- Taylor Swift released her third studio album, "Midnights," on Friday.
- Swift said the songs contain real details about "13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life."
- Below you'll find a track-by-track analysis of the references and Easter eggs you probably missed.
"Lavender Haze" opens with the tagline that Swift had used to promote the album: "Meet me at midnight."
She previously explained that she was inspired to use the term "Lavender Haze" while watching "Mad Men."
In the 14th episode of season two, titled "The Mountain King," Don Draper describes his newfound infatuation with the model Elizabeth, better known as Betty.
"You're in the lavender haze," replies his best friend Anna Draper, whom he was married to at the time to keep up appearances.
Fans will recognize this as a sneaky nod to "Betty," the 14th track on "Folklore," in which Swift serenades the titular character with a tender plea for forgiveness.
According to Swift, "Lavender Haze" was a "common phrase" used in the '50s to describe being in love.
"That meant you were in that all-encompassing love glow," she said. "Theoretically, when you're in the lavender haze, you'll do anything to stay there."
"I think a lot of people have to deal with this now, not just 'public figures,' because we live in the era of social media," Swift added. "If the world finds out that you're in love with somebody, they're going to weigh in on it."
She added that during her six-year relationship with Joe Alwyn, they've had to ignore "weird rumors, tabloid stuff" in order to "protect the real stuff."
In the song, Swift reveals that she was referring to the never-ending speculation that she and Alwyn are engaged, secretly married, or planning to have children.
"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 sings in verse two.
This line is a reference to the "Madonna-Whore Dichotomy," which describes the patriarchal idea that women can only be one of two stereotypes: a pure and chaste maternal figure or a promiscuous and untrustworthy sex object.
There's very little evidence that "Lavender Haze" was a popular term in the mid-20th century, so it's possible that her claim was an Easter egg for the song's lyrical theme: "No deal / The 1950s shit they want from me," she sings in the chorus.
According to my amateur research, there aren't any academic references to the term as slang for infatuation. The only citation easily found online is an Urban Dictionary entry that was written after the"Mad Men" episode aired.
The earliest use of the term "Lavender Haze" that I could find was in the poem "Sunday" by the Pulitzer Prize winner James Schuyler, published in his 1974 collection "Hymn to Life." There's also a dissertation by Nancy Elizabeth Cunningham called "Behind the lavender haze: a sociological study of lesbianism" which was published in 1976.
Indeed, the color lavender is a well-known symbol of LGBTQ resistance and has been used throughout history to describe phenomena in the queer community.
"Lavender Scare," for example, was coined to describe the moral panic about homosexuality that gripped the US during the Cold War, while the "Lavender Menace" was a group of activists who fought for lesbian liberation in the '70s.
In addition to the title itself, "Maroon" is sprinkled with references to shades of red, including "blood," "burgundy," "scarlet," "roses," "rubies," and "rust."
Swift's 2012 album "Red" was loosely based on her notion that intense romances are "red relationships."
"These are moments of newfound hope, extreme joy, intense passion, wishful thinking, and in some cases, the unthinkable letdown," she wrote in that album's liner notes. "And in my mind, every one of these memories looks the same to me. I see all of these moments in bright, burning red."
Swift previously clarified that "Midnights" was inspired by "13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life." One might conclude that "Maroon" describes an experience during Swift's "Red" era — certainly before she wrote the "Lover" album closer "Daylight" ("I once believed love would be burning red / But it's golden").
The song opens with a romantic scene: Swift and her muse are cuddling and cleaning incense off a vinyl shelf after they stayed up all night.
"How'd we end up on the floor, anyway?" Swift asks.
Her muse replies, "Your roommate's cheap-ass screw-top rosé, that's how," echoing a lyric from "The 1," the opening track on "Folklore" ("We were something, don't you think so? / Rosé flowing with your chosen family").
The roommate may refer to Karlie Kloss, who once had her own bedroom in Swift's Manhattan penthouse. According to Rolling Stone, the room was stocked with Kloss' favorite Whole Foods treats and adorned with photos of the model on the walls.
"And I chose you / The one I was dancing with in New York / No shoes," Swift sings in the chorus.
New York is a main character throughout Swift's discography, playing a major role in tracks like "Holy Ground," "Welcome to New York," and "False God."
This line also seems to reference "Dancing With Our Hands Tied," the 11th track on "Reputation," but most obviously the "Lover" highlight "Cornelia Street" ("Barefoot in the kitchen / Sacred new beginnings").
