What’s Poppin: Ranking Taylor Swift’s 13 Sleepless “Midnights”

Jasmine Judge, Business Manager

It has been a very exciting yet long two months for Swifties everywhere. Preceding singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s announcement of her tenth studio album on Aug. 28 at the MTV Music Awards, fans became anxious for release day to arrive. As of 12:00 a.m. on Oct. 21, “Midnights” was released, and the Internet — quite literally — broke. Spotify users reported thousands of outages immediately following the clock striking midnight.

Following her last two original albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore,”  both released in 2020, they quickly became fan favorites for their unique, folk sound. Unlike anything Swift had done before, “Midnights” had big shoes to fill, and that she did — though not in the way most people expected. Many felt that “Midnights” was a return to the pop sound similar to that of “Lover,” and while this is true, Swift showcased genres from several of her past albums, while at the same time introducing new, synth-pop elements.

Here is The Panther’s complete ranking of “Midnights:”

1. “Maroon”

From the moment Swift announced the second track on her album called “Maroon,” fans instantly related it to her song “Red” from her fourth studio album of the same title. While “Red” talked about being young, naive and in love, “Maroon” takes a more mature perspective on the topic of romance. The shift from — as Swift phrases it — “burning red” to a darker shade of red, maroon, symbolizes how her perception of love changed as she aged.

Swift’s maturity in these songs not only reflects in her lyricism but also in the style of each song. “Maroon” is noticeably more solemn in sound and has a slower, more serious rhythm than that of “Red.”

This song rightfully made the number-one spot. Not only because of its tie to her past album, but because of how different it sounds from anything she has ever done in the past. She included artistic elements such as the stacking and echoing of vocals in the background similarly used in “This is Me Trying” from “Folklore,” making this song sad, beautiful and tragic all at once. All in all, “Maroon” has earned a place in Swift’s top songs ever. 

2. “You’re on Your Own Kid” 

The lyrics behind “You’re on Your Own Kid” exemplify the feeling of wanting to be in love but ultimately coming to the realization of one’s independence. This is exemplified through the lines, “You’re on your own kid / You always have been.”

As the song progresses, it becomes evident Swift comes to her realization as the song becomes faster-paced and more frenzied. The song starts out soft with light percussion and proceeds to create an intense alt-pop atmosphere. This illustrates the building anxiety Swift felt when she realizes that she is alone and must only depend on herself. 

3. “Question..?” 

Right from the beginning of “Question…?,” Swift references “Out of the Woods” from her fifth studio album “1989.” In both songs, the words “I remember” are used, allowing fans to associate one with the other. Similarly, both songs talk about the idea of going back to an ex-boyfriend and asking them how their current romantic interests compare to their past relationship; both reflect on an unsalvageable relationship.

In “Question…?” Swift characterizes herself as an innocent girl who is experiencing a whirlwind of love in a big city. Fans have speculated that this song was about one of Swift’s most famous exes, singer-songwriter Harry Styles, because of the lines “Did you ever kiss someone in a crowded room?,” possibly referring to their public New Year’s Eve kiss in Times Square, N Y in 2013.

4. “Lavender Haze”

Track one, “Lavender Haze,” perfectly encapsulates what I envisioned for “Midnights” the moment Swift released the album cover. Inspired by the 1950’s phrase that means ‘to be in love,’ “Lavender Haze” is about Swift’s six-year-long relationship with English actor, Joe Alwyn. Over the years, the couple has had various rumors spread about their relationship, and Swift stated that this song was about how they both learned to ignore the rumors and focus on the bond they share, as expressed  in the lines “I feel the lavender haze creepin’ up on me / Surreal / I’m damned if I do give a damn what people say.”

What makes “Lavender Haze” rank so highly on this list is its innovative sound and how it serves as a perfect opener to introduce the album and set the bar for the remaining tracks. She reintroduces the thumping digital sounds like in that of “Reputation” (2017), but with sweeter vocals to match the theme of love in the lyrics.

5. “Midnight Rain”

In many of her songs, Swift loves to contrast night and day characters; “Midnight Rain” does just that thing. She tells the story of a time when she wanted to end a relationship with someone to focus on her singing career, but the relationship ended up being forgotten altogether. Even though the relationship was healthy, Swift knew it was better to leave than settle.

In this song, Swift describes the partners as having opposite personalities, her partner being the “sunshine” and Swift being the “Midnight Rain.” She explains how they each want something different out of the relationship: “He wanted it comfortable, I wanted that pain / He wanted a bride, I was making my own name / Chasing that fame, he stayed the same.” Fans speculated that this song was about Swift’s ex, actor Tom Hiddleston, whom she wrote another song about on “Reputation” called “Getaway Car.”

