Taylor Swift’s new album leaves us in her lavender haze

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Addie Gleason

Including 13 new songs and seven surprise bonus tracks, musical artist Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” album engages fans across the globe. Swift released her 10th studio album on Oct. 21. In an Instagram post, Swift covered the backstory of her song inspirations. “Midnights, the stories of 13 sleepless nights, will be released Oct. 21. Meet me at midnight.”

Spontaneous surprises

Taylor Swift fans, or “Swifties,” from around the world sat with their tissue boxes and headphones. They prepared themselves for the album of a lifetime Oct. 21. When the clock struck 12, millions of eager fans pressed play, simultaneously crashing Spotify. Although it may not have turned out as planned, she has always surprised us and the rest of her fans. 

Swift has returned to the pop star era with her 10th studio album, “Midnights.” After she released her “folklore” and “evermore,” where Swift explored an acoustic, less-upbeat genre, she went on to re-record two of her older albums, “Fearless” and “Red.” While “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is categorized as a pop album, “Midnights” is nothing like it. The album explores a synthesized side of pop culture with darker themes and profound lyrics. 

The anticipation leading up to “Midnights” was much bigger than her last two albums and first rerecording. Instead of solely announcing the album on social media, Swift told the world during her MTV Awards speech.” 

Like many of her albums before, Swift dropped several hints leading up to her album announcement. These hints — or “Easter eggs,” as her fans call them — are hidden messages in songs, music videos and social media posts. For example, when Swift posted on Instagram about a song release, she wrote, “This Love (Taylor’s Version) comes out tonight at m i d n i g h t!” hinting at the upcoming album. She also quoted, “Breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out” during her speech after receiving an honorary doctorate from New York University (NYU), which happen to be lyrics in her new song, “Labyrinth.” These kinds of hints are what her fans scour over and continue to amaze us in terms of her ability to plan.

While we don’t think Swift has ever failed to entertain her fans with Easter eggs, the “Midnights” era has brought new unique marketing tactics. Namely, “Midnights Mayhem With Me” was Swift’s biggest promotion for the album, where she released short videos revealing each track name with a bingo roller. Swift also teased one lyric on a billboard at different points worldwide for the five nights leading up to the release. Then on the day before “Midnights” came out, Swift published a short album trailer during the Thursday night football game on Prime Video, with shots of upcoming music videos anticipating the album release later that night. 

Between the countless fan theories, Swift’s Easter eggs, and marketing tactics, the hype for this album was off the charts. “Midnights” has now been officially released for an entire weekend, and after establishing a collective ranking, here’s what we have to say about it:

Pathfinder picks

Six members of the Pathfinder staff work together to rank the songs on Taylor Swift’s new album “Midnights,” evaluating lyrics, theme and melody. In a billboard article, Swift claimed her favorite song was “Anti-Hero.” “I don’t think I’ve delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before,” Swift said. “Not to sound too dark, but I struggle with the idea of not feeling like a person. But this song is a real guided tour through all the things I tend to hate about myself; we all hate things about ourselves.” (Elle Rotter)

If you wanted a mixtape of all the eras of Taylor Swift, then “Midnights” is just for you. Swift introduces her album by starting track one singing, “meet me at midnight.” Claiming singer, songwriter and record producer Jack Antonoff as her ‘co-pilot’ in one of her Instagram posts, the two have worked together before, but this is the first time they are working solely side-by-side. In this same post, she also thanked musical artist Lana Del Rey, songwriter Zoe Kravitz, music producer Jahaan Sweet, boyfriend Joe Alwyn — also known as William Bowery — and album photographer Beth Garrabrant. 

This album aims three to four songs at one specific ‘Swift era.’ “Vigilante S**t,” “Karma,” and “Mastermind” all give off “Reputation” vibes, while “Snow on the Beach,” “Sweet Nothing,” and “Labyrinth” represent the album “folklore.” However, original Swift fans have something to enjoy too, because “Maroon,” “You’re on Your Own, Kid,” “Lavender Haze,” and “Bejeweled” match her upbeat “1989” album. This is a great marketing opportunity for Swift to advertise nostalgia for old fans and calming melodies for new fans. Overall, the album sounds like a mix of her two albums, “Lover” and “1989,” with more autotune and unique editing choices.

