Whether you love or hate her music (and I, for one, hope you love it), you have to acknowledge that Taylor Swift is a master of reinventing herself. Taylor exists in eras, in segments of her life and music career she’s sectioned off and marked with a different vibe or aesthetic.
1. Taylor Swift
- Vibe: country girl next door
- Outfit Inspo: White lacy strapless gown, cowboy boots, bouquet of wildflowers
- Vibe: fairytale daydream
- Outfit Inspo: glitter and metallics, tulle and lace
3. Speak Now
- Vibe: coming of age, realizing your power and coming into your own
- Outfit Inspo: Prom dress and high-top Converse
- Vibe: reflective, celebratory, and frustrated all at the same time
- Outfit Inspo: wide-brimmed hat, red lip, black and white
- Vibe: cool girl casual, fierce celebration of twenty-somethinghood
- Outfit Inspo: vintage jeans, crop top, fun sneakers
- Vibe: The old me is dead
- Outfit Inspo: leather and lace, red lip, dark makeup, high heeled boots
- Vibe: cotton candy dreams, learning how to love
- Outfit Inspo: pastels, tie dye, fringe, tulle, and texture
8. Folklore & Evermore (Sister Albums)
- Vibe: haunting ballads, the smell of cinnamon, crunching leaves on a misty fall evening walk
- Outfit Inspo: plaid peacoat, faded corduroys, turtleneck, boots, cardigan
- Vibe: hazy sleepless nights, the muffled bass of music from a club, reflective evening thoughts and the desire to be more
- Outfit Inspo: dark, glittery fabrics, shimmery eyeshadow, Stevie Nicks
And now, there’s Midnights, a new era of Taylor. It explores themes of self-doubt, revenge, power, and the late-night intrusive thoughts that haunt us. There’s something indescribably mature about the entire album — it has begun an era of Taylor living for herself.
We see her embracing her insecurities. We see her owning that she’s not always strong, that strength comes in waves, and that weakness and breakdowns can be embraced as much as the strength of fighting back. Taylor recognizes that it’s okay to revel in loss, but it’s also okay to embrace your demons, to speak to them, write them into songs, and exist in the lavender haze of midnight fantasies and nightmares. She wraps her purple and silver-glittered strength around her like a cloak. Folklore and Evermore felt like albums for us, her fans, but something about Midnights feels like it’s for Taylor.
Of course, she’s handed it over to us as a gift, giving us Easter eggs to ponder on and an album that merits scream-singing in the car at night and crying alone under a blanket by candlelight. But at the same time, she’s given herself permission to explore her most vulnerable inner thoughts, finding a kind of lyricism that intrigues the listener and describes to us the true, real Taylor. It’s a cool older sister of an album.
Ever the queen of building suspense, she had us all on tenterhooks for a month prior to the release
And from the promotion of the album to the music videos, Taylor has crafted a glamorous aesthetic to match. The internet has been abuzz for weeks with Taylor Lore (Taylore, if you will). Ever the queen of building suspense, she had us all on tenterhooks for a month prior to the release, watching excitedly as she released track titles one by one through her video series “Midnights Mayhem with Me.” In each video, which she released promptly at midnight, she rolled a bingo cage to release a ball with a number corresponding to one of her track titles, and then said the track title into an antique telephone. Speculation about the album erupted based on the smallest of “clues” — from the direction she held the telephone to her facial expressions. Don’t even get me started on the 3 AM surprise of an extra seven songs after the original album had been released.
The music on the new album is incredible, at least in my opinion. But what interested me most was the aesthetic of the project — it’s clear that Taylor has reinvented herself once again.
A far cry from the folky, plaid-coat fantasies of Evermore and Folklore, Midnights seems to evoke the same sort of melancholy, but in a more glamorous way. Her album cover, instead of a kind of lonely autumn walk, is a close up of her flicking a lighter, her dark blue eyeshadow shimmering below the blunt cut of her bangs. The dark, midnight blue velvet draped behind her in her videos contrasts richly with the gold bingo cage and bright yellow and orange tones of her own clothing. She’s created a kind of vintage, retro fantasy, evoking Stevie Nicks and game shows of the seventies.
With the two corresponding music videos Taylor’s released, she’s captured both the bright tiredness of the 70s and the glamorous exhaustion of today. “Bejeweled” is a glittering fairytale of floating gemstones and golden elevators, representing the triumphant high point of the album and the glamor of late nights out. “Anti-Hero” is a 1970s colored-kitchen-appliances, rust and mustard dream sequence that evokes a kind of stifled suburban life — but even still, there are hints of the purple, glittery, grown-up glamor. The video shows Taylor throwing up after drinking too much, and when she does, she vomits purple glitter. Somehow, to me, that image alone perfectly describes the entire album.
Her style captures the zeitgeist of Autumn 2022 — a kind of tired desire to keep pushing forward and celebrating life with all the power and energy we have left, no matter the toll that’s been taken on us over the past several years.
While the aesthetics of her previous sister albums felt cool and misty, this new look feels stifling, yet strangely comforting, like being enveloped in the pounding music of a crowded club. Taylor’s new aesthetic seems to fit her perfectly, no matter that she’s reinvented her look what feels like hundreds of times. Her style captures the zeitgeist of Autumn 2022 — a kind of tired desire to keep pushing forward and celebrating life with all the power and energy we have left, no matter the toll that’s been taken on us over the past several years.
And this is the heart of why Taylor’s new era is not only beautiful but brilliant and incredibly perceptive. Not only is she the queen of reinventing herself, but she’s also the queen of understanding how to match her new aesthetic to exactly what her audience feels and needs. She seems to know exactly what we need at what time — during the pandemic, two solemn albums discussing loss and colored in dark grays; and now, amidst the trauma in the world, an album that reflects the collective anxiety and tension we all hold — and with it a dark and brooding yet glamorous style that simultaneously feels chic and pedestrian.