Taylor Swift is the “Mastermind” behind “Midnights”

By Clara Faulkner, Operations Managing Editor

At midnight on Oct. 21, students all throughout Little Building were playing Taylor Swift’s newest album on their headphones and speakers during the apex of its debut. Following the album’s release, students across campus sport memorabilia supporting Taylor Swift following the release of her 10th studio album. 

“Midnights” is Swift’s most complicated and sophisticated album yet, with songs ranging from sensuous ballads to self-loathing and exuberant choruses.

The album begins with the song “Lavender Haze,” a gloomy, melancholy track about the process and experience of falling in love. Swift attributes the song’s genesis to the television series Mad Men. Her decision to draw inspiration from a show about advertising and create an intimate mainstream smash is liberating.

Not only does the song lead the album’s subject of sleepless nights and pivotal awakening, but Swift shapes contemporary feminism through lyrics that address the stereotype of 1950s housewives. 

Over the last decade, Swift served as a role model for young women across the world, including myself. Despite assertions to the contrary, she has been a pioneer in the music industry. Following the release of “Midnights,” Swift became the first artist to hold all top-10 positions on the Billboard Hot 100 list on Oct. 31. Swift not only topped the entire chart for the first time ever, but also eliminated every male artist on the list. 

Swift continues this feminist construction and expresses it through hue on the second track of the record, “Maroon.” The singer-songwriter utilizes deeper shades of red to represent the evolution of her perspective on romantic relationships. “Maroon” contains the hollow-eyed desire to choose a lover. Swift recounts the “rubies” she sacrificed in the distant past to get her current seven-year relationship with actor Joe Alwyn. 

While the majority of “Midnights” is a rapid retelling of Swift’s past romances, the third track, “Anti-Hero,” is a self-loathing anthem that swept social media by storm. “Anti-Hero” is not only the most recognizable track on the album, but it also features a captivating tune that blasts the lines It’s me / Hi, I’m the problem.”

In the song, Swift discusses the public pressure that comes with being in the limelight since she was 14 years old. “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror,” is one of the prime lyrics that sets this track apart from the rest. Swift presents “Anti-Hero” as the ideal combination of conscience and artistic aptitude. 

Swift engages in metaphysical tinkering with the conscious being throughout the track. She openly admits in the track that she is the root of the problem, not only within her own mind but also in the minds of the individuals she values.The song’s engaging lyrics promote individual accountability. Many listeners can identify with the heaviness of having their thoughts transformed into song.

The only collaboration on the album, “Snow On The Beach” features world-renowned musician Lana Del Ray, who employs imagination and romantic imagery. Swift and Del Ray argue about the duplicity of love and the difficulty of being desired. Following the theme of snow at the beach, the concept of ideal timing in a relationship permeates the whole album.

When Swift is not at the beach, she attends parties in search of a certain somebody. The track “You’re On Your Own, Kid” is distinctive from the rest of the album. It blends the sentimentality of first love with the pain of rejection. Swift discovers that despite her attempts, her ex-lover never reciprocated her affections. 

Many young individuals can identify with Swift’s story of a “hometown lover” she is leaving behind as she enters adulthood. Swift explores the impact of her personal growth on her relationships through a series of ingenious wordplays.

This may be why Swift wanted the suffering in her next song, “Midnight Rain.” The words “He wanted it comfortable, I wanted that pain” highlight Swift’s attempts in “Lavender Haze” to strive for herself in the music industry and refuse to settle for a plush life. 

Swift is paving the way for a fresh interest in the romantic exploitation of women in the music industry. After being the subject of tabloid speculation for many years, Swift finally craves simple peace and quiet. The line “All they keep asking me is if I’m gonna be your bride” is a lyric in the song that stands alone. After a string of romances that ended in failure, Swift has been able to effectively conceal her seven-year relationship from the public and paparazzi. 

Swift’s next track, “Question…?,” describes this luxurious existence as “Good girl, sad boy, big city, wrong choices.” The song sets the scene—a party is winding down, and the sad guy has bid goodnight to the girl. Fifteen seconds after the couple’s romantic farewell, Swift’s friend group applauds. Affectionately shooing the boy away, Swift wonders, “Does it feel like everything’s just like second-best after that?” following the sweet, tragic moment.

Swift repeatedly asks her ex-lover in the track whether their current relationships are as gratifying as the one they experienced. The track admits that even if the relationship has ended, there is much to celebrate in the journey of moving on. Swift may be moving on, but in her next track she confesses that craving revenge is a virtue.

