Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” album review is shockingly boring and should be better

Believe it or not, Taylor Swift is our most grandiose pop star. That might seem like a stretch in a world where we have Gagas, Beyoncés, and Madonnas, but it’s true. Taylor Swift is a maximalist at heart — she goes the whole hog every time and milks whatever it’s worth. Even the stripped down singer/songwriter folk of their two Pandemic albums, folklore and always, was massive in scale; Taylor Swift, the world’s most popular artist, had surprisingly released two albums in the space of six months. The world stops when her hand grasps the globe.

The songs on those two albums might have seemed smaller and more sophisticated, but that was only because the pop that defined their post-2012 albums had been locked away. Listen closely, and the awesomeness of the lyrical worlds that Swift made her signature so long ago still lingers. Subtlety is not her forte. Taylor Swift is all big emotions and breathless declarations; the human version of that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach right after sending a risky text message.

Cut to the night of the 2022 VMAs in August, when Swift surprisingly announced her new record, midnight, which was released on Friday. In the two months following that announcement, fans awaited the eventual release of a lead single, which never came. Instead, she teased the album’s tracklisting in TikTok videos and dropped Easter eggs to make loyalists lose their sleep. How appropriate: midnightaccording to Swift’s approval, “The tales of 13 sleepless nights are scattered all over the place [her] Life.”

And if you forget that the album is at midnight, it will remind you – multiple times throughout the runtime. But the trouble with repeating that word over and over is that it’s a constant reminder that songs written in or about emotionally tense, sleepless nights lack sharpness and resonance. Most things here feel like a first draft; There’s a noticeable lack of connection between the emotions she feels and what her audience can absorb.

On folklore and always, Swift so deftly fused her own experiences with fictional stories while still creating touching music that towered over the listener with irrefutable brilliance. Even non-fans were enthusiastic. But further midnightSwift is “out of the folksy forest” (her own words again) and back to the glossy, synthic pop of 2019 Lover. The result is an atypical step backwards, a half-finished record. The uninspired production and uncharacteristically bland lyricism of midnight better stay in the pages of a diary or get lost in the shadow of a dream.

Luckily for all of us, things start off strong and stay that way for a while. That midnight Opener “Lavender Haze” is an intriguing fusion of time periods. The song, named after an old-fashioned phrase coined for the feeling of falling in love (which, of course, was the first Swift heard mad Men) goes well with the 1970s aesthetic of the album cover and graphics. It’s pure Swiftian pop with some welcome production flourishes, like a lilting bass line that contrasts nicely with the bombastic chorus.

Also in the better half of the album is “Anti-Hero”, the first real single release midnight, with a music video released in the wee hours of the morning. It’s great, a smart but melancholic musing on Swift’s own status as a polarizing figure and her concern that it will eventually drive everyone away. It’s the perfect mix of wit and emotion, with genuinely laughable lyrics like “Sometimes I feel like everybody’s a sexy babe / And I’m a monster on the hill.”

It’s so wild and silly that you just have no choice but to respect it — the kind of thing that fans in arenas will scream about and secret listeners will grin about, alone in their cars with no one around. And when she’s not laughing, she’s laughing out loud. How perfect is a picture: “I have this dream, my daughter-in-law kills me for the money, she thinks I left her in the will. / The family gathers and reads it and then someone yells / ‘She’s laughing Up from Hell!’”?

Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. “Vigilante Shit” pours a bucket of 2014-era Blair Waldorf bad-girl attitude all over the album. “Draw the cat’s eye sharp enough to kill a man,” Swift says, opening a tepid song of silent revenge Memes speak directly from Tumblr.

The song is reminiscent of similar voice distortions that one has heard in part Call, but does not have its ambitious production value. Here, Swift has swear words and drug references done for her. But shocking people with tougher words and a love for Ex girlfriend does not replace good songwriting. “Vigilante Shit” is the only unco-written song on the album, so maybe what Swift says in “Anti-Hero” is true: She shouldn’t be left to her own devices.

