Inspiration can come from anywhere, even a good binge-watch. Just ask Taylor Swift, who has drawn from all sorts of places to create her lyrics and visuals (she’s cited The Way We Were, Love Story, and Kramer vs. Kramer as crucial to crafting the All Too Well short film). The upcoming Midnights album is no exception, with one song title plucked straight out of the Golden Age of Television.
“I happened upon the phrase ‘Lavender Haze’ when I was watching Mad Men and I looked it up because I thought it sounded cool, and it turns out that it was a common phrase that was used in the ’50s where they would just describe being in love,” Swift recently revealed in a track title announcement. “Like, If you were in the ‘Lavender Haze,’ that meant you were in that all-encompassing love glow, and I thought that was really beautiful.”
Truthfully, a Google search of the term brings up more marijuana strains than scholarship on ’50s slang. It does, however, feature in the second season Mad Men episode “The Mountain King,” co-written by showrunner Matthew Weiner and Robin Veith (per IMDb). In the episode, Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton) observes that Don (Jon Hamm) is “in the lavender haze” early in his relationship with Betty (January Jones).
The Mad Men writers are unlikely to get credit beyond this social media announcement, though the music industry has been fraught with crediting issues lately. Interpolations on Olivia Rodrigo’s album led to a flurry of post-release credits (including Swift for “deja vu,” inspired by the Lover track “Cruel Summer”). Even more recently, Beyoncé shut down criticism from Right Said Fred over her sample of “I’m Too Sexy” on Renaissance’s “Alien Superstar.” (Incidentally, Right Said Fred is also credited on Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do,” as the cadence of Swift’s chorus mimics the flow of “I’m Too Sexy.”)
Still, one phrase isn’t likely to garner Weiner and Veith a Midnights Grammy (there’s not much of a precedent for official credits on this kind of seed of inspiration). However, they have officially entered the storied archives of the Swiftie library, which might at least boost streaming numbers. (Mad Men may not need the help, but a few extra residual checks can’t hurt.) And they’re in good company; the collection of books, films, and television shows that are part of the Swiftian lexicon is nothing to sneer at, either.
In recent years, Swift has distanced herself from the diaristic songwriting style for which she is (in)famous—though Midnights, billed as “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life,” might herald a return to form. Instead of attributing inspiration to various and sundry love interests, the musician has instead highlighted fictional characters and stories as the basis behind her hits. For instance: Reputation’s jarring “Look What You Made Me Do” was attributed to Arya Stark from Game Of Thrones; Lover’s “Death By A Thousand Cuts” can be traced back to the Netflix rom-com Someone Great; folklore’s “my tears ricochet” was supposedly written after watching Marriage Story; and evermore’s “tolerate it” was inspired by the novel Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier, to name a few examples.
When the clock strikes for Midnights, fans will no doubt be able to add a few more titles to their reading and watch lists alongside Mad Men. Place your bets now on what other media may have inspired this latest Taylor Swift era.