Midnights: Taylor Swift's Messiest And Most Raw Lyrics

This feature contains references to eating disorders and miscarriage. 

Taylor Swift released her highly anticipated 10th studio album, "Midnights," on October 21, 2022 at 12 a.m. Unsurprisingly, Swifties were loving it almost immediately, with the album breaking records upon release. On release day, Spotify tweeted, "Before the clock could even strike midnight on October 22, Taylor Swift broke the record for most-streamed album in a single day in Spotify history." Which is no surprise considering the album's popularity initially caused the streaming service to crash.

Throughout her career, Swift has been known for her hard-hitting and deeply personal lyrics. The pop star also frequently drops hints and easter eggs for her fans to decode. So, naturally, as soon as the album dropped, Swifties everywhere have been diving into the songs to decipher their meanings. "Midnights" is a return to the singer's pop sound. And while it features many vulnerable and self-reflective songs, it also boasts some lyrics that are a bit more fun and cheeky. From poetic and raw to messy and gossip-worthy, these are the "Midnights" lyrics we can't stop thinking about.

References to her childhood in Mastermind

In the song lyrics for "Mastermind," Taylor Swift admits that the start of her relationship, presumably with her "Midnights"-era boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, wasn't fated at all but was due to some Machiavellian plotting. "The first night that you saw me nothing was gonna stop me. I laid the groundwork, and then just like clockwork, the dominoes cascaded in a line," she sings on the tune's chorus. "What if I told you I'm a mastermind?"

It's worth noting that fans have long speculated that Swift and Alwyn met at the 2016 Met Gala, per Yahoo! Life. However, the "Lover" singer briefly dated Tom Hiddleston immediately after the glitzy event, and reportedly didn't date Alwyn until Fall of that year. Swift seemingly left clues as to their first meeting in the song, "Dress" from her sixth studio album, "Reputation." In it, she described the exact looks that the pair were rocking at the event, singing, "Flashback when you met me. Your buzzcut and my hair bleached."

Overall the song is a fun twist on a classic love story, as Swift explains that she left nothing up to chance and takes responsibility for bringing them together. However, she's more vulnerable in the bridge when she shares the reason she takes control like this, saying, "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."

Giving a voice to her biggest insecurities in Anti-Hero

Prior to the release of "Midnights," Taylor Swift took to Instagram to discuss some of the tracks and their meanings. Speaking about "Anti-Hero," she said, "I really don't think I've delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before." And now that we've heard the song, we can see what she means. In the chorus, Swift announces, "It's me. Hi. I'm the problem, it's me," with the song's lyrics exploring feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing. 

Referring to herself as the "Anti-hero" throughout the song, the pop star also accuses herself of getting stuck on the same issues time and time again. "I have this thing where I get older, but just never wiser," she sings in the opening line. The rest of the song features confessional insights into the singer's perceived shortcomings, and the critical parts of her brain that she can't appear to silence. "Sometimes, I feel like everybody is a sexy baby. And I'm a monster on the hill," she reveals in the second verse, following it up with a tongue twister of a pre-chorus. "Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism like some kind of congressman?" she asks with pained self-awareness. 

The music video accompanying the song dives further into those themes as Swift acts alongside another version of herself. The second Taylor in the video seems to only feed into her vices and worst fears about herself.

The real legacy of a lost love

In the album's second track, "Maroon," Taylor Swift tells the story of a relationship from its simple beginning to its painful end. In the first verse, she details its sweet beginnings, saying, "Laughing with my feet in your lap like you were my closest friend ... I see you every day now." She then goes on to describe the relationship in snapshots with deep shades of red for the chorus, "The burgundy on my t-shirt, when you splashed your wine into me. And how the blood rushed into my cheeks." Those glimpses show the passion and excitement at the beginning, but she also uses them to show the relationship breaking down, saying, "The rust that grew bеtween telephones, the lips I used to call home, so scarlet, it was maroon."

In her recently re-released "Red," Swift used the color to talk about a relationship that was passionate but doomed from the start. She seems to draw a similar metaphor in "Maroon" with the even darker shade of scarlet. The love she's talking about was so vivid that she says in the bridge, "I wake with your memory over me. That's a real f***ing legacy."