Another line in the chorus, "The burgundy on your T-shirt when you splashed your wine into me," recalls a tender lyric from another fan-favorite "Reputation" track, "Dress" (I'm spilling wine in the bathtub / You kiss my face and we're both drunk").
"The lips I used to call home / So scarlet, it was maroon," she sings to end the chorus.
Swift has mentioned red lips many times throughout her discography, especially throughout "1989." The imagery appears in "Blank Space" ("Cherry lips, crystal skies"), "Wildest Dreams" ("Red lips and rosy cheeks"), and "Style" ("I've got that red lip classic thing that you like"), among others.
The second verse of "Maroon" explores the relationship's slow demise. In the second chorus, Swift changes the lyric from "I chose you" to "I lost you."
"I wake with your memory over me / That's a real fuckin' legacy," she sings in the bridge.
This couplet recalls "Clean," the closing track on "1989" (You're still all over me / Like a wine-stained dress I can't wear anymore"), as well as "You All Over Me," a vault track included on "Fearless (Taylor's Version)" ("But no amount of freedom gets you clean / I've still got you all over me").
Swift teased the self-loathing theme of "Anti-Hero" in a video on Instagram.
"I really don't think I've delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before," she said. "I struggle with the idea that my life has become unmanageably sized and I — not to sound too dark — but I just struggle with the idea of not feeling like a person."
The first verse heavily references "The Archer," the emotional fifth track on "Lover," which Swift previously said was inspired by her "phantom fear of tragedy."
"I have this thing where I get older, but just never wiser" directly parallels the first pre-chorus in "The Archer" ("I never grew up, it's getting so old").
"When my depression works the graveyard shift, all of the people / I've ghosted stand there in the room," Swift adds, recalling the second pre-chorus in "The Archer" ("I wake in the night, I pace like a ghost").
The chorus of "Anti-Hero" nods to other singles from Swift's "Lover" era: "Me!" ("It's me, hi / I'm the problem, it's me"), as well as the music video for "You Need to Calm Down," in which Swift is shown enjoying a tea party with the cast of Netflix's "Queer Eye" ("At teatime, everybody agrees"). The phrase "spill the tea" is popular slang for gossip that originated in Black drag culture.
"I'll stare directly at the sun, but never in the mirror," Swift sings, possibly referencing the Greek myth of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and burned his wings, causing him to fall to his death. This lyric also recalls another line from "The Archer" ("I cut off my nose just to spite my face / Then I hate my reflection for years and years").
The second verse opens with a controversial lyric: "Sometimes, I feel like everybody is a sexy baby / And I'm a monster on the hill."
Some fans believe this references a scene from the NBC sitcom "30 Rock," though it's more likely that Swift is commenting on the infantilization of women in Hollywood.
Swift previously opened up about the pressure to stay young and "shiny" in the 2020 documentary "Miss Americana."
"We do exist in this society where women in entertainment are discarded in an elephant graveyard by the time they're 35," she said. "Everyone's a shiny new toy for like, two years. The female artists that I know of have reinvented themselves 20 times more than the male artists. They have to, or else you're out of a job."
The idea that Swift is a "monster on the hill" refers back to her fear that her life has become "unmanageably sized." She compares herself to a Godzilla-type creature that will inevitably destroy her surroundings: "Too big to hang out, slowly lurching toward your favorite city."
This recalls a quote from Swift's friend and fellow artist Lorde, who once compared Swift's fame to an "autoimmune disease."
"It's like having a friend with very specific allergies. There are certain places you can't go together. Certain things you can't do," Lorde told The Guardian in 2017. "There are these different sets of considerations within the friendship."
Swift said that "Snow On the Beach" is about "falling in love with someone at the same time as they're falling in love with you," which she described as a "cataclysmic, fated moment."
"You're kind of looking around going, 'Wait, is this real? Is this a dream? Is this for real? Is it really happening?' Kinda like it would be if you were to see snow falling on a beach," she added.
The song opens with a scene-setting lyric: "One night, a few moons ago." This lunar imagery reappears later on the tracklist in "Question…?" ("half-moon eyes"), "Bejeweled" ("my aura's moonstone"), and "Glitch" ("blood moonlit").
Swift has previously referenced the moon in "Paper Rings" ("The moon is high / Like your friends were the night that we first met") and "Seven" ("Love you to the moon and to Saturn").
