"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.)