Bejewelled and showing the world she can make the whole place shimmer, Taylor Swift is about to drop a bombshell. Moments after winning Video of the Year at the 2022 Video Music Awards (VMA’s) for the astonishingly poignant short film she wrote and directed for the rare ruby in her catalogue that is All Too Well (The Ten Minute Taylor’s Version), she lets the world in on a little secret; her tenth album will be out October 21st. The only direction she gives us with a signature red lipstick smirk and cat eyes sharp enough to kill a man is to wait until the clock strikes midnight…
As it turns out, that was a pretty big clue. Midnights is a concept album, tied together by the stories of
13 21, thank you 3am, sleepless nights scattered throughout her life. A return to lush pop synths, vocoders and deeply autobiographical writing. The frolic through the folklorian woods has brought her to a new land, shades of familiar in its curious unexpected newness, a blend of past, present and future, the musical equivalent of “Without your past you could never have arrived so brutally and wondrously by design or by some violent exquisite happenstance here.” As glamorous and sleek of a pop explosion as 1989 was, Midnights is its grittier, fuller sister, a body of work born only from the beauty and the trauma and the fucking melodrama of what that time unleashed.
It’s the story of a girl who grew into a woman under one of the world’s hottest microscopes, designed to beam any perceived failing, flaw or heartbreak into the newsfeeds of millions and the imprints that’s left for better or worse on the person behind the headlines, the misogynistic jokes, the sold out stadiums and the name that makes even other famous people lose their heads. I’ve been a fan of Taylor’s since she broke into the boys club of Nashville and showed the world that no matter how far from them you get, something in us always feels like that kid on the bleachers. So, I feel like I’m qualified to say, without fear of hyperbole or the shine of recency bias, that this is the most her an album has ever been. This is the one you listen to if you want to understand Taylor the human being as opposed to Taylor Swift, the clickbait canon.
She’s just a woman in love who can’t believe her luck, all 2190 days in the lavender haze who sometimes lies awake wondering what could’ve been, and imagines a world where her dreams fit more comfortably in the small town she left behind for the parties full of better bodies. She might lie awake dreaming of revenge, or laughing incredulously at the life that ended up lying beyond the once constricting snakeskin, even asking questions of hearts long gone. But ultimately, all she really wants to do is meet herself. The anti-hero, the one who lit the fuse on The Great War, who admits that maybe she was somewhere not likeable on April 29th, but is also, a mastermind.
Who else could get away with a Machiavellian reference or being on track to sell a million albums in a week while also shattering Spotify records in a single day? There’s a reason this woman has put out five albums of original material in the last five years, not to mention two rerecords with vaults better than some full-length albums. Yes, she’s insane but she’s also motivated by the purest of things and that’s the fact that making things, living by the phrase ‘everything is copy’ and getting all the clutter off your desk to make room for the art, is what makes her feel the most alive.
The closest Taylor has ever gotten to being this unfiltered before is on her 3rd album, Speak Now, the one she wrote entirely solo and will potentially be in ownership of very soon, if the flashing neon Easter eggs in the Bejewelled music video are to be believed, but even that barely scratches the surface as compared to now. That Taylor could never have written about her eating disorder or how stifling she finds money. She’d never have left the window of self-loathing open long enough for “Hi, I’m the problem it’s me” to float out or claim what she experienced at 19 as a stealthy theft of her girlhood, dressed in devilish grins and dangerous power dynamics. All of that could only have ever come at 32, now that she can rest in the safety of a world where it’s OK to be soft and it turns out the biggest act of love isn’t kissing in the rain or throwing pebbles at a window, but rather keeping them in your pocket and expecting nothing from your partner who is enough just as they are.
For all the sprinkler splashes and fireplace ashes that have marked her 16 years in the spotlight, once a ticking clock because the world tells women at 32 they should be getting ready to bow out gracefully and gratefully, for all the skeletons in everyone’s closets she’s dragged into the light over the years, the face Taylor most refused to look at was the one in the mirror. Now she’s doing so unblinkingly, and I think that’s got her free. Yes, you’re on your own kid, and yes you always have been, but it’s OK, you can face this. And with that weight off her shoulders, I think Taylor Swift might, if it’s even possible be only just beginning to fucking fly and I can’t wait to see what blooms because that rose garden looks pretty goddamn spectacular from where I’m sitting.