ARCADE | A reflection on ‘Midnights’

Jeanette McKellar, Contributing Writer

Mylie Bluhm

Music does not exist in a vacuum in time and space. Rather, it is a meeting of chord progressions, instrumentation, syncopated beats, tempos and textures with the listener’s past histories, loves lost and inner dialogues. 

A Harvard University ethnographic research study revealed one’s perception of music to be the product of underlying psychological facilities that make certain kinds of sound feel appropriate to certain social and emotional circumstances. With that in mind, I acknowledge that my review of Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album, “Midnights,” will inevitably be a projection of my own inner world. 

I can appreciate Swift’s departure from spinning tales of fantasy and woodland respite to recounting candid illustrations of her 3 a.m. musings. I can appreciate the dazzling synth-pop production that undercuts the entire album. I can appreciate Swift’s use of differing shades of red to characterize romantic relationships in “Maroon.” I can appreciate Swift’s admittance, “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me” in “Anti-Hero.” 

But what really underpins my impression of the album, what leaves a certain taste in my mouth and trickles into the content of my dreams, are Swift’s lyrics — lyrics which strike a chord with the current thoughts that dominate my brain and my 3 a.m. ruminations on the past, present and future. 

Each individual comes to an album with a certain set of experiences, aspirations and credences. 

When asked to designate a favorite track on “Midnights,” fourth-year student Kelly Jackson remarked that she resonates most with track 10, “Labyrinth.” 

“The first lyrics, ‘It only hurts this much right now, that’s what I was thinking the whole time. Breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out,’ really does make me think of any heartbreak or rejection I’ve experienced but specifically my first heartbreak, and just trying to say anything that can make yourself feel better,” Jackson said. 

Student Sophie Pribus’ most beloved track on “Midnights” is “Karma.” 

“‘Karma’ is my favorite, because I do genuinely think that the energy you put out is the energy you will receive, and when people who do you wrong experience karma … well, that is karma,” Pribus said. 

Student Marysa Martin, who shares the same love for “Karma” as Sophie, commented that her preferences change day-to-day.

“OK, so I feel like my favorite song changes daily, everyday I pick a new song that’s on repeat but today I think it’s ‘Karma’ just because it puts positive thoughts into the world and it just reinforces the message that you get what you give,” Martin said.

Abbey Baer has a deep appreciation for “Question…?.” 

“I think [“Question…?”] reflects a conversation you have with yourself in the mirror sometimes when you’re just checking if something that happened really happened … It’s just that kind of disbelief of a situation that you thought about or dreamed about or didn’t think was possible but now is, and it’s exciting,” Baer said.

I was left feeling particularly reminiscent and dewy-eyed after Swift’s “Bigger Than The Whole Sky”. The line “no words appear before me in the aftermath” calls to memory the inexplicable, painful feeling of having no way to coherently express the emotions and intrusive thoughts racing through one’s head following a severance of ties with someone. 

The song could be likened to a wistful love letter to an individual whose magnitude and impact outweighed measures of physical time. It is a devastating, dreamy, “if only” narrative that is relatable for all of us that lie awake asking “what if?” 

The Los Angeles Times chronicled that “Midnights” has tallied 88 million streams on Spotify in the United States and 185 million streams worldwide one day after its release. 

If we imagine the process of listening to music as a reciprocal activity in which a song’s features animate and are animated by those listening to them, we can imagine 185 million unique, marked interactions with Swift’s tenth studio album, “Midnights.” 

That’s pretty insane and pretty cool, if you ask me. 

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