‘Midnights’: Taylor Swift’s most mature take on pop
Taylor Swift’s 10th studio album “Midnights” is a standout even among her other significant albums. If “1989” sounds larger than life, and “Folklore” and “Evermore” lean more on sound discovery, “Midnights” strikes the sweet spot between the two. It’s easier to listen to compared to the latter two and feels more personal than “1989.”
“Midnights” consists of 13 tracks, each representing a sleepless night that Swift distinctly remembers. This review will only tackle tracks from “Midnights,” and not the “Midnights (3am edition).”
Introspective and intimate, the newly minted album proves why Swift is the best songwriter of this generation. The instrumentation and production on the album is somehow sonically familiar—which comes as no surprise since Swift is working again with longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, who co-wrote 11 of the recording’s 13 tracks. Also evident from the get-go is the ‘70s-inspired instrumentation.
Airy and spacious
The album displays some similarities in the instrumentation to Lorde’s critically praised “Melodrama, ” which Antonoff also worked on. Despite the similarities, “Melodrama” sounds like a teenage dream, whereas “Midnights” sounds grown-up and mature.
“Midnights” opens with the electro-pop tune “Lavender Haze,” which doesn’t just feature Zoë Kravitz as a co-writer, but also as a background vocalist, along with Antonoff, Mark Anthony Spears, Jahaan Akil Sweet and Sam Dew.
The song’s production is airy and spacious, yet it’s also characterized by vocals that make you feel as if Swift is whispering in your ear, owing to the falsetto in the chorus.
As for “Maroon,” while its lyrics evoke a sultry feel, the vocals are stacked together too much in production, in which the layering, though done well, leaves no variance with the vocals, and gives the impression of a stuffy atmosphere.
“Anti-hero” has amazing lyrics and is easy to listen to. In the song, Swift sings about her internal struggles. It is probably the most radio-friendly song on the tracklist, no wonder it’s been picked as the album’s lead single.
There was so much expectation from Lana Del Rey’s participation in the album via “Snow on the Beach,” but it fails to deliver, probably because Lana feels like she isn’t present at all. She does add some atmosphere in the track when her vocals are layered in. But one can only expect so much when she sings, well, fewer than 20 words. At least, we can hear Dylan O’Brien playing the drums on this track.
Meanwhile, the song “You’re on Your Own Kid” evokes so much nostalgia and feels like Swift is talking to a younger version of herself. The instrumentation, particularly at one minute and 40 seconds, is beautifully crafted. It’s so nostalgic that it’s easy to imagine the song playing in the background of a scene in a film where the main character is driving past his or her childhood home.
“Midnight Rain” is the best track in the album. This is Swift operating in her forte, given the song’s lyricism and storytelling style, and further complemented by warped vocals, droning instruments and the snares in the track.
Much to be desired
On the downside, “Question …?” and “Labyrinth” don’t add anything new to the album. The former’s bridge is well-written, but the track leaves much to be desired, especially in comparison to Swift’s former track sevens.
“Vigilante” could be a radio banger in the making or something that TikTok would make a trendy sound bite out of. As for “Bejeweled,” her songwriting prowess carries the track. But while the lyrics might be talking about something shiny, the song sounds dull and cliché. “Karma” is a decent track to listen to, with a production reminiscent of citypop.
The 12th track “Sweet Nothing” is what “Question…?” should have been—well-structured, mature and refined. It could easily belong to the album “Evermore.” In it, Swift sings about her adoration for her longtime boyfriend, Joe Alwyn.
“Midnights” closes strong with the pleasantly surprising “Mastermind.” The instruments and production may be minimalistic but playful, which is snug fit for the theme of the song. Swift’s vocals in this track are refreshing compared to the other cuts in the lineup.
Swift’s 10th album demonstrates how well she continues to deliver as a singer and songwriter. “Midnights” is another body of work that helps cement her legacy as one of popular music’s greats. INQ
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