6/10. Swift proves change is not always an improvement on her 10th album
“A concept record” is how Swift refers to her newest original album. It is a collection of 13 sleepless nights throughout Swift’s life. With this, Midnights lightly hops across different sounds, but is all held together by an overarching moody, stylish feel. With Jack Antonoff once again at the production helm, Swift’s style changes to something she has never done before. The dark drones, synths, and heavy editing on vocals are an interesting departure for the songwriter, but many parts of the album leave much to be desired.
The first two tracks of Midnights, ‘Lavender Haze and ‘Maroon,’ while a deviation from Swift’s usual work, are bland both lyrically and musically. In the song ‘Anti-Hero,’ the songwriter reveals some of her deepest insecurities. After all, she did say this was her “most biographical” album yet. It is also as close to a typical pop tune we get on the album.
Following this track is ‘Snow On The Beach’ with acclaimed singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey. While this song is a beautifully crafted story of two people falling in love, it is not executed as well as it could have been. The song suffers from what Swift normally does when she collaborates with other artists, and that is not giving them enough room to perform. Lana Del Rey is relegated to background harmonies, which do work well, but it is unfortunate given the potential this collaboration had.
Midnights is at its best when it is the most personal. ‘You’re On Your Own, Kid’ is the most lyrically developed track on the album, with Swift making the reassuring transition of at first being afraid, but then being confident in independence; “You’re on your own, kid/Yeah, you can face this”. The song leaves traces of classic Swiftian themes; unrequited love, a small-town home, personal insecurities. It even refers to some songs from elsewhere in her discography, with ‘Exile’ and ‘Getaway Car’ hinted to; “The jokes weren’t funny, I took the money”.
This new sound, undoubtedly influenced largely by producer Jack Antonoff, comes through best on the song ‘Labyrinth,’ which concludes with Swift’s voice deeply altered accompanied by rising synth sounds, reminiscent of a Bon Iver song. The production, however, gets unpleasant to the ear on tracks like ‘Karma’ and ‘Bejewelled.’ A much darker mood is displayed on ‘Vigilante Sh*t,’ which sounds like a track straight from Billie Eillish’s WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?. But this track is simply trying too hard to be edgy and echoes the embarrassing Reputation. These songs are also not helped by the fact that Swift’s lyricism is seriously lacking. “Karma is my boyfriend/Karma is a god” is a far cry from some of the poetic lyrics heard on Folklore and Evermore.
Towards the end of the album is the song ‘Sweet Nothing,’ a charming love ballad which was co-written with her partner, Joe Alwyn. Strangely, some of the best tracks are left to the deluxe, or ‘3am Edition.’ In the song ‘Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve’ Swift details a past toxic relationship that befell her at a very young age. She delivers one of her most intense vocal performances of her career with lyrics that would make your stomach churn; “Living for the thrill of hitting you where it hurts/Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first”. The songs “The Great War” and “Bigger Than The Whole Sky” also portray more sincere emotions then heard on the original album.
Midnights has traces of Swift doing what she does best, sincere and intimate song writing, but is let down in many parts by poor lyricism and jarring production. The album promised a genuine and mature documenting of 13 sleepless nights, but it fell short on the execution. This is certainly not her worst work, but it may just be the songwriter’s most inconsistent. However, knowing Taylor Swift and how many times she has changed her genre, this sound is unlikely to be here to stay.