burn [her] city,” Taylor cues her listeners into the presence of music within the relationship she describes. Though “burn my city” can be taken as an instruction to her lover to get back at her by erasing something she loves, I prefer to think of it as a continuation of the record-era imagery.

She knows that her lover may put on their own records and drown their regret in familiar music, but will ultimately turn on her memory. Playing their scenes together through headphones connected to a burned CD implies that these good ‘ole days memories have not been made since we traded music on silver disks.

Familiarity breeds contempt
So put me in the basement

This hit a little too close to home. With this track, Taylor perfectly encapsulates the sharp line you walk when you love yourself more than the one you love does.

In her first verse, she sets the tone of the relationship described as she admits to being too nice to her lover, putting them first while she no longer makes their top five. Though she communicates this longing for their affection, she also breaks from any ultimate attachment by letting them know, “by the way, I’m going out tonight.”

As the song continues, Taylor notes that although her lover no longer sees her shimmer, it is still brilliant for her and everyone else. “Whats a girl gonna do? A diamonds gotta shine”

Placing some distance between her and her lover, blinded by familiarity, she tells the men who come like moths to her flame that she “can still say I don’t remember” if she has a man. If he wants to draw her back into the “penthouse of [his] heart” that she desired, he will have to wait in line.

The dichotomy of your relationship with yourself while you love someone more than they love you is hard to express with all the layered nuance and particular quality of self-love, but Taylor puts it plainly. “I miss you, but I miss sparkling.”

Vigilante Shit
He was doin’ lines and crossin’ all of mine…
Picture me, thick as thieves with your ex-wife

Introducing more characters in her sung story, Taylor depicts an intertwined relationship between her speaker and an ex-husband and wife.

Ending most of the verses and versions of the chorus with a variation of “I don’t dress for women, I don’t dress for men, lately I’ve been dressing for revenge,” she flips the script of the typical dynamic between a couple and a mistress. “Ladies always rise above,” can be identified as the driving theme behind her lines, as she goes on to describe collaborations with his ex-wife. Taylor gives her proof, draws in the law, and gets even, on her vigilante shit.

This inverse, illustrating no scorned and broken woman, or the hysterical mania that is stereotypically prescribed to wronged women, takes on sultry overtones. The slow, vibrating beat swells behind her voice as she sings lines like, “she looks so pretty, drivin’ in your benz,” and “don’t get sad, get even.”

Does it feel like everything’s just second best
After that meteor strike?

When I listen to lyrical music, I most commonly find (or seek out) songs that I can identify direct feelings with. Songs where I can be the abandoned woman, cursing or mourning her inadequate lover. But this time, Taylor hit me over the head with every question I asked myself in those first months of loss. No anger or resentment yet, just questions and imagined scenarios that reply through your mind.

“Good girl, sad boy,” “you painted all my nights a color I’ve been searching for since,” and “did you wish you put up more of a fight when she said it was too much?” Damn Taylor.

There are too many perfect communications of the miscommunications that haunt you as the night creeps into day. The questions you close your eyes and ask your ceiling a million times until one night, you just fall asleep.

And that is what Midnights is all about.

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