Taylor Swift Has Given Details Into The Conflict, Love, And Anxiety In Her Relationship With Joe Alwyn On “Midnights,” And Across Her Last Four Albums
You might think that Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn's relationship is super private. But she's been weaving details of their lives together across her last four albums. Midnights gives us more context than we could've wished for.
In case you somehow missed the news: Taylor Swift has released her 10th studio album, Midnights, today!
And among stories about her celebrity feuds and past relationships, she's also given us detailed insight into her life with her current boyfriend Joe Alwyn, with whom she's shared an extremely private existence since they got together in 2016.
In fact, while Joe was the subject of multiple songs on Taylor's previous albums Reputation and Lover and a handful on Folklore and Evermore, Midnights actually gives us more insight and context into their private relationship than ever before. So, without further ado, let's delve into everything we've learned.
Midnights kicks off with a track called "Lavender Haze," which is pretty clearly an ode to Joe. Prior to the album being released, Taylor revealed she'd come across the song's title while watching Mad Men and discovered it was a common phrase used in the 1950s to describe "falling in love," which she thought was "really beautiful."
The song seems to throw us back to the start of their relationship when Taylor's ~reputation~ was at an all-time low thanks to her fallout with Kim Kardashian and Ye West. In the track, she references feeling under "scrutiny" but says that Joe has handled things "beautifully" — something that's "new" to her.
This is a notion Taylor has referenced in the past. In 2017's "Delicate," written in the early phase of their relationship, she describes feeling good about Joe appearing unfazed by the media frenzy around her and muses that he must "really like" her for who she truly is given the state of her reputation.
Elsewhere in "Lavender Haze," Taylor describes feeling frustrated at the endless speculation over whether the pair are engaged or married, which has been ongoing ever since they went official.
She references the "1950s shit" that the media and public pressure her to achieve with their constant questioning of when she'll be his "bride."
She also says she feels she's made to feel like she is only ever viewed as either a one-night stand "kinda girl" or a "wife." This is a super interesting callback to the sexist commentary that followed Taylor in the early phase of her career, when she was continually criticized for "serial dating."
In a 2016 interview, Taylor reflected on the commentary and said she was made to feel like a "lightning rod for slut-shaming" despite dating a normal amount for a woman in her 20s.
And "Lavender Haze" perfectly highlights this sexist bind. When she was single, she was shamed. Now that she's in a long-term relationship, she's facing societal pressure to marry and have kids.
In "Anti-Hero," Taylor reflects on how her self-identified "self-loathing" might impact her relationship with Joe. She opens this song by saying she gets "older" but never "wiser" — a subject she's touched on in the past.
During her 2020 Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, Taylor said she sometimes felt "frozen" at the age at which she got famous — 15. And in 2019's "The Archer," Taylor lamented the fact that she's "never" grown up, and how it's "getting so old."
In fact, "The Archer" and "Anti-Hero" are pretty closely connected. In the former, she describes waking up in the night, pacing like "a ghost" and feeling unable to breathe due to anxiety. In the latter, she says midnights have become her afternoons and her "depression" works "the graveyard shift."
In the chorus, she wonders whether she'll one day push Joe to leave, before adding that she must be "exhausting" to be with — something that's echoed in "The Archer," where she questions, "Who could ever leave me? / But who could stay?"
Taylor goes on to reference her relationship with Joe again in "Snow on the Beach," where she offers compliments including him appearing "lit from within."
She also says when she's with him she smiles like she's "won a contest," which dovetails perfectly with previous lyrics from 2019's "Lover," where she expresses fear that everyone who sees Joe will "want him," and 2020's "Willow," which compares him to a "prize," "trophy," and "championship ring."
This song also alludes to their relationship being almost predestined, which also came up in 2020's "Invisible String." But the notion that they were orbiting one another before actually meeting also appears in "Long Story Short," released the same year.
In fact, the lyrical parallels between the two songs are stark, with Taylor referencing Joe passing her by without her knowledge in both songs.
And in "Snow on the Beach," Taylor uses an iconic Janet Jackson reference to highlight that she's "all for" Joe, while in "Long Story Short," she repeatedly tells Joe: "I'm all about you."
Interestingly, though, on "Mastermind," Taylor makes it clear that while she believes the stars aligned for her and Joe to meet, she was quite literally the mastermind behind the relationship coming to fruition.
Throughout the song, Taylor harkens back to the concept of love being a game, which has appeared countless times across her discography. "Love's a ruthless game unless you play it good and right," Taylor sang in 2012's "State of Grace."
In 2014's "Blank Space," we reach the line, "Love's a game, wanna play?" within the first verse.
And 2019's "Cornelia Street," which details the early days of her relationship with Joe, is packed full of references to games, with her describing the pair as "card sharks" who were reluctant to "show" their "hands" to one another.
Taylor's insistence that she masterminded the relationship gives credence to her previous claims in 2019's "Paper Rings" that she "stalked" Joe online the first night they met — presumably to find out as much information as possible.
The references to their instant electric connection and wanting his "body" also provide context to previous songs. These include 2017's "Gorgeous," where she describes the thrill of touching Joe's hand in a "darkened room," and 2019's "I Think He Knows," where she sings about wanting to "know that body."
However, things haven't always been smooth sailing for the pair. "The Great War" is an intricate depiction of conflict so intense it almost drove them apart.
In the song, we see Taylor describing how she took her frustrations out on Joe, "cursing" him in her sleep.
She sings about "punishing" Joe for things he'd never done while he tries desperately to come up with solutions to no avail.
She also suggests that Joe was the one to keep holding on and fighting for the relationship — and that coming out the other side has made her determined to never return to such a dark place.
By the end of the song, Taylor says they "survived" the dark period and realized they "burn for better." She also says she "vowed" to "always" be his, which is reflected in references to being together "forevermore" in 2017's "New Year's Day" and the wedding vows she sings in the bridge of 2019's "Lover."
The entirety of "The Great War" parallels 2019's "Afterglow" perfectly. In this song, Taylor laments the fact she picks fights and blames Joe for things he hasn't done, resulting in explosive arguments and her desperation to make things better afterward.
But it seems the pair really have overcome their issues, as seen in "Sweet Nothing" — a song Taylor and Joe cowrote together, with him using his now-famous pseudonym, William Bowery. This track gives intimate details of the time they spent in Wicklow, Ireland, presumably while he was on location filming Conversations with Friends last year.
The chorus is multifaceted. It seems to take us back to 2016 — the period at which Taylor's reputation was at its worse — with the reference to her being told the "end" was "coming."
However, she describes the solace of coming home from the chaos of the outside world to Joe "humming" in the kitchen.
This connects to the aforementioned "Cornelia Street," which details the early days of their relationship living in Taylor's rental property in New York. In one poignant lyric from that song, she details being "barefoot in the kitchen," with their "sacred new beginnings" becoming her "religion."
The mention of Joe asking Taylor for "sweet nothing" is also interesting here, as 2019's "Paper Rings" centers entirely on her revealing that since being with Joe, she's realized she values the smaller moments with him over "shiny things." Both songs seem to reflect the value Taylor's come to place on this low-key, quiet, private relationship.