In art and poetry, the moon has historically symbolized femininity and transformation. In Greek mythology, Artemis was the goddess of the moon as well as the hunt; Swift's zodiac sign is Sagittarius, which is represented by an archer.
"I saw flecks of what could've been lights / But it might just have been you / Passing by unbeknownst to me," she sings in the first verse.
This recalls a similar image in "Long Story Short," the 12th track on "Evermore" ("And he's passing by / Rare as the glimmer of a comet in the sky").
In the second verse, Swift references the aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights — a naturally occurring phenomenon that causes the polar sky to light up with soft, wavering colors. She also says her muse is "lit from within," echoing a sweet lyric from the "Fearless" highlight "Hey Stephen" ("I know looks can be deceiving but I know I saw a light in you").
"My smile is like I won a contest," she sings, recalling a similar motif from "Willow" ("Like you were a trophy or a champion ring / And there was one prize I'd cheat to win").
In the bridge, Swift pays homage to Janet Jackson's hit 2001 single "All For You" ("But your eyes are flying saucers from another planet / Now I'm all for you like Janet"). Jackson gave her stamp of approval for the line on Twitter.
Swift, Jack Antonoff, and featured artist Lana Del Rey cowrote the song, but the star-studded credits also include "All Too Well" star Dylan O'Brien on drums.
The first verse of "You're on Your Own, Kid" appears to rehash Swift's origin story as a child in Pennsylvania and teenager in Tennessee, yearning and daydreaming about her crushes ("I wait patiently, he's gonna notice me / It's OK, we're the best of friends"), echoing the tone of her early career hits like "Teardrops on My Guitar" and "You Belong With Me."
"I didn't choose this town, I dream of getting out / There's just one who could make me stay," Swift sings.
This is reminiscent of a two-part story told in "Evermore" with "'Tis the Damn Season" and "Dorothea." Both songs focus on a small-town girl who moves away to chase Hollywood dreams, but secretly pines for the high-school sweetheart she left behind.
The song's second verse follows Swift as she realizes her songwriting can fuel her "great escape." Although she realizes her "dreams aren't rare," she follows them anyway.
The bridge plays like a recitation of the sacrifices Swift made to succeed: "I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this / I hosted parties and starved my body / Like I'd be saved by a perfect kiss."
Swift disclosed her experience with an eating disorder and ongoing struggle with "impossible" beauty standards in "Miss Americana."
"I tend to get triggered by something, whether it's a picture of me where I feel like my tummy looked too big, or someone said that I looked pregnant or something. And that will trigger me to just starve a little bit, just stop eating," she said.
However, the bridge builds to an optimistic, if somewhat macabre climax: "I looked around in a blood-soaked gown / And I saw something they can't take away."
This could be a reference to the classic horror film "Carrie," adapted from Stephen King's 1974 novel. In the most famous scene, Carrie's cruel classmates rig the Prom Queen race so that she wins. While accepting the crown onstage, they dump a bucket of pig's blood over her head. Enraged and humiliated, Carrie uses her supernatural powers to set the room on fire.
Swift uses the titular phrase "Midnight Rain" to represent her own aspirations and desire for intense emotional experiences. Her portrayal stands in contrast to a former lover, whom she describes as "sunshine."
"He wanted it comfortable, I wanted that pain / He wanted a bride, I was making my own name," she sings, calling back to her explicit rejection of '50s gender roles in "Lavender Haze."
"My town was a wasteland / Full of cages, full of fences / Pageant queens and big pretenders," she sings in the first verse.
Swift has repeatedly used "cages" to symbolize feeling trapped, most notably in "So It Goes…" ("Gold cage, hostage to my feelings"), "This Is Me Trying" ("They told me all of my cages were mental / So I got wasted like all my potential"), and the original demo recording of "Cardigan" ("Living in a gold age / Sneak into my bird cage").
She has also used pageant queens as a metaphor for deception and superficiality in "Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince" ("No cameras catch my pageant smile") and "Dorothea" ("Skipping the prom just to piss off your mom and her pageant schemes").
Indeed, "Midnight Rain" plays like a first-person version of Dorothea's story, told from Swift's own perspective. Much like the narrator in "'Tis the Damn Season," Swift admits to leaving behind a "nice" boy because she was "chasing that fame."
"He never thinks of me / Except for when I'm on TV," she sings in the bridge, clearly echoing a lyric from "Dorothea" ("You got shiny friends since you left town / A tiny screen's the only place I see you now").
