Final score: 5.8/10
Ahlgrim: Taylor Swift is a genius, but not everything you do is genius.
Much like Reputation, its closest relative in the Swift drum, Midnight is a collection of highs and lows. I can easily categorize her playlist into songs I like, songs I absolutely love, and songs I hate.
But contrary to “reputation,” the highs in “midnight” aren’t stratospheric, and the lows didn’t make me physically lower. Each end of the spectrum is much less intense. “Nothing Pretty,” my favorite song on the Standard Edition album, doesn’t hold a “Delicate” candle. “Bejeweled,” my favorite song, doesn’t send a cold shiver down my spine like “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.”
This unevenness is due to the lack of texture and tension in the “midnight”. To paraphrase an audio script sent to me by Courteney, Swift and Antonov put a little work into engineering this album; It is mostly flat plane.
To those who have compared the quality of the album to “1989” and “Lover,” I ask, where are the emotional bridges like “Out of the Woods” and “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” the structural art form that Swift is best known for? To those who might argue that you need to sacrifice moments of release, shock, or awe in order to achieve coherence, I ask, have you ever heard of “folklore” and “forever”, the most wonderful of them all? And the The most cohesive albums yet?
Lackluster’s production, of course, can easily be forgiven, as long as Swift’s legendary songwriting is on full display. There are certainly glimmers of her lyrical prowess: she slips words like “Machiavellian” and “aurora borealis” with astonishing ease; Refers to the classic horror film “Carrie” in one breath and Janet Jackson’s “All For You” in another; He describes a promising romance as “carnations you thought were roses” and alienation as “the rust that grows between phones.”
But Swift undermines those feats with long periods of repetition and whole songs of non-fiction retro pop.
Although “Midnights” was marketed as an intimate, in-depth look into Swift’s past of nerves and regrets, Her “demons” and “self-made cages,” Reality is a collection of broad strokes that seem vaguely familiar – like the blurry scenes of a dream you can’t quite remember in the morning. Many critics will call these words “ambiguous” when, in fact, they are not specific. There is no red scarves to find it.
Although I feel more positively about “Midnights” as a whole than my esteemed editor and fellow lifelong Swiftie—and I’m going to speak to “Anti-Hero” and “Karma” without an iota of guilt—I can’t deny my immediate reaction when the album ended was a disappointment.
Maybe my expectations were too high and I’m the problem (me).
Laroca: While working on this review, a friend sent me the question, “Are you at Taylor Place?” Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to answer this question with anything other than “always”.
Listen, I don’t have the pleasure to report that “Midnights” is a mediocre pop album at best. I anticipate accusations of “well, it ain’t going to be” folklore! “You just hate pop music!” Which I would say to him, I’m not upset about going back to pop music. In the end, Swift can successfully put any production of her liking to a song. It often succeeds because it builds a foundation of strong lyric poetry.
Take, for example, “Reputation,” her most criticized pop album. I know several people who said they didn’t like “dancing with our hands tied” until they heard the audio version. Same thing with the “king of my heart”. Kale even sent me an abstract version of “I!” Recently, though, that hasn’t changed my mind that the lead single from “Lover” isn’t playable.
But if I were to dive into a lyric for Midnight, the logical conclusion I would make is that Swift, like any writer, could use an editor. To be sure, Antonov is not up to the task.
Now, it’s not Antonov’s fault that the album is in the middle of it. This is the man who helped achieve such undeniable hits as “Getaway Car” and “August”. But it is clear that his best work comes when the people he works with have a clear vision and restrain him. This is the first album on which Swift and Antonoff were the only major collaborators. They can make magic together, but there’s no one watching either of them when Swift wants to write about sharp eyeliner or sexy babies.
But that magic I just mentioned only comes in a glimmer. Her highs on “Midnights” (“Lavender Haze”, “Maroon” and “Sweet Nothing”) did not reach the same peak as most of her other albums. These are the kind of songs that would sound second class if they were put alongside the likes of their older sisters, “Cruel Summer”, “Don’t Blame Me” and “Peace”.
It’s not like Swift forgot how to write. She actually wrote a lot of great songs, and chose to leave them behind what my friends and I started calling the “Midnights” Proper. You’ll be hard pressed to find a well-constructed bridge within Swift’s defined city limits, but if you can find one in “Midnights” Suburbia (or, as Swift officially calls it, a “3 AM version”), you’ll be glad to come across Tracks such as “glitch” and “it was possible, could have, had to”, “high treason” and “the great war”. Take exit 13, and you’ll hit Target’s “Hits Different,” a lot like Shania Twain or Faith Hill in the late ’90s.
When left to her own devices, Swift often loses the mark when choosing one lead song. “Midnight” didn’t have a single, which apparently translated into picking the weakest group of 13 tracks and pushing their biggest hitters outside the confines of album reviews and vinyl sales.
The good news is that if you’re also disappointed with the album, another re-record isn’t far away. Swift is outputting music at an unprecedented rate, so that another sample of her songwriting wasn’t too far behind. Midnight would have been devastating had it come after three years of nothing but, instead, it’s a good addition to its ever-growing collection. It won’t be long before Swift appears again and says, “Hey! It’s me!”
Worth listening to:
“You’re on your own baby”
“Snow on the Beach” (starring Lana Del Rey)
“Against the hero”
Click on skip:
* Final album score is based on songs for each category (1 point for “Worth listen to”, .5 for “Background music”, .5 for “Split Resolution”, 0 for “Press skip”).