Ranking the Tracks of Taylor Swift’s 10th Studio Album, Midnights

Midnights is Swift’s return to the autobiographical writings of her previous albums, a shift from the imaginative narration of folklore and evermore.

Taylor Swift in a promotional photoshoot for Midnights.

(Beth Garraabrant)

Taylor Swift in a promotional photoshoot for Midnights.

On August 29, Taylor Swift shocked fans by revealing that her next album drop would not be a rerecord of one of her previous albums, but, rather, her 10th studio album. Midnights is Swift’s return to the autobiographical writings of her previous albums, a shift from the imaginative narration of folklore and evermore. Swift writes that the thirteen songs tell “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my [Swift’s] life.” The album, released on October 21 at midnight, included a surprise drop of an additional 7 songs at 3 AM. Swift calls them the “3am tracks.” 

We are honored to carry on The Foreword tradition of ranking the songs on the album (see Lover, folklore, and evermore). After nearly a month of much deliberation and discussion, much concession and compromise, here are our rankings, from worst to best. 


20. Glitch

There is a quiet but ever present tech-esque sound in the background that we cannot get over. Beyond that, the lyrics are the weakest of all of the songs on the album. We can see the initial idea: the relationship is the result of a technological error, a glitch. In execution, however, the song never quite lands.

Best line: “On search of glorious happenings of happenstance on someone else’s playground”


19. Labyrinth

This song feels almost otherworldly. The background, repetitive lyrics, and warped voice make the listener feel as though they, too, are trapped in the labyrinth of Swift’s mind. We have no complaints, it is only weaker than the other tracks on Midnights

Best line: “You know how much I hate that everybody just expects me to bounce back / Just like that” 


18. Dear Reader

“Dear Reader” is the last track on Midnights (3am Edition). As always, the lyrics are beautiful and poignant. They are a series of gems of wisdom Swift offers to the “reader.” For example, she sings “Bend when you can / Snap when you have to” and “You don’t have to answer / Just ’cause they asked you.” Unlike most of the other tracks, the song is a compilation of pieces of advice, not a coherent story.

Best line: “Burn all the files, desert all your past lives / And if you don’t recognize yourself / That means you did it right”


17. High Infidelity 

There are many theories swirling about which one Swift’s boyfriends, if any, the track is about. (Fans really want to know where she was on April 29th!) The song tells of a relationship that is ending due to infidelity, on the part of the speaker. But the relationship was over long before due to lack of love, Swift argues. “Put on your headphones and burn my city,” she tells her ex. This is, likely, a nod to the fans that use her music to overcome their own romantic troubles.

Best line: “You know there’s many different ways that you can kill the one you love / The slowest way is never loving them enough


16. Karma

Karma is like “Vigilante Shit”’s more bubbly sister. It is a pop tune and the lyrics are a love letter to self confidence. Swift lists what karma is for her: “my boyfriend,” “a god,” “the breeze in my hair on the weekend,” “a relaxing thought,” “a cat” etc… She has no remorse for the feuds of her past. She knows that they were not her fault. Now, the people responsible should be afraid, Swift sings, because what goes around comes around. We are not sure if she is referring to her infamous feud with Kanye West or Scooter Braun, but either way, it is clear that Swift believes that karma is on her side.

Best line: “Karma’s a relaxing thought / Aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?”


15. Mastermind

“Mastermind” is truly masterful. It is reflective of Swift’s personal evolution. This is not the traditional “boy meets girl” tale. Rather, the “girl” (Swift) gets to dictate the terms of the relationship. In fact, she orchestrates the whole thing. She sings, “You see, all the wisest women / Had to do it this way / ‘Cause we were born to be the pawn / In every lover’s game.” She refuses to be that pawn. This is a whole new brand of feminism for Swift, and we love it.

Best line: “I laid the groundwork and then just like clockwork / The dominoes cascaded in a line”


14. Vigilante Shit

This song can best be compared to Swift’s, “Look What You Made Me Do,” on her past album, Reputation. What do both have in common? Daring lyrics about revenge. Swift sings, “I don’t start shit, but I can tell you how it ends.” Fans believe that the track is a reference to either music manager Scooter Braun, and his ex-wife, Yael Cohen Braun, or her past feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. 