“Bejeweled” could be a career low floating around somewhere alongside “ME!” on a list of infamous Taylor Swift album skips. This is cheesy and childish music that’s even weirder considering her ridiculous lyrics wouldn’t fit on any of Taylor’s first three albums — all of which were made when she was literally a teenager. Swift’s statement: “Best believe I’m still jeweled when I enter the room/I can do the whole place shimmer‘ is scratchy and, frankly, annoying. Swift should sell a selection like this to Jojo Siwa and collect a royalty check.

When Taylor wrote these kinds of songs, she was young and humble enough to appear serious and funny; a sweet delivery that often worked because it came from an artist who was genuinely trying to convey something exactly as she felt it in her bones. On midnight, it feels so stilted and bizarre, almost like a parody brought to us. Swift’s worst songwriting habit is her inability to drop a clever rhyme or witty lyric and let it land without a knowing wink, confident in her sass and humor.

Other parts of the album aim for the experimental but are drawn back by Swift’s perfectionism. “Midnight Rain” is a captivating song about remembering past loves, with distorted vocals and electronic synths that rise and fall like air. And yet, Swift and co-producer Jack Antonoff can’t help but incorporate their beloved trap snares and drums. What if the structure was looser, free-flowing in all directions without the rules of standard pop production? And what if Taylor Swift didn’t hesitate every time she tried something new?

Only one song is playing midnight with a prominent artist. “Snow On The Beach,” which features Lana Del Rey as a guest, is actually more of a excitation as a collaboration. Del Rey has no verses in the song and does not sing alone in any of the choruses. It’s just there to provide dreamy backing vocal harmony. But even if a collaboration between two remarkable songwriters isn’t as big as it should be, “Snow On The Beach” manages to be a lovely, lilting song about the impossible feeling of a mutual new love. All the false fanfare about putting Lana Del Rey on a track can be forgiven for lyrics like “Now I’m all yours, like Janet.”

Sometimes it feels like this midnight has two sides that are constantly at war – the synthpop Taylor and the one lost in these folkloric woods. Her refusal to step aside might be an interesting and experimental tactic, but it makes for a confused listening experience. Past works like Call and Lover may divide among fans, but at least they’re not boring. The album explainer that came alongside his announcement may have been an exaggeration (again – here’s our greatest maximalist!), but it evoked a clearer penetration of emotion than these songs achieve.

but midnight wouldn’t be a Taylor Swift record if at least one song didn’t blow your mind. You’re On Your Own, Kid is the perfect amalgamation of Swift’s signature storytelling, past and present. It’s a slow-burning throwback to a tiny early crush, revisited with the knowledge and empathy of Swift’s adult self, restoring the power of teenage emotions.

The lyrics in each chorus change to weave a more intricate tapestry that eventually sets the song’s fabric on fire with the fury of a sad realization. “I’ve been partying and starving my body/Like a perfect kiss would save me,” she sings in the explosive final chorus alongside perfectly placed drums and a deep, distorted synth. It’s a climax in an album that’s too filled with half-baked ideas; Here’s our sigh of relief that Swift hasn’t lost her touch.

Taylor Swift is our most genuine pop star in that she’s never tried to be anything she’s not. Even as she dives into other genres, she guides them through her distinct Swift lens—always over the top, poetic, and deeply emotional. For better or worse, she is herself. And even when the music isn’t very good, her unwavering commitment to doing things exactly her way is always admirable.

I often wonder if this is where the disconnect lies: in the listener’s inability to keep up with her wanton, rose-tinted effervescence at any given moment. Swift’s biggest fans rarely have this problem, as their bond with her not just as an artist but as an idea allows her mindset to merge with hers throughout an album cycle. There’s a maturity in Swift’s declaration of remaining immature, forever young and always hopeful, infatuated with love and life. But at a certain point, that mindset no longer fits the music.

songs on folklore and always felt like a step forward, so natural, like they were pouring out of her and couldn’t be stopped. Make no mistake: They were terrific pop, too, only filtered through a new lens to please fans while fooling simpletons they used to dismiss. It was a fun new stunt in her bag of tricks. But the most midnight finds Taylor Swift between past and future. It’s oddly stilted, not like late-night free writing but more of a jumble of mismatched ideas. There’s an intensity Swift is certainly capable of that just remains unattainable, like trying to recall a dream that felt so detailed while you were in it, only for it to evade you entirely in daylight. Maybe she’ll remember. Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” album review is shockingly boring and should be better

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