Rejecting gender expectations in Lavender Haze

In an Instagram video, Taylor Swift explained that she happened upon the phrase, "lavender haze," while watching an episode of "Mad Men." When she looked up its meaning she discovered it was a commonly used expression to describe being in love, and allowed it to inspire the first track on "Midnights." "If you were in the lavender haze, that meant you were in that all-encompassing love glow," she explained in the Instagram clip. "... You'll do anything to stay there and not let people bring you down off of that cloud." Swift elaborated that in order to stay in that love bubble herself, she has to ignore all the tabloid scrutiny and rumors regarding her relationship with Joe Alwyn.

The singer-songwriter also tackles this issue head-on within the "Lavender Haze" lyrics, in which she addresses the rumors that she's engaged or married. First, in the chorus, she sings, "The 1950s s*** they want from me. I just wanna stay in that lavender haze." In the second verse, she speaks about the gossip more explicitly, saying, "All they keep asking me is if I'm gonna be your bride. The only kinda girl they see is a one-night or a wife." Swift uses this song to reject those old-fashioned ideas in favor of enjoying her romance on her own terms, and in her very own haze. 

Being a heartbreaker in Midnight Rain

There are plenty of heartbreaking lyrics on "Midnights," but on track 6, "Midnight Rain," Taylor Swift is the one breaking hearts. In it, she describes an ex-partner who wanted to settle down with her, but she had other goals. While the album is full of self-reflection and honesty, the first verse of "Midnight Rain" pushes those aspects to their most brutal when she admits, "I broke his heart 'cause he was nice. He was sunshine, I was midnight rain." In the chorus she goes on to sing, "He wanted it comfortable, I wanted that pain. He wanted a bride, I was making my own name, chasing that fame ..." These "Midnight Rain" lyrics also tie into those of "Lavender Haze" with their rejection of the traditional bridal role people expect Swift to fall into.

It's unclear who "Midnight Rain" was written about. However, as noted by Captial FM, some fans have theorized that it is likely about a pre-fame boyfriend or someone she dated as her career was first rising. After all, the song's first verse is focused on discussing the various suburban cages of her hometown — of beauty pageants and picket fences — and her resistance to getting locked inside them. Fans also had questions about the deep voice featured in the chorus of the song. However, a source told Uproxx that it's still Swift's vocal, just pitched down.

Is Bigger Than The Whole Sky about a miscarriage?

Perhaps the saddest song on the album came in the seven songs Taylor Swift released at 3 a.m. with an extended version of the album called, "Midnights (3 a.m. Edition)." And the fifteenth track on the additional release, "Bigger Than The Whole Sky," certainly packs in some devastating lyrics by detailing the experience of an all-encompassing and powerful loss. This is evidenced in the chorus, in which Swift sings, "Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. You were bigger than the whole sky. You were more than just a short time." 

The entire song dives into the emotions of something ending too soon. And while many of the star's songs are often about the pain of romantic loss, many fans have interpreted "Bigger Than The Whole Sky" to potentially be about the grief of a miscarriage, as reported by HuffPost. As of writing, Swift hasn't addressed or confirmed this theory. However, there are certainly enough lyrics that appear to support it. 

For example, the chorus is dedicated to mourning the enormity of the loss, with Swift reflecting, "I've got a lot to live without. I'm never gonna meet ... What should've been you." Meanwhile, the entire song dives into the emotions of something ending too soon. One of the most hard-hitting lyrics may be in the first verse when she says, "Every single thing I touch becomes sick with sadness 'cause it's all over now, all out to sea."

Love is where sand meets snow

Taylor Swift excited many fans when she announced that the fourth track on "Midnights" would be "Snow on the Beach," featuring Lana Del Rey. News of the collaboration with such a beloved singer-songwriter got the internet abuzz, but the track title left a lot up for interpretation. Fortunately, Swift was quick to make an Instagram post discussing the song and its meaning. In the video, she gushed about her collaborator, saying, "Lana Del Rey, in my opinion, is one of the best musical artists ever ... the fact that she would be so generous as to collaborate with us on this song is something I'm gonna be grateful for, for life."

