I get older but just never wiser, Taylor Nation.
Before we begin, let’s establish that I clearly have a biased opinion. I’ve been a fan of Taylor Swift’s music for many years, and enjoyed all her past albums. That being said, I have been known to express my critical opinion on certain songs I don’t particularly enjoy or even maybe skip (gasp). All that to say, I’ve never claimed to be impartial but I will be honest and it’s all opinion. It’s the internet and you can always click away. To all those who choose to stay, this is going to be a longgg post. Let’s begin.
Midnights is Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album, her fourth with the Republic label and the sixth album she owns now counting the re-releases of Fearless and Red, Taylor’s Versions.
You see, Taylor’s Versions are like the prequel series telling the story before Lover, Folklore and Evermore. Midnights is sort of the Avengers Endgame wrapping up stage one of the Marvel saga. Although I sort of think of Fearless as A New Hope and 1989 as sort of The Empire Strikes Back of all the albums. I don’t know which one is Return of the Jedi but for sure Reputation is Rogue One. On that note, all that was a joke. Sorry. If that’s not your thing you can follow the ninjas to the exit. Now kidding aside we can get serious.
Midnights is a concept album. As a vibe it was made to be listened late at night, alone with a blanket or on a sleepover with your closest friends. As TS albums go, it’s a singalong because they always are, but as has been the case for a long time it is very, very danceable. It’s definitely part of the ideal breakup crying soundtrack. It also makes for an amazing car jam banger playlist. Not the best as party background music for a gathering since every conversation will be interrupted with a “turn it up, I like this one!” shout on every track.
Speaking about tracks, let’s see what songs we get. I’m not going to be watching my grammar too close, this is all about emotion. Apologies to the grammar police. A little disclaimer here: You’re going to see me categorize some songs as “lyrical challenges” and some as “outliers”. Those terms are my own inventions and not official Swift-lore, so take them with a grain of salt.
How do you start an album? Motion of order, get everything off your desk and chill. Relax. Let everything go. Forget about the day. This one is kind of a preamble. As much as it asks you to slide into the couch and off your shoes, it’s a transition song from your head filled with day activities into night chill. Light’em if you got’em, no judgement here. Great song, medium favorite tier because as much as I love it, there’s a lot more ahead.
We’re settled in, now it’s time to bring some richness and fullness. This is sort of “Red” version 2.0, where everything is dark and intense but comfortable rather than vivid. Feelings are coming out, honest and real with time having past by. The day has been light and airy and all the concentrated and buildup has been left at the bottom and must come out. If the previous track was smoke, this one is definitely a drink and preferably wine or spirits. Top tier favorite, solid song and definite vibe.
Get ready, this is one of the lyrical workout challenges that Taylor has crafted from her quill. The song reflects her imposter syndrome, something in plain sight in the nightmare scenarios depicted in the video. The song itself is in conflict, both celebrating and fighting that criticism. Taylor remains her own harshest critic, aware of the image that other people project on her persona. Top tier favorite, banger.
Snow On The Beach (ft. Lana del Rey)
This was my favorite song on the first album run. Shocker, it’s a love song. Yes, after all roads in life present strife and roughness and you don’t expect anything, there could be happiness in there. Unlikely outcomes can still happen, says the ultimate optimist who actually appears right at end in the lyric video. Definitely a top tier favorite, and keeps taking the top stop everytime I listen to it again.
You’re On Your Own, Kid
I wasn’t really sure about this song on the first listen. It has grown on me to become a personal favorite that doesn’t get enough praise. I find it another lyrical challenge of a song. I always feel it contains hesitation before it reaches the chorus and gives in to both disappointment and realization. The result is somehow joyful rather than sad. The lyrics reflect it. You rely on yourself and take the moments in as they come. Currently jumped up to be on the top tier favorites just as I was writing this.
