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Taylor Swift's Midnights is a love letter to emotional stability that can't hide its flaws


Release date: 21 October 2022
Taylor Swift Midnights Album cover
21 October 2022, 05:00 Written by Paul Bridgewater

Ten albums into a career that’s only a few years shy of a score, Taylor Swift continues to try and balance - somewhat uneasily – commerciality with pop experimentation. And while Midnights might be her among her most focused work in lyrical and thematic terms, it's probably her most underwhelming sonically.

Fundamentally a collection of hazy and unambiguously autobiographical love songs, Midnights finds its creator - and her producer - searching for a new pop sound to match Swift's late night thoughts. But, dear reader, that producer is Jack Antonoff. Swift's enduring collaboration with the ubiquitous Antonoff (across eight projects to date) remains one of the record's more interesting facets but not necessarily for the right reasons. Midnights will do nothing for the divisive producer's role as a patsy punching bag who continues to take his collaborators into less interesting places than one would hope. Here, it's into playful, introspective, down-beat electropop, with odd flashes of no-wave synths and beats, all wrapped up in a production that recalls his work with Lorde on Melodrama.

It's often more diverting than exciting, especially since over half of Midnights really fails to sparkle. "Bejewelled' is almost a banger, and "Vigilante Shit" and "Anti-Hero" are the closest we get to the old Taylor, with the latter track coasting on some neat triplets ("I should not be left to my own devices / They come with prices and vices / I end up in crisis") among some real clunkers ("Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby And I’m a monster on the hill'). "Karma" hits out at Scooter Braun ("Spider Boy, king of thieves / Weave your little webs of opacity") while her duet with Lana Del Rey is a by-the-numbers ballad that sounds exactly how you'd expect an LDR/Swift collab to sound.

They fail to hold their own among the record's stronger moments, some of which revel in Swift's coupling with actor Joe Alwyn. She retains her lyrical bite in love as much as she has done in loss and album opener "Lavender Haze" picks up aspects of their (so far) five-year relationship, with Swift holding a mirror to herself and past behaviours. One moment on Midnights comes close to what the album's campaign teased in purely musical terms: penultimate track "Sweet Nothing" is a co-write with Alwyn and pairs Swift's vocal to an electric piano and sax, succeeding through its simplicity: "Outside they're push and shoving / You're in the kitchen humming / All you ever wanted from me was sweet nothing", she sings to Alwyn.

While there are some minor flashes of brilliance with Antonoff – such as the brooding "Maroon", which does (sort of) hit on an interesting new sound for Swift – one yearns for a creative partnership equal to Dessner and co. She's made it clear that Folklore and Evermore were something of a detour but both those records feel like more substantial works of art next to Midnights. Ultimately, it just doesn't come together as the big pop album we were promised, especially after such a beautifully art-directed rollout. Like the best pop stars moving far from their imperial phase, she remains uneven but always fascinating.

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