6. “Anti-Hero”

What I found most interesting about “Midnights” is that while songs like “Maroon” and “Lavender Haze” are about love, Swift sings them in a more serious, darker tone. In comparison, “Anti-Hero” is one of the most upbeat and cheerful tracks on the album, despite its somewhat depressing lyrics. In this song, she dives into her insecurities and self-loathing, as demonstrated in the lyric “Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism?”

“Anti-Hero” is undoubtedly the most catchy song on the album, but what makes it a fan favorite is Swift’s vulnerability in her lyrics. In this line, she illustrates a feeling of self-sabotage that most people experience at some point in their life: “I’m the problem, it’s me.” Though it is not in my top five, this song has some of the most relatable lyrics on the album and therefore holds a special place in my heart. 

7. “Labyrinth” 

In “Labyrinth,” Swift tells the story of falling in love with someone after suffering a recent heartbreak. She is hesitant and at times pessimistic about entering this new relationship, as expressed in the lyric, “Oh no, I’m falling in love again.” However, as the song progresses, Swift describes the feeling of finding comfort in this new partner, “You would break your back to make me break a smile.”

This song is very reminiscent of “The Archer” on Swift’s seventh album, “Lover,” which is one of my personal favorites. In both songs, she used a pumping heartbeat and synth-pop sounds to create an extremely unique and futuristic track. 

8. “Snow On the Beach” (ft. Lana Del Rey)

From the moment Swift announced this collaboration with fellow singer-songwriter, Lana Del Rey, both fan bases went wild. Immediately, everyone had very high expectations for this song; however, following its release, many felt disappointed. Most expected Del Rey to get her own verse, especially with this being the duo’s first-ever collaboration, but she was simply featured in the harmonies and background vocals.

While I too was disappointed at first with how little presence Del Rey’s vocals had in the song, the more I have listened to “Snow On the Beach,” the more I have come to appreciate it. Swift and Del Rey already have very similar voices, but with their blended harmonies, they created not only a song, but a full-body experience. Aside from that, the lyrics themselves are beautiful and heartwarming; the song describes the rare feeling of falling in love with someone at the same time that they fall in love with you.  

9. “Bejeweled”

“Bejeweled” discusses Swift’s frustration with her partner for not giving her the appreciation she deserves. This is reflected in the lyrics, “Familiarity breeds contempt / Don’t put me in the basement / When I want the penthouse of your heart.” To get back at him, she goes out for a night on her own, reassuring herself that she shimmers in any room she enters, despite her partner’s ignorance.

Four days after the album’s release, Swift put out the “Bejeweled” music video, which was filled with easter eggs for Swift’s next re-recorded album. All throughout the video, she left hints pointing to “Speak Now” (2010), being her next re-recorded album. There were multiple hints, but the most obvious included a string rendition of “Enchanted” playing at the start of the video and “Long Live” playing at the end — both tracks from the “Speak Now” album. 

10. “Mastermind”

The lyrics to “Mastermind” are definitely my favorite element of the song. While I do not really favor the strange melody of the chorus, the lyrics are very relatable. Swift describes how she knows that she and her partner, Alwyn, were meant for one another, but in the early stages of their relationship, she made careful and calculated moves to ensure they would end up together. She conveys this in the lines, “What if I told you I’m a mastermind? / And now you’re mine / It was all my design.”

The song’s title “Mastermind” is a nod to not only her relationship but her habit of leaving easter eggs and clues for fans of her coming projects and releases. I can certainly relate to her controlling nature and the need to plan things out extremely ahead of time in order to get what I want, and I enjoyed how Swift chose to convey this trait in a positive light.

11. “Sweet Nothing”

This was one of the songs which Swift collaborated with Alwyn to write; he is credited under the alias of William Bowery. The two have worked together in songwriting several times, most notably during quarantine when Swift released the albums “Folklore” and “Evermore.”

This song is significantly softer than the other tracks on the album, in order to match its lyrics. Swift and Alwyn express how grateful they are for their relationship and how steady they have been over the past six years. Swift talks of how the world asks so much of her, but her partner grants her peace by asking her “Sweet Nothing.”

12. “Karma”

In “Karma,” Swift talks about how people from her past will face the consequences of doing her wrong. She believes that karma is on her side and will give them the treatment they deserve: “Karma’s gonna track you down / Step by step, from town to town / Sweet like justice, karma is a queen.”

Fans speculate that this song is about Kanye West and his over-a-decade-long feud with Swift after his actions toward her at the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards. West infamously interrupted her acceptance speech for “Best Female Video.” They continued to have public drama over the years, and Swift even wrote the song “Look What You Made Me Do” on “Reputation” about their feud.

13. “Vigilante S***”

While I do not inherently dislike track eight, I felt that it was a bit repetitive from some of her past songs. This song reminded me very much of the “Reputation” album, especially in its vengeful lyrics, “Lately, I’ve been dressing for revenge.” While I enjoyed the approach she took to this song, I preferred the other tracks on the album.