A comfort song for your breakup soundtrack. This one is not the one you want when you’re crashing but a long time after the tears have dried up and you’re reflecting. It has a bit of a small drop in the melody that feels like that part where it still stings. It’s that sadness that still appears at midnight. Medium tier favorite, except at midnight where it feels it ends too soon.
Okey, it’s time for the outliers. Yes, Taylor always has these tracks that just seem to jump out and break the mold. It’s sort of a song that makes you stop and wonder if you inadvertently switched to someone else. And yet, this is so Taylor. This also fits the lyrical challenge theme adding a whimsical melody and perhaps one of the most tongue-twister singalong bridges that she’s ever written. Top tier favorite any day of the week, no need to ask.
Taylor can write a bad girl song like nobody on earth. Yes, second outlier in the album and lyrical bad ass challenge, this is hell mode difficulty in Doom. Toxic but still classy, this song drips venom from its fangs. While you might have heard lethal cacophonies before, Taylor knows how to sell a death threat of a lyric. She comes in slow and quiet. You never see the dagger glisten or taste the poison until it’s already inside. Better Than Revenge sounds like a child’s lullaby compared to this masterpiece of lyrical assassination. Top tier favorite unless you want to sleep with one eye open.
Another lyrical challenge that the disadvantage of following Vigilante Shit but even with that hurdle, it can really shine. Yes, this is surely a penmanship of her glittery gel category. But rather than the innocent sparkly lyrics of the past, this one’s a little bit more weathered. The independent streak is alive and well. Medium tier favorite that jumps to medium easily.
An unapologetic love song? Yes, she still has those. For this one, you can lean back, recline your chair and relax again. This song is a mood and the mood is chill. If you could consider romantic lounge a subgenre, this would be up first. A lower tier favorite, but still a favorite nonetheless.
The third outlier of the album, and another lyrical challenge. Addressing the rapper-who-will-not-be-named (name ban is in place, sorry), well this one is not explicitly directed at anybody. Indirectly, it does have a little bit of side-eye. This one is about past deeds from ghosts in your past and how you survive them. As much as this could apply to Taylor, it’s funny/sad how this can apply to everyone surviving their own ghosts. Surprising top tier favorite for me, since it was medium tier before.
How do you follow Karma? Well, in this case we get a smooth moody melody with a whimsical vibe. Par for the course but nothing exceptional about it. That being said, it doesn’t fall outside the listening party and I still consider it a rather pleasant transition song. Lower tier favorite.
Our favorite Anti-Heroine would save one lyrical challenge for last. This one’s a tongue twister of a song. It has bubbly dips and little beats that add a little cantankerous mechanical flow to the melody. It’s full of Taylor’s lyrical craft and memorable quotes and that carries it far enough. Medium tier favorite and appropriate closer.
To recap, I have seven top tier favorites in constant rotation for the top spot: Maroon; Anti-Hero; Snow On The Beach; You’re On Your Own, Kid; Question…?; Vigilante Shit and Karma. The entire album is full of favorites with a lot of them being lyrical challenges to memorize and sing back. The outliers for me are Question…?, Vigilante Shit and Karma who will challenge what you think a Taylor Swift song can be and are bangers to boot. The entire standard album Midnights is a banger of an album, requires zero skipping and no filler. There might be a few lower tier favorites, but they’re still in the favorite tier.
As for the whole album, it does feel a little bit of a companion/follower to 1989 and precursor to Lover. I don’t know if I subscribe to the theory this is a revamped version of the long lost mythical album “Karma”, but it does seem to fit an alternate timeline in which Reputation didn’t exist. For the record though, I think Reputation needed to exist as Taylor’s last foray before she finally left her former label. I’d rather be in the timeline where Midnights came out as a pure Taylor-Swift-owned creation. It is easily her best album to date.
Coming up in the Calendar!
- Oct 24: The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
- Oct 25: 12am ET – Bejeweled music video release
- Oct 28: The Graham Norton Show
(Sources: Taylor Swift. Photo Credit: Beth Garrabrant for Taylor Swift)