The juggernaut makes a triumphant return to pure pop in her glittery, synth-filled tenth album
Two years after her detour into the indie folk woods of Folklore and Evermore, Taylor Swift has made a graceful return to pop music. A month of teasing track titles and other surprises has culminated in a confident, triumphant tenth record, full of sparkly synths, shimmering dream-pop and good times. It’s lived up to the glittery silver outfit Swift wore to introduce the album to the world – and anyone who thinks the announcement dress is irrelevant is missing the point of Taylor Swift.
“What if I told you that none of it was accidental?” sings Swift on ‘Mastermind’. The track is a reference to her reputation as a leaver of breadcrumbs and a lover of easter eggs, leaving fans scrambling to uncover whatever coded message she’s left behind in her latest communication. She embraces the role on Midnights as readily as she embraces the many other parts she’s been given to play over the years – the vengeful schemer, the hopeless romantic, the naïve ingenue.
Midnights is an incredibly nostalgic record. Retrospective love song ‘Maroon’ is the dreamy cousin to 2012’s ‘Red’. The Billie Eilish-esque, wonderfully campy ‘Vigilante Shit’ sounds like it could have been on Reputation, with Swift becoming a pantomime version of her ‘villain’ self. The twinkly, otherworldly ‘Snow On The Beach’ perhaps sounds most similar to her Evermore offerings, whilst devastating standout ‘You’re On Your Own’ chronicles her journey from awkward schoolkid to disillusioned pop star with the bluntness of her early albums and a classic Swiftian bridge.
But there’s evolution here, too – the electronic moments from Reputation become more experimental in ‘Midnight Rain’, a story of incompatibility, and the hype-pop tinged ‘Bejewelled’. “Putting someone first only works when you’re in their top five,” sings Swift in the latter. “And anyway, I’m going out tonight.” This confidence makes it also possibly her funniest album, maturity and self-awareness manifesting into some beautifully silly lines. “Karma is my boyfriend,” she sings on upbeat pop track ‘Karma’. “It’s me, hi/I’m the problem, it’s me,” she mumbles in ‘Anti-hero’, a journey into her self-loathing that manages to be both playful and raw. Try telling Swift’s twangy country debut self that she’d one day release a self-review that scathing.
Swift is willing to expose herself on Midnights, and the album’s most revealing lyric arrives in ‘Mastermind’: “No one wanted to play with me as a little kid/So I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since/To make them love me and make it seem effortless”. It’s only on ‘Sweet Nothing’, a love song about the peace of being in a relationship with no expectations placed on you, that she lays her cards down.
“All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothing,” she sings. Later on the track, almost in a whisper, she confesses: “To you I can admit that I’m just too soft for all of it.” Despite her well-chronicled doubts and fears, Swift has brought it home. Maybe now she can rest easy.
Midnights is out now to buy and stream