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Review: ‘Midnights’ not worth staying up for

Photo courtesy Republic Records

By Hugo Gerbich-Pais     10/25/22 10:05pm

Rating: ★★

Top track: “Mastermind”

It is obvious that Taylor Swift needed to have gone to bed earlier and reviewed her work before releasing Midnights.

Failing to live to up to the sophisticated and heart-wrenching story telling that brought her critical acclaim, Taylor Swift’s “Midnights (3am Edition)” sees her return to her “You Need to Calm Down,” “Look What You Made Me Do” and “Blank Space” eras, but at least those songs were danceable. While not terrible, the album falls flat, despite several songs showcasing Swift’s songwriting and vocal talent.

At midnight Eastern time, Swift released “Midnights,” and then three hours later she released the “3 am Edition,” which included an additional seven songs. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for why Swift decided to not include these seven songs with the original release. If she was trying to seem chaotic and unhinged, her lyrics already achieve that.

One of my biggest critiques of “Midnights” lies in its lyricism, which often seems lazy and unimaginative, lacking the nuance and creativity we have come to expect from Swift. Her similes are primitive and prosaic — in “Snow On The Beach,” she writes that “It’s like snow at the beach / Weird, but fucking beautiful.” In “Karma” she writes, “Sweet like honey, karma is a cat / Purring in my lap.” These similes do not feel fresh or inventive, nor do they provide the listener with a new way to vocalize their experience. Perhaps her most atrocious simile is in “Anti-Hero,” where she writes that she sometimes feels “like everybody is a sexy baby.” 

Midnights opens with the song “Lavender Haze.” The pulsating bass drum is reminiscent of the opening track of Swift’s Reputation album “... Ready for It?” Yet the power of the song is diminished by its breathy chorus which quickly tires the ear, as her heavily edited vocals sound whiney and scratchy.

“Snow On The Beach” features Lana Del Rey, which you wouldn’t notice as her voice hardly makes an appearance. Even more frustrating were the musically interesting songs that were ruined by underwhelming lyrics. “Question…?”’s chorus is powerful thanks to strong percussive elements paired with gentle background vocals, but then you start to hear the words she's actually singing. She asks, “Did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room / And every single one of your friends was making fun of you / But fifteen seconds latеr, they were clapping, too?” I, for one, have never felt like that.

“Bigger Than The Whole Sky” is beautiful — until she asks, “Did some bird flap its wing over in Asia,” which seems like a terrible allusion to the butterfly effect.

“Mastermind” is the saving grace of the album. The chorus is incredibly catchy, with electronic synth keys keeping the song interesting and moving forward. “High Infidelity” shares these electronic synth keys, while the subtle incorporation of classical guitar and piano keeps the song aurally interesting. 

“Vigilante Shit” emulates the aggressive verses and heavy snare drums of “Look What You Made Me Do,” yet it once again doesn’t meet our expectations. The bridge is sprung onto us with a chilling effect — sounding like a nursery rhyme in a horror film and souring our perception of the song.

The album ends with “Dear Reader,” which is very telling. The song has a seductive chorus with a delicate piano line that contrasts with the electronic verses. In the song’s outro, we are told, “We should find another guiding light,” and I agree. This album’s unimaginative lyricism and unexceptional sound prove Taylor Swift can no longer lead pop. 

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