Best line: “I don’t dress for women / I don’t dress for men / Lately I’ve been dressing for revenge”


13. Bigger than the Whole Sky

This song is incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking. Although the song is about losing a romantic partner, it hits at the core of having to say goodbye to anyone meaningful. Swift employs vivid imagery of nature, water, and the sky. The quiet, somber melody brings the lyrics to life. She sings, “I’m never gonna meet / What could’ve been, would’ve been / What should’ve been you.” Swift sings those words with a great yearning. This is a clear juxtaposition to “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” (see #3) in which she employs those words to convey great regret and trauma. 

Best line: “’Cause it’s all over, it’s not meant to be / So I’ll say words I don’t believe”


12. The Great War

No one can extend a metaphor quite like Taylor Swift. In “The Great War,” Swift likens the trials and tribulations of a relationship to the metaphor of war. In a war and a relationship, one experiences hurt, great difficulty, issues of trust, and loss, Swift argues. Some specific calls to the larger message of the song are “good faith treaties,” “bloodshed,” and a “memory garden.” The track is a battle cry for times of peace, not war, in relationships. The theme of the song has echoes of “Out of the Woods” and the track could easily be on 1989.

Best line: “There’s no morning glory, it was war, it wasn’t fair”


11. Bejeweled 

When Swift sings, “When I walk in the room / I can still make the whole place shimmer,” we instantly want to get up and dance. Although she filled Midnights with many more somber songs, “Bejeweled” is one of the more dazzling and upbeat tracks on the album. It takes us back a few Swift Eras ago, before the majority of her songs leaned into a more vulnerable side. With uplifting lyrics, and a fun tune, the joy in the song is undeniable and easily communicated to the listener. 

Best line: “Didn’t notice you walking all over my peace of mind / In the shoes I gave you as a present”


10. Snow on the Beach

Calming, delicate, soothing, beautiful, are the first words that come to mind when this song comes on. It is as if Swift whispers the whole song. Comparing a relationship to snow falling on the beach is only something Taylor Swift could pull off. Although Lana Del Ray collaborated on the song, her contribution is limited. We do wish she was more than background vocals. However, the song is incredibly breathtaking, as she whispers, “It’s coming down, it’s coming down.” When listening, it feels as though we are transported to another world, one with a snowy beach.

Best line: “But it’s coming down, no sound, it’s all around / Like snow on the beach”


9. Lavender Haze

This is yet another Taylor Swift song that you will not be able to get out of your head. Believe it or not, Swift got the idea for the song by watching an episode from the four-time Emmy winning show, Mad Men during the pandemic. When she heard the phrase, Swift was drawn to it and decided to look it up. It turns out that the phrase was used in the 1950s to convey being madly in love. The song discusses the challenges that she faces in her relationship with actor Joe Alwyn due to the media frenzy and public opinion. Swift said, “This song is about the act of ignoring that stuff to protect the real stuff.” Clearly, she is, in fact, in her own lavender haze. 

Best lyric: “No deal, the 1950s shit they want from me”


8. Question… ? 

This is easily one of the most catchy songs on the album. With a upbeat tune, we cannot help but get up and dance. Swift sings about a dreamy relationship that was ruined due to “Fuckin’ situations, circumstances / Miscommunications.” In the song, Swift poses a question—actually, questions, to her former partner: “Did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room / And every single one of your friends was making fun of you / But fifteen seconds later they were clapping too? / Then what did you do? / Did you leave her house in the middle of the night? Oh / Did you wish you’d put up more of a fight, oh/ When she said it was too much? / Do you wish you could still touch her?” Who is this song about?  Who is this song about? There are several theories, most notably Harry Styles because he and Swift kissed publicly on New Year’s Eve 2013. But, for now, it’s just a question.

Best line: “‘Cause I don’t remember who I was before you / Painted all my nights / A color I have searched for since”


7. Sweet Nothing

Listening to this song is like falling into a dreamy haze. It’s almost like listening to a lullaby. The song begins as if it is a nursery rhyme. Although this song is lyrical genius, this is the only track on the album in which we enjoy the melody more than the lyrics. Despite that, the story that Swift tells is quite beautiful. The message is, in a world of chaos and lies where “Everyone’s up to something,” we all need that one loving person we can trust. We can assume that Swift’s “person” is her boyfriend of six years, Joe Alywn, who co-wrote the song with her.

