What the F**k Did Taylor Swift Do This Time?: Midnights Edition (Podcast)
With a bottle of wine and a cat to set the mood, Indie/Alt collaborators Bren Swogger and Emma Davis join for a discussion of Taylor Swift’s 10th studio album, Midnights, in the latest episode of WTFDTSDTT? Read the track-by-track breakdown of the standard edition record below, and listen to the full podcast on Spotify for more in-depth analysis and breakdowns of tracks on the deluxe 3am Edition. Photo by Beth Garrabrant.
“All they keep asking me is if I’m gonna be your bride. The only kind of girl they see is a one night or a wife.”
Emma: People harass the hell out of [Taylor] on socials being like, Oh, her and Joe [Alwyn] are secretly married. Are they ever gonna get married? And this is the first time she’s actually kind of spoken out on it. And she’s like, I’m gonna do what I want. It’s none of your business.
Bren: Honestly, this is one of my least favorite lyrically. But one thing overall with this record that shifted drastically for me since listening to it on the first go, to revisiting it for the last like week or so, is that on the first listen, I wasn’t as impressed lyrically, but I started reading the lyrics and listening more and then we both kind of came to the conclusion that this is definitely Pop Taylor at her lyrically strongest.
“The lips I used to call home, so scarlet, it was maroon.”
Bren: I did not listen to the leaks. However, I did see tweets and many of the tweets from the people who did listen to the leaks was that “Maroon” was one of the [possibly] queerer songs on the record.
Emma: Very sapphic vibes. When I got to work, I listened on my headphones and I looked at the lyrics and I saw some tweets that were standout to me about this song and how they’re kind of going the queer route with it. And one of the tweets that I saw was, No man’s lips are scarlet.
“When my depression works the graveyard shift, all of the people I’ve ghosted stand there in the room.”
Emma: That part is so relatable in so many ways, because I know when it becomes nighttime, when it gets dark, and I’m all alone by myself with my thoughts, my depression hits me harder. And then you overthink everything, every relationship you have. She’s not necessarily haunted by the people of her past, she’s haunted by the things of her past.
Bren: It’s very contrasty between how upbeat and fun it is, and then you look at lyrics and you’re like, oh, it’s like literally, I hate myself. I love that shit. I love when you have an upbeat song, and you’re bopping, and then you listen to lyrics and you’re like, oh, hang on, shit, okay.
Snow on the Beach (feat. Lana Del Rey)
“One night, a few moons ago, I saw flecks of what could’ve been lights, but it might just have been you passing by unbeknownst to me.”
Bren: Here’s the thing, you don’t hear stanzas like that in pop songs. The fact that you can read that and it literally feels like you’re reading like poetry, and not like abstract poetry. Like prosy, florally poetry.
Emma: It’s kind of the song for the hopeless romantic. And I’m that kind of person. I never thought I would relate to a song like this, but I do. And it’s crazy to me. Because even today, eight months later, I’m with the best person I know. And she’s just so cool and so great, and so awesome and so wonderful and just the most understanding person. And I’ve never felt that way with anybody. And it just baffles me even today that I wake up and choose her and she does the same with me.
You’re On Your Own, Kid
“There were pages turned with the bridges burned. Everything you lose is a step you take. So make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it. You’ve got no reason to be afraid.”
Bren: I had one moment where I listened to it and just really paid attention to the lyrics and it all clicked for me. It’s her talking about her own life, about her finding music as a way to cope with things going on in her life, of her career, of her finding her passion and love for writing and where that went for her and the sacrifices she made, even sacrificing her own health to try to fit into this mold. It’s so personal and it’s just so well written and tells such a vivid story.
Emma: The bridge kind of fucked with me a lot because it starts off so dark, and then it’s very uplifting. The contrast between even the beginning of the bridge to the very end is just crazy. She’s talking to her younger self at this point. She’s telling herself this is what’ll happen, but remember the good things that got you there. You’re gonna go through hell, but you’re gonna be in a good place. It’s very raw.
“He wanted a bride, I was making my own name, chasing that fame. He stayed the same. All of me changed like midnight.”
Emma: I think it’s a dark sister track to “Lavender Haze” because of that line. And it sounds very “Getaway Car” -ish.
