Taylor Swift is arguably the biggest pop star of the 21st century. She entered the music scene as a country artist with her debut album Taylor Swift through which she skyrocketed in popularity among country fans with her song “Tim McGraw.” In more recent years, she has taken endeavors into different genres of music, such as the radio-hit pop 1989 and the indie-ensure albums Folklore and Evermore. Her albums have had wild commercial and critical success, with Reputation being the highest-grossing tour of all time and three of her albums being awarded the heavily sought-after Album of the Year award at the Grammys.
On August 28th, 2022, Swift broke the internet at the 2022 Video Music Awards after announcing her 10th studio album Midnights to be released on October 21st. Upon its release, the album broke hundreds of streaming records, Swift became the first artist to hold all 10 spots on the Billboard Hot 100, and her tour had over 14 million people try to get tickets which could fill up over 900 stadiums. With such overwhelming hype, Midnights deserves a closer look.
After two folky albums released at the heart of the pandemic, Swift returned to the popstar music many people know her for. When discussing Midnights, Swift describes it as “a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams.” With this album, she isn’t making as drastic artistic changes as she did with her last few albums but instead reflects on the different sounds she has played with and attempts to refine and polish them.
Her first track, “Lavendar Haze,” is layered with synthetic pop beats and rhythms that thump in the listener’s heart. This is a symbol of her collaboration with Jack Antanoff. He is well known in the female music industry after collaborating with megastars Lorde on Melodrama and Lana Del Rey on Norman F*king Rockwell. This song is about being blind in the face of love and how nothing else matters once you feel love. With lyrics like, “I feel a lavender haze creeping up on me/So real, I’m damned if I do give a damn what people say,” Swift makes clear that to her, love conquers all.
Her airy falsetto contributes to this dreamy and mystical feeling she conveys throughout the album. This is seen again in the collaboration between Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey on “Snow on the Beach,” the chorus starts by describing “weird but f*cking beautiful” Swift’s relationship with her current boyfriend. This airy falsetto is also in the Labyrinth in which she famously revealed the song’s lyrics in her commencement speech at NYU earlier that year.
In songs like “Anti Hero” and “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” Swift returns to the autobiographical songwriting narrative she abandoned in her two latest albums which are a large success in her fanbase. However, a common lacking point in these autobiographical songs is the bland and uninteresting production. Backgrounded with a simple base temp on background, Swift tries to create a crescendo effect with her music that layers on more and more until it reaches its climax, only to fall short a few times because the things that go on don’t add enough color to the music. “Midnight Rain” is the most experimental song to date, using autotune to distort and create a synthetic futuristic sound that is prevalent in “Bejeweled” and “Mastermind.” The autotune doesn’t always land, often feeling forced and lacking sustenance.
Her songwriting in this LP is filled with witty one-liners like in “Vigilante Sh*t,” where she says, “I don’t dress for women/I don’t dress for men/lately I’ve been dressing for revenge.” While it is a downgrade from the metaphorical lyrics of her previous two works, the one-liners are often effective in appealing to larger audiences.
This album wasn’t meant to reinvent or establish itself as one of her greatest works. It was a fun and generally enjoyable work meant to be played on the live stage, which she has missed dearly in the past few years.
Album Rating: 7.4/10