Final grade: 5.8/10
Ahgrim: Taylor Swift is a genius, but not everything she does is genius.
Much like “Reputation,” its closest relative in Swift’s discography, “Midnights” is a collection of highs and lows. I can easily sort his song list into songs I like, songs I like, and songs I hate.
But unlike “Reputation”, the highs of “Midnights” aren’t stratospheric, and the lows didn’t physically set me back. Each end of the spectrum is much less intense. “Sweet Nothing”, my favorite song on the standard edition album, doesn’t hold a candle to “Delicate”. “Bejeweled,” my least favorite song, doesn’t send a shiver down my spine like “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.”
This disparity is due to the lack of texture and tension on “Midnights”. To paraphrase a voice note Courteney sent me, Swift and Antonoff did very little work on the architecture of this album; it is an essentially flat plane.
To those who compared the quality of the album to ‘1989’ and ‘Lover’, I ask where are the passionate bridges a la ‘Out of the Woods’ and ‘Death by a Thousand Cuts’, the structural art form that Swift is the best known. for? To those who would say that you have to sacrifice moments of release, shock and admiration to achieve cohesion, I ask, have you ever listened to “Folklore” and “Evermore”, his most fascinating work. and most consistent albums to date?
A lackluster production is forgivable, of course, as long as Swift’s legendary songwriting is on full display. Certainly, there are glimmers of her lyrical prowess: she slips in words like “Machiavellian” and “Aurora Borealis” with astonishing ease; references Greek mythology in one breath and Janet Jackson’s “All For You” in another; describes a once-promising romance as “carnations you thought were roses” and estrangement as “the rust that has grown between the phones”.
But Swift undermines those feats with long periods of rehearsal and entire songs of regressive, unimaginative pop-talk.
Although “Midnights” was marketed as an intimate and insightful dive into Swift’s past neuroses and regrets, his “demons” and his “homemade cages”, reality is a set of broad strokes that seem vaguely familiar – like the hazy scenes from a dream you don’t quite remember in the morning. Many reviewers will call these lyrics “cryptic” when they really aren’t specific. There’s no scarves be found.
While I’m more positive about “Midnights” as a whole than my esteemed editor and lifelong colleague Swiftie – and I’ll jump on “Anti-Hero” and “Karma” without a shred of guilt – I can’t deny that my immediate reaction when the finished album was a disappointment.
Maybe my expectations were too high and I’m the problem (that’s me).
Larocque: While working on this review, a friend contacted me to ask, “Are you into Taylor’s bliss?” Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to answer this question with anything other than “always”.
Listen, I take no pleasure in reporting that “Midnights” is an average pop album at best. I anticipate accusations of “Well, it wasn’t going to be ‘Folklore!’ You hate pop music!” To which I would say that I am not upset by a return to pop. Ultimately, Swift can manage to squeeze in whatever production she really likes on a song. This often works because she usually builds on a solid base of lyricism.
Take “Reputation,” his most critical pop album, for example. I know several people who said they didn’t like “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” before they heard the acoustic version. Same with “King of my heart”. Callie even sent me a lighter version of “Me!” recently, although this one hasn’t changed my mind that the first single from “Lover” is unlistenable.
But if I were to dive into a lyric book for “Midnights,” the logical conclusion I’d draw is that Swift, like any writer, could use an editor. And Antonoff is certainly not up to it.
Now, it’s also not Antonoff’s fault that the album is halfway through. He’s a man who helped make undeniable hits like “Getaway Car” and “August.” But clearly his best work comes when the people he works with have a clear vision and hold him back. It is the first album in which Swift and Antonoff were the only two main collaborators. They can work magic together, but no one controls them when Swift wants to write on sharp eyeliner or sexy babies.
But this magic that I just mentioned only comes in glimmers. His highest peaks on “Midnights” (“Lavender Haze”, “Maroon”, “Sweet Nothing”) do not reach the same peak as most of his other albums. It’s the kind of songs that would sound second-rate if put alongside their older sisters, “Cruel Summer”, “Don’t Blame Me” and “Peace”.
It’s not like Swift forgot how to write. In fact, she wrote a lot of great songs and chose to leave them out of what my friends and I started calling “Midnights” Proper. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a well-built bridge within Swift’s city limits, but if you can find one at “Midnights” Suburbia (or, as Swift officially calls it, “The 3am Edition”), you You will be delighted to discover songs like “Glitch”, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”, “High Infidelity” and “The Great War”. Take exit 13, and you’ll come across “Hits Different” at Target, it sounds a lot like Shania Twain or Faith Hill in the late 90s.
When left to her own devices, Swift often misses the mark when picking a lead single. “Midnights” had none, which apparently resulted in picking the weakest 13-track set and relegating its biggest hitters to land outside the bounds of album reviews and sales. vinyls.
The good news is that if you too are disappointed with the album, another re-recording is not far away. Swift has been churning out music at such an unprecedented rate that another sample of her songwriting is never too far away. “Midnights” would have been devastating had it come after three years of nothing, but instead it’s a perfectly fine addition to his ever-growing collection. It won’t be long before Swift reappears saying, “Hi! It’s me!”
To listen :
“You’re all alone, kid”
“Snow on the Beach” (with Lana Del Rey)
*Final album score based on songs per category (1 point for “Worth listening”, 0.5 for “Background music”, 0.5 for “Split decision”, 0 for “Press skip”).