Oh, I bet you didn’t see this one coming? Also one of my longest reviews to date so GET READY, or skip on through for the full review. You do you.
Oh, Valky’s been reviewing so much punk, emo, and metalcore lately, she wouldn’t dream of touching pop music or anything else.
I, am one of those sad, sad suckers who fell in love with T.Swift in the early days. The Hannah Montana, curly hair, acoustic-guitar slinging, sundress-wearing days. I remember seeing her open for the big country stars like Brad Paisley and the Rascal Flatts in the early 2000’s, and seeing her still playing acoustic sets at smaller venues. She had that sweet, small-town girl charm about her and everyone was quickly falling in love.
Her early singles, like “Tim McGraw” and “Our Song” had tapped into an enormous yet, unknown market – teenage girls who listened to country music. Having grown up listening to Country music myself due to my roots and my own raising, it was easy to see the appeal. “Picture to Burn” was one of the tracks off Swift‘s debut album – the 2006 self-titled Taylor Swift, and I remember blaring it on my way to work in yes, my beat up pick-up truck. With my own relationship on and off again, teenage me was HOOKED on T.Swift and the lyrics she spun (co-written by the talented Liz Rose).
But, when Fearless came along, Pop Radio got a hold of her tracks, and the blow up kicked in fast. “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” were screamed by high-schoolers from every angle – cars, work stereos, discman’s on the walk home. It was hard to get away from anything playing Taylor Swift and for those of us who enjoyed it, we were satisfied that other ‘Swifties’ existed.
In 2009, yes 13 years ago, Swift appeared on the Hannah Montana Movie Soundtrack, having co-written two songs for the soundtrack including one of my favourite tracks she’s ever done – “Crazier“. The track also came with its very own movie-featuring music video.
As the years continued, Taylor‘s popularity soared, and her country/folk career took more of a pop turn with the album Speak Now still holding some of those small-town lyrics but, showing more pop finesse in their composition. “Sparks Fly”, “The Story of Us”, and “Mean” had Swift‘s signature vocals and lyrics striking the teenage soul but, “Back To December” and “Dear John” kept those acoustic roots.
Flash forward to Red, and fan favourites like “I Knew You Were Trouble” that even has its own signature Goat Meme. Though my personal favourites from the album would be “Red” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” that also saw its fair shares of over-plays on the local radio stations and country bars across the globe. Nothing summoned recently single girls to the dance floor faster than that track did, let me tell you.
But, over 1 BILLION listens have been struck, and it came with Swift‘s “Blank Space” off the 2014 album 1989. “Shake It Off” comes in a close second with more than 900 million listens but, “Blank Space” still holds up all these years later. It was one of her hottest albums with a variety of tracks getting their own spotlight for repeat listens on pop, easy listening, and even country radio stations. “Out Of The Woods“, “How You Get The Girl“, and own of my playlist staples “Bad Blood” are still played loud and proud to this day.
A shift finally came, with more dance-like tracks conquering the Pop Queen’s style on her 2017 album Reputation. “Look What You Made Me Do“, and “…Ready For It?” had a hip-hop beat in their foundations, a twist many fans didn’t see coming that offered up a change for Swift and despite a few fans cocking eyebrows and turning their heads at it, several tracks still held up. Overall, was not an album I even touched. There was nothing I that resonated with me on this one. While I still admired Swift and the catchy tunes she still belt out, this was an album that fell completely flat with not a single track sticking out and even making it worthy of a repeat play for me.
2019’s Lover had the same feel for me. While it seemed to have more of the Pop Flare back, the hip-hop like lyrics began to kick in and the aspect that had me falling in love with Swift from her early 2000’s was lost on me. While “You Need To Calm Down” was catchy, and hard to ignore when it came on the radio. The title track “Lover” drew back to the acoustic days of Swift’s early career but, it still didn’t have the feel I was searching for, and the album was lost on me.
Move onto the horrors that 2020 brought us, and Swift gave us Folklore – an album that felt more personal, and more true to her roots with a number of relaxed, acoustic tracks that pulled lyrics from the heart-strings, and strummed them over the river over our soul. Still, tracks beyond “Cardigan” didn’t seem to hold much flare with newer fans, but older fans gave a warm smile to the classic, tender sound that many of us had come to associate Swift and her music with.
