‘Midnights’ review: Taylor Swift

‘’This is a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams. The floors we pace and the demons we face. For all of us who have tossed and turned and decided to keep the lanterns lit and go searching – hoping that just maybe, when the clock strikes twelve, we’ll meet ourselves. Midnights, the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life’’.

This is how Taylor Swift describes her latest album: Midnights, released October 21st this year. Her tenth studio album has been highly anticipated since the release of her lockdown projects Folklore and Evermore, and it has already broken Spotify records for the most-streamed album in a single day. It’s no wonder – the gradual hint-dropping on TikTok and Instagram had left fans eager to find out what Swift was going to do next, given her reputation for changing her image and style and always doing the unexpected. From her teenage country style on records Fearless and Speak Now to her gradual move into mainstream pop with Red, 1989, Reputation and Lover, and then to the alternative folk-scene with Folklore and Evermore, Swift’s artistic identity changes with each new endeavour – and Midnights is no exception.

The 13-track album is characterised by its synth-pop style, experimenting with funky grooves, drum machines, and synthesized vocals and sounds. You can tell Jack Antonoff had an input – Swift’s long-time collaborator co-wrote and produced Midnights. What makes this record so striking is the electronic soundscape mixed with Swift’s soft and enchanting vocals, which in turn allows for her lyrical mastery to shine through. Drawing on themes of self-criticism and self-contemplation, the lyrics are at once cryptic yet confessional; adding to the dream-like world Swift seems to strive for. The visual aesthetic also deserves a mention: the cover is inspired by 1950s fashion and art with purple and blue undertones. As far as concept-albums go, Swift knows what she’s doing.

The record starts with Lavender Haze, a track smashing female stereotypes with memorable melodies, hazy synth vocals, and a powerful beat – definitely reminiscent of her Lover days. I can’t help but notice the similarity between the next track, Maroon, and Blank Space from 1989; stylistically very similar, but differing with lyrical maturity. Next is Anti-Hero, which is definitely the darkest of her self-loathing; she dreams of being killed by her family for money, and repeatedly refers to herself as being the ‘’problem’’. What’s fascinating about this track is the juxtaposition between the upbeat nature and the overtly dark lyrics. This contrast can be traced throughout the album – her self-criticism unfolds over music which at the same time could make you want to get up and dance.

Track four – Snow On The Beach – is the only track to have a featured artist: Lana Del Ray. With a beautiful melody for a beautiful metaphor, it’s one of the more delicate tracks. Labyrinth is similar; extremely atmospheric with almost restrained vocals from Swift, allowing the synth-haven backing track to have the appreciation it deserves. Next, You’re on Your Own, Kid, is at once lyrically nostalgic yet also quite dramatic and emotional. The song allows us a glimpse into what fame meant for Swift whilst growing up; singing lyrics such as ‘’I gave my blood, sweat and tears for this’’ in the climaxing bridge. Tracks Midnight Rain and Question…? continue with this powerful pop momentum.

For those who want the Swift of the Reputation era – that is, a Taylor after vengeance – Vilgilante Shit and Karma are the tracks for you. Swift’s nonchalant delivery is tasteful and subtle, and I think more mature than her Reputation days. Bejeweled and Mastermind also allude to this serge of confidence. Last to be mentioned is the penultimate track – Sweet Nothing – which is one of the more stripped-back tracks. Swift’s delicate vocals are at the forefront, and they paint a portrait between two lovers where she admits that she’s ‘’just too soft for it all’’.  Within a mere few tracks we have moved from the confidence of a world-wide star to the insecurities of a normal human being – the vulnerability she lays out for her listeners is poetic and commendable.

Midnights is a synth-pop haven built on lyrical mastery. Swift’s music is her story, and she tells it in such a way that we cannot help but listen.

Featured image by Gene Everett on Flickr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Our YouTube Channel