Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album Midnights just dropped, and we have to talk about the buildup. Swift’s known for her conspiratorial fans and album Easter eggs, but with her latest drop she said she wasn’t going to be up to her old tricks. Instead, capitalizing on her social media prowess, Swift had her fans glued to TikTok for a series of direct-to-camera posts. Still, fan speculation and conspiracy theories dominated conversation on the app, exposing even the most casual of fans to the Swiftie brain.
The Midnights promotional cycle was a testament to Swift’s dedicated fan service. By connecting with her fans in the digital spaces they frequent, she not only stoked the flames of curiosity but also stayed true to her $500 million dollar brand. Swift has always been social media savvy, from the early days of her Tumblr lurking to her iconic Instagram reset pre-Reputation, but the Midnights era strategy has been more robust, spreading herself thin across TikTok, Instagram, Spotify… and Amazon Prime.
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While fans were divided on whether or not Midnights was really living up to previous cycles, one thing rang true: Swift got every media platform, company, and brand on board. Below, we break down the social media impact of the Midnights era.
A timeline of Taylor Swift events
Hidden lyric Easter egg at NYU
Unbeknownst to the world, and also against Swift’s own promise to defy her past as an avid Easter egg dropper, the singer’s NYU 2022 commencement speech actually held the first Midnights clue: a hidden lyric from the upcoming album.
Announcement at the MTV VMAs
Swift announced Midnights at the Aug. 28 VMAs in her acceptance speech for Video of the Year for “All Too Well: The Short Film.” She wore a silver, bejeweled (eye emoji) dress that was suspiciously similar to a dress she wore in the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video. As any Swiftie knows, the VMAs are holy ground for the pop star, adding weight to her decision to announce the album there.
New social media era
Soon after, Swift posted the first Midnights images to her Instagram, including the full album art, number of tracks, and release date (no hiding it here). The caption to the post read, “Midnights, the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life, will be out October 21. Meet me at midnight.” She followed up with several TikToks introducing fans to exclusive vinyl and album art, and weeks later, Swift finally made it back into the social media moment with a “Making of Midnights” video posted on Sept. 16. It stoked fan theories across TikTok and Twitter, and (unsurprisingly) held some album clues as well. What a lovely snowy beach!
Midnights Mayhem time
Swift’s promotional cycle really started here and solidified TikTok as her Midnights base. On Sept. 21, Swift dropped the first of 13 midnight-timed videos revealing the entire tracklist, hosted by TikTok. “I know I have a habit of dropping cryptic clues and Easter eggs when giving you information about my music,” Swift said in the video, “and I’m not here to deny that, but I am here to defy that.” For the next 17 days, Swifties, and even casual listeners, tuned in to the app to see Swift spin a bingo cage, pull out a lucky song, and unveil the Midnight release through her vintage phone (a meta moment). The track titles were also accompanied by track explanations — a rare thing from the usually cryptic pop star.
These videos were also on Instagram, and even on YouTube Shorts, which many artists have pivoted toward to maximize the so-called demand for short-form video content.
Spotify collaborations begin
Swift’s next huge social media swing was with streaming giant Spotify (a departure from Apple Music heavy Taylor’s Version promo of the last two years). Swift released exclusive videos with even more information about the album, including the “5 things that inspired Midnights” — “self-loathing, fantasizing about revenge, wondering what could have been, falling in love, and falling apart.”
In the week leading up to the album, Swift then released an entire calendar of online events. At the same time, Spotify began a lyrical journey around the world, revealing select lyrics from all the Midnights songs in undisclosed locations. This effectively shifted Swift’s promo over to the Twitter Swiftie-verse, within which stan accounts and Taylor Nation itself weighed in on lyric and era theories.
And even more collaborations upon collaborations
In the 24 hours before the album release, Swift asked her devoted fans to take to the field for Amazon Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football (because… that makes sense), where they got the first glimpse of the album’s music videos ahead of its release. She also collaborated with her old haunt Tumblr to release a custom Midnights blog theme.
And if she wasn’t directly working with the brand ahead of the new music, companies sure were using the Midnights internet moment to boost their social media accounts, from Dominos UK to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.
Fans spent many sleepless nights theorizing about Midnights. Here are the speculations filling up your timeline.
