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Midnights - Taylor swift

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

Taylor swift has been up to her old PR tricks and, despite being in the midst of the process of re-producing her previous albums, surprised fans last month by announcing an album of entirely new music, inspired by "13 different sleepless nights" (with seven surprise bonus tracks, as a treat) throughout her life. Does the album hold up to the buzz surrounding it? Or are we all "tired of her scheming", here are three of our writers' thoughts...


A photo of Taylor Swift lounging on an orange print sofa, set into a pink background with green and orange dots.


Wayne

Taylor, hey, are you okay? Honestly, the last word I thought I’d ever use to describe your work is “meh”, but here we are. Midnights left me colder than left-over pizza. Maybe with a side of disappointment; in you or in myself for expecting more, or just not getting it? Not sure.


The web’s naturally imploding over the gimmicky build-up to its release, the shock-drop of the 3am Edition (the one I listened to), the cryptic crumb trail of who each song may be about, and your return to the mainstream from the folklorian woods.


Maybe it is the masterpiece everyone says. Part-warning shot, part triumphant, anthemic call to action from a woman whose confidence has never been higher. An avenging angel laying herself bare, saying “here are my doubts, my fears, my self-scorn, my dreams. Have you ever tasted my dark side? Here’s why.” But it came across to me like a cacophonous collection of contradictions from someone whose lyrical score-setting is starting to feel like a crutch, or a marketing foil because the mythology surrounding each line sells. Perhaps even immature. I wish you’d just say “think or write whatever shit you like I no longer care” instead of me worrying you’re about to go full 07 Britney.


Whichever proves true, this may be the end of our love story. I wanted the final piece of the folklore/evermore trilogy. A continuation of your evolution as a songwriter, a storyteller. But maybe that’s the point of Midnights I’ve missed – you don’t always get what you want. You told fans the album was like life – dark, starry, cloudy, terrifying, electrifying, hot, cold, romantic or lonely. It elicited no such feels from me. Except – it occurs to me as I write this some strange, disentitled, disproportionate anger. Sold as seen, right?


It’s just… songwriting is like your superpower. I want to feel the same highs and lows listening to your songs that you had living them. This feels subdued, colourless, unoriginal. Tired even. Taylor Swift 101.


folklore/evermore got my hopes up that Reputation (which at least had some bangers) and . Lover (barely memorable save the ‘You Need To Calm Down’ video) were diversions. Get-it-out-of-your-system releases to allow you to reset and move on. Maybe that’s why I’m crashing hard with Midnights. I grew up in the eighties so don’t need some synth-heavy pop pastiche that you delivered much better with1989 anyway. None of the tracks stand out. Although I can see the mood-boards for the videos in my head. Were you thinking of those first?


Truthfully, I hate folk music but the much-mentioned folklorian releases and Red barely leave my car. Yes, I still have a CD player. I’m a middle-aged man, get over it. This won’t see the inside of the glovebox. Maybe, one day, I’ll put it on in the background, see if it’s a grower like 1989.


For the longest time, a Taylor Swift release was a straightaway must-buy. A musical warm blanket for when I felt up, down or couldn’t decide which. Right now, I can’t see us ever ‘getting back together’.


Taylor Swift headshot of her holding a lighter in front of her face, alongside the track list of Midnights

Someone's not up on her fire safety...



Becky

I was super late to Taylor Swift. When the Swifties were at a fever pitch, I was in my annoying ‘I only like niche things’ phase. Luckily, I got over that and have been listening to her work ever since, and I was so excited to hear she had new material coming out. Midnights didn’t disappoint, especially on this particular Friday, at this time, after the week’s frustrations. Despite evoking those sleepless nights I used to have when thoughts ran wild through my mind, I found my mind stilled when listening.


I have been trying to do something lately: I make sure I listen to one new album a month. Not listening whilst working, walking, cleaning etc. Just sit/lay down and listen to the album, concentrating on it. I have really enjoyed it and it’s helped me to find new music and decide whether I actually like it as opposed to putting music on whilst I work and just absent-mindedly hitting like because the vibe was ok. I was working late due to my printer not working (I think they are built to break!), and I was frustrated, as it was a heavy week, and I had meant to finish early. I needed to listen to this album, but time was ticking, so I pressed play whilst working, and as soon as those sounds hit my ears, I knew I had to listen to Midnights in ‘album of the month’ style.


