Photo by: Charlie Martin
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Taylor Swift shifts back to her dreamy synth-pop influences with the release of her 10th studio album, Midnights.
The alternative-pop album released on Oct. 21 features 13 tracks. The deluxe version of the album, Midnights (3 am Edition) — chaotically released as a surprise for the “Swifties” — dives deeper into Swift’s sleepless nights with the addition of seven more tracks.
Short of a week after its release, Midnights has broken multiple Spotify records, including “most streamed album on Spotify in 24 hours” with 184.6 million streams. In the same vein, the lead single for Midnights, “Anti-Hero,” is now the song with the third-highest number of streams in 24 hours on the platform, with 17,390,253 streams and counting.
Of course, these milestones beg the question of what Midnights truly brings to the table in terms of quality, lyricism, and how the release advances Taylor Swift’s discography.
To begin on a positive note, Midnights, undeniably allows listeners to immerse themselves in the scariest and sweetest of nights that Swift has gone through. Self-hatred, media scrutiny and serendipitous love, for instance, are all explored in songs like “Anti-Hero,” “Lavender Haze” and “Snow on the Beach (feat. Lana del Rey).” Somehow, these themes all manage to maintain harmony and continuity within the record, which made it easier as a listener to interpret the stories as a collection of sleepless nights, rather than perceiving Midnights as a random array of songs.
Most importantly, a majority of songs in the album manage to sustain the lyrical quality that the general public and fans alike have come to expect from Taylor Swift’s work. A stunning example of lyricism is found within the song “Mastermind,” the closing track in the non-extended version of the album.
In it, Swift traces back to the beginnings of her relationship and initially attributes it to “the planets and the fates” aligning, but then admits that she planned for it to happen. Moreover, as the track continues she admits that her childhood trauma has played a part in her “scheming” habit as an adult to do whatever it takes to make others love her effortlessly. For the most part, the song as well as the album remain a strong piece within Swift’s discography and her lyrical artistry.
In contrast, when listening to the album for the first time, one may notice a few points where the delivery of certain lyrics could have been improved. For example, in “Anti-Hero,” the second verse’s lyrics “Sometimes, I feel like everybody is a sexy baby/And I’m a monster on the hill” came off as cringe-worthy before processing what Swift actually was referencing.
In actuality, Swift was seemingly making a reference to an episode from the sitcom 30 Rock where the term “sexy baby” is used to convey the over-sexualization of young women, and the way that predatory men tend to take advantage of them. These lyrics are very thoughtful and deliberate, but on a first-listen basis, they can be off-putting.
Although there has been clarification that the content in the album is brand new and not just unreleased content from past album eras, it is undeniable that many of the songs in Midnights resemble the production style of past albums, especially Reputation and 1989. Some examples include tracks like “Lavender Haze” and “Bejeweled” which undeniably were influenced by the edgy production style that Swift developed throughout her sixth studio album, Reputation. Arguably this is not entirely negative, but I am of the belief that Midnights would have been a stronger piece of work if the sound direction had been completely new for Swift.
Truly, Midnights remains a remarkably strong piece of work in Swift’s career that will be a staple for the direction of pop music going forward, despite the minor flaws in production and lyricism found in the record. You can listen to Midnights now on Spotify, Apple Music, and watch the videos here.