Music Review: “​​You’re On Your Own, Kid”

If there’s one overarching theme to Taylor Swift’s latest album “Midnights,” it’s reflection. Swift’s tenth studio album, released on Oct. 21, is well-produced and meaningful, with contemplation on her past experiences. This album marks her return to the pop genre and is more personal than her previous two, “folklore” and “evermore,” which focused on fictional stories.

This album was incredibly successful for Swift and broke numerous records. Notably, she became the first artist in history to occupy every individual top 10 spot of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. For me, one of the most exciting aspects of this album was the announcement of her upcoming 2023 tour, the Eras Tour. This tour will explore all of her past musical eras as she will perform songs throughout her career.

One track that immediately stuck out to me in this album was “​​You’re On Your Own, Kid.” This song is the fifth track on the album and features some of her most vulnerable lyrics along with a contemplative look at her entire life. Though this song begins with a focus on unrequited feelings towards her close friend, Swift moves chronologically through her navigation of various themes such as fame, growth, and her social life. 

She expresses similar sentiments in her 2010 song “Never Grow Up,” where Swift explores the complicated emotions associated with getting older. However, “​​You’re On Your Own, Kid” takes a more mature stance, with the conclusion of the song assuring her younger self that she can handle life’s changes. I believe this represents Swift’s shift in attitude towards aging, which can inspire anxiety in many, particularly for musicians like Swift who achieved major commercial success at a young age. 

And, of course, the bridge. Swift’s songwriting has long been admired, with a particular focus on the bridges of her songs. Bridges have become a hallmark of her writing, and “​​You’re On Your Own, Kid” only furthers this trend, with a fast-paced glimpse into her past. Fans have already speculated that each line in this bridge represents each of her albums. Whether or not that’s true, this song is lyrically packed with references to Swift’s previous songs and life experiences. Swift references the thriller Carrie and her 2009 VMAs incident with “I looked around in a blood-soaked gown.” She addresses her struggles with an eating disorder in lines like “I hosted parties and starved my body,” which she first explored in the documentary “Miss Americana.” She reveals a mature outlook on each intensely personal situation that came with time and distance.

If this title sounded familiar to any superfan Swifties, it may be because Swift teased it in her recent commencement speech to the New York University Class of 2022. She offered advice to the class after receiving an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, saying, “Scary news is: You’re on your own now. Cool news is: You’re on your own now.”

The message of this song is clear: cherish the little joys and live in the moment. Swift observes that though there is hardship in independence, there is also freedom. With graduation steadily approaching, I think this song resonated with me on a very personal level. Many seniors like me are currently dealing with feelings of apprehension on approaching “adult life,” which has only been enhanced by the pandemic’s obstructive effect on my high school experience. While I relish in the recent freedoms that come with growing up, it is heartbreaking to understand that my childhood is coming to a close. I relate to a lot of the fears that Swift expresses in this song.

Finally, the close of the song reassures both listeners and a younger Swift. The last chorus replaces the phrase “you always have been” with a more positive “you can face this.” This conclusion emphasizes hope and the idea that it is possible to overcome struggles. Swift puts a positive spin on being on your own, implying that it is a unique way to discover yourself. Though many have criticized “Midnights” for having more surface-level lyrics than her previous work, I believe that “​​You’re On Your Own, Kid” is devastatingly honest and reflects a message we can all benefit from.