But what does "Snow on the Beach" mean? According to Swift, the song is about the moment you realize the person you're falling in love with is also in love with you. "In this sort of cataclysmic, fated moment where you realize someone feels exactly the same way that you feel," she explained in the video. In the actual song lyrics, she compares that exhilarating and surreal feeling to seeing snow falling on the beach, singing, "Weird, but f***ing beautiful ... Tonight feels impossible. But it's coming down. No sound, it's all around."

Comparing a lover to a meteor strike

Taylor Swift has written many iconic breakup songs over the years. So, it's no surprise that she's done it again on her tenth studio album. One of several raw breakup songs on "Midnights" is "Question...?" In the song, she directs several questions to an ex-lover, seeming to wonder if they still think of the relationship as she does. In the chorus, she rattles off questions like, "Did you wish you'd put up more of a fight?" and "Do you wish you could still touch her?" 

But, the most heartbreaking lyrics come in the bridge when Swift asks, "Does it feel like everything's just like second best after that meteor strike?" The Question suggests that their love was a once-in-a-lifetime event, which she worries may never happen again. Another indication that she hasn't had the same feeling in other relationships can be found in the first verse when Swift sings, "You painted all my nights a color I've searched for since."

The star hasn't given any statement on who this breakup song might be about. However, some fans have speculated that she could be talking about her ex, Harry Styles. Meanwhile, a popular theory on Twitter suggested it may be about her rumored relationship with Karlie Kloss.

Introducing a cat called Karma

"Karma" was one of the most anticipated tracks on Taylor Swift's "Midnights" album. The title instantly stuck out to fans due to a long-standing fan theory that the star once planned to release an album called "Karma." However, when she came under fire due to her feud with Kanye West, the album was scrapped, and she released "Reputation" instead. The fan theory is built around easter eggs, like the appearance of the word in "The Man" music video and the line in "Look What You Made Me Do," where she sings, "The world moves on, another day, another drama. But not for me, all I think about is karma."

Thanks to this fan theory, and its connection to West, many fans believe this new song may also be about him. Certainly, the tongue-in-cheek lyrics seem to back that theory up. Swift never mentions the rapper, or anyone else, by name. What she does do is talk about someone who's betrayed people to stay relevant, amid a warning that karma will come back around for that person. The song also asserts that Swift doesn't have to worry about such retribution because she has good karma. As she puts it, "'Karma's a relaxing thought. Aren't you envious that for you it's not?" In true cat lady fashion, she illustrates her point by adding, "Karma is a cat purring in my lap 'cause it loves me."

Sharing her fears about love in Labyrinth

The tenth track on "Midnights," "Labyrinth," offers listeners an interesting look at Taylor Swift's fears around starting relationships. The verses detail her feelings around a past breakup and how overwhelming the pain was with hopeless lyrics like, "I'll be gettin' over you my whole life." But then the singer is surprised and terrified to find herself moving on. Illustrating how confusing newfound romantic feelings can be after coming out of a heartbreak, she sings, "Oh no, I'm fallin' in love again." and refers to herself as being, "Lost in the labyrinth of my mind."

Starting a new relationship can be a leap of faith for anyone, but Swift indicates that she feels added pressure due to the public interest in her personal life. In one line, she gripes, "You know how much I hate that everybody just expects me to bounce back." Since early in her career, Swift's love life has been repeatedly put under a microscope with her breakups and new relationships widely publicized. With "Labyrinth," she addresses the anxiety this level of scrutiny brings her, as she worries that the next relationship will end badly too. "You know how scared I am of elevators. Never trust it if it rises fast. It can't last," she sings in the pre-chorus, indicating that even as she's falling in love again, she's scared it will all come crashing down.

Did she regret dating John Mayer?

