Album-Review: Taylor Swift – Midnights (3am Edition)

Taylor Swift takes a break from redoing her old albums and releases her most anticipated record yet after the critics loved the preceeding sister albums "Folklore" and "Evermore".

Taylor Swift's newest album Midnights is said to be a concept album about 13 sleepless midnights that haunt the songwriter. Outside of this external context Swift has given the album, there's nothing much to the claim of this being a concept album. The songs aren't really interconnected enough. They don't make for a linear or story-telling narrative either and there's not many cues that tie things back to the central idea of being awake at midnight. Nevertheless, the frame Swift puts the album in adds to the listening experience. 
Sonically, Midnights was a mystery before release as Swift didn't give away any singles. Sadly, this build an anticipation the record can't fulfill; Midnights is kind of a third part to the albums Reputation and Lover. It is as if Folklore and Evermore alongside Swift's collaboration with Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver never happened. We are back to Jack Antonoff's trademark electronic beats, only that it's done way better than on Reputation here. In comparison to Lover, Midnights is more consistent and shorter with less lowlights. The album might still disappoint listeners though since there is a clear drop in songwriting quality from Folklore and Evermore noticeable – not further mentioning stylistics. This is especially obvious on the album's lead single Anti-Hero, where Swift's reflection of her negative self-concept comes off as pretentious. The same goes for the internal rhymes and the lyrics of the chorus. Though the song is more or less saved by its good melodies, it's still one of the weaker tracks on the record alongside Midnight Rain, where Swift's pitched vocals don't work out; Question...?, which also suffers from lackluster lyrics; Vigilante Shit, a tune that could be off of Reputation and Bejeweled, a filler-track with gratingly bombastic production and vocals. These weaker tracks make up the entire middle section of the album. Though none of them are really bad, they can be harder to get through. 
Swift manages to cover this up with the strong start and ending to Midnights. Lavender Haze is one of my favorite songs of her's and Maroon should've been the album's lead single. This is Reputation done right! The final leg of Midnights starts with Labyrinth, a special song on the album with great ambience, instrumental detail and production. Despite the tune being very mellow, the chorus is catchy. Through pitched down vocals that don't distract from the song, Swift and Antonoff build up a great climax. Karma then brings the energy back to the album. The otherwise cringey lyrics about karma are cleverly contextualized by the line "karma's a relaxing thought", pretty much decreasing the idea to an illusory concept. The piano ballad Sweet Nothing features another great build-up incorporating horns and the final track Mastermind has some great bassy production and songwriting closing out the album perfectly.
So, what to make of all this? I am still unsure of what score to give the album. I think it's an improvement over Reputation and Lover. Swift made the right decision to cut the album down and not write or incorporate bad mega-hits like ME! or Look What You Made Me Do. In spite all of the flaws that remain, Midnights is a good mainstream pop album. As such, I'll award it a . . .

7 / 10

  1. Lavender Haze | 80
  2. Maroon | 75
  3. Anti-Hero | 65
  4. Snow On The Beach | 65
  5. You're On Your Own, Kid | 70
  6. Midnight Rain | 60
  7. Question...? | 55
  8. Vigilante Shit | 55
  9. Bejeweled | 65
  10. Labyrinth | 70
  11. Karma | 65
  12. Sweet Nothing | 70
  13. Mastermind | 70

Midnights: 3am Edition

3 hours after the midnightly release of her new record Midnights, Taylor Swift dropped an extended version of the album including seven bonus tracks. It's called the 3am Edition. The new songs didn't make the cut since Swift felt that they wouldn't fit the concept of Midnights – and it shows, because they're at least on par with the material on the main album, if not better. Some of the songs are even produced by Aaron Dessner who was in charge of production on Swift's critically acclaimed albums Folklore and Evermore – and despite that, they feel stylistically and sonically consistent with the rest of the album.
Honestly, this 3am Edition is the superior version of Midnights, but if I could, I might still replace some songs from the original album's middle section with some of these bonus tracks. On the other hand though, I think every core song maybe except for Bejeweled brings something unique to Midnights.

7 / 10

  1. The Great War | 75
  2. Bigger Than The Whole Sky | 70
  3. Paris | 70
  4. High Infidelity | 65
  5. Glitch | 80
  6. Would've, Could've, Should've | 75
  7. Dear Reader | 70