This desire for vengeance against the boy is repeated in the subsequent track, “Vigilante Shit.” Swift has a history of media scandals. Nationwide, Swifties believe that this song represents Swift’s triumph over investor Scooter Braun. Scooter Braun bought Taylor’s master recordings when she left Big Machine Records, where she had recorded her first six albums. Now that she had lost all rights to her own works, Swift decided to re-record “Taylor’s Version” of all of the albums for which Braun had the original master recordings.

It is a sinister and alluring composition with low, lethargic harmonies that communicate the message “Don’t get sad, get even.” 

Swift has a history of correcting the record and exacting retribution in the public eye, specifically when her and rapper Kanye West engaged in an extremely public feud. It all began in September 2009 at the MTV Video Music Awards, when Kanye chimed in during Taylor’s acceptance speech. He released a song titled “Famous” in an attempt to discredit Swift, and the song’s lyrics boast about how much of Swift’s success is owed to Ye. Even though Swift has shown to the world how she built her own success, she still has to contend with the media bringing up the dispute between her and Ye.

Swift desires the sense of vengeance, but she still believes, “When I walk into the room, I can make the whole place shimmer” in her next track, “Bejeweled.” Swift argues that it is time to “teach some lessons” since she misses sparkling more than she misses you. The track is an empowering feminist anthem that encourages women to go from the “basement to the penthouse.” 

As Swift states, “A diamond’s gotta shine.” Throughout the song, she imparts advice. She is taking her rightful place in the spotlight once again, resisting the machinations of the press and the renowned men who have attempted to silence her. As a call to action for women everywhere, Swift is urging them to cut ties with toxic partners.

Swift goes from singing this ode to single women to a heartbreaking song about the terror of falling in love.

Her next track, “Labyrinth,” is a tender, heartfelt ballad about her romantic anguish at not being able to find “the one,” and how she ultimately did. 

Swift romantically writes about her feelings for Alwyn after the length of their seven-year relationship. Swift “thought the plane was going down” after several unsuccessful romances. The lyrics are sung softly, like a love hymn, giving the music a charming wedding ballad touch. 

Having finally found her soulmate, Swift uses the following song, “Karma,” to put an end to her feud with her critics. Swift’s lyrics “Karma is my boyfriend, Karma is a god” demonstrate how she has remained unfazed by her many public scandals and failed relationships. 

After several high-profile breakups, Swift has finally found someone with whom she feels secure, confessing she is “too soft for all of it.” Alwyn, who went by the pseudonym William Bowery, co-wrote her next song, “Sweet Nothing.” This track is an analogy for the meaningless sweet nothings spoken in the company of one’s beloved.

“Sweet Nothing” is a gentle ballad in which Swift expresses her honest appreciation and adoration for the adult life she has built for herself. To me, the song feels like the closure Swift yearned for throughout the album. The track is a raw narrative of an emotional plea. 

Through infantile metaphors and analogies, Swift connects with her childhood suffering. Being with a partner who does not heed to popular opinion and loves her for herself is something honest and fresh. Swift has been manifesting, over her past 10 albums, a partner who does not require anything from her except devotion. 

Swift admits meeting Alwyn was not a coincidence on the closing track of her album, “Mastermind.” As Swift puts it: “I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since to make them love me.” Swift perfectly blends the turbulence of the media’s pressure with her personal love story in this track. 

Swift is well-known for including Easter eggs in her music videos and albums. In “Mastermind,” she admits to incorporating them in her love life. Those who listen will feel Swift’s genuine anguish over her failed attempts to win the public’s affection. 

Swift is no stranger to public adoration, but in the track she shows she’s serious about her search for true love. As the track puts it, “What if I told you none of it was accidental?” describes Swift’s frankness about her past relationships. Swift is now at the point in her life where she can open up about the plotting she did to get where she is. 

The plot of “Mastermind” reveals Swift’s relationship’s backstory. She seems to be reminiscing about the night she met Alwyn at the 2016 Met Gala in the song’s lyrics, despite having moved on to a relationship with Tom Hiddleston shortly thereafter.

Swift spends the entirety of “Mastermind” explaining how the stars were in perfect alignment the night she met Alwyn. The album ends on a high note with this track. It’s a link between her longing for genuine love and her need to preserve her guard.

The album is a flawless portrayal of a forlorn girl pursuing the love of her life while enjoying life and seeking revenge on her detractors. It is not surprising that Swift has remained up all night with these experiences—it would wear anyone down. With these experiences in mind, Swift has delivered a cohesive album that evokes feelings of comfort, wrath, and adoration. Throughout “Midnights,” Swift truly has proven to be the “Mastermind” of it all.