Out of “Midnights”’ wide selection of new, exciting songs, “Lavender Haze” takes the cake, landing in everyone’s top five and collectively ranking number one. Swift uses a breathy, high-pitched tone throughout the chorus while a catchy backbeat plays in the background, but the song is more than its melodies. “Lavender Haze” is a beautiful reflection on love and resilience in the face of online hate and the public eye, as seen in the lyrics, “I’ll be damned if I do give a damn what people say. No deal. The 1950s s**t they want from me. I wanna stay in that lavender haze.” Throughout her career, Swift has received various forms of hate from her listeners, especially critiquing her love life. Acting as a proclamation of love’s perseverance, “Lavender Haze” refers to the ‘haze’ surrounding those in love, giving Swift the strength to protect herself from online hate and judgment.

Following the sweet, romantic “Lavender Haze” is “You’re on Your Own, Kid,” landing second on our list because of how the lyrics talk to Swift’s younger self, which reflects on her past experiences. The pre-chorus always starts with the same line but then continues to tell pieces of a story in the past tense ending with “You’re on Your own kid, you always have been.” This type of storytelling gives us major “All Too Well” vibes, as Swift is well known for her songs that tell a story from her past. Although this song is not particularly downbeat, there is a deeper meaning behind the lyrics, and we enjoyed picking at the piece to figure it out.

Our next two favorites didn’t fit the overall sound of “Midnights,” but their lyrical play and familiarity with previous Swift eras brought them to the top. “Vigilante S**t,” while following Swift’s theme of self-reflectance and growth, holds a dramatically different tone from the rest of “Midnights,” rather fitting in better with “Reputation’s” intense pace and lyrics. In stark contrast, “Snow on the Beach” aligns more with Swift’s recent albums “folklore” and “evermore.” Featuring the highly anticipated collaboration between Swift and musical artist Lana Del Ray, the song sounds euphoric and faraway with otherworldly, picturesque lyrics like “are we falling like snow on the beach? Weird, but f*****g beautiful. Flying in a dream, stars by the pocketful.” Our only disappointments were the lack of vocals from Del Ray, leaving her as more of a backup singer, and the lack of similarity to the rest of the album.

In contrast to “Vigilante S**t” and “Snow on the Beach’s” separation from the rest of the album, “Maroon” fits in perfectly, even further matching Swift’s “1989” album. This song connects “Welcome to New York” and the more solemn ending tone of “1989,” which makes us wonder, is this the aftermath of “Welcome to New York?” Furthering the connections, both “Red” from Swift’s album “Red” and “Maroon” is the second tracks in their respective albums. Even the color names hold significance, as maroon is a darker shade of red, and “Maroon” has a more mellow tune. In contrast “Red” has higher energy, leading us to believe the analogy between “Red” and “Maroon” is not a coincidence.

In the middle of our ranking falls “Labyrinth,” “Mastermind” and “Midnight Rain.” The soft and slow lyrics feel personal as if we’re reading a page of Swift’s diary.  “Labyrinth” says, “You know how scared I am of elevators. Never trust it if it rises fast. It can’t last. Uh-oh, I’m falling in love . . . I thought the plane was going down. How’d you turn it right around?” Swift experiments with these softer lyrics and a muted drum beat and synthetic sounds, which was a controversial topic among our staff members. A few of the electronic parts felt like a distraction rather than an addition, adding a weird effect to the songs. In “Midnight Rain,” a common critique is that the voice effects, made by Swift pitching down her voice, sound disingenuous to her style. Similarly, “Mastermind’s” digital editing helped tie the three songs together. These songs return to the theme of self-reflection, and despite the gentle lyrics and soft, mechanical effects, we enjoyed some of the other songs on the album more than these, so they fall into the middle ground of our ranking.

A song that grew on us over time was “Anti-hero.” Although coming off as strange initially, “Anti-hero” presents a transparent view of Swift’s self-loathing, sharing, “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror.” We have a high respect for Swift being open to the world about this. However, how the lyrics are portrayed and the upbeat tune makes it seem distant from the topic at hand. We are used to hearing more serious songs with a slower beat, especially in the last four albums from Swift, so this upbeat perspective on serious topics may cause a shift among fans.

Despite Swift’s long history of record-breaking songs and critically-acclaimed albums, we have to acknowledge that some songs in the album didn’t quite hit the mark for us. These songs weren’t bad per se, but many were underwhelming or didn’t fit in with the album, as seen with track 12, “Sweet Nothing.” With a smooth piano accompaniment backing sweet lyrics, the song is beautifully written, allowing Swift to express the solitude and comfort she finds in Alwyn. Ranking number 10, however, the song starkly contrasted to the rest of the album’s more upbeat, synthetic-feeling tracks. Overall, we felt that this song would be better suited for one of Swift’s previous albums, namely “folklore.”

