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What, Exactly, Does Taylor Swift Mean by “Midnight”?

Even the National Institute of Standards and Technology agrees: asking someone to meet at “midnight” can lead to confusion.

Taylor Swift onstage with a guitar
Taylor Swift in Nashville on Sept. 20. Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Swifties around the world rejoiced on Aug. 29 as she announced her 10th studio album on Instagram. “Midnights, the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life, will be out October 21. Meet me at midnight.”

Since then, Swift has been teasing the album on her social media, releasing the track list through a TikTok series aptly titled “Midnights Mayhem with Me.” There is, understandably, a lot of hype around this album. And while we know a bit about what the album will entail—for instance, one song will be a collaboration between Swift and singer Lana del Rey”—one thing is a bit unclear. When does ‘Midnights” actually come out?

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Yes, I know I just said it came out on Oct. 21, at midnight. But does that mean the very first moments of Oct. 21, or the last? Do you say it’s happening at “midnight tonight” on Thursday, Oct. 20? Which day does midnight technically belong to: the one before or after it?

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It’s easy enough to answer this question according to Swift. Looking at the Taylor Swift Store, where pre-orders are available, there is a clock at the top counting down until the release. It’s ticking down to 12 a.m. on Oct. 21. So to be totally clear: Stay up late on Oct. 20 (or, not so late, depending on whom you’re asking) and you’ll enter the first moments of Friday listening to new Swift music.

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But look: saying that something comes out “at midnight” is objectively confusing. Here’s Wikipedia trying to disambiguate the issue of when a date’s “midnight” occurs: “As the dividing point between one day and another, midnight defies easy classification as either part of the preceding day or of the following day. Though there is no global unanimity on the issue, most often midnight is considered the start of a new day and is associated with the hour 00:00.”

Even more official sources understand that “midnight’ is a discombobulating time stamp. “When someone refers to “midnight tonight” or ‘midnight last night’ the reference of time is obvious,” the National Institute of Standards and Technology website says. “However, if a date/time is referred to as ‘at midnight on Friday, October 20th’ the intention could be either midnight the beginning of the day or midnight at the end of the day.” (Yes, NIST uses a date eerily close to Swift’s release date in their example. I’m sure she’s thought of this.)

NIST recommends that, to avoid ambiguity, “specification of an event as occurring on a particular day at 11:59 p.m. or 12:01 a.m. is a good idea.” Yeah I get that. But if you’re naming an album, “12:01 a.m.s” doesn’t have as nice a ring to it.

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