Evermore followed up a few short months later, continuing Folklore‘s charm, with an escapist style theme and more neo-classical take that strikes elements of punk, folk, and even early pop styles for inspiration.
Numerous re-releases followed up, mostly accompanied with (Taylor’s Version) that offered some lighter, different takes on popular tracks across her career including albums like Fearless and Red. 2021 kept the re-issues going, with concerts still largely cancelled and festivals and tours all on back-burners, it was time to release those tracks that needed a re-hash years later.
Move onto October of 2022, and Taylor Swift brings us her new album Midnights. This album features a mixture of styles, including classic, acoustic-style sound, pop beats, hip-hop grinds and more. Swift seems to not only take up her popular tracks and styles but, journey back to her beginnings to touch upon what inspired her, and bring it forward. Midnights is the 10th studio album from the Pop Queen, and is a concept album about late night contemplations written and produced by Swift and her long-time collaborator Jack Antonoff.
The first track, “Lavender Haze“, has a catchy beat (though really not to my tastes), with its hip-hop touches that strike a small resemblance to the sound that was brought to us on the Reputation album. When I first took up listening to this album, this track was initially rough to get through. I didn’t really see the flare but I’ll admit it has grown on me with its gentle tones, and more laid back style vs. the aggressiveness that came with many of Reputation’s groove-style tracks.
The second track, “Maroon” was one that really stuck with me. It reminded me of “All You Had To Do Was Stay” off 1989 in its vocal execution and gentleness. The emotion packed into the back of this melody really helps it to rise up. “The mark you saw on my collarbone, the rust that grew between telephones. The lips I used to call home, so scarlet, it was (maroon)” – a verse that not only holds depth but visual prowess in its words. Closing your eyes, even staring off just a little bit you can easily visualize the words that Swift paints in your head. “And I wake with your memory over me. That’s a real fucking legacy to leave,” also holds up, packing in those fond memories with the intense pain and anguish of loss and regret. It’s a song that not only holds up musically but, lyrically as well for its emotional depth and exposure. One that feels truly raw.
“Anti-Hero” has already gained almost 400 million plays on Spotify, and nearly 80 million views on YouTube for its catchy and truthful nature. I’ll admit that it was Tommy Johansson‘s version that got me to go back and listen to this track again and again, and I fell in love with it completely. After a few short listens I knew every word perfectly. It reminded me of early T.Swift era tracks like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” with its more spoken-style composition and lyrics. The gentle tone of Swift‘s vocals, despite some of the verses, is almost ironic. It’s difficult to tell, due to the song’s nature if the irony is truly there or not but, it’s still just as infectious. “It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem. It’s me,” is not only incredibly catchy but something, many of us, have claimed in one case or another about something in (I’m certain) our daily lives. I honestly over-use this phrase now.
The lighter follow up in “Snow On The Beach” features the vocal delicacies of Lana Del Ray, and once again goes for a lighter touch. Ballad-like in its delivery, the majesty of this track’s tranquil yet, blunt creativity is intriguing. “It’s like snow at the beach, weird but fucking beautiful,” is a line that holds aggression but is delivered in a way that feels oddly natural. The late night ramblings of an individual who’s head is in the clouds, from a puff or not, spilling their philosophical ideals to any and everyone nearby, and some, strangely enough, make sense to those of us who sit long enough to ponder it.
“You’re On Your Own, Kid” has an early days feel, holding up with tracks befitting of Fearless and Speak Now with Swift‘s vocals taking a back-flip to almost completely indulge that innocence and purity.
“Midnight Rain” once more turns to the more feature days of Reputation and Lover, with its own unique blend of the two. A hip-hop style is hooked into the bass-line while Swift‘s vocals stick to lighter, and don’t cater to the musical blend at her back. It was a skippable track for me, and still is honestly, though more than 200 Million listens would tell me I should re-listen to it a few times. I still can’t enjoy the mix of odd soundscapes, vocals, and hip-hop blend. It’s a sensory overload that makes my ears freak out a bit too much.