Landing in the bottom songs is “Question…?” which is an interesting reflection on complicated relationships and bad decisions. The lyrics were witty and rhythmically perfect, feeling like a classic ‘Taylor Swift’-type song. However, “Question…?” was outshined by “Midnights”’ more lyrically-technical songs.

Moving on to the more disappointing songs of the album, “Karma” and “Bejeweled” were almost consistently rated in the bottom three. Compared to Swift’s other self-reflective songs in “Midnights,” “Bejeweled” and “Karma” had surface-level, almost materialistic and petty lyrics. Though there’s nothing wrong with Swift’s confidence in these songs, the repetitive beat and lack of depth dropped them to the bottom. Furthermore, following the empowering “Vigilante S**t,” “Karma” was an unwelcome shift in pace. The title led listeners to believe we’d get another powerful track, while the lively, repetitive song left more to be desired.

Though we hate to say it, this album overall is a step down from “folklore” and “evermore.” Although “Midnights” looks back upon her entire career and acts as a piece of self-reflection on the meaningful and tragic midnights of her life, the major differences in themes, vocals and background music from song to song make this album hard to summarize. We can say that Taylor stayed strong in her voice and her lyrics; she continues to share her life experiences through witty songwriting cleverly, and we still love her for it. 

Marketing mastermind

In an Instagram post, Swift discussed her decision to release seven bonus tracks on “Midnights (3 a.m. edition)” alongside the original 13. “There were other songs we wrote on our journey to find that magic 13. I’m calling them 3 a.m. tracks. Lately, I’ve been loving the feeling of sharing more of our creative process with you, like we do with ‘From The Vault’ tracks,” Swift said.

It’s 3. a.m. on Oct. 21. Swifties around the world are reeling from the release of Taylor Swift’s 10th studio album, “Midnights.” Now, they gear up for “a special, very chaotic surprise.” After hours of nail-biting anxiety, the second reveal of the night drops seven bonus tracks. 

“The Great War,” “Bigger than the Whole Sky,” “Paris,” “High Infidelity,” “Glitch,” “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” and “Dear Reader” dive into Swift’s earlier relationships in a more meticulous manner. “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” describes her regrets over a relationship she had at 19, asking her ex to “Give me back my girlhood; it was mine first.” Meanwhile, “Glitch” explores a friendship that turned into romance. 

But these surprise tracks weren’t the end. Fans saw the songs come to life through Swift’s early morning release of the “Anti-Hero” music video. The video provides a comical take on Swift’s lyricism, illustrating her awkwardness and self-contempt. A coffin-side skit with Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Swift’s daughter-in-law — who may or may not have murdered her — shows Swift leaving 13 cents to her children and, naturally, converting her beach house into a cat sanctuary.

The singer claims future music videos will feature celebrities such as actress Laura Dern and producer Jack Antonoff. In addition, “Midnights’” second unnamed music video will be released Oct. 25, which fans caught a glimpse of on the calendar displayed in one of her many promotional social media posts. 

Despite the inconvenient — yet symbolic — timings of Swift’s releases, her 10th album quickly broke the official Spotify record of the most-streamed album in a single day. This record-breaking reception to Swift’s songs is undoubtedly accredited to her ingenious marketing strategies, such as the aforementioned promotional posts and various brand deals. 

Target, for example, will feature an exclusive Midnights: Lavender Edition CD. Many companies — such as the restaurant companies Papa John’s and Auntie Anne’s — have promoted the “Midnights” album on various social media sites. Apart from brand deals with famous companies, Swift also partnered with Youtube Shorts, where she encouraged audiences to participate in the #TSAntiHeroChallenge to “share your antiheroic traits.” Furthermore, Swift will appear on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on Monday, Oct. 24 and “The Graham Norton Show” on Oct. 28.

With the numerous marketing strategies the singer and her team employed, the “Midnights” album has quickly solidified its part in Swift’s discography, interweaving aspects from different eras of her career while adding new, unique sounds. Although we may have mixed feelings about the album, the singer has undoubtedly continued her legacy as a ‘Mastermind’ in getting fans worldwide to tune into her newest releases.