In a cross talk, two writers sit down to discuss a book, movie, TV show, or piece of art they both feel strongly about. Sometimes they disagree; other times, they’re in perfect harmony. Here, longtime Swifties Editor-in-Chief Hallie Sternberg ’23 and Managing Editor Rachel Wachman ’24 share all their thoughts on Midnights, which dropped on Oct. 21. This is Swift’s 10th studio album and features 13 tracks, each about a different sleepless night the singer-songwriter experienced. The album was also released in an expanded 3am Edition, which includes seven additional songs.
Hallie Sternberg: I think what’s so exciting about this album is that, more than any album ever before, [Swift] is making references and callbacks and pulling together all of her albums in a way that feels so exciting. I’ve definitely seen a lot of fan theories, but it’s more than that too because she’s dropping hints left and right, and that’s so much fun. It’s like a puzzle, which we know she loves. This really feels like a new beginning for her.
Rachel Wachman: There’s something really self-aware about it. It’s like she wants us to go on this journey with her, but she’s not afraid to call back to her previous self and her previous work. There’s also something really reflective about it, where she’s looking back at who she was and how she got to where she is today with this album.
So what were your thoughts when you first heard the first song on this album? I mean, to start, “Lavender Haze” is such a great name for a song.
HS: It was not my favorite, to be totally honest. I think it’s catchy, and listening to it again, I think it’s an important song. It encapsulates the impossible expectations that have been put on her by a lot of different sets of people. On the whole though, in the scope of what I think is an incredible album, it’s not my favorite song.
RW: I think I felt just really surprised because the last album that she put out into the world (rerecordings aside) was evermore. And so I think I kind of expected it to have like a folklore or evermore sort of sound. And then I was like, oh, this reminds me of a cross between 1989 and Lover. So I realized this album was a completely different vibe from what I was expecting, and I adjusted my expectations accordingly.
HS: That sort of continues with “Maroon.” I would say this is a pretty clear call back to 1989. The catchy beat and lyrics about New York and deep, vibrant color feel familiar, but not repetitive.
RW: One of the things I love about this song is that it has the 1989 style of music with the folklore/evermore voice that she’s developed. It’s definitely more mature. I also think the lyrics in the song are particularly well done. And the way that she wrote a whole album called Red and now she’s writing this song called “Maroon,” which is color in the same field, or a variation on the same idea. But I think “Maroon” is a lot more of a mature color, which mirrors the way Taylor herself has matured, in addition to her voice, her music style, and her lyrics.
HS: Okay, we absolutely have to talk about “Anti-Hero.”
RW: I really love this one. What I love most about the song is that it captures a feeling that I think most, if not all, of us have felt at one time or another. It’s the feeling of being your own worst enemy and not quite fitting in and feeling really self-conscious, like maybe you don’t quite belong in a given social situation, and maybe self-sabotaging a little bit. And I think this song just captures a lot of that insecurity in a way that makes it feel really relatable.
HS: I made the mistake of watching the music video before I listened to the album, and I was a little taken aback. Then I listened to the album a couple of times and listened to the song on its own. Now it’s one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s so relatable, I think it just took me by surprise and I couldn’t even process it before getting through the rest of the album.
RW: I love the line “It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem, it’s me.” I think we’ve all felt like we’re the problem at different times in our lives.
HS: Just the idea that you will never be the perfect fit is super relatable, I think.
RW: I think the song is really catchy too. So it’s a really interesting way of delivering a message in a way that makes it easier to receive. We’ve sung along to it in the car together, like you just want to scream the words at the top of your lungs. And at the same time, you’re like, ‘This is a song about me.’
HS: I think that’s a really smart way to deliver a message that people might not want to hear.
Oh, and we absolutely have to talk about “Karma.”
RW: First of all, there were so many Swifties out there in the dark corners of the internet who thought that Taylor Swift had an unreleased album from 2016 called Karma that got replaced by Reputation and was never released. And now she sings, “Karma is my boyfriend, karma is a God.” And then she tells us “Karma is a cat.” I can’t help but feel like this is her way of telling us that we can try to figure out all her crazy theories, but in the end, she’s always gonna have the upper hand. And to be honest, I’m okay with that. I like when she surprises us. But also, I think I expected “Karma” to sound like “Vigilante Shit” sounds, and instead, it’s upbeat and I just want to dance to it. All good things!
HS: I think she’s laughing in our face. It’s such a fun song, but not at all what we were expecting. I think that karma is a recurring theme in a lot of her albums and songs.
We also have to touch on “Mastermind.” It’s such a perfect conclusion to the album. It’s a love letter to both her fans and life.
RW: Also, let’s face it, she’s a mastermind and she knows it. But for real, this album was nothing short of epic, and it’s broken so many records already. And all the 3am tracks are gorgeous too! I have no idea where she’s going to go next, but I can’t wait to find out.
Hallie Sternberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Wachman can be reached at email@example.com