Review |  On 'Midnights', Taylor Swift looks wide awake

Review | On ‘Midnights’, Taylor Swift looks wide awake

You have this dream where you’re all alone, and you’re rolling a big donut, and there’s this snake wearing a vest. Taylor Swift has this dream where “my stepdaughter kills me for the money. She thinks I left them in the will. The family gathers and reads it, then someone yells, “She’s kidding us the hell!” Maybe that’s why Swift is the biggest breathing pop star in this waking world and the rest of us aren’t. Her mind seems so disciplined that even her excursions into dreamland follow orderly story arcs.

The aforementioned nightmarish plot unfolds seamlessly on the bridge of “Anti-Hero,” a standout from the superstar songwriter’s 10th album, “Midnights.” She presented it all as an investigation into the “intensities of this hour of mystifying madness,” but despite the music’s vaguely soporific sound design, Swift doesn’t behave as much like an insomniac on a hypnagogic mind-seeking quest as the head of the class stays up late to crush all his extra homework.

Why Taylor Swift’s Song ‘Anti-Hero’ Hit A Nerve With Her Fans

This is an album about memories, the kind that is visited after dark when the clock folds back, but throughout “Midnights” Swift sounds wide awake and half-haunted at best, falling largely on comfortable timbres and familiar tropes. Producer Jack Antonoff extracts endless amounts of pillow filler from his synthesizers while Swift nestles deep in her comfort zone, making everything sound expert, alert, scrupulous and routine. Big cities are full of romantic wonders. Kisses seem fatal and make the world go round. The colors are relentlessly symbolic. His songs are like romantic comedies without any com.

It all sounds nice and unblemished, and the only reason it all seems surprising is that Swift seemed to be using her last two albums — a pair of relatively spartan 2020 buddy records, “Folklore” and “Evermore” — to sharpen her lyricism into something less cookie-cutter and more scalpel-like. “I picked the petals, he don’t like me,” she sings on one of her new songs, “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” addressing an unnamed flame without batting an eyelid. . (If you missed the cheap thrill of rearranging paparazzi photos on your conspiracy whiteboard, “Midnights” has plenty of “Is song X about guy Y?” games to play too, you sick man.)

Superstar Taylor Swift’s tenth album, “Midnights,” will debut on October 21. It will contain a wealth of hidden meanings related to his love of number symbolism. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post, Photo: Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)

But because Swift loves a reliable narrative structure, she’s saving the best for last: a delicately percolating song titled “Mastermind” that challenges the guiding principles of her songbook. The first verse begins with a sympathetic cosmo aligning its stars in the name of love, but as Swift reaches the chorus, she asks, “What if I told you none of this was accidental and the first night where you saw me, nothing was will you stop me? She suggests that the notion of romantic fate — the rebar that keeps much of the Swiftian songwriting world on its feet — doesn’t, in fact, exist. Desire is intentional. Love is the result of this intentionality. She’s like Oz pulling back her own curtain.

So – whore ! — the curtain falls, as just three hours after “Midnights” materialized online, Swift released a deluxe version with seven more songs pasted at the end of the album. Songs about how love is a “great war”, and how “a fence is sharp as a knife”, and how “everything I touch becomes sick with sadness”. A particular lyric on the album final the final ballad should give us a big pause: “If that sounds like a trap, you’re already in one.”

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