Late one Saturday night, I heard a group of Rollins students blaring Taylor Swift’s new album from the gazebo behind the Rollins Museum of Art. I wondered if Swift realizes the impact she has on my generation, who have essentially grown up with her music.
“Midnights,” Taylor Swift’s 10th studio album, was released on Oct. 21 and quickly broke two Spotify records: most streamed album in a single day and most streamed artist.
The album’s most popular track, “Anti-Hero,” contains a music video where Swift battles with her pop-star persona who antagonizes her. With the release of this song, the singer reminded everyone not to feel bad for her. However, in an Instagram video about the meaning behind the song, she also said, “I struggle with the idea of not feeling like a person.”
There has been some backlash over a scene in the video showing Swift on a scale with the word “fat” displayed as her weight. While Swift opened up about previous eating disorders in her 2020 Netflix documentary, “Miss Americana,” many people argued that her visual was fat-phobic and that the word was tied to a negative connotation in this context. By Oct. 26, media coverage reported that the music video had been edited to remove the visual.
Swift famously loves the color red, which is the name of her fourth studio album and 2021 re-release. Red was used to describe everything: the feeling of falling in love, autumn leaves, her signature lipstick, and don’t even get me started on the “All Too Well” scarf metaphor. It is only fitting that on this new, darker album, we graduate from red to “Maroon.” The track carries a similar sentiment to “Red,” but paints a more mature picture of spilled wine, blood, and marks left on the collarbone—we all know what that means, and she doesn’t even try to cover it with a scarf.
“There’s a lot of discourse about her album and genuine excitement about art,” said Dr. Hudson, an English professor here at Rollins. “People are interested in picking apart her lyrics and I think that the excitement for textual analysis is really exciting.”
One of the best lyrical moments on the album comes with the highly anticipated track five, “You’re On Your Own, Kid.” (It’s common Swiftie lore that track five always carries the most emotion.) Swift gave the same advice earlier this year to New York University graduates as she received an honorary doctorate: “Scary news is: You’re on your own now. Cool news is: You’re on your own now.” Swift sings about a younger version of herself who lost the boy but “something different bloomed, writing in my room.” It’s the common what-if scenario that if she had stayed with her high school boyfriend who became the inspiration for some of her earliest breakup songs, the Taylor Swift of today wouldn’t exist. “Everything you lose is a step you take.”
For years, fans have speculated that Swift might be bisexual. The song “Vigilante Sh-t” has brought this conversation back.
“I think it’s interesting that she brings up dressing for women in the exact same context as dressing for men,” said Avery Miller (‘24). “It seems like a hint that only queer people would pick up on.”
The album’s main criticism comes from “Snow On The Beach,” the duet with Lana Del Rey, for which duet is a strong word. Del Rey softly harmonizes in the background. Madison Bailey (‘24) said: “My only complaint as to why I was unsatisfied with this collab is that Taylor did not give Lana a full part to showcase her beautiful vocals. I know that they wrote it together, and I think it would have painted a beautiful picture if they had sung together.”
The album concludes with “Mastermind,” and the thought-provoking lyrics: “No one wanted to play with me as a little kid, so I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since, to make them love me and make it seem effortless. This is the first time I’ve felt the need to confess.” Criminal or not, Swift certainly has made us love her. She has traveled through life with us from childhood, through our teen years, and now into our adulthood.
Swift’s discography is a constant evolution, with each album more complex than the preceding. There’s something I find particularly poignant about this album after spending 14 years in a lavender haze listening to Taylor Swift. She has accompanied us through it all, “from sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes.”
As I walked past the gazebo around midnight on Saturday, I heard at least four different voices scream: “Awake with your memory over me, that’s a real f—ing legacy to leave.” I was relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one.
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