The Clock Strikes: Time for Taylor Swift’s New LP, ‘Midnights’.
The singer-songwriter’s 10th studio album is a return to the pop pipeline, with production from her longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff.
The Easter eggs have been thoroughly examined for clues. The marbled vinyl has been pressed and sorted into collectible variants. The fan hashtags are cued up.
It is time for a new Taylor Swift album.
“Midnights,” Swift’s 10th studio LP, was released at midnight on Friday, the latest chapter in what has been an extraordinarily productive couple of years for Swift, who at 32 remains one of the most potent creative forces in music. She announced the 13-track “Midnights” two months ago, calling it “the story of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life,” and “a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams.” (True Swifties — or, really, anybody who has paid moderate attention to Swift’s public presentation over the years — knows her fascination with the number 13.)
It is Swift’s fifth album in just over two years, following her quarantine-era, indie-folk-style “Folklore” and “Evermore,” and then “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” and “Red (Taylor’s Version),” the first two rerecordings of her early albums, a project she undertook after her former record label was sold without her participation. “Folklore” won album of the year at the Grammys in 2021.
In a sense, “Midnights” is Swift’s return to the pop pipeline after her digressions of the past couple of years. Many of the lyrics, as she suggested, resemble late-night ruminations, pondering life’s pressures, aging, the meaning of love. On the third track, “Anti-Hero,” she sings:
I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser
Midnights become my afternoons
When my depression works the graveyard shift
All of the people I’ve ghosted stand there in the room
According to the album’s credits, most of the songs were written and recorded with her longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, and much of it was recorded at Antonoff’s home studio in Brooklyn and at Electric Lady Studios, the Greenwich Village warren founded by Jimi Hendrix.
Lana Del Rey is a featured guest, singing on the track “Snow on the Beach.” Some other intriguing names also pop up in the credits. The actress Zoë Kravitz, who has been making an album with Antonoff, is listed as one of the six songwriters of the first track, “Lavender Haze,” alongside Swift, Antonoff, Mark Anthony Spears (a.k.a. the producer Sounwave), Jahaan Sweet and Sam Dew. Swift’s friendship with Kravitz, as fans know, is close enough that she once acted as an uncredited assistant on a pandemic-era remote photo shoot of Kravitz for The New York Times Magazine.
Another song, “Sweet Nothing,” was written by Swift with one William Bowery — an unfamiliar name that popped up in the credits to “Folklore,” which Swift later acknowledged was a pseudonym for the actor Joe Alwyn, her boyfriend. “They said the end is coming/Everyone’s up to something,” she sings on the track. “I find myself running home to your sweet nothings.”
“Midnights” stands a very good chance of being one of the year’s biggest sellers. Swift’s marketing this time has involved a series of kitschy videos on TikTok that revealed song titles, one at time, taken from Ping-Pong balls in a basket, as if on a decades-old local TV spot. Swift even displayed her release-week plan on Instagram, with items laid out on a daily calendar: a “special very chaotic surprise” on Friday at 3 a.m. Eastern time; the release of the music video for “Anti-Hero” at 8 a.m.; “The Tonight Show” on Monday.
The surprise turned out to be an expanded version of the album, titled “Midnights (3am Edition),” with seven additional songs, some featuring writing and production from Swift’s “Folklore” and “Evermore” collaborator Aaron Dessner. On social media, Swift called the extra material “other songs we wrote on our journey,” and described the standard 13-track version of “Midnights” as “a complete concept album.”