"Question…?" opens with the muffled words "I remember," sampled from Swift's own 2014 track "Out of the Woods" (or perhaps its yet-to-be-released rerecording). Both songs were cowritten and coproduced by Swift and Antonoff.
The first line ("Good girl, sad boy") is a clear callback to "Style," another single from Swift's "1989" era ("You got that long hair, slicked back, white t-shirt / And I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt").
The next line ("Big city, wrong choices") underscores the song's connection to "1989," an album that was largely inspired by Swift's relocation to New York City.
"I don't remember who I was / Before you painted all my nights / A color I've searched for since," Swift sings.
This is likely another reference to "Out of the Woods" ("The rest of the world was black and white / But we were in screaming color"), although Swift has repeatedly used color to symbolize a special relationship, particularly when she's worried the feelings can't be recreated. Another notable example of this motif is "Illicit Affairs" ("You showed me colors you know I can't see with anyone else").
In the chorus, Swift sings, "Did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room / And every single one of your friends was making fun of you / But 15 seconds later, they were clapping too?" (The song's credits reveal that Antonoff, his sister Rachel, Swift's brother Austin, and O'Brien provided the applause.)
This stanza feels like a clear reference to the opening lines of "Dress" ("Our secret moments in a crowded room / They got no idea about me and you"). This time, however, Swift's romantic moment isn't secret, but heavily surveilled and even judged.
In the second verse, Swift decries "fuckin' politics and gender roles," echoing the anti-heteronormativity in previous tracks "Midnight Rain" and "Lavender Haze."
Swift said that "fantasizing about revenge" is one of the five things "that kept me up at night and helped inspire the 'Midnights' album."
"Vigilante Shit," the only song on "Midnights" that Swift wrote by herself, is the clear result.
"I don't dress for women / I don't dress for men / Lately I've been dressing for revenge," she sings in the chorus.
This may be a reference to the so-called "revenge dress" worn by Princess Diana in 1994, the same evening that Prince Charles publicly admitted to cheating on her. (Swift wore a similar dress during a 2021 appearance on "Late Night With Seth Meyers," though she denied it was an intentional homage.)
"Vigilante Shit" also feels like an extension of "I Did Something Bad," the third track on "Reputation."
In both songs, Swift alludes to doing "bad things" and telling lies, although she paints her own actions as retaliatory and self-defensive; her unnamed nemesis is the true criminal and liar.
"I don't start shit, but I can tell you how it ends," Swift sings, echoing a line from another "Reputation" track, "End Game" ("I swear I don't love the drama, it loves me").
In the second verse, Swift befriends her enemy's ex-wife and gives her some kind of "cold, hard proof" that gives her the upper hand in her divorce ("Now she gets the house, gets the kids, gets the pride").
This recalls the bridge of "Mad Woman," in which Swift sings, "The master of spin has a couple side flings / Good wives always know."
Many fans believe both songs were inspired by Scooter Braun, who acquired the master rights to Swift's first six albums in 2019 without her knowledge or consent. Braun recently finalized his divorce from Yael Cohen.
In the third verse, Swift accuses her rival of "doing lines" (snorting cocaine) and committing white-collar crimes, possibly referencing a $200 million lawsuit that was filed against Braun in 2021, accusing him of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract.
"Bejeweled" opens with the realization that Swift has been "a little too kind," followed by an accusation: "Didn't notice you walking all over my peace of mind / In the shoes I gave you as a present."
This line seems to reference "Peace," the 15th track on "Folklore," but more notably the album's fifth track "My Tears Ricochet" ("You wear the same jewels that I gave you / As you bury me"). This connection is underscored in the bridge, when Swift sings, "Sapphire tears on my face."
"Best believe I'm still bejeweled / When I walk in the room / I can still make the whole place shimmer," she sings in the chorus.
Swift described herself as a "never-needy, ever-lovely jewel" in the 10-minute version of "All Too Well," as well as "shimmering beautiful" in "Mirrorball" — though both descriptions were reflected in the eyes of others. In "Bejeweled," Swift seems to adopt these traits only for her own pleasure.
In the second verse, Swift continues her line of thought from the first: "Baby boy, I think I've been too good of a girl / Did all the extra credit, then got graded on a curve."
This metaphor recalls the "Folklore" highlight "This Is Me Trying," which Swift said was inspired by people who struggle with mental illness and addiction: "I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere / Fell behind all my classmates and I ended up here."
