If the day is dedicated to saving a face, then at night Taylor can relax his vigilance.
Taylor Swift, who will soon release her upcoming 10th album Midnights, has a complicated relationship with the night.
In nine studio albums and two re-recordings, at least 95 of Swift’s tracks either mention the word “night” or refer to a specific night time. She stated that many of her songs were written during the hours when she tosses and turns, not letting her thoughts fall asleep. A recent viral TikTok tracked the timestamps in the audio collection: midnight, 2 a.m., 2:30, 3. Put together four vinyl records of her upcoming album Midnights and see how her art turns into a clock. In Taylor’s discography, night is an independent character. If the day is spent saving face, then at night Taylor can relax her vigilance in order to feel, want and experience what she cannot afford. When night falls, the distractions disappear, and only Taylor is left alone. with your thoughts, desires and fears.
Van Gogh and Dali, Marianne Faithfull and Bob Dylan, Frank Ocean and Lady Gaga — Taylor is part of the kind of artists who used the night as a muse. Taylor uses songwriting as a way to express her feelings; this is true regardless of whether she is reacting to other creative work or reflecting on her own experiences. That’s why she marks each of her albums with separate epochs featuring characters, themes and images. It does a disservice to Taylor’s discography if we say that the biggest thread that binds all Taylor’s songs is love — whether this love is new, real, broken or sad. Instead, the unsuspecting theme of her entire work is her obsession with the night and the experiences, thoughts and feelings she experiences when the sun sets. Thrills, anxieties, hidden desires. At night, she and the characters in her world can be anyone, can go anywhere.
Fearless, traceable stories about growing up and dreams of a Handsome Prince knock her off her feet. 1989, followed by a journey of finding herself and accepting who she is. On a superficial level, anyone could believe that the themes in “Lover” would be exclusively about romance. The final track of the album “Daylight”, originally planned as the title of the album, reverses this belief. In the finale , she states: “I want to be defined by the things I love/not the things I’m afraid of/or the things that haunt me in the middle of the night.” If there is a world in which there has never been a pandemic, it can be argued that “Daylight” gave us an idea of what would eventually become “Taylor’s Midnight.”
In earlier recordings, such as her self-titled debut and Fearless, Taylor explores a love that is innocent and unsullied, albeit imperfect. Wearing pink glasses, Taylor sings about unrequited love in “Teardrops On My Guitar” (“I wonder if he knows that this is all I think about at night […] I’ll put down his picture and maybe get some sleep.” tonight”) and “You belong to me” (“I remember you driving up to my house in the middle of the night”). At night, uncomfortable feelings and early broken hearts surface along with the childhood excitement that Taylor captures in songs like “Fearless” (“And You Dance in Your Room When the Night is Over”).
Later, these nocturnal emotions harden and mature; adolescent longing becomes adult regret. In folklore and the eternal world, a greater sense of terror and power comes at night. “My twisted knife/my sleepless night/ my winless battle,” she explains the folklore “practical joke.” Evermore’s “Happiness” paints an eerie portrait “beyond the horror at dusk/haunted by the expression of my eyes.” Both tracks use nocturnal imagery to show how broken this relationship is and how her emotions are amplified by the darkness.
There are moments in Taylor’s song collection when Taylor puts himself in the shoes of someone who feels haunted at night. In “Innocent”, a song from “Speak Now” about forgiveness and redemption, she empathizes with the struggle of making a mistake and experiencing it at night (“Did some things you can’t talk about / But at night you relive it all again”). Elsewhere, the haunting phrase “My Tears Ricochet” explores betrayal under the guise of a tormentor appearing at the funeral of a man he controlled. Where the “Innocent” approached his mistake with sympathy, “my tears ricochet” is manifested, “And when you can’t sleep at night / you hear my stolen lullabies.” There are some solutions, Taylor claims in her 30s, that keep her awake at night.
Love and night are juxtaposed throughout Taylor’s discography — they either work together or against each other. For Taylor, the night is either a hero or a villain; heightening the romance or making it impossible for her to sleep. In songs like “Call It What You Want” and “Paper Rings”, she no longer pursues love, but is inspired by it (“Starry Eyes Light Up My Darkest Night” / “Now I Wake up at night and watch You Breathe”). This is in stark contrast to earlier recordings, such as “This Love” (“Tossing, Spinning, fighting all night with someone New”) and “Better Man” (“Sometimes in the middle of the night I Feel You Again”), the night interferes with Taylor.
At its core, reputation is a search for love amid the chaos of fame, gossip and controversy. Perhaps the most immediate lyrical announcement of Taylor’s album “Midnights” was the approach of a cult reputation: “I want your midnight / But I will collect bottles with you in the New Year.” The song is equally romantic and vulnerable, night and day are in perfect, necessary balance. A few years earlier, Taylor had sketched out a stormy, recurring relationship in “Style,” where she seemed to see their reality only in the shadows of the night. Midnight in the “New Year” is something she has come to terms with as a character. These midnight nights spent awake in love or in fear are what Taylor wants to be around for.
As one of the most sought—after artists in the world, it’s clear that night is a time when Taylor has time and space to reflect (and rethink) alone. And if mystery and disastrous romantic adventures flourish at night, so does an existential crisis. We hear it in the song “Nothing New”, where she sings: “I wake up in the middle of the night/it’s like I feel time moving.” Worries about uselessness, aging and their future are rampant. The fifth love track “The Archer” is an emotional and poignant song that explores Taylor’s perception of herself as she struggles with insecurity and past trauma. In the chorus she sings: “I wake up in the night, I walk like a ghost / The room is on fire, invisible smoke / And all my heroes die all alone / Help me hold on to you.” While “Lover” was largely written from a place where Taylor felt more free from the constraints of her public image, “Archer” shows that the anxiety she feels about past mistakes still tends to seep into her night terrors.
If you look at her work as a whole, the night is a hidden current linking all her tracks together, creeping up to the point where Taylor created a whole concept album around her. “This is a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through horrors and sweet dreams,” she wrote in her Midnights announcement. “The floors we walk on and the demons we encounter. For all of us who tossed and turned and decided to leave the lanterns lit and go on a search — hoping that maybe when the clock strikes twelve, we will meet. A few years ago, Taylor no longer wanted to be defined by what kept her up at night. It seems that “Midnight” is a peaceful offer to this exuberant companion — someone who can support her, but whose revelations are worth insomnia.