Taylor Swift Evolves Again

Tone of 'Midnights' is 'a little darker, a little more experimental, and always electric'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 21, 2022 11:04 AM CDT
Taylor Swift Evolves Again
This image released by Republic Records shows "Midnights" by Taylor Swift.   (Republic Records via AP)

"All of me changed like midnight," Taylor Swift confesses halfway through her 10th original album, the aptly named and moody Midnights, out Friday. It's a moment on the electric "Midnight Rain" that finds the 32-year-old lyricist at her best, reminding you of her unparalleled ability to make any emotion feel universal, writes Elise Ryan for the AP. The song's chorus begins: "He was sunshine, I was midnight rain." And continues: "He wanted it comfortable, I wanted that pain. He wanted a bride, I was making my own name. Chasing that fame. He stayed the same." Then, that lyric: "All of me changed like midnight." The sound feels experimental for Swift, opening with her own vocals artificially pitched down to an almost-unrecognizable tone.

It's among the album's most sonically interesting, an indie-pop beat that feels reminiscent of her producer Jack Antonoff's work on Lorde's Melodrama, but also fresh and captivating. The song could be a thesis statement for the project Swift has described as "songs written during 13 sleepless nights," an appropriate approach to the concept album for someone who has long had a lyrical appreciation for late nights. Of course, she's centered her work around themes before—on Red, an ode to the color and the emotions it stands for, and reputation, a vindictive reconfiguring of her own. But Swift presents Midnights as something different: a collection of songs that don't necessarily have to go together, but fit together because she has declared them products of late-night inspiration.

Positioning listeners situationally—in the quiet but thoughtful darkness of night—instead of thematically, feels like a natural creative experiment for a songwriter so prolific that her albums have become synonymous with the pop culture zeitgeist. And with that, comes a tone that is just a little darker, a little more experimental, and always electric. Even in its weaker moments—"Bejeweled" is a bit too candy sweet—Midnights finds Swift comfortable in her musical skin, revealing the strengths of a sharp and ever-evolving artist who can wink through always-cryptic allusions to her very public life or subtle self-owns dispersed amidst lyrical confessions (see: "Anti-Hero" and "Mastermind") and hook even the casual listener with an alluring, and maybe surprising, beat. (Read Ryan's full review.)

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