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Friday February 3rd

Column: Taylor Swift displays potent lyricism, varied pop sounds on "Midnights"

Singer Taylor Swift attends "In Conversation With... Taylor Swift" during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Sept. 9, 2022, in Toronto. On “Midnights,” Swift ponders the delights and anxieties of her own celebrity.
Photo Courtesy of Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images/TNS.
Buy Photos Singer Taylor Swift attends "In Conversation With... Taylor Swift" during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Sept. 9, 2022, in Toronto. On “Midnights,” Swift ponders the delights and anxieties of her own celebrity. Photo Courtesy of Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images/TNS.

On Aug. 28, while everyone speculated about which re-recorded album was coming out next, Taylor Swift shocked everyone during an acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. She announced that her tenth studio album, "Midnights," would be coming out on Oct. 21. 

Since then, 58 midnights have passed and 54 midnights were spent anticipating the moment the album would appear on Spotify. The last four were spent digesting all 13 tracks — plus the seven bonus tracks.

Swift kept the sound of the album secret up until its release. Following the trend of "folklore" and "evermore," there was no lead single released before Oct. 21, which only added to its anticipation. Swift's legendary ability to transition genres left us all speculating if "Midnights" would revert back to pop or be a continuation of the indie Taylor we’ve come to know and love. 

Opening with a dreamy “meet me at midnight,” paired with notes of synth and techno-pop, the opening track titled “Lavender Haze” declared Swift’s return to pop.

Sonically, this album is stunning — with its big 80s-style synths and even bigger choruses — but it’s also consistently reflective of her previous pop records. "Midnights" reciprocates certain elements of her past records for the sake of nostalgia. Each track is a slice of Swift’s past — revisiting old relationships, emotions and fears — but this time with greater insight. These new and old stories and sounds form a cohesive album that captures the essence of late-night introspection. 

Although it's more sonically simplistic than the other beat-heavy tracks, the pinnacle of "Midnights’" reminiscence into past eras and emotions is with none other than track five: “You’re on Your Own, Kid.” The first few lines recall her youthfulness, referencing the young love that defined "Fearless" and her debut eras. The track progresses, following her path to fame and her evolution as an artist, with the second verse citing her move to a big city in the "1989" era and the bridge detailing her downfall and recovery that encapsulated the "Reputation" era. The outro is the most meaningful part of the whole track, as she sends a reassuring message to her past self and fans as they make their way into the world — “You’re on your own, kid / Yeah, you can face this.” 

“Anti-Hero” is a walking contradiction — it’s a fun, upbeat song with the most devastating lyrics. It’s unique to Taylor’s insecurities but she finds a way to make it relatable to all of us. This is THE song of the album — the lead single, the one that will get stuck in everybody’s head, making all of us cringe in about two months' time.

Tracks like “Bejeweled” and “Karma” are feel-good bops guaranteed to boost your self-confidence. “Bejeweled” is just a reverse “mirrorball," redefining the metaphor of being a fragmented, shiny thing. Although she gets dark for a minute on track eight with “Vigilante S**t,” she makes her revenge playful by track 11. 

In all its cringy glory, “Karma” is another fun, "Lover"-like take on "Reputation" Taylor. Instead of mulling over every evil thing that’s happened to her, she takes another approach and names all the lovely things that came her way instead.

It’s worth mentioning the only song on the album that includes a feature. "Snow on the Beach" featuring Lana Del Rey details the beauty of unexpectedly falling in love, trending away from bold synths and favoring soft strings. It might not the most memorable song now, but I think I'll learn to love it when the weather gets colder.

Swift closes out the album with “Mastermind” — a devious but whimsical track that rewrites history — it turns out it wasn’t an “invisible string” that brought Taylor and her long-term boyfriend Joe Alwyn together, but a perfectly crafted plan. The lyrics form the perfect ending, as they transcend her personal relationship and call out Swift’s tendency to be cryptic and methodical with her music. 

Despite the pop perfection of the first 13 tracks, Swift’s return to pop is incomplete, with remnants of "folklore" and "evermore" found in the bonus tracks from "Midnights (3am Edition)." The production of tracks like “The Great War”, “High Infidelity” and “Would’ve, Could’ve, "Should’ve” is reminiscent of "evermore" tracks such as  “closure” and “long story short” — thanks to the genius of Swift’s "folklore" and "evermore" collaborator Aaron Dessner. 

Swift’s pop albums have always walked the line between silly lyrics that are meant to make you smile and, yes, cringy lines that use complex metaphors to describe internal turmoil and pain. 

Part of her magic is her ability to write the most lyrically complex heartbreak anthem one minute, and then turn around and write a bubbly, goofy song about loving yourself the next. Taylor Swift transitions genres like no other, but her strongest suit throughout her career has always been her lyricism — and "Midnights" is no different. 

@dthopinion

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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