The title "Labyrinth" refers to how Swift visualizes the complexity of her own brain: "Lost in the labyrinth of my mind."
It could also be a reference to the Greek myth of the Minotaur, a half-man and half-bull creature that lived deep within a labyrinth on the island of Crete. It was fed ritualistic human sacrifices by the Athenians until it was finally killed by the hero Theseus.
One could draw a connection between "Labyrinth" and the "monster on the hill" imagery in "Anti-Hero."
"You're talking shit for the hell of it," Swift sings to open "Karma," once again calling back to "I Did Something Bad" ("If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing").
In the chorus, she compares karma to a variety of images, including "the breeze in my hair on the weekend" and "a cat purring in my lap."
The latter is an obvious reference to Swift's three beloved cats, Meredith, Olivia, and Benjamin, who also get a shout-out in the "Anti-Hero" music video. However, it could also be a sly nod to one of Swift's "Lavender Haze" cowriters: Zoë Kravitz.
Back in March, Swift publicly applauded Kravitz's performance as the bisexual anti-hero Selina Kyle in "The Batman," calling her "the cat woman of dreams."
The song's second verse makes another allusion to Braun, whom Swift appears to dub "Spider Boy, king of thieves." Not only does "Spider Boy" share the same initials as Scooter Braun, but Swift seems to think of Braun's purchase of her catalog as little more than theft. This is emphasized by the lyric, "Don't you know that cash ain't the only price?"
In the bridge, Swift credits karma with her own success ("Ask me why so many fade, but I'm still here"), as well as her happy relationship with Alwyn ("Karma is the guy on the screen / Coming straight home to me").
"Sweet Nothing" was cowritten by Swift and Alwyn, who is credited on the song as William Bowery, a pen name he began using during the "Folklore" and "Evermore" era.
The song begins with Swift reminiscing about a trip she and Alwyn took to the Irish county of Wicklow.
"I spy with my little tired eye / Tiny as a firefly / A pebble that we picked up last July," she sings. "Does it ever miss Wicklow sometimes?"
Alwyn recently starred in Hulu's Sally Rooney adaptation "Conversations With Friends," which was partially filmed in Bray, a coastal town in Wicklow. In fact, he was photographed there with his costar Alison Oliver in July 2021.
"They said the end is coming," Swift sings in the chorus, echoing a lyric from "Mirrorball" ("Hush, I know they said the end is near").
She also uses the common phrase "sweet nothings" as a double entendre; it's typically used to describe the whisperings of a lover, but Swift also uses it to illustrate that her relationship is quiet and normal and that Alwyn doesn't expect her to be anything larger than life ("You're in the kitchen humming / All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothing").
In the song's bridge, Swift juxtaposes the demands of her job and her fame with her sensitive reality: "And the voices that implore, 'You should be doing more' / To you, I can admit that I'm just too soft for all of it."
This recalls the central theme of "The Lakes," the lone bonus track on "Folklore," in which Swift fantasizes about running away with her lover to Windermere in England: "Take me to the lakes where all the poets went to die / I don't belong and, my beloved, neither do you."
"Mastermind" opens by introducing the idea of fate, suggesting the "stars aligned" in order for Swift and her muse to meet.
"The touch of a hand lit the fuse / Of a chain reaction of countermoves," Swift sings in the pre-chorus. This "chain reaction" is the very thing she warned him about in her 2017 track "Gorgeous" ("You should think about the consequence / Of you touching my hand in a darkened room").
However, shortly after, Swift admits that "none of it was accidental" and unveils herself as the mastermind behind the whole affair ("It was all by design"). She described herself using similar terms in "I Think He Knows," the sixth track on "Lover" ("I am an architect, I'm drawing up the plans").
Some fans have called "Mastermind" an inverse of the fan-favorite "Folklore" track "Invisible String," which seems to credit fate for Swift's relationship with Alwyn: "Isn't it just so pretty to think / All along there was some / Invisible string / Tying you to me?"
However, Swift may have been hinting at her self-described "Machiavellian" ways all along.
The chorus in "Invisible String" may contain a subtle reference to the famous final line in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises." Throughout the story, the narrator Jake pines for his friend Brett, even though both characters understand they can't meet each other's needs.
In the last scene, Brett tells Jake wistfully, "We could have had such a damned good time together."
Jake replies: "Isn't it pretty to think so?"