“Question…?” is a bit more of a bop. It still has the odd blend like the previous track but, isn’t as busy. It literally holds a bunch of ‘questions’ or rather regrets that Swift spills out through the 3 and a half-minute track, almost speaking to us rhetorically; searching for answers to her own mistakes, and the ghosts that haunt her with ‘what-ifs?’
“Vigilante Shit” goes full tilt with the bass, hooking into the hip-hop era with sharp fangs and just made me yawn. I won’t replay it, or put it on repeat, or give it another go. It’s just not for me. I can’t wrap my head around it, and it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of this album despite the homage it seems to pay to Swift‘s long career. It’s passable for me, and her voice on this track is still beautiful but, the beat is a hard no.
“Bejeweled” is the Cinderella love story we know and love, and T.Swift writes and directs the perfectly accompanied music video for it. But, with the years of burn and treachery, Swift changes things up. While the heavy bass-line continues, it’s got more of the “Anti-Hero” blend, and spoken verses that go fourth wall-breaking. Snarky lines like “When I walk in the room I can still make the whole place shimmer. And when I meet the band, they ask, “Do you have a man?” I could still say, “I don’t remember” ” are not only smile-pulling but fun to repeat in the same, sassy delivery that Swift gives with a bite. Not only is the music video fun but, the lyrics themselves keep up the flare and sassiness that we love from Swift. “But some guy said my aura’s moonstone just ‘cause he was high. And we’re dancing all night and you can try to change my mind, but you might have to wait in line,” is not only a quick clap-back but one delivered with a striking level of creativity and coldness that goes beyond petty and stares you down with a sigh and a yawn. With the video having only been out for a month, it’s already gained more than 37 million views yet, streams still seem low. I think this track is a diamond waiting to shimmer on its own, so hopefully more fans give it a listen.
“Labyrinth” goes back to Swift‘s roots, with a musical soundscape to match her soaring vocals in a mesmerizing adventure of reflection and memory. It’s gentle yet, heavy in its proclamations, once more using Swift‘s vocal prowess to convey a myriad of mixed emotions and memories with a beautiful balance of melody and voice to carry it through.
Winding down, we get another up-beat track that goes more Pop in delivery – “Karma“. It’s dancey and fun, with its verses delivering the message and wrath of Karma. “Karma is a cat, purring in my lap ’cause it loves me, flexing like a goddamn acrobat, me and karma vibe like that” is fun, yet strangely vicious. It comes on the tail of “Karma’s a relaxing thought, aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?” that absolutely made me cackle on first listen but, just like “Anti-hero” this song gets catchy REAL quick and it’s hard to get it out of your head.
Completing the album are the tracks “Sweet Nothing” and “Mastermind“. The first has an odd vibe to it with-keyed pianos vibing on Swift’s quick-paced lyrical bursts that then fall into cloud-like whispers. It’s got a weird Sesame Street kind of melody that really put me off, thankfully it’s just over 3 minutes long. “Mastermind“, however, goes back into the Pop fun of Swift and her vocal range. Quickly it turns from light-hearted to vicious, with the beat dropping into heavy, thunderous bass while keeping the bubbly surface from breaking. It’s a sweet, fun little closure to the album, truly completing it with Swift’s neutral sound, a blend, of yet again the numerous styles she’s undertaken over the years and rounding it out.
Overall the album is a nice change from the more dreary T.Swift many fans had become acquainted with over the pandemic. Despite the feral ticket-slinging of The Eras Tour, Swift‘s popularity continues to sky-rocket, and this new album offers both old and new fans alike a taste of her works throughout the years both in combination and individually. I know, for myself, I was hesitant with this album but, I’m glad I gave it a few listens before truly coming to a conclusion.
Have I bought it? Yes. And I am glad I did.
Favourite Tracks: Maroon, Anti-Hero, Bejeweled and Karma
You can purchase, stream, or download the new album Midnights via the link. And don’t forget to follow Taylor on her socials including YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and more!