Taylor Swift is known for her deeply personal lyrics, which often lead her fans to look for hidden meanings and clues. And certain lyrics in "Would've, Could've, Should've" have them pointing fingers at one of her celebrity exes. Taken from the extended 3 a.m. edition of "Midnights," the tune has a lot of folk theorizing that it's about John Mayer

For starters, the track details a past relationship with an older suitor. "If I was some paint, did it splatter on a promising grown man? And if I was a child, did it matter if you got to wash your hands?" she sings in the first verse. Reflecting back on the relationship, Swift expresses regret, saying, "I damn sure never would've danced with the devil at nineteen," later adding, "I regret you all the time."

The mention of her age during the relationship clued listeners in that the song could be about Mayer. The pair were rumored to have dated in 2009 when he was 32 and Swift was 19. She seemed to confirm this a year later when a lyric in "Dear John" asked, "Don't you think nineteen's too young?" Swifties were quick to draw parallels between the two songs. One fan said this new track seems like an even deeper look at the hurt Mayer caused. "'Would've, Could've, Should've' makes 'Dear John' seem like the nicest, gentlest song of all time," they tweeted.

High Infidelity marked a date on the calendar

"High Infidelity" was another bonus track that Taylor Swift dropped at 3 a.m., and the lyrics give us more questions than answers. The song details the end of a long-term relationship, seemingly due in part to the narrator's infidelity. Lines like, "You know there's many different ways that you can kill the one you love. The slowest way is never loving them enough" make the song stand out lyrically. But, the phrase that has the most people talking is the refrain in which Swift asks, "Do you really want to know where I was April 29th?" The date has prompted some wild theories online.

Genius points out that April 29, 2016, was the day that Calvin Harris's song, "This Is What You Came For" was released. The two were in a public relationship at the time. However, many assumed they'd perhaps broken up when three days later, Swift was seen dancing with Tom Hiddleston at the Met Gala. 

Neither she nor Harris have ever made a statement about why their relationship ended, but it is worth noting that Swift wrote "This Is What You Came For" under the pseudonym Nils Sjoberg. Despite this collaboration, during an appearance on "On Air With Ryan Seacrest" on the day of the song's release, Harris gave a cool response to the question of whether he'd ever work with Swift. "You know, we haven't even spoken about it ... No. She's about to take a long break," he stated. 

The harsh twist of Dear Reader

In the lyrics of "Dear Reader," Taylor Swift mimics the format of an advice column, with each of the verses starting with the line, "dear reader," as if she's answering a question. This setup makes the song feel like an open letter to the listener, via lines like, "Dear reader, if it feels like a trap, you're already in one," and, "Dear reader, when you aim at the devil, make sure you don't miss." Hearing the verses alone, you might assume Swift is sharing some of life's hard-earned lessons with her younger fans. But, the twist and the true meaning of "Dear Reader" can be found in the chorus.

After sharing her advice, Swift negates what she's said by repeating, "Never take advice from someone who's falling apart," implying that she is not someone to look up to. She doubles down on this self-critical message in the bridge when she states, "You wouldn't take my word for it if you knew who was talking." Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment of the song comes in the outro when she advises the reader, "You should find another guiding light." In an Instagram video about "Anti-Hero," Swift shared, "I struggle with the idea that my life has become unmanageably sized." And certainly, with "Dear Reader" she seems to position herself as a reluctant role model being crushed beneath the weight of such responsibility.

Reflecting on body issues in You're On Your Own, Kid

In 2020, Taylor Swift opened up about her experiences with disordered eating and body dysphoria in the Netflix documentary, "Miss Americana" (via Variety). There, she discussed fame's impact on her body image as a young woman suddenly thrust before a constant flash-bulb circus of photographers. "It's not good for me to see pictures of myself every day," she explained. She elaborated that being exposed to pictures of herself could trigger feelings of low self-worth and distorted body perception that would make her want to starve herself. 

Swift appeared to return to the topic once again in the lyrics to "You're on You're Own, Kid," in which she sings, "I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this. I hosted parties and starved my body." The star also seems to address some of the feelings of inadequacy that may have led to her eating disorder, stating in the pre-chorus, "I search the party of better bodies."

Like much of "Midnights," the song grants Swift the agency to return to past experiences, and to reflect on them from new perspectives — hopefully, everything looks better in the fresh light of morning. 

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).