Midnights Could Have Been Better

It’s Me, Hi, I’m The Problem, It’s Me

Carmel Dear (she/her) // Contributor
Lucy Benson // Illustrator

I don’t know what I was expecting from Midnights before my first listen, and it took a few listens for me to get the vibe of the album. It’s lyrically and musically different from any of her other albums, but Taylor is known for working well in different genres, so I wasn’t going to rule it out right away.

Midnights has been predictably successful, but it’s still been impressive watching Taylor quickly setting streaming, Billboard, and sales records. On the night of the album release, a surprise “3AM Version” with 7 unannounced tracks was dropped. I wanted to love this new album, but found it lacking after evermore. Fortunately, there were still some gems that kept Taylor’s name from being on my list of names, with hers in red and underlined!

Despite producing a wealth of one-liner audio clips that are taking over social media, the album was lyrically weaker than a lot of her previous work. I’m still trying to understand how the same songwriter who created All Too Well, a song that’s so widely regarded as a poetic masterpiece that she re-released it years later as a 10 minute ballad, successfully – is the same songwriter who wrote “I miss you, but I miss sparkling” in Bejeweled. The same artist who, as a teenager wrote “But I took your matches / Before fire could catch me / So don’t look now / I’m shining like fireworks / Over your sad, empty town” – came out with the lyric, “Life is emotionally abusive” after so many years of honing her skills. 

Bejeweled had poor, juvenile lyrics that sound like they were written by a teenager, not a woman in her 30s, and we know that Taylor has developed herself as a songwriter and can do better than, “Did all the extra credit then got graded on a curve” or “Sapphire tears on my face/Sadness became my whole sky.”

The sound of Midnights was also different from Swift’s other albums. The music is catchy, but it’s difficult to listen to the entire album at once because the songs generally sound the same. Even some individual songs like Maroon, Glitch, Labyrinth, and Midnight Rain get boring after a few listens and turn into an automatic skip, despite sounding nice. After a few listens, I was finally able to put my finger on my feelings – some of the songs sound nice, but they aren’t special enough to spend a lot of time listening to. 

Another disappointment was the outcome of her collaboration with Lana Del Ray, a song that should have absolutely blown it out of the water, but instead had a generic sound and limited Lana to background vocals. This has been an unfortunate pattern for almost all of Taylor’s collabs with other female artists (“Nothing New” feat. Phoebe Bridgers on Red– Taylor’s Version was actually an exception to her history). The concept could have been done so much better, especially with musicians and lyricists as skilled as Taylor and Lana. This track showcased a lot of wasted potential.

A recurring theme in Midnights is anger and revenge, which can seem like a repeat of her 2017 album Reputation. Listening to Vigilante Shit feels like eating pretzels served on a low-cost airplane – stale, boring, and overdone. One song that orbited the same theme as Vigilante Shit was Karma. It made up for the prior song because at least it is more musically and lyrically interesting than Vigilante Shit. However, it will never be as creative as evermore’s revenge anthem, no body, no crime.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate the album in its entirety. There were definitely some outstanding tracks and I think they deserve recognition. Lavender Haze deserves an honourable mention for its cheeky, devil-may-care attitude that sets the tone for the entire album. It has an interesting sound with pithy lines that stick with you longer than many of the other tracks. Anti-Hero receives the same status, especially once the chorus hits. We’ve all had it stuck in our heads from seeing it as a successful TikTok and Instagram Reels sound. The lyrics aren’t poetic in the way that evermore’s were, but they’re deeply felt, different, and memorable. 

You’re On Your Own, Kid felt like a fusion of Taylor’s sophomore album Fearless and the other tracks on Midnights. It recounts the pain of growing up and feeling alone, and the nostalgic lyrics and specific scenarios resonate with young people and surely have the ability to bring back that experience years later.

Bigger Than The Whole Sky was the star of the 3AM Version songs. The chilling experience of love and loss has reached deep into the hearts of many people who are sharing their stories on social media, primarily parents who have experienced miscarriage. This song puts unspeakable grief into words to process what has happened: “Did some bird flap its wings ovеr in Asia? / Did some force take you bеcause I didn’t pray? / Every single thing to come has turned into ashes.” I mean, come on – how could she have described the hurt and disorientation after loss any better?

Like so many of Taylor’s best songs, its true meaning is ambiguous and it can relate to other experiences – perhaps a lost lover, or a lost identity. Bigger Than The Whole Sky is the masterpiece of this album. If you are one of the few people who have left Midnights unplayed, this is the song to start with. 
Despite its success and having some standout tracks, Midnights could have been a lot better, both musically and lyrically. I appreciate the album more than I did at first, despite falling short of Taylor’s previous releases, but I’m not sold on people’s sentiments that this is her best album to date. I expected more, and was left pining for the days when folklore and evermore were released so closely to one another. I still hold onto hope that Taylor will drop something incredible next time, but for now I’ll just keep her older albums on repeat.

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