Myth: There were Easter eggs being dropped this whole time…
Status: True! (duh)
Even though Swift pledged to defy her old habits this time around, Swifties were not going to let go of an opportunity to hunt for secret messages — and they were right to do so! Turns out Swift had hidden a Midnights reference as far back as her May commencement speech at NYU, and other sharp-eyed fans found vague nods to the album scattered throughout her posts and social media bios.
Myth: Each song represents a different era or previous album.
When Swift announced the album she said it was “the stories of 13 sleepless nights throughout my life.” Fans speculated that each track on the album would represent a different era or previous album, potentially drawing on her large vault of unreleased tracks written over her long career. But Swift isn’t recycling old songs. In an interview with SiriusXM where she answered fan questions Swift said, “Everything on Midnights is new work. Nothing is leftover from a different album. It might have been ideas or concepts or things I’ve thought of maybe making in the past, but I didn’t write anything until I was making this album.”
Myth: niceboy ed is Joe Alwyn
A couple weeks after announcing Midnights, Swift uploaded a 15-second montage of the making of the album to TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube set to the song “life you lead” by niceboy ed. Despite Swift’s assertion that she’s denying her Easter egg past, Swifties immediately jumped on her seemingly random song choice. The track was niceboy ed’s first streaming credit and had only been released the day prior, making it suspicious to her fanbase. Swifties theorized that niceboy ed is a childhood friend of Swift’s beau Joe Alwyn based on the fact Alwyn is following him on Instagram, while others thought this was a William Bowery situation where Alwyn is actually niceboy ed. Swift has yet to address her mysterious song choice.
Myth: Taylor Swift is actually releasing two albums including the “lost” album, Karma
Status: Unconfirmed, but be serious.
Take a seat, put on your tin hat, and let us fill you in on some Taylore. There is a popular conspiracy theory that there is a “lost” album which fans dubbed Karma. Therefore, when Swift announced that track 11 on Midnights was titled “Karma” all hell broke loose in the fandom.
Prior to Reputation, Swift had released an album every two years setting up her sixth album to be released in 2016. She dyed her hair platinum blonde, signaling a new era, and fans geared up for a release. But all that was thwarted by the Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, and Swift drama that resulted in Swift leaving the public eye until Reputation’s release in 2018.
Swift hinted at Karma’s existence in “The Man” music video where Swift dressed as a man pees on a wall that has the title of all her albums in graffiti…and the word “karma.” Additionally, in a 2016 interview with Vogue Swift said “Karma is real.” Do with that what you may, but we’d very much like to be excluded from this narrative.
Myth: The Tumblr renaissance is happening on Midnights
Status: Partially true.
The Internet’s deep obsession with the so-called 2014 Tumblr resurgence also crept its way into the Midnights release, as fans theorized Swift might be bringing on fellow Tumblr musical icons. Top picks were a feature from The 1975 or Lana Del Rey, both fellow Jack Antonoff collaborators.
Fans speculated that frontman Matty Healy of The 1975 was featured based on Swift being one of the first listeners of the band’s new album Being Funny in a Foreign Language (revealed in a Healy interview with Pitchfork). But Healy immediately shut down the rumors on his burner Twitter account.
The Del Rey speculation began thanks to Swift wearing the same shirt in a photograph with Del Rey and Antonoff as in the making of Midnights video. Sadly, only one legend made it onto the album, confirmed by the reveal of “Snow On The Beach,” featuring Lana Del Rey, in the last episode of Midnights Mayhem. The sad, witchy girls won.
Myth: The upside down phones in “Midnights Mayhem with Me” signifies the album’s singles
Status: Partially true.
During the Midnights Mayhem releases, fans quickly spotted some unusual behavior from the carefully crafted artist, including two videos in which she held the Midnights phone upside down as she unveiled the track titles for “Anti-Hero” and “Vigilante Shit.” Swifties immediately correlated this with some kind of hidden meaning, spawning several theories like a potential collaboration or a music video. Surprise, surprise: “Anti-Hero” was confirmed to be the first single and music video release from the album. And the second? “Vigilante Shit” — which is definitely one way to describe all of the sleuthing Swifties have been doing in anticipation of Midnights. But we don’t know exactly what the upside down phone means as the Thursday night football teaser suggests there’s more to come.