I don’t know if you’ve heard — because it isn’t on the side of a UPS truck or in a Diet Coke commercial — but Taylor Swift has an album coming out this Friday. Always at the forefront of her chosen field (marketing), Swift is trying a new strategy when it comes to her tenth studio album, Midnights: give them nothing.
There has not been a single, or even the suggestion of a melody, since Swift announced the album at the VMAs back in August. The closest thing Swifties have had to cling onto came yesterday, when a Spotify billboard in Times Square revealed the lyric "I should not be left to my own devices." Other than that, we have a tracklist and three Instagram Reels in which she explains a little bit about three different songs. Peanuts!
Historically, album rollout is an all-or-nothing event for Swift. Her last two albums, folklore and evermore, were surprise-announced the day before their release. Prior to that, Swift was a publicity machine. Lover and 1989 both had three promotional singles, Reputation and Red both had two. In addition to music, these rollouts involved collaborations with brands like Subway, Keds, Capital One, and the aforementioned UPS and Diet Coke. By her own standards, Swift is operating in radio silence with Midnights.
She can’t stay quiet about one thing though, and that is merch. Swift has been hawking her Midnights-branded wares like there’s no tomorrow, imploring her fans to buy four $29.99 vinyls so that they can turn them into a clock (the theme for Midnights is the concept of time, and specifically 12 a.m.). The $49 clock mechanism is not included.
There are two reasons I see for Swift not releasing a single before one of her most anticipated albums to date. The first is that she knows Swifties will eat whatever slop she gives them whenever she gives it to them. They’ll buy the vinyls and the CDs and the chintzy bracelet and the Nalgene and say thank you. Then she’ll claim that this album is meant to be listened to as one complete piece or something, and that she didn’t want to reveal one piece without the context of the whole.
The other possible reason is that Swift finally realized that she cannot be trusted with a lead single. “ME!,” “Look What You Made Me Do,” and “Shake It Off” are all arguably the worst songs on their respective albums, and yet were inexplicably chosen to introduce a new Swift era to the world. The last time Swift chose a great lead single was in 2010, when “Mine” served as the first taste of Speak Now. As the only known lyric from Midnights tells us, she really should not be left to her own devices.
Whatever the reason, it is weird — and borderline rude — that Swift has not released a single while extracting hundreds of thousands of dollars from her fanbase. When Beyoncé released mystery merch for Renaissance we at least had “BREAK MY SOUL” as a hint of what was to come. Maybe if I knew what “Vigilante Shit” or “Anti-Hero” sounded like I’d be more willing to drop $140 on a hideoussweatsuit.