Bren: Yeah, for sure. And I’ve actually seen some speculation that it’s about the same person “Getaway Car” is about, which I could read.
“Did you leave her house in the middle of the night? Did you wish you’d put up more of a fight when she said it was too much? Do you wish you could still touch her? It’s just a question.”
Bren: To me, on first listen, it read as if she’s asking these things, talking about herself. It’s almost like I’m asking for a friend kind of a vibe. It’s like, Can I ask you a question? Has this ever happened to you? Do you wish you could still touch her? It’s just a question.
Emma: Considering the album is a very honest one, and she was very open about like, Yeah, this is my most vulnerable album. And there are things I haven’t talked about on previous albums. That’s what gives me the inkling that she’s addressing something that she doesn’t necessarily want everybody to know, but she’s being very subtle about it. Like, I can see her just sipping an old-fashioned, just talking to some random person at the bar being like, Has this ever happened to you? Like, I’m just curious.
“She needed cold hard proof, so I gave her some. She had the envelope, where you think she got it from? Now she gets the house, gets the kids, gets the pride. Picture me thick as thieves with your ex-wife.”
Bren: I feel like it’s the most reputation on the album. Not in a bad way at all. It’s just the same kind of like, revenge is my best friend kind of a deal. Like it’s literally Taylor Swift’s revenge fantasy about like breaking up a marriage of someone who wronged her.
Emma: It’s like she’s watching this—I was gonna say this poor man, but fuck that guy—this man’s life fall apart. And she’s like, As you deserve, period. That song hits.
“And we’re dancing all night and you can try to change my mind, but you might have to wait in line. What’s a girl gonna do? A diamond’s gotta shine.”
Emma: I feel like this song is such a jump from the previous. Like the beginning of the album was very like, I hate myself and people hate me. And yet here I am now and I’m doing great and you best fucking believe I’m still bejeweled when I walk in the room.
Bren: It’s a very colorful song. It’s sparkly.
“You know how scared I am of elevators. Never trust it if it rises fast. It can’t last.”
Bren: It’s about thinking back on a relationship that you had, and now you’re getting into a new relationship and you’re afraid of it ending immediately. It’s like, I’m falling in love really fast and I know that it’s gonna end. She doesn’t trust it because she’s overthinking it. Like, I’ve had my heart broken so much and now I’m feeling okay again, I’m feeling safe. But I can’t trust it.
Emma: Okay. Drag me. Period. This is me. This is my internal monologue about me overthinking everything and then feeling everything’s gonna fail. This was literally me yesterday. I was like crying. I’m like, I can’t handle anything right now. And then I get to where I was supposed to be and I’m just told, I’ve got you.
“Spider boy, king of thieves, weave your little webs of opacity. My pennies made your crown. Trick me once, trick me twice. Don’t you know that cash ain’t the only price?”
Emma: I honestly think this is about her record label. Scott especially. Scott Borchetta, we’re talking to you. Literally he sold her work for money. He didn’t give two fucking shits about her. And she’s just like, ah, it’s coming back around.
Bren: It’s very poppy, it’s very simplistic lyrically, but it’s fun. It wasn’t one of my favorites right off the bat, but I like to bop. I do.
“Outside they’re push and shoving. You’re in the kitchen humming. All that you ever wanted from me was nothing.”
Bren: It’s not one of my favorites, but one thing that I do like about it and one reason that even on first listen, I was like, Oh wait, this is really cute, is because her and Joe wrote it together. I just thought it was really cute and a good capture of their relationship.
Emma: That’s why I like it. I think it’s a sister to “Invisible String”. Like you never asked anything of me. And I just get to be with you without even caring and no one can take that from us.
“What if I told you none of it was accidental? And the first night that you saw me, nothing was gonna stop me.”
Emma: [My girlfriend] Mia said something about it that I actually really like, is that she tied it to “Paper Rings” and the line of, I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this. But she’s like, what if it wasn’t an accident and I’ve had this planned the entire time?
Bren: I can see that connection. And you know, you just said “Invisible String” for the last one too. And I can totally see that connection too, because “Invisible String” was all about her and Joe’s relationship and how, what if it was fate that brought us together? What if there was this invisible string and we were meant to be together and it just happened? But now on “Mastermind”, she’s like, Actually I set this whole thing up. I was the mastermind.