Review: Fighting high expectations

Taylor Swift released her new album “Midnights” last month in the middle of the night that thrilled her fanbase


Terry Wyatt / Getty Images / TNS

NSAI Songwriter-Artist of the Decade honoree Taylor Swift performs onstage during NSAI 2022 Nashville Songwriter Awards at Ryman Auditorium on Sept. 20, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Worldwide pop icon Taylor Swift has been on a career high lately. After her departure from Big Machine Records in 2018, and recent big name releases like “Red (Taylor’s Version)” and “Folklore, her new style has revitalized her career and taken her to new heights. The scene had been set for her recent album, the highly anticipated “Midnights,” released at midnight on Oct. 21, with the “3 AM Edition” expanded version released shortly after. The album has some seriously high expectations. 

When it comes to Taylor Swift, vocals are expected to be a top notch highlight. When it comes to this album though, I’m not sure they blow me away. It could come down to a personal preference, but some of the cadence and vocal layering can feel jarring and forced. If there is a vocal highlight however,  “Sweet Nothing.” is the jewel in the crown. On the majority of the album the layering drowns out the rest of the music and feels overbearing, but it is well implemented on this song. 

`Lyrically, Taylor has been known to reach the hearts of her fans with great poetic descriptions of heartbreak, anguish, abandonment and, even on this album, triumph and confidence. Her lyrics on “Mastermind” are a particular highlight, with the introspective nature of the writing, however some of her lyrics tend to blend together. With similar topics, it was a rare occurrence that a lyric stuck with me. 

When it comes to production, it is absolutely the shining star. Beginning with “Lavender Haze” I had some high hopes for the album, with deep synth instrumentation, feeling very wavy and cinematic. Other highlights are the distorted and fuzzy instruments on “Glitch” which are a welcome change from the usual clean sound of Taylor’s music and the piano on “The Great War.” With that being said, production feels like this album’s blessing and curse. On songs like “Labyrinth” and “Paris” the inspiration from earlier albums is so apparent that it sounds too similar. A problem that goes for all parts of the album: there wasn’t enough experimentation. 

Is “Midnights” a bad album? No. Fans will love it, with songs like “Question…?” and “High Infidelity” being absolutely some of her best work. Unfortunately, the highlights are drowned out by a lot of the same things I’ve come to expect. Personally, I feel that this album fell just short of its expectations – however, those expectations could’ve been too high to begin with. Pitchfork gave the album a 7.0 out of 10. Insider headlined a review of the project with “We regret to inform you that Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ is not very good,” though The Guardian gave it a whopping 5/5 stars. 

Whatever the case may be, “Midnights” became the most streamed in one day album on spotify history, and despite its lack of radio hits and somewhat mixed reception, might mark seeds being planted for a new era for Taylor Swift. Do I recommend this album? Not in its entirety, although for fans who look hard enough, there are absolutely some tracks worth listening to.