Ever since singer-songwriter Taylor Swift announced her 10th studio album, “Midnights,” at the MTV Video Music Awards in August, the world has been waiting.
Her other nine studio albums span country, pop, R&B and folk – so fans were completely uncertain as to which genre Swift would choose for her 10th album.
From its extensive strategy of rolling out albums and hype on social media platforms – notably the TikTok series “Midnights Mayhem with Me” which introduced the tracklist – the release of “Midnights” was simply inevitable if you were anywhere online.
But then again, you really wouldn’t want to skip what might be Swift’s strongest album to date.
“Midnights” marks the return of Swift’s glitzy synth-pop style that gained international acclaim on “1989” and “Reputation.”
This time, however, she draws on the matured introspective lyricism of “folklore” and “always” to craft a record that tells the story of 13 Sleepless Nights in a way that’s both a lonely ending reflection party and an instant hit.
This combination of initially incompatible elements works so well because Swift has learned from “folklore” and “always” that taking risks can pay off – from experimental production choices like muted melodies, to unexpected cadences and using more its lower range.
The understated folk-pop style of her previous two albums allowed her expert lyricism to shine. And, now that we know what Swift is capable of, she was ready to get back to what she does best: being the biggest pop star of her generation.
“Midnights” is an ongoing conversation between Swift and herself — even songs that are aimed at lovers or foes aren’t exactly intended for the subject to be the audience.
Listening to “Midnights” is more like reading Swift’s diary, and it feels like you’ve landed on a special, private piece of art rather than listening to the hottest album in the world right now.
Album openers “Lavender Haze” and “Maroon” help set the stage for a romantic Technicolor experience for the wee hours of the night.
These tracks guide you through Swift’s updated pop sound and promise that she’ll be carrying her heart to you by the end of the 44-minute runtime.
Swift’s highly anticipated collaboration with award-winning artist Lana Del Rey, “Snow on the Beach,” was the album’s biggest disappointment.
Del Rey’s vocals are only really detectable in the second half of the chorus, but that half is enough to make you angry that it’s not a full verse.
Swift and Del Rey’s vocals blend together beautifully as they capture the seemingly impossible feeling of falling in love, though the sound doesn’t exactly conjure up the “midnight” vibe.
And, while the album may start off romantic, it wouldn’t be a Taylor Swift record without some extremely specific observations about Swift herself.
The bridge of “You’re On Your Own, Kid” rivals the infamous bridges of “All Too Well” and “champagne problems” that built Swift’s songwriting reputation.
The song explores Swift’s insecurities while visiting home with a candor reminiscent of “this is me trying” and “mirrorball.”
“Anti-Hero”, the album’s first single, explores similar themes – making these songs a great midnight listening choice if you like to experience emotional upheaval.
“Karma,” perhaps the most anticipated track from “Midnights,” would become a defining song in Swift’s career.
After exploring the concept of revenge in the entirety of her sixth studio album, “Reputation,” “Karma” retroactively describes how Swift overcame her sometimes negative perception in the public eye.
The glamorous, trap-infused pop style that Swift and producer Jack Antonoff have cultivated is unstoppable in “Midnights” — but I appreciate the presence of the softer, slightly slower songs on the album.
“Labyrinth”, “Sweet Nothing” and “Mastermind” are lullabies that meet you at the end of a long night of reflection and reminiscing about the rest of the album.
The seven bonus tracks for “Midnights (3am Edition),” which Swift released three hours after the original 13 tracks, carry former collaborator Aaron Dessner’s production style.
Although they’re some of the strongest individual tracks on the album, Swift did the right thing not to include them on the standard release. The cohesion of the 13 original titles is unquestionably flawless, and the storyline is perfectly clear.
“Paris” strikes me as the most likely “3am Edition” track to remain underrated. It’s instantly recognizable as a classic – a piece of pop perfection that would have worked seven years ago and will work well into the future.
But with so many strong songs on a single album, not every track will have a chance to shine.
All in all, “Midnights” is a major hit for Swift. With the dawn of her reinvigorated new pop sound, she continues to push forward to previously unfathomable accomplishments in the music industry to reclaim her crown as one of the greatest pop artists of our time.
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