Sleepless nights and “Sweet Nothings:” A Review of “Midnights”

A deep dive into Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album

Photo+Courtesy+of+Taylor+Swift+Official+Facebook+page

Photo Courtesy of Taylor Swift Official Facebook page

By Ashviny Kaur, Collegian Staff

★ ★ ★ ★ ✰ Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Taylor Swift is a quintessential pop star. In my opinion, it’s the genre she does best, as proven by her album “1989,” which sold 1.3 million copies during its first week. Swift understands the makings of the perfect pop album, with catchy lyrics and upbeat rhythms. “Midnights” is no different, as the album feels familiar while remaining fresh.

Recorded entirely with Jack Antonoff, “Midnights” is a hazy, synth-pop album that encompasses the aesthetics of an after-party; streamers on the floor, flickering strobe lights, no music, bodies strewn over couches and chairs, with Swift in the middle of it all. She’s recollecting her thoughts and experiences, with tracks such as “Midnight Rain” and “Anti-Hero” speaking of self-regret and relationships pushed aside in favor of her career. This project shows that midnight is when Swift is at her best: raw and honest.

As Swift described it, these songs are “a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams.” It’s music from different time periods of her life, reflections of who she once was. Each track feels as though it belongs to one of her previous albums, which is simultaneously the downfall and the redeeming factor of “Midnights.”

High-energy pop songs with catchy melodies are placed in conjunction with songs that speak of self-loathing and deep regret, making the album feel slightly thrown-together, a project plucked from scattered moments in Swift’s life. This isn’t an inherently bad thing, as there is a sense of whiplash that listeners feel as the album moves from one emotion to another in rapid succession. It’s introspective, but never too deep. “Midnights” doesn’t have one solidifying aesthetic; it’s supposed to feel confusing and disconcerting. These are thoughts that kept Swift awake at night as she never achieved a sense of closure when writing about them, but has understood them for what they are. It’s her looking back and accepting her mistakes, regrets and past loves whether they were successful or not.

Compared to “Folklore” and “Evermore,” this album is less fictional and feels more like a collection of pages from Swift’s diary as she sings, “I’ll stare directly into the sun/But never in the mirror.” The album addresses Taylor Swift, the individual, and “Taylor Swift,” the persona she created throughout all her years of songwriting. It’s her own attempt at balancing the scales and telling us the truth.

Swift has always been a romantic at heart, as proven by her album “Lover,” as well as some tracks from “Reputation.” As listeners, we’ve been led to believe that her experiences have quite simply fallen into her lap. However, this notion of a fairytale ending comes crashing down as we listen to her track “Mastermind.” She sings of planning out her relationships meticulously, confessing that, “I’m only cryptic and Machiavellian because I care/So what if I told you/None of it was accidental.” She’s lived and she’s learned, and there’s been far too much risk for her to let the cards fall where they may. It’s the perfect way to close this candid album, as she finally bares it all.

As an added confession, the seven bonus tracks in “Midnights (3am Edition)” act as grounding forces to the original 13 songs. They serve as reminders that while midnight is the hour where Swift shines her brightest, the hours that follow are painful realizations that seek to wound her already fragile self. She laments over what was never meant to be in her track “Bigger Than The Whole Sky,” accepting sadness and grief for what it is. “Every single thing I touch becomes sick with sadness/’Cause it’s all over now” is a heartbreaking realization, but it’s not regretful. Swift finally glazes over this track by saying “It’s not meant to be,” accepting her failed ventures as they are.

My favorite bonus track, however, is “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.” The song is allegedly a glaring look back at her past with John Mayer, a cry for help from her younger self. This isn’t the first time she’s written about him, but it is the most brutally honest. The track stings, as she says time and again, “I damn sure never would’ve danced with the devil/At nineteen”, reminiscing on her naivete and innocence as she dated then 32-year-old Mayer. She begs for her childhood back, voice cracking as she sings “Give me back my girlhood/It was mine first.” It’s painful and regretful, much like what Swift went through during this relationship.

I enjoy the bonus tracks much more than some of those on the album, and why Swift chooses to release her best work on her deluxe albums never fails to confuse me. “Midnights” is different, as it’s a showcase of Swift going back and forth between each one of her personas. It’s all-encompassing, loud, honest, raw and boundaryless. She pushes the paper as far as she can with this album, putting a new meaning to her already established popstar self. It’s upbeat, but never too casual, as these thoughts keep her awake at night and haunt her for eternity.

Ashviny Kaur can be reached at [email protected]