Because Jake loves Brett but they can never be together, Jake means it's "pretty" because it's merely a fantasy. Brett's comment doesn't reflect the harsh reality of their situation.
Similarly, Swift may be suggesting that it's "pretty" to think fate brought her true love because the reality is less attractive — that she's been "scheming like a criminal" to get what she wants.
In the bridge of "Mastermind," Swift says her goal since childhood has been to "make them love me and make it seem effortless."
However, her manipulations failed. In the final chorus, she reveals that her muse saw through her schemes and understood her intentions all along: "Saw a wide smirk on your face / You knew the entire time / You knew that I'm a mastermind."
These final lines underscore the idea that Swift is loved for who she is, not who she pretends to be — a theme she explores throughout "Reputation," especially in "Delicate" ("My reputation's never been worse, so / You must like me for me") and "Call It What You Want" ("I want to wear his initial on a chain 'round my neck / Not because he owns me / But 'cause he really knows me").
"The Great War" is the first of seven deluxe tracks that Swift shared as a surprise, just three hours after "Midnights" was released.
"There were other songs we wrote on our journey to find that magic 13," she told fans. "I'm calling them 3am tracks. Lately I've been loving the feeling of sharing more of our creative process with you, like we do with From The Vault tracks. So it's 3am and I'm giving them to you now."
"Midnights (3am Edition)" features three songs, including "The Great War," that were produced by Aaron Dessner, Swift's primary collaborator throughout the "Folklore" and "Evermore" era.
The song begins with a vivid image: "My knuckles were bruised like violets."
Violets clearly call back to the imagery of "Lavender Haze," but the purple flowers also carry a symbolic history.
Towards the end of Act IV in "Hamlet," the tragic heroine Ophelia distributes flowers she has collected to important characters as a subtle method of passing judgment on their actions.
"I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died," she says.
Floral symbolism was very popular in Elizabethan theater; audiences would've known that violets were associated with faithfulness. Swift comparing her bruised knuckles to violets, then, could be a subversive way to communicate sorrow and a loss of faith in this relationship.
Violet symbolism also has roots in storytelling and art from Ancient Greece, popularized by the poet Sappho, who was known for writing about sapphic romance and desire.
To this day, violets are associated with lesbian love, which may shed some light on the female pronoun Swift uses a few lines later: "And maybe it was egos swinging / Maybe it was her."
Another line in the first verse, "Sucker punching walls, cursed you as I sleep-talked," recalls a similar image from "Long Story Short" ("Like the war of words I shouted in my sleep").
In the chorus, Swift sings of "all that bloodshed, crimson clover," possibly referencing the beloved love song "Crimson and Clover," originally recorded by Tommy James and the Shondells in 1968. (The love song was later covered by Joan Jett, Cher, and Prince.)
"Crimson clover" could also be intended as a literal image — blood spilling over a field of clover, a flower that's heavily associated with good luck, and turning the green leaves red.
Swift continues her coded floral communication in the third verse: "Say a solemn prayer, place a poppy in my hair / There's no morning glory, it was war, it wasn't fair."
Poppies symbolized medicine, healing, sleep, and dreams in Ancient Greek mythology. Today, they're largely associated with remembrance, especially as it relates to a soldier's sacrifice, their bright-red petals representing the bloodshed during battle.
In Victorian literature, especially Victorian women's poetry, morning glories were used to communicate unrequited love, or love that continues after death.
Throughout the song, Swift deepens her wartime metaphor with phrases associated with combat and death, including "good faith treaties" and "soldier down."
She also mentions "playing with fire" and "burning embers," echoing the passionate yet dangerous imagery in "Ivy," the 10th track on "Evermore" ("It's a goddamn blaze in the dark / And you started it / You started it / So yeah, it's a war / It's the goddamn fight of my life / And you started it").
In the bridge, Swift sings of betrayal in the midst of the (lavender) haze.
"Somewhere in the haze, got a sense I'd been betrayed / Your finger on my hairpin triggers," she sings.
The actual term is "hair trigger," which means a gun has been modified to be extra sensitive to pressure. Swift intentionally changed the phrase to "hairpin triggers" as a clear callback to "Right Where You Left Me," one of two bonus tracks on "Evermore" ("I swear you could hear a hairpin drop / Right when I felt the moment stop").
"Dropping hairpins" is a well-known euphemism for dropping queer clues.
"Bigger Than the Whole Sky" is a heart-wrenching song about loss, which fans have interpreted in various ways: suffering a miscarriage; enduring the death of a loved one; mourning a version of yourself that you can never get back.
