“Midnights”: A Shockingly Tepid Record


Brooks Coleman

“Midnights” sold 1.2 million copies in its first week, the most of any album in almost seven years, but sales do not make an album good.

Brooks Coleman, Staff Reporter

This article and album contain explicit content.

Taylor Swift is a global icon. Her influence in the modern music industry is almost unrivaled. This is for good reason, too — Swift has the rare ability to jump around from genre to genre with virtually no drop-off in quality. Whether it’s a blockbuster pop record like “1989” or a lo-fi folk album like “folklore,” Swift always seems to put immense time and effort into whatever sound she’s taking on.

So, naturally, I was expecting Swift to maintain that same creativity and effort in “Midnights.” 

That was not the case.

Let’s start with the production. An artist as high-profile as Swift should have stellar instrumentals on all of her albums, especially with Grammy-winning producer Jack Antonoff behind the boards. But there’s a major drop-off from her previous albums in terms of production. These beats just feel really lazy and thrown-together. With the exception of a couple songs — like “Lavender Haze” and “You’re On Your Own, Kid” — the record’s instrumentals are consistently lifeless and bland.

That lifelessness is a theme throughout the album. I get that Swift was going for a more low-key pop sound, but there’s a difference between chill and boring. Swift successfully made an album that was both toned-down and grand with “folklore,” while “Midnights” just doesn’t have that grandiose element to it. Most of the choruses lack energy, which is a shock given that Swift has had a knack for writing iconic hooks her entire career.

No song exemplifies this lifelessness more than “Vigilante S**t,” which sounds like a bad “reputation” demo that should have stayed in the vault. The track somehow doesn’t change at all instrumentally or vocally. It’s just a monotonous string of lyrics slapped onto a beat that sounds like it was made in GarageBand, and it falls completely flat.

A lot of these songs feel like missed opportunities, and there’s no better example of this than “Snow on the Beach.” Lana Del Rey is featured on this song, which had me quite excited going into it, since Del Rey is a very accomplished artist in her own right. The song very slowly started building and building … and then it was over. 

There was no big moment, no climax, and the song never ended up going anywhere, which was really disappointing. That was a theme for the entire album. With the exception of “Mastermind,” the songs on “Midnights” either failed to build momentum altogether or built momentum and then didn’t capitalize on it. It was strange to see Swift not taking these songs somewhere as she has done her entire career.

The lyricism on this album is also an issue. Swift uses a ton of big, complex words, and that’s fine, but a lot of the wordplay on the album is unnecessarily complicated. Talking about her “covert narcissism” that she “disguises as altruism” is great for an English essay, but in a song, it just sounds grating.

Additionally, there are some uncharacteristic lyrical stinkers here and there that just take me completely out of the album. “Anti-Hero” features one of the worst lines I’ve ever heard: “Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby / And I’m a monster on the hill.” It was so ridiculous that I rewound the track on first listen to make sure I heard it correctly.

Unfortunately, it was real. She actually said that.

There are plenty of others like this, such as the cringe-worthy schoolteacher verse on “Bejeweled,” or comparing eyes to flying saucers on “Snow On The Beach.” While artists are allowed to have lyrical duds every once in a while, these are commonplace enough that it becomes an issue for the listener.

Finally, there isn’t really a memorable song from “Midnights.” Previous Taylor Swift albums have had multiple excellent tracks — high points that define the record. While there are a few enjoyable songs on “Midnights,” none of them go above and beyond. There isn’t a moment or track that immediately jumps out to me when I think of this album.

All of these elements make the album a slog to get through — especially the “3am version,” which added seven tracks and made the album one hour and nine minutes long. These songs are only marginally better, and given how consistently bland the rest of the album is, it feels more like three hours.

Hopefully, this is merely a fluke for Swift, and not the beginning of a trend. I have faith that she can bounce back, as she did after her previously worst album, “reputation.” She did a complete 180 after that album, which eventually led her to transition into her successful folk era. I trust that she’ll continue to creatively reinvent herself, and in doing so, distance herself from whatever this was supposed to be.

But for now, “Midnights” is Taylor Swift’s worst album — easily worse than “reputation.” It falls well short of the lofty standards that Swift has established for her music. Time will tell whether this was a blip or the start of a musical downturn.

Correction Nov. 5, 2022

A previous version of this article referred to Taylor Swift’s album “1989” as 1984.