Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Review: Midnights • Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift has spent the past two years serpentining between her established legacy and a well-received swerve. In re-recording the first six records in her catalog, she reinvigorated interest in her younger self’s unmatched ability to fantasize and catastrophize her future. Meanwhile, her two most recent records of brand new material, the twin set of Folklore and Evermore, vaulted Swift’s songwriting into a renewed space that removed her personal life – one that was the basis of her artistry but surely grew insulated within her rank of celebrity in comparison to her teenage years – from the forefront. With her career fractured into two tracts, Swift smeared any accurate read on what she could possibly accomplish next – but whatever it would become, it was sure to be overwhelmingly exciting as her career reached another unfathomable fever pitch. Then she reset the clock on her tenth studio record, Midnights.

Standing in stark contrast to her past three records and both released re-recordings, Midnights carries itself as if it has something to prove. Laden in expletives and flashing provocative titles like “Vigilante Shit” and “Mastermind,” the record presents as a pressure cooker as Swift reopens the books on personal litigation that was already tried – and more successfully, at that – on previous records. But as she wraps melodies against shockingly anonymous pop productions, Swift reveals shortcomings in her songwriting that past records, including even the pothole-riddled Lover, could conceal with an above-average share of home runs. Here, “Lavender Haze” almost gets it: The gurgling bass and breathy vocal delivery seal the deal until she fumbles in its bridge. Conversely, “You’re On Your Own, Kid” builds its way to greatness, but it doesn’t truly achieve it until its bridge: “From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes, I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this. I hosted parties and starved my body like I'd be saved by a perfect kiss,” she recites in perfectly Taylor Swift fashion.

The material here might be best when it carries itself with a sense of humor, like the self-confrontational lead single “Anti-Hero” or “Karma,” which is just self-aware enough to justify the gum-snapping declarations that karma is her boyfriend, a god, a breeze in her hair, and a cat. But all too often, it’s hard to squash the feeling that some of these tracks were sketched in earnest years ago and pulled back out just to pick at wounds. Even in their production, which refuses to push beyond listenable and into something as defining as Folklore or Reputation while loosely channeling the latter’s energy, the tracks feel like the last few dribbles from the wide open tap that was mid-20s Taylor Swift – a nonrenewable resource that will be mined for all its worth as more re-recordings are flushed from the pipes. Every record before it has begged its listeners to guess where the business of Taylor Swift could migrate next, but Midnights is too focused on the rear view mirror to be bothered – the smart car’s on autopilot, and perhaps rightfully so, for a moment anyway.

Midnights is available now under Republic Records.

No comments

Post a Comment

© Aural Fixation