Let’s talk about “Midnights”

Courtesy+of+Spotify

Courtesy of Spotify

Madison Huntington, Guest Writer

It seems the calendar skipped ahead a few hours on Oct. 20 when at 9 p.m. sharp, a familiar wave of Taylor Swift-related frenzy swept across campus. It’s well known that the old Taylor died and, thus, couldn’t come to the phone during the “Reputation” era. But she must have come back to life for this album — Swift found no issue with announcing the name of each new track on the upcoming “Midnights” record into an iconic red phone for her 15 million TikTok followers.

This mayhem-filled digital marketing campaign built some serious momentum, leading to even bigger expectations for an artist whose 2020 releases, “Folklore” and “Evermore,” already set the bar quite high with their rich lyricism and cohesive narrative structures. Oh, and how could I ever forget listening to “The Lakes” bonus track for the first time? But I digress. 

For fans of Swift, release night was a momentary glimpse of utopia as the upbeat sound of “Karma” echoed through the residence halls. For non-Swifties (and those in their “villain eras”), the incessant pulse of justice expressed via synths, drums and layered pop vocals would simply have to be endured for an evening. Things intensified when at 12 a.m. PST, “Midnights” (3 am Edition) was dropped, featuring even more songs. If you follow music, this was certainly a night to remember.

Yet, we’re all wondering, what do the people really think of this album? This is where it gets interesting. I’ll start with the neutral. One student finds that “this album is all of her old albums combined into one. We have some heartbreak, some midlife crisis, empowerment and just good vibes all in one.” 

Despite the generally positive feedback, many have found this album’s moments of greatness are as fleeting as the night itself. I’ll admit, the way the vocal was processed at the beginning of “Midnight Rain” was certainly a creative choice, with the interwebs clamoring at how much “it sounds like James Charles.” Perhaps it was a constellation of these little production choices that made one listener say the album has “a few gems” but is otherwise “underwhelming.” 

Slightly more optimistic, another concluded the record, “has its annoying and beautiful moments, but the good songs outweigh the annoying.” Were it not for the sky-high levels of hype leading up to release day, I would be more surprised by these mixed reviews. It seems that whatever fans were expecting based on the marketing for the album, the record’s true aesthetic was a surprise. A perceptive fan put it best when she said she “was not expecting the vibes.” Nevertheless, this record has swiftly broken many records, topping the charts and invading the public conscience. 

One thing that is often forgotten is how many people it can take to create an entire album. A closer look at Swift’s release announcement on Instagram reveals collaborators including Jack Antonoff as “copilot,” a patchwork of producers, and Laura Sisk as the project’s sound engineer. With so much put into “Midnights,” I think it’s best practice to give the record space to exist in its own right. So, casting all aforementioned expectations aside, I find value in this album just being itself. I’ll concede, at times certain songs felt like a watered-down version of “Reputation,” taking on the challenge of pop but lacking a necessary edge (I’m looking at you “Vigilante Sh*t”). Something about its production just left me craving lusher vocal harmonies. But largely, I think this album’s greatest strength is its relatability. 

Taken lightheartedly, “Anti-Hero” calls us all out in the best way. Plus, it’s catchy. This author has a feeling that many Westmont girls, even if they would never admit it, can’t help but relate to “Mastermind.” With our gender ratio, perhaps it’s true that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” And for those who find “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” hits home, may I suggest that those who whisper are just bored themselves. “Snow on the Beach” left me a bit sad that the chances of it snowing in Santa Barbara are so low. And finally, like so many of the songs here, “Sweet Nothing” and “You’re On Your Own, Kid” are great examples of Taylor’s serious talent with lyrics.

This album is a disco ball on New Year’s Eve that’s still spinning as it becomes New Year’s Day. Can you see your reflection? A rainbow? Nothing at all? If you’ve read this whole article the sun is likely beginning to set and midnight’s just around the corner. After all, it’s probably always midnight somewhere, but don’t expect me to know for sure — time zones can be tricky. 

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