"I've got a lot to pine about / I've got a lot to live without," Swift sings in the chorus. "I'm never gonna meet / What could've been, would've been / What should've been you."
These lyrics nod to another 3am track, "Would've, Could've, Should've," in which Swift mourns the loss of her girlhood. This could support the interpretation of "Bigger Than the Whole Sky" as an open letter to Swift's younger self, before the trappings and trials of fame, before her life became "unmanageably sized."
The connection between these two songs is deepened in the second verse, when Swift sings, "Did some force take you bеcause I didn't pray?"
Swift mentions praying and faith throughout "Would've, Could've, Should've" as a means of exploring who she might've been if she hadn't "danced with the devil at 19." Similarly, in "Bigger Than the Whole Sky," she wonders if praying would've helped her avoid this pain.
This lyric also recalls the bridge in "The 1" ("If one thing had been different / Would everything be different today?")
"Paris" contains several connections to earlier songs on the tracklist. "Drew a map on your bedroom ceiling" is reminiscent of "Lavender Haze" ("Staring at the ceiling with you") and "Cheap wine, make believe it's champagne" is an obvious callback to "Maroon" ("Your roommate's cheap-ass screw-top rosé").
The song broadly describes Swift frolicking with her muse in Paris, famously known as the "City of Love."
"Romance is not dead if you keep it just yours / Levitate above all the messes made," she sings in the second verse. This echoes the primary theme of "Lavender Haze," as well as both "Reputation" and "Lover" — that Swift is determined to keep her relationship private in order to "protect the real stuff" from the outside world.
"Sit quiet by my side in the shade / And not the kind that's thrown / I mean the kind under where a tree has grown," she adds.
Swift has used "shade" several times as slang for an expression of contempt, most notably in the "Lover" tracks "I Forgot That You Existed" ("Lived in the shade you were throwing / 'Til all of my sunshine was gone, gone, gone") and "You Need to Calm Down" ("Shade never made anybody less gay").
In the bridge, Swift revisits the deception-in-the-name-of-love motif from "Mastermind": "I wanna brainwash you into loving me forever."
"Let the only flashing lights be the tower at midnight," she adds, referring to the Eiffel Tower, which glows gold every night, and sparkles for five minutes every hour on the hour. The lights, however, no longer sparkle at 12 a.m. due to an energy-saving plan that launched in September. Instead, the lights get switched off at 11:45.
But the line could also be in reference to the "1989" bonus track "Wonderland" ("Flashing lights and we / Took a wrong turn and we / Fell down a rabbit hole"), which also describes getting lost with a lover — though with a more tragic ending.
"High Infidelity" is an obvious play on the phrase "high fidelity," which means the reproduction of a sound (such as music on vinyl) has a very clear quality that's faithful to the original. Here, Swift flips the phrase to imply that someone in her relationship has been unfaithful.
"High Fidelity" is also the title of an iconic 2000 rom-com. John Cusack stars as the neurotic and hopelessly romantic Rob, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of indie music and owns a failing record store.
In 2020, a queer and gender-flipped reboot of "High Fidelity" premiered on Hulu with Kravitz in the starring role; Swift's song may have been partially inspired by her "Lavender Haze" cowriter.
Swift underscores this connection in the chorus: "Put on your records and regret me." (Both Cusack and Kravitz's versions of Rob are sent into a spiral when their relationships end.)
"Your picket fence is sharp as knives," Swift adds, implying that her ex-partner wanted a domestic future that she couldn't give, echoing the themes of "Lavender Haze" and "Midnight Rain."
Fans have theorized that "High Infidelity" could be connected to Jake Gyllenhaal, who apparently inspired the "Red" single "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" ("You would hide away and find your peace of mind / With some indie record that's much cooler than mine").
Others have pointed to Calvin Harris as the inspiration for the lyric "Do you really wanna know where I was April 29th?" This was the release date for Harris' single "This Is What You Came For" when the two were dating in 2016; Swift secretly cowrote the hit song using the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg.
In the second verse, Swift suggests that she's been compelled to date people she wasn't truly interested in, whether for positive PR or for financial gain. "Dragged my feet right down the aisle / At the house lonely, good money," she sings. "I'd pay if you'd just know me / Seemed like the right thing at the time."
