- 21 Oct 22
Pop superstar reflects on doomed love affairs
There is an undeniable tenor of angst to Taylor Swift’s latest opus, Midnights. “We lie awake in love and in fear, in turmoil and in tears,” she has said by way of introduction to the album. “We stare at walls and drink until they speak back.”
By the sounds of it, during her recent sojourn to Ireland – when boyfriend Joe Alwyn was shooting Conversations With Friends – Swift became a Kildare football fan, and experienced the mind-bending horror of this year’s 14-point Leinster final reversal to the Dubs. Or perhaps she just caught a few of Ireland’s performances during our woeful Nations League campaign.
What is certain is that a series of busted relationships have prompted some deep introspection from the Nashville superstar. The ups and downs of love have always been Swift’s keynote lyrical concern – probably to a fault – but the sense of hurt emanating from these tracks moves her into fresh and compelling territory.
Now in her early thirties, the singer has plenty of painful experiences to draw upon, and the result is one of her strongest albums yet. Indeed, in a pop landscape now dominated by gaudily generic claptrap, Swift’s ability to incorporate different stylistic influences and still produce something fresh continues to mark her apart.
As indicated by their titular colour schemes, she is feeling comfortably numb on the opening duo of ‘Lavender Haze’ and ‘Maroon’. Notably featuring Hollywood star Zoe Kravitz among its writing team, the former is a moody slice of ambient-house. The latter, meanwhile, is a brooding, trip-hop style number, on which the resigned singer reflects, “Sobbing with your head in your hands / Ain’t that the way shit always ends?”
There is more soul-searching on the atmospheric electro track ‘Anti-Hero’, where a haunted Swift sings, “Midnights become my afternoons / When my depression works the graveyard shift… I’ve ghosts that stand there in the room”.
The Lana Del Rey collaboration ‘Snow On The Beach’ is an ethereal ballad examining a – you guessed it – dysfunctional relationship, containing a line that’s pure Del Rey: “It’s like snow on the beach… Weirdly fucking beautiful”.
A good alternative title for Midnights might have been 50 Ways To Screw Up A Relationship: if it’s not confusing signals on ‘Question…?’ (“Another fucking situation / Circumstances, miscommunication”), it’s the deceit of Swift’s partner on ‘Vigilante Shit’ (“Sometimes I wonder which one will be the last lie”), or her own self-destructive streak on ‘Midnight Rain’ (“I broke his heart because he was nice”).
One consideration that lingers: after such an inventory of emotional turmoil and failed relationships – a penny for Alwyn’s thoughts. But whatever the scenario outlined, Midnights remains a lyrical and musical delight, with the infectious pop banger ‘Karma’ another standout.
Overall, Midnights sees Swift comfortably retain her status as one of modern pop’s most fascinating and compelling artists.