“I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser,” Taylor Swift posits on the third track of Midnights, her tenth studio album. On the surface, it feels like another classically relatable statement from Swift; upon deeper reflection, it’s a thought that doesn’t feel entirely true, does it?
Midnights, released in full on Friday, October 21st, is an album that refutes the above lyric simply by existing. The record is an amalgam of every story, every secret, every whisper, and every song that preceded it; some moments recall the synth-pop of 1989, with others tying in the unhinged revenge focus of the reputation era. Elsewhere still are touches of the romantic dreamscape of Lover, along with the world-building and minimalist tenderness that took center stage in folklore and evermore.
Throughout the mind-boggling 16-plus years that Swift has existed in the public eye, it’s her talent as a writer that’s pulled so many fans into her orbit, and her vulnerability as a storyteller that’s kept them there. To say that she hasn’t gotten any wiser throughout the decade and a half as one of the most consistently wide-reaching artists in the world would be to turn a blind eye to her own artistic evolution.
In the time since releasing “sister albums” folklore and evermore in 2020, she’s continued sharpening every weapon in her stronghold. With Midnights, Swift proves that her pen is mightier than just about any sword.
The rollout for Midnights was something of a reset: In 2020, folklore arrived as a complete surprise, with only one day of warning. Months later, evermore was announced and shared the same way. Midnights, which received a proper announcement well in advance, has taken us back to capital letters, for one — this cycle also included a track list reveal via TikTok in the weeks leading up to release, a somewhat unexpected move from a presently social media-averse millennial like Swift.
Beyond the names of the songs here, though, absolutely nothing else was known about the LP (which didn’t keep people from speculating wildly, of course). The first images for Midnights were melodramatic and somewhat nostalgic, featuring styling that prompted Swifties to consider a ’70s-inspired turn. The project was produced, naturally, by trusted Swift collaborator Jack Antonoff; William Bowery, a pseudonym for Swift’s boyfriend, actor Joe Alwyn, scores another writing credit for himself, alongside actress Zoe Kravitz. The album as a whole features nine writers, including Swift herself.