This recalls a verse in "Cowboy Like Me," the 11th track on "Evermore," in which Swift sings of "the old men that I've swindled" and about pretending she was in love for financial gain ("Telling all the rich folks anything they wanna hear / Like it could be love / I could be the way forward / Only if they pay for it").
"Glitch" opens with the lyric, "We were supposed to be just friends."
Swift has alluded to a friends-to-lovers arc in several songs, including "Dress" ("I don't want you like a best friend"), "Paper Rings" ("I hate accidents / Except when we went from friends to this"), and "It's Nice to Have a Friend."
In the chorus, Swift describes her attraction to this person as a "glitch," hinting that it may not be seen as "normal" or socially acceptable.
This is emphasized in the second verse, when Swift sings, "The system's breaking down," and again in the bridge: "A brief interruption, a slight malfunction / I'd go back to wanting dudes who give nothing."
Swift adds that it's been "2,190 days of our love blackout" which is six years. This could link "Glitch" to "Lavender Haze," since Swift described the opening track as being about her "relationship for six years."
The date exactly 2,190 days before the release of "Midnights" was either October 21 or October 22, 2016, depending on the time zone.
The latter was the date of Swift's only live performance that year.
The special concert in Austin, Texas took place about three months after Swift was publicly shamed by Kim Kardashian and Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) and shortly before she withdrew from the spotlight to make "Reputation."
It was around this time that she began dating Alwyn, indicated by a page of her diary that was included with physical copies of "Lover." In January 2017, Swift wrote that she and Alwyn had secretly been together for three months.
October 2016 was also the last time Swift and Kloss were photographed together in public.
"Would've, Could've, Should've" bears a clear connection to "Dear John," the fifth track on "Speak Now" that's widely believed to be about John Mayer.
Swift and Mayer dated briefly in late 2009 and early 2010. They met when Swift was 19 years old, while Mayer was 32. (Swift is currently 32, and "Would've, Could've, Should've" is track 19).
In "Dear John," Swift sings, "Don't you think 19's too young / To be played by your dark, twisted games when I loved you so?"
Similarly, in "Would've, Could've, Should've," Swift laments that she "danced with the devil at 19."
"And if I was some paint, did it splatter / On a promising grown man?" she sings in the first verse. "And if I was a child, did it matter / If you got to wash your hands?"
This is likely a reference to "Promising Young Woman," the 2020 dark comedy starring Carey Mulligan as Cassie, who methodically exacts revenge on men that try to take advantage of women.
Swift underscores this theme of male corruption and abuse with a poignant lyric in the bridge: "Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first."
"Would've, Could've, Should've" also employs religious language to communicate guilt and regret: "If you never touched me, I would've / Gone along with the righteous," "You're a crisis of my faith," "The God's honest truth is that the pain was heaven."
This recalls the tangled themes of religious guilt and pleasure in "False God," the 13th track on "Lover" ("They say the road gets hard and you get lost when you're led by blind faith").
In the chorus, Swift sings, "And now that I'm grown, I'm scared of ghosts," calling back to her depression-induced visions of "all of the people I've ghosted" in "Anti-Hero."
She also draws a connection to "The Great War" with lyrics like "Years of tearing down our banners," "Memories feel like weapons," and "I fight with you in my sleep / The wound won't close."
The title of "Dear Reader" is likely a reference to Charlotte Brontë's Victorian novel "Jane Eyre," which features one of the most iconic lines in English literature: "Reader, I married him."
"Dear reader, burn all the files / Desert all your past lives," she sings in the first verse. "And if you don't recognize yourself / That means you did it right."
This stanza echoes a lyric from the titular track on "Evermore," in which Swift says she's been "writing letters addressed to the fire." This was also a likely reference to "Jane Eyre," whose heroine sends letters to her lover's house before she finds out that it burned down.
"Dear Reader" also recalls "If You're Anything Like Me," one of two poems Swift included in Target-exclusive copies of "Reputation." In both, Swift addresses her fans directly and tries to impart the wisdom she's learned from her trauma.
However, Swift undermines her own goal in the song's chorus ("Never take advice from someone who's falling apart") as well as the outro ("You should find another guiding light, guiding light / But I shine so bright").
This message parallels "The Path," the opening track on Lorde's newest album "Solar Power" ("Now if you're looking for a savior, well, that's not me / You need someone to take your pain for you? / Well, that's not me / 'Cause we are all broken and sad").
Lorde's lyrics attempt to dismantle the idea of celebrity worship, urging her listeners not to place her on a pedestal.