Brock Willard managing editor
“Midnights” is Taylor Swift’s newest release, a return to her pop style, ala “Reputation.” However, this circling back onto earlier styles feels quite disjointed from her recent trends.
The album, produced by Swift’s long time creative partner Jack Antonoff, is an album about “thoughts that creep up on you in the night,” in Swift’s own words. The marketing leading up to the release signaled that she would come back to writing songs that directly relate to her life instead of the more fictional and narrative songs she wrote for albums “Folklore” and “Evermore.” The fan jury is out on whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. The album is the singer-songwriter’s tenth studio album and features a total of 20 tracks in the full album release, but only 13 in the base album. The tracks all feature a relative length of 3 to 4 minutes, totaling approximately 54 minutes.
It’s quite hard for me to say but the album is decidedly rougher than her previous work. There’s much of it that feels like it was written on GarageBand the night before release at 4 a.m. which is kind of sad considering there was considerable and documented work on this album. I don’t mean to say that the album is a complete throwaway, because it’s certainly not.
We start with the track, “Lavender Haze.” This being the first track on the album, you’d think it should be a blockbuster smash hit, but sadly it just isn’t. It’s like they took all the sentimentality of Swift’s earliest hits (“Teardrops on My Guitar”) and crammed it in a “make this a synth pop” machine. For the first track on an album that Swift herself has described as a “concept album,” it’s certainly underwhelming.
The sudden backtracking on what she did on “Folklore” and “Evermore” doesn’t feel disingenuous; I want to make that clear. This still feels like authentic Taylor Swift. The only issue is that it is an authentic move in the wrong direction. In trying to continually do newer and newer things, she has inadvertently returned to a style which she had long abandoned. The album reeks of older songs like “Welcome to New York” or “Bad Blood.” Again, not necessarily a total negative depending on your taste, but for this critic, it just feels like she’s not proud of the journey she was starting on “Folklore” and “Evermore” and decided to reel it all back in shame.
“Midnights” is a highlight of what Taylor’s biggest criticism outside of the aforementioned albums has been she’s incredibly observant but not so self-aware. She can recognize that she feels a certain way but when she tries to write about it, the delivery is off putting. Why her music can sometimes feel this way and other times be right on the money is a complete mystery to me. I will always be a fan of the kind of music she produced when she tried writing from perspectives other than her own.
“Midnights” receives a B-minus rating.