Midnights: The Labyrinth of Taylor Swift’s Mind


Sophia Elizondo-Bean (she/her), Staff Writer

Taylor Swift is most well known for her lyrical complexities, mysterious musical clues and radio smash hits that have taken the world by storm. Her tenth studio album, Midnights, is a collection of songs centered around 13 sleepless nights throughout her life. The album features the singer-songwriter, Lana Del Rey on backing vocals and actor Dylan O’Brien, who starred in the “All Too Well” short film, on drums. 

“Lavender Haze”

The opening track, “Lavender Haze,” starts Midnights off with a pop love song featuring Swift’s falsetto vocals. With production similar to that of “I Think He Knows” and “False God,” the song served as a throwback to her seventh studio album, “Lover,” but with a new twist. Swift found the phrase,lavender haze” when watching Mad Men, and discovered that it was a description of falling love in the 50s. While it’s a phrase from the 1950s, Swift chooses to separate it from the time period and focus on ignoring those who expect her to live in a 1950s world.

In her 2019 documentary, Miss Americana, Swift discussed the treatment of women in the music industry and how they are placed in an “elephant graveyard” the moment they turn thirty-five. At that point, they are no longer expected to find success in their careers but instead focus on having a family or getting married. Swift expressed her frustration with this expectation through the lyric: “All they keep asking me is when I’m gonna be your bride/The only girl they see is a one-night or a wife.” The symbolism in “Lavender Haze” combined with Swift’s bright vocals made this the perfect opening for such a reflective album. 


“Maroon” is a catchy but familiar track. A common theme of “Maroon” is accepting that something wasn’t what you thought it was while feeling like you cannot escape it. Swift illustrates the idea of a feeling following you with the lyric: “Looked up at the sky and it was Maroon.” She alludes to maroon representing a person who was always there, just like the sky when she says, “The rust that grew bеtween telephones/The lips I used to call home/So scarlet, it was maroon.” This song carried nostalgia from the 2012 song “Red” and stands out on Midnights due to the use of creative metaphors.


“Anti-hero” explores intrusive thoughts ranging from the inevitable betrayal by everyone Swift knows to her own murder. “Anti-hero” is the perfect anxiety song with an overview of many insecurities we all experience. Self-loathing is a common theme throughout the album and Swift perfectly portrayed it in this track with the lyric: “I’ll stare directly at the sun, but never in the mirror.” As the lead single “Anti-Hero” sets listeners up for a preview of the self-reflection within Midnights.  

“Snow on the Beach”

“Snow on the beach” featuring Lana Del Rey, represents the wonderment of falling in love with someone at the same time as they fall in love with you. Del Rey’s voice meshed well with Swift, even though she only has backing vocals. As a Grammy-nominated artist with over 39 million monthly listeners on Spotify, Del Rey deserved to be more involved in the song, which did spark some rage among fans. Still, “Snow on the Beach” has an ethereal dream-like sound similar to the feeling that the lyrics encapsulate.

“You’re on Your Own Kid”

Trigger Warning: eating disorders

Throughout her career, Swift’s track fives have always been the most emotional songs on her albums. These songs range from the heart-wrenching “All Too Well” to songs written about the anxiety involved in falling in love like “Delicate.” Expectations for track fives are high and “You’re On Your Own Kid” did not disappoint. Swift provides an in-depth guide to the experiences that robbed her of her childhood and made her feel alone later in life. She stresses the dangerous choices she made to find her place in the world when she sings, “I hosted parties and starved my body/like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss.” This lyric alludes to her eating disorder and how people-pleasing overtook the importance of her own health. Near the end of the song, she reminds listeners that, “everything you lose is a step you take” and encourages them to keep facing their struggles even when alone. “You’re on Your Kid” is one of the most heartbreaking track fives yet, and is a perfect sad song for any night of the week.

“Midnight Rain”

“Midnight Rain” is the least like anything Swift’ has ever recorded. After painting the image of small-town love, a distorted voice explains why it will never work out. While it’s an exciting side step from Swift’s traditional sound, “Midnight Rain” does not compare to other songs on the album. 


“Question…?” is a musical script to get explanations for all your unanswered questions. The beat and chorus are so contagious that you’ll be singing along during your first listen. It’s the perfect confused bop for when you have no idea how someone feels about you.

“Vigilante Shit”

“Vigilante Shit” is a throwback to Reputation, which was well known for its revenge songs. While it’s far from the first time Swift has mentioned murder in her music, “draw a cat eye sharp enough to kill a man” was quite a jumpscare for the opening of this song. The bridge has a haunting quality with lyrics like: “Ladies know what people want/someone sweet and kind and fun/the lady simply had enough.” It illustrates a breaking point while perfectly capturing a dangerous tone in her songwriting.


“Bejeweled” channeled 2014 with upbeat production reminiscent of the album 1989. The lyrics describe pride in knowing that you can still light up a room when you’re not valued by your partner. It’s also responsible for one of the most stand-out lyrics in all of Midnights: “puttin’ someone first only works if you’re in their top five.” It’s a memorable dance track that will hopefully be part of lively performances on tour. 


“Labyrinth” is a peaceful string of harmonies that repeat themselves like anxious thoughts in the mind. “Labyrinth” centers on the concern that you’re falling in love too soon after a heartbreak. She reflects on their feelings about her using the lyric: “You would break your back to make me break a smile.” Labyrinth is not just a whimsical bedroom pop song, but an experience. 


Swift’s 2020 music video for “The Man” provided hints for a future Midnights track, “Karma.” The song title appeared behind Swift on a wall with each of her album titles spray painted across it. A popular fan theory revolves around “Karma” being an album project between 1989 and Reputation that was scrapped. But really, it is a track on Midnights. “Karma is a relaxing thought,” says Swift in this untraditional revenge song. Having received lots of scrutiny during her career, Swift is familiar with karma and how it affects her. The lyrics dive into all of the things that bring her joy like her cats and how they were given to her because of good karma. The sarcastic lyrics and unique theme make “Karma” a must-listen-to-track. 

“Sweet Nothing”

“Sweet Nothing” was written by Swift and William Bowery, also known as Joe Alwyn. The two have co-written many songs together including “Champagne Problems” and “Exile.” After mainly receiving break-up songs from the duo, it was surprising to hear such a sweet love song. “Sweet Nothing” is about finding a partner who doesn’t want anything from you and only wants good things for you. Swift paints a picture of the outside world versus the safety of her relationship using the lyric: “outside they’re push and shoving/you’re in the kitchen humming.” The delicate melody of the song creates a peaceful and content atmosphere that makes it a more mature approach to a love song. 


The final track on Midnights is “Mastermind;” a confession to her partner that they did not fall in love accidentally. Swift dove head first into the plotting that went into her relationship: “laid the groundwork, and then/just like clockwork/the dominoes cascaded in a line/what if I told you I’m a mastermind?” This unusual confession ended up being quite romantic especially when it’s met with a smirk and confirmation that he already knew.  

Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album, Midnights, is full of insightfulness from the mature depictions of love to the self-loathing lyrics. The album provides a mix of dance-worthy bops and sob-inducing tracks that will leave you emotionally wrecked in every aspect. Even with the involvement of distorted voices, Midnights is one of her best albums yet. Swift continues to prove that she is a musical mastermind and she has no plans on stopping.