Taylor Swift — ‘Midnights’ review: a reflection on past eras

Taylor Swift’s 10th studio album, ‘Midnights’, has been released a week ago and it contains all her past pop eras.

‘Midnights’ follows the release of ‘Lover’, a love-haze/romantic/pop album, which happened just before the pandemic. Following that, Swift jumped right into the indie-folk world, with her 2 projects ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’, both released in 2020. Then she reminisced and returned to her archives: she re-recorded ‘Fearless‘ and ‘Red‘, Taylor’s version.

It’s been 2 years since she released an original album, without counting the From the Vault tracks, and ‘Midnights’ feels like a mashup of the Lover/Reputation/1989 eras, mixing the perfect amount of romance and revenge.

Long-term collaborator Jack Antonoff returned to the studio with Taylor Swift to produce 13 songs about sleepless nights. Though not announced during the album promo, Aaron Dessner also produced some of the 3am tracks, released only 3 hours after the album.

Antonoff and Dessner know Swift and what she wants. Their relationship makes it possible to make a Taylor Swift album without copy-pasting her previous work. However, in this case, the different sounds of her previous eras are highly identifiable; this record is presented as built to sound like her past self

Indeed, ‘Midnights’ look back at 13 of her sleepless nights, all happening at different times in her life. She sings about love, revenge, reminiscence, and even her public image.

“A lot of my music is sad. I’m not a sad girl, I’m a person”

Hana Bryanne, Unpublished magazine

Taylor Swift is back into her diaristic style, talking about her life and experiences. She is the central persona: self-conscious but not always self-aware.

Even though the overall sound of the records is further away from her 2 previous studio albums, with a focus on electronic, Swift still displayed the timeless and subtle feel of the songwriting. Nonetheless, without putting into question her talent as a songwriter, some lyrics do have a “silly” feel to them. Is it because it follows 2 perfectly written albums that almost are as good as poetry? Maybe.

‘Midnights’ is full of synth-pop, but without trying to reach for undeniable chart sounds. It feels authentic, and, to me, this is what contemporary pop should sound like.

Review of Taylor Swift's 'Midnights'

In her past albums, Swift has been more vocal about her feminist ideas and has shared so in ‘The Man’ or even ‘Tolerate It’. In ‘Midnights’, she also doesn’t hold back. On ‘Lavender Haze’, Swift focuses on her love and passion instead of listening to all the negative remarks that could be thrown at her: All they keep asking me (All they keep asking me) / Is if I’m gonna be your bride / The only kinda girl they see (Only kinda girl they see) / Is a one-night or a wife. On ‘Midnight Rain’, she focuses on her own needs and desire, regardless of any relationship, that might be forgotten anyway. ‘You’re In Your Own Kid’ is also an example of standing up for yourself while struggling: the beginning and reality check might be difficult, but figuring yourself out on your own is brave. Lastly ‘Mastermind’ just about shows how you can create fate: in the lyrics, she explained that she schemed and created plans to make sure that her current partner, Joe Alwyn, and herself would end up together: What if I told you none of it was accidental?

During the Midnights Mayhem with Me, heading up to the release of the album, Swift announced a feature with Lana Del Rey on the 4th track, ‘Snow On The Beach’. Fans went crazy about it. However, are we surprised to hear Lana only as backup vocals? No: it is a Taylor move for lots of features, which is kind of disappointing. Yet, the production still incorporates Lana’s sound into it, and it’s a nice touch. It gives the track a classic feel to it, and it’s not the only one with it. On ‘Labyrinth’, the lyrics are minimal but heartfelt, completely reminded me of ‘Mirrorball’ with light and breezy sounds, added with some sparkles. The timeless feel is present and, while it’s lighter, it still sticks to the synth-pop mood the album goes for.

The same goes for ‘Maroon’: there isn’t any Taylor album, with a good old romance story in NYC. It’s an evolution of a ‘burning red’ romance, in a ballad version, in the iconic city: And I chose you / The one I was dancing with / In New York, no shoes.

‘Sweet Nothing’ was written with Joe Alwyn, a.k.a William Bowery, who also has writing credits for some of the tracks on ‘Folklore’. More often in her past project, Swift let herself talk about the good sides of love and her romantic relationships. On ‘Question…?’ yet, she looks back on a relationship she’s unable to move on from. This one is catchy and bubbly and has a ‘Delicate’ feel to it. With that being said, both tracks mention themes that are classics in the pop genre and she does it well, talking about experiences and feelings.

‘Midnights’ is made of an emotional rollercoaster; she does talk about love under a shiny light, the past relationships that she struggles to move on from, but she also doesn’t hold back on revenge, self-worth, and personal image. On ‘Bejeweled’, she talks about how she deserves better than her current partner and the frustration it entails: Sapphire tears on my face / Sadness became my whole sky / But some guy said my aura’s moonstone / Just ’cause he was high. Similarly, on ‘Anti-Hero’, she talks about her worth, but in this case from her perspective: she details everything that she feels is wrong with herself and her failures.

However, she pulls herself back with ‘Karma’ and ‘Vigilante Shit’. Both tracks show that actions have consequences. While she believes in karma, and how she will receive justice, she also actively seeks revenge on people from her past.

The release of this album has been chaotic, but the kind of chaos. Swift announced the album in August, with 13 tracks. Since then we’ve been waiting on singles, possible music videos, and tour announcements; but none of that happened. Instead, we got lots of TikTok teasing the title tracks, lyrics teased on billboards, clues and Easter Eggs everywhere, and a schedule following the 7 days of the release. And yes, we had enough content to catch up with the two months of teasing nothing.

Anyway, 3 hours after the album was out, she surprised dropped 7 bonus tracks in a kind of deluxe version called 3am edition.

While these tracks do belong on a special edition of the album, they didn’t belong on the final tracks for the album. ‘Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve’ and ‘High Infidelity’ are the 2 stand out of the expanded version. While the former is a sequel to ‘Dear John’ where she exposes the manipulative relationship and her naivety, the latter portrays her as the one killing the relationship. Both songs are produced by Aaron Dessner, 2 out of the 3 (with ‘The Great War’) that were not produced by Antonoff.

This record is consistent and the overall production makes sure that the songs all belong together, the key for a concept album. However, some songs feel like a copy-pasting production of each other, only telling a different story each time. And even if I proclaim my love for Jack Antonoff, the production does feel a bit repetitive on this record.

On ‘Midnights’, Taylor Swift is at her most candid. She reveals some stories that can only be written and sung mid-night.

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