Monday, June 24, 2024

REVIEW: Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights' is a no-skip album

October 21, 2022
Design by Madison Echlin.
Design by Madison Echlin.

At 11 p.m., I made my boyfriend watch "Miss Americana," Taylor Swift’s documentary, in preparation of her new album, "Midnights." At 11:59 p.m., I sprinted to my computer and logged on to Spotify, only to find it crashed, Swifties overloading the app. After three agonizing minutes of waiting, I was able to begin my listen with "Lavender Haze."

I danced around my room for 44 minutes straight. At 12:45 a.m., I sat down to collect my thoughts and write this review.

While Swift's singer-songwriter albums have been my favorite for a long time, "Evermore" being at the top of my list, this album is making me rethink my choices. I don't say this a lot, but I think this is truly a no-skip album. Every song is a perfectly written story – not unlike her other albums – but this album does something different for me. Mixing her harmonies with synth sounds was the perfect choice, layering her words with just as much depth in the music.

While many are connected to her acoustic sound, I appreciate Swift trying to regularly change her sound; every album is an experiment. While "Midnights" reminds me of "Reputation" in many ways, I like to think of it as an emo "1989." It is pop-heavy, but also shows her growth in songwriting with lyrics that reflect "Folklore" and "Evermore."

With no further delay, here is the ranking of every song on this masterpiece. While it was hard to choose and every song is an absolute triumph of songwriting, I was able to choose my favorites on my first listen.

13. Snow on the Beach (ft. Lana Del Rey)

While this song is still beautiful, it was uncontested for the weakest on the album. This song is not as well-written as the others in general. The chorus felt more repetitive than others and I did not connect with the metaphor of falling in love to snow on the beach. While I am a way bigger fan of Swift than Rey, I thought Rey was underutilized in the song. It was a little too slow for my liking. I think Swift has done more with even slower songs, so this did not blow me away.

12. Maroon

This song reminded me of "Dress" from "Reputation," which is one of my favorites off that album. I would say this song is the most overtly sexual on the album, which I always love because I think she writes about sexuality so beautifully. This song was poetic but it simply didn't stick with me as much as the others.

11. Bejeweled

This is the "I deserve better" anthem on the album, telling how even when Swift's being treated poorly by a man, she's still "bejeweled." A heavy theme of this album is a reflection on her boyfriends who sucked, then showcasing her one true love: Joe Alwyn. I could see myself listening to this song whenever I'm angry, putting on a killer outfit to go out. While this isn't the jewel of the 'girlboss' genre of songs, it delivers the message of "I'm still hot without you."

10. Midnight Rain

"Broke his heart because he was nice" is one of my favorite lines in the album. Unfortunately, I couldn't get over the weird voice filter Swift used on the chorus, which knocked it down a couple ranks for me. This was the "Delicate" of "Midnights": really good, but faces stiff competition in the lineup. This song holds a great bridge and great songwriting.

9. Labyrinth

This is a perfect example of how Swift can write a slow song beautifully, showing what "Snow on the Beach" was missing. Swift says falling love is like a maze: scary in the beginning, trying to sort through your feelings, being overwhelmed, yet getting to the other side and feeling like you've accomplished something. I really enjoyed her talking about her breathing in this song, taking us through the process of being scared of a good feeling and the possibility of it being fleeting. I have always been a proponent of her songs about anxiety in love, and this is no different.

8. Question...?

This was one of the best stories on the album, having the same features as songs like "Last Great American Dynasty": It told me a whole story within minutes. The chorus almost made me cry, depicting what it's like to doubt yourself on decisions, especially in love. The questions were the perfect way to push the narrative forward. I think this was one of the most experimental and different songs on the album, moving it up the list for me.

7. Sweet Nothing

This song made me want to slow dance. Not to be punny, but this is the sweetest song on the album, reminding me of "Invisible String" or "Lover." This song is love in its purest form. I love the concept of even when the world is ending, you still just crave the smallest and sweetest moments with the person you love. It made me cry. It made my boyfriend cry. It must be perfect.

6. Vigilante Shit

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This song knocked me over. I was not expecting this from this album, but it was exactly what was needed. This is going to be the revenge anthem of the year, just like "I Did Something Bad." It reminded me of Billie Eilish but 20 times better. It was powerful, but in the women supporting women, girl power way. I could see myself committing arson to this song, but not in a criminal way, just in a girlboss kind of way. Dressing for revenge is my new wardrobe.

5. Karma

I stand by this will be the most popular song off this album. Like many Swift fans, I have been waiting for this song for years since it was alluded to on "Reputation." This is Swift's full circle moment, waiting for revenge on all her foes. The chorus makes me want to dance and also send mean texts to my exes. It's just so catchy, you can't help but have fun to it.

4. Lavender Haze

This is the perfect opener to the album, inviting you to meet Swift at midnight. I immediately got off the couch and started dancing. While it's a love song, it's groovy – making you want to move, but also pay attention to the lyrics. This could be a club song, or the song you and your partner share. I love how Swift always describes her emotions in colors, depicting her feelings perfectly for the audience. Lavender is the new Red for Swifties.

3. You're On Your Own, Kid

Top three. This is getting serious. This reminded me of her older songwriting, as the densest storytelling of the album. It is the greatest description of the juxtaposition between insecurities and self-reliance. It follows her from her young moments of finding herself to how it reflects on her life now. It follows the idea of being on your own and the fear of that, yet always finding more comfort in yourself and the strength within. Every verse and bridge was a different layer of the story wrapped up masterfully with the chorus.

2. Anti-hero

This was lyrical genius, period.

It does what only a couple of her songs have done: analyze her problems without romanticizing her own part in the story. 'Anti-Hero" is all about narcissism and the darkest parts of our brains, seeing ourselves as the problem for once. However, Swift decides she is still the hero even with her flaws, rooting for herself in the end. I loved the idea of looking at the sun, or positivity in our problems, rather than looking in the mirror. The lyrics were dense and descriptive over a simple beat, further depicting the complexity behind a conflict. While she's the monster on the hill, her altruism always wins, normalizing destructive decisions and needing to beg for forgiveness after an impulsive action.

1. Mastermind

Somehow the album closer was better than the opener. Swift paints herself as the deciding factor of her own fate and the mastermind behind her storyline. In this song, she tries to convince herself that she's the calculated villain in her story, yet still finds support and love from her partner, who knows that she's not evil, but someone to love easily. She explains her childhood led to her cryptic future, yet she was still able to find love within this complex life she's made for herself. She ends the album with this story of her growth after all her sleepless midnights, knowing that she can rest in the love she has found not only with someone else, but in herself.

In short, this album meant the world to me, and while it was different than I expected, it stood up to my high expectations. I'm a critic 23 hours out of the day, except for at Midnight.

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