In its first 24 hours of existence, Taylor Swift’s new album, Midnights, has given us a lot to chew on. Its arrival has prompted questions like, how many cameos is too many? Where the hell is Lana del Rey? And just what did Taylor mean when she called everyone a sexy baby?
Lyrically, Midnights is as Swiftian as ever: There’s a Crayola box’s worth of color references, a fair share of Easter eggs (including one lyric that Taylor snuck into her NYU graduation speech back in May), and one crushing track that can’t not be about John Mayer. There is, of course, a revenge song. I strongly suspect Swift had a thesaurus on hand while writing, because the range of vocabulary on display is truly impressive.
In that vein, Midnights also has some of Taylor’s most elaborate, over-the-top metaphors, which is to say, sometimes it’s hard to figure out what the hell she’s talking about. (Case in point: sexy baby.) We know from history that her songs almost always have specific reference points, many of them from her life. But between all the testy weather, whimsical scene-setting, and vivid revenge fantasies, not everything is clear. The album’s rollout is nowhere near over, so we very well might get some further insight into what Taylor means by some of these mystery lyrics. However, some of them provide more questions than answers. Here are the most cryptic snippets.
And I chose you
The one I was dancing with
In New York, no shoes
This is the chorus of “Maroon,” to which I say, Taylor, where are your shoes? Nowhere in New York is it safe or sanitary to stand, let alone dance, without shoes on. Whimsy does not make you immune to tetanus.
Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby
And I’m a monster on the hill
Too big to hang out, slowly lurching toward your favorite city
Pierced through the heart but never killed
The telltale sexy baby. Taylor is a talented director, but this plot is really losing me. What could she possibly mean? Does she feel that we, the sexy babies, are threatened by her, an unsexy monster? Is this city overrun by sexy babies? Please, Taylor, I will not know peace until you tell me what you mean by this, your most confusing metaphor yet.
From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes
I called a taxi to take me there
I search the party of better bodies
Just to learn that my dreams aren’t rare
“You’re on Your Own, Kid” seems to be about having a high-school crush and also realizing she wanted to be a musician, but the party she’s singing about simply sounds bad. I hope she’s found some more uplifting parties where the guests support her dreams.
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?
No, Taylor, this has never happened to me, but your friends sound like they’re giving you a lot of mixed messages. Leave this room immediately.
She needed cold hard proof so I gave her some
She had the envelope, where you think she got it from?
Now she gets the house, gets the kids, gets the pride
Picture me thick as thieves with your ex-wife
The one in which Taylor insinuates she’s responsible for Scooter Braun’s divorce settlement … ?!?! Twitter users much wiser than I have pointed to Braun, Taylor’s known enemy and the owner of her music catalogue, as the subject of “Vigilante Shit.” Braun and his most recent wife, Yael Cohen, got divorced in July 2021, and while I assume Taylor took some creative liberty here, I do not know the details of their custody agreement. If anyone knows the former Mrs. Braun, please send her my way for thorough questioning.
Sapphire tears on my face
Sadness became my whole sky
But some guy said my aura’s moonstone
Just ’cause he was high
And we danced all night
God, she has been to some awful parties. This one was probably in Bushwick. Here, Taylor is threatening her rude boyfriend that she will go out and flirt with someone who appreciates her more, but I feel I must warn her that any dude talking about auras is not going to be a better option. Still, I’d like to know who he is, for research purposes only.
Spider boy, king of thieves
Weave your little webs of opacity
My pennies made your crown
Trick me once, trick me twice
Don’t you know that cash ain’t the only price?
Whew! You can really see the thesaurus coming in handy here. This is on the song “Karma,” which, well, you can probably guess what it’s about. To my knowledge, Taylor has not dated Tom Holland, who recently played Spider-Man, nor has she had romantic connections to the past Spider-Men, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire. There are too many specific references here for them to be random, but the studious Swifties on Reddit will have to decode it for me.
This is the first time I’ve felt the need to confess
And I swear I’m only cryptic and Machiavellian ’cause I care
I appreciate that Taylor threw an encouraging little lyric into the album’s last song, “Mastermind,” even though it kind of sounds like something a Disney villain would say. If she really “cares,” wouldn’t she tell us exactly what all her lyrics mean?!
Do you really wanna know where I was April 29?
Do I really have to chart the constellations in his eyes?
Of course, we must also dissect the album’s seven bonus songs, including “High Infidelity,” which is about cheating on a guy who’s into music. (It’s also, maybe, probably, a cutesy nod to Zoë Kravitz’s presence on the album.) Again, we have a reference way too specific to be random, where Taylor appears to be pinpointing the exact date she cheated on someone. She’s had plenty of musician boyfriends (Joe Jonas, John Mayer, Harry Styles, Calvin Harris), and this could be about any of them, though I sincerely hope it’s not Styles — he has enough drama for the time being.
I was supposed to sweat you out
In search of glorious happenings of happenstance on someone else’s playground
But it’s been two thousand one-hundred ninety-nine days of our love blackout
Sex-math time! 2,199 days translates to just over six years, which happens to be about how long Taylor has been dating her current boyfriend, actor and London boy Joe Alwyn. Consider this the one solvable mystery on Midnights.
This post has been updated.