So I paused it and finished my work. Top Tip: If you ever need a burst of enthusiasm, holding a Taylor Swift album hostage is a great motivator. Then I jumped in my listening spot, pressed play (to the 3am edition with seven bonus tracks) and melted into the sofa.


When I listen to albums for the first time, I find it difficult to hear lyrics and get anywhere near an understanding of them. Judging by the news articles I have seen about Midnights, it will be worth joining the rest of the world’s population and going back specifically to focus on Swift’s writing.


The first time I hear an album, it’s about colours, shapes and images. This album is yellows, oranges with shocks of blues and occasional greys. It is watercolour paints spreading through water and blue bikes on autumn roads. I have to confess, I don’t know what any of that means but it was lovely to listen to and see these things when I closed my eyes. (Also if you see that language in the poetry zine I have always wanted to make then pretend it’s the first time you have seen it - thanks)


A couple of lyrics did make their way to my comprehension, one of which was this bit from ‘Question…?’

’Cause I don’t remember who I was

Before you painted all my nights

A colour I’ve searched for since’

As you can probably tell from the rest of my review – I am quite a visual person so it makes sense that when I heard that I was like “oooooh” and I remembered it.


Midnights is an album everyone will have thoughts about: I liked it. It didn’t change my life (although, as I said above, the lyrics haven’t had a chance to yet.) Some albums hit me like lightning. This wasn’t one of those experiences, but it was time well spent, and that was what I needed today.


wide-angle black and white image of Taylor Swift, standing in a woodland wearing a long checked coat

She is, as it turns out, 'Out of The Woods' now


Eve M

I usually hate to be proven wrong, but for Taylor Swift I will make an exception. When the news of Midnights first broke, along with various photos of Taylor lounging on 70s-style sofas in mustard cords and zig-zag patterned jumpers, I could only assume we were getting something between Fleetwood Mac and Carol King. Indeed, it seemed a natural step from the indie-folk sounds of folklore and evermore, and Taylor’s description of the album as “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life”, I couldn’t help but assume we were about to get a modern day Tapestry.


Well, dear reader, I was WRONG. AND I’VE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER ABOUT IT.


Taylor is back to remind us that, when she’s not living as a witchy folk singer in a remote lake side cabin in the woods, that she’s still the biggest pop star on the planet and that she’s being doing her homework on what everyone else in the pop-sphere has been up to. ‘Vigilante Shit’ is a straight-up Billie Eilish song, to the point where I’m surprised that Eilish and her brother FINNEAS haven’t been given a writing credit (yet). Meanwhile, it’s refreshing to hear Lana Del Rey’s voice on the record, especially after she has so clearly influenced previous Taylor songs such as ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘Carolina’. Unfortunately, like many female collaborators of Swift’s before her, she suffers from only being given backing vocals on ‘Snow on the Beach’ (perhaps her verse was cut for being too cokey).


For months, there were rumours The 1975 would also be featured on the album, and although they make no official appearance, their influence is clear. The declaration in the chorus of ‘Anti-Hero’ that “It's me / Hi / I'm the problem, it's me” feels like the most Matty Healy lyric that Matty Healy never wrote. Meanwhile, ‘Midnight Rain’ also reminds me of The 1975, but as if they were on a very specific writing exercise to create a bonus track for Lorde’s Melodrama. In fact, considering how Taylor’s longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff has previously worked with both Lorde and The 1975, I wouldn’t be surprised if the backing track wasn’t a deep cut that Antonoff had been sitting on for five years or more.


Sonically, it’s tempting to place Midnights between 1989 and reputation, especially with the pure pop perfection of ‘Karma’, ‘Lavender Haze’, and ‘Anti-Hero’ (Swift affectionately refers to these kind of songs as her “glitter gel pen songs”). Yet, there are still many songs on Midnights – ‘Snow on the Beach’, ‘Labyrinth’, ‘Bigger Than The Whole Sky’, ‘Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve’ – that would have fit very neatly onto Swift’s previous albums, folklore and evermore, with very little production changes required. Really, it’s impressive how seamlessly Swift (and Antonoff) can blend together so many different sounds influences from both her discography, and others’, without alienating listeners or making a project that feels like too many messy, disconnected ideas. Aside from the 3 A.M. bonus tracks (which I found enjoyable but, aside from ‘Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve’, are skippable), Midnights is an enrapturing thirteen songs that will leave you dancing, smiling, or crying well into the night.


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