On October 21, 2022, Taylor Swift’s 10th album, Midnights, released at midnight EST. And in its first three days of release, the 13-track album broke multiple records.
It’s already the top-selling album of 2022, having moved 1.2 million album equivalent units (a number that combines digital streams with physical albums sold, as well as vinyl). Swift’s latest also garnered the biggest sales week for any album since 2017. And on Spotify, Midnights became that service’s most-streamed album in a single day.
In a world of ever-fragmenting music and entertainment options, Swift obviously still enjoys a kind of old-school popularity very few musicians can match these days. As for the album’s overarching theme, she says the songs are based on “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout [her] life.” Those sleepless stories include references to current and past loves, revenge, self-loathing and more.
And just as avid fans finished listening to the newly released album, they were in for an additional treat. A few hours after releasing Midnights, Swift surprised fans with seven more songs written during her “journey to find [Midnight’s] magic 13 [songs].” That whopping 20-song list comprises Midnights (3am Edition), which takes listeners about 70 minutes to complete.
As the dark of midnight leaves us feeling somber and vulnerable, so too does Swift’s Midnights present itself full of reflections on life, love and self-image. Though Midnights contains a few songs regarding the wonder and beauty of a loving relationship, it also carries with it a number of explicit songs (on par with Swift’s more recent album releases, such as folklore and evermore); occasional references to drugs and alcohol; and topics that touch on manipulation, loss and cheating.
In “Lavender Haze,” Swift sings about ignoring outside influences that might distract her from loving a partner well, and “Snow on the Beach” describes the “beautiful” feeling when two people fall in love with one another.
“Labyrinth” describes how a new romantic interest tries to help Swift overcome past hurts following a painful breakup (“You would break your back to make me break a smile.”). “Sweet Nothing” appreciates the peace a partner can bring while navigating a chaotic world (“Outside, they’re push and shovin’/You’re in the kitchen hummin’).
But relationships aren’t without their struggles, which Swift recounts in “The Great War.” Here, she sings about resisting the impulse to let past relationship experiences sow doubt within and sabotage her current one.
Additionally, “Bigger Than the Whole Sky” reflects on saying goodbye to a lost loved one as well as the doubts and grief we might go through because of it. Based on lyrics such as, “You were more than just a short time,” and “I’m never gonna meet/What could’ve been, would’ve been/What should’ve been you,” many speculate that the song may be referencing the emotional pain of having a miscarriage.
Listeners should be aware that many songs, even some of those referenced in our positive content section, contain explicit language, including the s-word, f-word and “g-dd–n.” Songs containing language are “Lavender Haze,” “Maroon,” “Snow on the Beach,” “Question…?” “Vigilante S—” and “Karma.” Additionally, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” contains “d–n” and misuses of God’s name, though because Spotify does not count such words as explicit, the song won’t have a warning next to it like the others do.
Songs deal with negative experiences resulting from relationships. “Question…?” seems to center around Swift hoping an ex-boyfriend hasn’t been able to move on from her. “Mastermind” shows Swift manipulating people in order to get what she wants from them—namely, to love her. “High Infidelity” describes a woman who has an affair as a result of her unstable relationship.
Furthermore, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” uses religious phrases to explain the pain she felt in a previous youthful relationship. Many speculate the song references Swift’s relationship with John Mayer when she was 19 and he was 32. The song recounts how the trauma from the relationship still haunts her.
Additionally, a couple songs reference sexual acts. “Paris” mentions “that guy you hooked up with.” “Mastermind” depicts Swift laying “the groundwork” to get a man to sleep with her (“What if I told you/None of it was accidental/And the first night that you saw me/I knew I wanted your body.”)
Though “Anti-Hero” rightly reminds us that we are all broken people who make mistakes, the song’s self-deprecating lyrics offer no solution to its depressing problem, leaving the listener without any hope.
Almost half of the album’s songs reference alcohol and drug use at some point. In “Karma,” Swift refers to that Hindu concept as being a “god.”
Taylor Swift has never been afraid to write about the harder side of relationships, and Midnights is no exception. But long gone are the days when Swift’s biggest issue was realizing that the white horse just wasn’t coming. With each album, Swift’s music has focused on more adult, mature themes.
Those mature themes aren’t always bad; As some songs on Midnights will testify, Swift writes impactful lyrics that could potentially encourage others to not give up on love and to look at relationships in a realistic light rather than through rose-colored lenses.
But that maturity also comes warranting a mature audience, too. Many of the songs include harsh language, and others make references to sex, drugs and alcohol. Others still discuss the pain caused by cruel people and damaging relationships.
It’s easy to remember regrets and painful memories when we stay up late and get lost in our minds. But just as midnight might be well past bedtime, parents will want to be aware that Midnights just might be too mature for young fans of Taylor Swift to handle.
Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”