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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Ranking “Midnights” a week after its release

Taylor Swift attends the "All Too Well" New York premiere on Nov. 12, 2021 in New York City. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images/TNS)

“Whoever wrote this was drunk.”

“This is an epitome of tasteless.”

“Daily Tar Heel needs to unrelease and unopinion.”

Ranking Swift’s discography

When I ranked Taylor Swift’s entire discography last year, I was met with a digital wave of unprecedented backlash. A tweet by TheSwiftSociety, an account in Swiftie discourse second only to taylornation13, brought my ranking to center stage in front of the entire fandom. 

The tweet received over 6,500 quote tweets including death threats and calls for my resignation. 

Even a student newspaper eight miles away desperately released responses to the ranking in a veiled attempt to increase their audience engagement by using my name. 

Faceless hordes of Twitter stans took general umbrage with several things — “Paper Rings” and “happiness” being in the bottom five, the fact that I subjectively ranked an artist’s work in the first place and calling my least favorite songs her “worst.”

A year later, I stand by my ranking. I refuse to cave into the pleas of Internet trolls or randomly offended girls that I meet at parties. I firmly rebuke any cry that “Paper Rings” deserves a higher ranking. I stand by my right as a consumer and an individual to publish my opinions about an artist who I have sonically grown up with.

What I do regret, however, is calling my least favorite songs her “worst.” Though I clarified this last year, it bears repeating: Taylor’s worst is miles beyond everyone else’s best. 

Standing beside her peers, her discography is a monolithic accomplishment. She has a constantly evolving approach to production and an ear for music like no other songwriter I regularly listen to. 

For this article, I will not use any such term. Instead, I will offer a numerical ranking and nothing further than a general explanation of what I considered while making the ranking. 

Reviewing “Midnights

I love “Midnights.” 

Swift’s album releases are always a huge deal to me, and “Midnights” comes at just the right time. “Midnights” is a raw, refreshing, reflective carnival of pop music in a time when such a personal perspective seems overdone. 

But, surely, Jack Antonoff is exhausted by now. 

I do not understand the technicalities of music production, but he always makes his artists’ vocals sound distant, as if they are singing through multiple sheets of paper into the microphone. I miss when I could feel an artist’s rasp tickle my eardrum.

Antonoff’s obsession with synths and reverb has pushed the sound of many pop stars’ sound into Cocteau Twins' territory — which is fantastic for what it is, but not what I anticipate when I listen to Lorde, Florence + the Machine or Lana Del Rey.

Still, “Midnights” gets better with every listen, and the album has already cemented itself as her biggest American sales debut ever — an almost incomprehensible feat for the 16-year industry veteran. 

It is with the utmost humility and respect that I offer you, the reader, my “Midnights” ranking. 

Ranking “Midnights”

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Ranking “Midnights” was far easier than ranking Swift’s entire discography. Obviously there were less songs, but there were also less biases and less personal associations.

jesseepinkman, a Tumblr user who I consider to be an unacknowledged hero, creates song sorters for a great number of popular artists and albums. I used their Swift sorter to create my discography ranking last year, and I used their “Midnights” sorter to create this ranking. 

While sorting these 20 songs, I considered three primary qualifiers: my natural compulsion to revisit the song, the lyrical maturity of the song and the production value of the song. 

With this ranking, I hope to inspire (respectful) discourse. I hope to warrant a conversation about one of my favorite musical artists of all time. 

20. “Dear Reader”

19. “Sweet Nothing”

18. “Labyrinth”

17. “Mastermind”

16. “Glitch”

15. “High Infidelity”

14. “Question…?”

13. “The Great War”

12. “You’re on Your Own, Kid”

11. “Paris”

10. “Vigilante Shit”

9. “Snow on the Beach ft. Lana Del Rey”

8. “Midnight Rain”

7. “Bejeweled”

6. “Anti-Hero”

5. “Lavender Haze”

4. “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”

3. “Maroon” 

2. “Bigger than the Whole Sky”

1. “Karma”

If you see me on campus, stop me and tell me what you think. But, in the meantime, stream “Midnights.” Be thankful that we are alive at the same time as Taylor Swift.