Best line: “They said the end is coming / Everyone’s up to something / I find myself running home to your / Sweet nothings”


6. Paris 

Unlike the songs of folklore and evermore, Midnights offers some return to the pop anthems of Swift’s past. This track could easily be on Lover. It is just so fun. For three minutes and sixteen seconds, we, too, are running through the streets of “La Ville-Lumière” (the city of lights) with friends and lovers. From the very first line, we are dropped in our media-centered, hustle and bustle reality. But with Swift’s lover, she can retreat into her own world. “No, I didn’t see the news,” she sings “’Cause we were somewhere else.” Where better to get lost, and let the problems of the world melt away, than Paris?

Best line: “Romance is not dead if you keep it just yours”


5. Midnight Rain

Although we were initially taken aback by the warped lyrics at the beginning of the song, (and still are, to some extent) we have grown to love this song, putting it at the top of our favorites. Swift sings of  yearning for her own path in life, while her partner wants a more simple and traditional life: “He wanted a bride / I was making my own name / Chasing that fame / He stayed the same.” Swift is what she herself dubs midnight rain: wild, crazy, and unpredictable. Her partner is sunshine: beautiful, simple, and traditional. We may not know who she is singing about, but the song is, undoubtedly, brilliant. 

Best line: “My town was a wasteland / Full of cages, full of fences / Pageant queens and big pretenders”


4. Anti Hero

This track is the ultimate self-loathing anthem. Swift sings, “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.” Every lyric goes into depth about how she believes she is her own greatest enemy. Swift reminds us that our perception determines our mindset. The idea of being ashamed of your body, looks, and personality, are easily the most relatable truths on the track. Swift turns common insecurities (that many shy away from discussing) approachable through catchy lyrics and a boppy tune. The song ends with Swift acknowledging the pain of all of this by singing, “It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti hero.”

Best line: “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror”


3. Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve

This track is difficult to rank. It is (likely) an incredibly raw detailing of her regret for her relationship with John Mayer. Swift and Mayer dated when they were nineteen, and thirty two, respectively. The song is not the first track Swift has written about Mayer. Over a decade ago, Speak Now included a song entitled, “Dear John.” In it, she sings, “Don’t you think nineteen is too young / To be played by your dark twisted games, when I loved you so?” Now, over a decade later, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is an emotional roller coaster through the relationship and the clarity Swift wishes she had then. The lyrics paint a vivid picture: “At nineteen, and the god’s honest truth is that the pain was heaven / And now that I’m grown, I’m scared of ghosts / Memories feel like weapons.” 

Best line: “Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first”


2. Maroon

This song is, again, yet another example of Swift’s lyrical brilliance. We see “Maroon” as a continuation of Red (both the album and the song). In “Red” she sings, “Losing him was blue, like I’d never known / Missing him was dark / gray, all alone / Forgetting him was like trying to know / Somebody you never met / But loving him / was red / Oh, red / Burning red.” “Maroon” is more somber, lyrically and musically. It is quieter, but the emotion is just as strong. The track tells the story of a love gone awry. Swift ends the first verse of “Red” singing that loving him was, “Like the colors in autumn, so bright, just before they lose it all.” Years later, we wonder if this line sparked the idea for the track. As Swift grows, so does how she loves: her youthful, bright red lust evolved into a darker, mature “Maroon.”

Best line: “Carnations you had thought were roses, that’s us”


1. You’re on Your Own, Kid

It is just so good. The lyrics are brutal, painfully honest, poignant, and beautiful. This is Taylor Swift at her finest. While the song does not tell a story with a clear arc, there is, in fact, a clear arc of growth for Swift. The song touches on everything from relationships to fame to eating disorders. She employs vivid imagery to paint a larger picture of self growth. The song is empowering because it is so relatable, especially for women. It is not the typical “Girl Boss” anthem but, rather, an honest depiction of life: youthful naivete, yearning, self doubt, and the struggle to find oneself. It is nuanced. Listening to the song is like being wrapped in a warm hug from your favorite lyrical superstar: “You’re on your own, kid / Yeah, you can face this,” she learned and now can lovingly tell us.

Best line: “I searched the party of better bodies / Just to learn that my dreams aren’t rare”