Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ topped the charts and Anti-Hero achieved the third-highest number of streams for a track in a 24 hour period on Spotify. Therefore, at surface level ‘Midnights’ appears a success; however, many fans are disappointed in her return to pop after folk-tuned sister albums ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’. Eva Hughes-Sutton explores.
In the midst of the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020, Taylor Swift released sister albums ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’, giving fans a new sound that we had never really heard from her before. It was a sound that enabled us to witness her at her best.
Swift’s lyricism flourished under the folk-indie feel of ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’, sending us to an immersive world of our own as soon as the first beat of the 1 hit our eardrums. Not a single song on either album failed to pack a sucker-punch blow to the heart and its nostalgic themes of first love, heartbreak, loss, and grief make them both poignant pieces of vulnerability and reflection. The fictional lens adopted in both albums allowed her to reach even wider audiences, where each song can be adapted to suit the listener.
Conquering the bar left by the era was going to be a challenge for Swift
The ‘folklore’-‘evermore’ sister albums exalted Taylor Swift’s already incredible popularity to an extreme, and it’s safe to say that the expectations from fans were at an all-time high. Conquering the bar left by the era was going to be a challenge for Swift, no matter the route she was going to take next.
The release of ‘Midnights’ on the 21st of October was personally my sixth album release experience as a loyal Taylor Swift devotee. I’ve danced as a twelve-year-old under The Red Tour confetti and I’ll be twenty-one nervous-sweating by my laptop in an attempt to get upcoming The Eras Tour tickets. I contributed a strong percentage to the high expectations created in anticipation of ‘Midnights’, and as soon as I pressed play on the album in the early hours of the morning of the 21st, the wait was over.
I didn’t think it was worth the wait – at least at first!
‘Midnights’ felt generic to me, initially. Some songs, such as Midnight Rain, felt drowned by the overproduction from producer Jack Antonoff. Lyrics such as Anti Hero’s “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me” and “Draw the cat eye sharp enough to kill a man” from Vigliante Shit were jarring on the first few listens and felt like cheesy attempts at creating the newest viral TikTok sound.
That’s not to say I don’t believe Taylor Swift can do pop well, because she can. Her best efforts include the polished pop-perfection that is Style and New Romantics from ‘1989’ and there’s nothing like the experience of putting on headphones and blasting Cruel Summer from ‘Lover’ on full volume.
I also wasn’t the only fan disappointed. Many have criticised ‘Midnights’, claiming that it is “weaker lyrically and sonically” (@afreenasif) than previous albums and its production is “too monotonous” (@aditi_sahal). Some critics have further argued that the album leans towards lacklustre mediocrity in the sense that it doesn’t offer anything new or exciting and that it is a flat-out disappointment overall.
Fans being disappointed by Swift’s recent releases is an old story
Of course, fans being disappointed by Swift’s recent releases is an old story – her move from country to pop was criticised way back in 2012 with a plea for the ‘Old Taylor’ to come back, and when she couldn’t come to the phone in 2017 with Look What You Made Me Do, many weren’t much of a fan of ‘Reputation’ at first either. The disappointment from newer fans however, ones of which have joined the Swiftie-clan since ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’, is a new one. It appears that those albums created the expectation from newer fans that the folklorian-sound was going to be the permanent route for Taylor Swift, thus making ‘Midnights’ feel like a bit of a let-down. However, ‘Midnights’ does have its moments. It’s undeniably, quintessentially, ‘Taylor Swift’.
Many songs are reminiscent of previous albums, with the opener Lavender Haze sounding like a mix of I Think He Knows and False God from ‘Lover’, and Question..? with its Out Of The Woods sample feels like a homage to ‘1989’. To say that the album lacks emotional depth is ignoring the rawness of tracks like You’re On Your Own Kid and Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.
Hits Different is fun and nostalgic with a classic Swiftian bridge
Fans that are missing ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’ producer Aaron Dessner will find him on the 3am version of the album, where The Great War is a notable track, and the Target Exclusive edition feature Hits Different is fun and nostalgic with a classic Swiftian bridge that needs to be on streaming services as soon as possible.
While ‘Midnights’ doesn’t surpass the excellence of ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’ (at least in my opinion), it’s not like those albums are going anywhere. A dance in your bedroom to Karma and Bejeweled makes a change to the heartache and sombre contemplation one goes through when listening to the sister-albums.
It won’t go down as one of my favourite Taylor Swift albums, but I think ‘Midnights’ has managed to grow on me.
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