Taylor Swift - Midnights Music Album Reviews

Taylor Swift - Midnights Music Album Reviews
More interested in setting atmosphere than chasing trends, Taylor Swift’s 10th album pursues a newly subdued and amorphous pop sound.

Midnights is about reflection, not reinvention. Taylor Swift has explained that at length, in her own flowery vernacular: These 13 songs are “a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams.” The thoughts that keep the 32-year-old songwriter up late are the ones she’s spent nine albums excavating: the unpredictable rise and devastating fall of romance; the binary of the “good girl” and the “bad girl,” and the chafing of societal expectation (that “1950s shit”); and the uncomfortable acceptance of her own fallibility. Life, she declares, “is emotionally abusive.”

Midnights is Swift’s first album to be recorded entirely with Jack Antonoff, after nearly a decade of ever higher-profile collaborations. In the past, he has accentuated Swift’s ambitiously vivid storytelling with expressive, technicolor synth pop. Here, in accordance with the lateness of the hour, they explore moodier, more subdued hues. Built around vocal effects and vintage synths, it’s an understated sound more interested in setting atmosphere than chasing trends. On the mid-album centerpiece “Midnight Rain,” against a backdrop as crystalline as the titular weather, Swift examines the pursuit of career over partnership. Exaggerating her natural uptalk, the production morphs her voice into a dramatic slant: “He wanted comfortable/I wanted that pain.” The woozy “Snow on the Beach” sketches an image of strange beauty in twinkling synth and violin, as Lana Del Rey’s warm background harmonies add a welcome coziness. Later, as Swift hesitantly enters a new relationship on “Labyrinth,” the production mirrors the ice melting around her heart, each synth quiver a pump of new blood.

Building on the softly stuttering Reputation tracks “Delicate” and “Dress,” the album at times recalls the way the spare, hazy beats of Lorde’s Pure Heroine cut through the denser radio hits of the early 2010s. While it’s gratifying to hear Swift push her idea of pop beyond the fireworks of her pre-2020 material, the evolution can feel uneven. In her transition from the Americana-lite of Folklore back to sparkling synths, she’s also restored some of her more theatric impulses. On “Karma” she conjures her sassy, shit-stirring alter ego in a less vindictive mood, luxuriating in her rivals’ inevitable comeuppance. The ominous, wobbly murmur lurking beneath the revenge fantasy “Vigilante Shit” recalls Billie Eilish’s debut, though Swift’s attempts at edginess come across as a costume; she was a far more believable killer on Evermore’s murder-mystery ballad “No Body, No Crime.”

If Swift’s previous recordings were full-blown productions with radically distinct aesthetics, this one would be best staged in a black-box theater, where the stories change but the physical space remains consistently austere. The effect is most curious on “Maroon,” which opens in medias res on the aftermath of a night fueled by some roommate’s “cheap-ass screw-top rosé,” a syllabic feat. This doomed romance unwinds atop a downcast rumbling, with drums that echo as if from within a black hole; by the final chorus, Swift’s vocals are processed within an inch of their life. In stark contrast to the passionate hue of her words, the overall effect is oddly impersonal, bordering on numb. Of all of the songs on Midnights, “Maroon” may be the one that keeps me awake at night.

On 2020’s Folklore and Evermore, Swift stepped away from autobiographical songwriting and found new depths of feeling in fictional narratives. For perhaps the first time in a career built on curated lyrical bloodletting, she gave herself the gift of emotional distance. With Midnights, she returns to a diaristic style, addressing the central conflict of Taylor Swift, the individual and the persona: She’s self-conscious to a fault but rarely self-aware. “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror,” she sings on lead single “Anti-Hero,” more weary than winking. She has fun with her self-loathing, likening herself to a performatively selfless politician and a Godzilla trampling a city of sexy babies; “It’s me, hi/I’m the problem,” she says at the bridge, cracking a wincing smile and imagining the memes to come. Owning the “problem” isn’t quite the same thing as changing, and she’s betting that you can relate.

Swift revisits this tension in the final minutes of Midnights, on “Mastermind”: “I swear/I’m only cryptic and Machiavellian ’cause I care.” Movingly, she writes herself a twist ending: The lover whose attention she’s spent the entire song scheming to capture sees right through her designs. Swift has often portrayed love as something that happens to her; from “You Belong With Me” to “Don’t Blame Me,” she is forever at romance’s whims. But the “Mastermind” not only achieves what she wants and deserves through her own efforts, she finds someone who recognizes how important it is for her to assert creative agency. The sentiment is echoed again on “Sweet Nothing,” a hiccuping nursery rhyme written alongside her partner, actor Joe Alwyn (credited as William Bowery): “On the way home/I wrote a poem/You say, ‘What a mind’/This happens all the time.”

As has become Swift’s recent custom, this latest release is accompanied by a suite of bonus material: The seven additional songs on the surprise “3am Edition” vary in quality and offer little insight into the album proper. “Glitch” and “Paris” are just dumb fun, at least when considering the hilariously overwrought lines, “Sit quiet by my side in the shade/And not the kind that’s thrown/I mean, the kind under where a tree has grown.” The best of the 3am songs reunite Swift with the National’s Aaron Dessner, her collaborator for the bulk of Folklore and Evermore. One of these, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” is seemingly a follow-up to 2010’s “Dear John,” drawing out the complexities of a teenage girl’s relationship with a manipulative older man and considering the weight of his violations with mature, nuanced perspective. It’s one of the best songs of her career, but its charging gallop would have pierced Midnights’ blanket of fog.

The closest comparison from the original release is the radiant “You’re on Your Own, Kid,” which indulges in some classic Swiftian mythmaking: Fueled by unrequited love, the outsider holes up in her bedroom and writes the songs that allow her to escape small-town stasis. The reality she finds is no fairytale. “I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this/I hosted parties and starved my body/Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss,” she sings, quietly nodding to her struggles with disordered eating. She concludes on an uplifting note, urging her audience to “make the friendship bracelets,” recognizing every misstep is a lesson learned. But the painful memories linger in the back of her mind, ready to creep into focus at the stroke of midnight.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Taylor Swift - Midnights Music Album Reviews Taylor Swift - Midnights Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 31, 2022 Rating: 5


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