I Guess Sometimes We All Get What We Want in the End: Reviewing Taylor Swift’s Midnights

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Credit: Beth Garrabrant

By John Siden

Swifties rejoice! Taylor Swift is back with new music. After two excellent albums, folklore and Evermore, which were artfully crafted while working with Aaron Dessner of The National, Swift returns with another solid collection of pop music with an indie twist.

Abandoning the folky stylings of her previous two records, Swift has a sinful electronic vibe creeping throughout Midnights, but the songwriting is still there. My initial takeaway is that despite the stylistic change, the lyrics and melodies are pretty consistent compared to folklore and Evermore. Swift has hooks running a mile a minute, and there are numerous memorable tracks on this new record. As most know, due to its social media saturation, Midnights’ laconic lead single is “Anti-Hero,” released in late October of 2022.

Starting with “Lavender Haze,” the track begins with a steady electro beat. The song reminds me of Halsey’s “I Am Not a Woman, I Am a God” until the chorus drops in. It’s a solid opener but not an overwhelmingly strong track, but the beat is pretty addictive. Next up is “Maroon,” which is a bit more downtempo. The verses are immediately reminiscent of things we’ve heard before on Folklore and Evermore, at least from a melodic perspective. Overall, “Maroon” is a slow burner with a strong hook.

“Anti-Hero” follows, and something about Midnights becomes apparent; it has a deliberate choice of track listing. The already iconic “It’s me, I’m the problem, it’s me” seems to be a bit more reflective and self-aware than other songs in her repertoire. As “Anti-Hero” sliters long, Swift seethes, “Sometimes I feel that everyone is a sexy baby,” and while it may not be her most inspired lyric, it is at least memorable.

One of the more exciting cuts is “Snow on the Beach,” a collaboration with Lana Del Rey, and it carries on the mood of “Anti-Hero” but with the influence of Del Rey mixed in. I enjoyed the chorus for this one, and while the overall vibe is in keeping with the aesthetic and apparent vision, on the whole, it’s not quite greatest hits material. Still, the lead-up is strong, the music on the track is excellent, and the verses’ melody stands out.

Coming on next is “Midnight Rain,” a track that kicks in with autotuned vocals, an overused feature that often isn’t effective. As such, I was thankful to hear Swift’s natural voice soon after. To me, “Midnight Rain” seems to be exploring the topic of choosing one’s career over a relationship, “I guess sometimes we all get just what we want,” Swift sings in its forlorn closing moments.

From there, we have a question, or more accurately, “Question..?,” which has a very teenage/high school vibe. With lyrics like “Can I ask you a question? Did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room ?” followed by people laughing and cheering, it sounds like teenage life in a nutshell. I will say that melodically, “Question…?” is one of my favorites on all the Midnights.

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Credit: Beth Garrabrant

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me; we’ve reached the “Vigilante Shit ” portion of the program. It seems revenge is on the menu, and this is yet another song that makes me think of Halsey. While I’m not sure if Halsey was an influence, I’m enjoying it just the same. Swift seems particularly volatile on this one, declaring, “I don’t start shit, but I can tell you how it ends.” But believe it or not, the intention is refreshing and gives Midnights some variation. I immensely enjoyed the harmonies here as well.

If you’re worried about getting bored in the latter stages of Midnights, fear not, “Bejeweled” comes in next, and while it’s pretty straightforward musically and lyrically, it shines. Swift dishes about not being appreciated by your partner and deciding to paint the town red to prove your worth to others. Again, this is a refreshing bit of edgy fun, showing Swift’s songsmith.

Taking it down a notch, “Labyrinth ” has a low-key start, minimal instrumentation, and some caressing vocals highlighting the early portion of this track. Soon enough, Swift kicks the chorus in overdrive, lamenting, “Uh-oh, I’m falling in love again,” creating her signature-styled build-up. And while it’s familiar, if I’m being honest, “Labyrinth” is just alright.

As for “Karma,” it’s precisely what you’d imagine based on the title: a heavy warning to those who have done Taylor wrong. It has a productive beat and swinging melody, guiding the well-conducted cut. I am not sure if “Karma is my boyfriend” is Swift’s finest hour lyrically, but it’s addictive.

Rounding out the standard edition is the penultimate track, “Sweet Nothing, ” a low-key pop song with calming hominess. The organ swirling around this track is standout and gives the song a unique flavor. And closing out the proceedings is “Mastermind,” the final track on the regular edition. Once again, we have another piece of pop excellence from Swift, accompanied by a well-done arrangement, which seems to be a theme on Midnights.

But wait, there’s more!

If you are listening to the Midnights 3am Edition, there are seven additional songs, and to be sure, these are worth talking about. The first of these other tracks is “The Great War,” which may be the best. Here we have an instant earworm that I feel should have been a single rather than a bonus track. Go figure.

Taking things down a peg again, we’ve got “Bigger Than the Whole Sky,” a song laced with moody vibes galore. It’s another highlight shockingly left as a bonus track. Once again, I’m sensing a theme here; this was done with intention. After the astounding highest of the first two bonus tracks, I was slightly sad to say that “Paris” was somewhat awkward. This said, given a moment, it settled in and redeemed itself nicely.

Just when I was beginning to think Midnights might be running out of steam, the rhythmic electro beats of “High Infidelity” hit me with a classic bit of Taylor Swift nostalgia that I’ve come to know and expect. It’s got a keen melody and solid lyrics, and overall, it fits the Midnights like a glove.

Sadly, “Glitch” shows why it’s a bonus track, as it never seems to get going and is somewhat forgettable. It’s followed by the mediocre “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” with its decent backing vocals and alright guitar. And wrapping up the slate of bonus tracks is “Dear Reader,” a slower song that ends the 3am Edition of Midnights on a somber note. Still, “Dear Reader” clocks in as one of the tracks on the good side of my ledger.

Overall, while there is a lot to digest on this record, on the whole, Midnights is nothing short of excellent. Sure, lyrically, it’s a bit hit or miss, but that’s not uncommon for Swift. What’s more, the melodies and hooks can’t be beaten. And I reveled in Midnights’ smart switch to a more electronic style as opposed to the previous indie-folk feel of folklore and Evermore. I’d call Midnights a win for both Swift and her fans.

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Credit: Beth Garrabrant

John Siden (@jake1967) is a contributor for www.vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at john.siden391@gmail.com

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