Song of the Day #5,260: ‘Midnight Rain’ – Taylor Swift

This week I will rank the song’s on Taylor Swift’s new album, Midnights, in order of my preference, continuing a tradition I started with 2019’s Lover.

Midnights is Swift’s fourth album in four years, following the one-two pandemic punch of folklore and evermore, and it finds her in a much different place musically and lyrically. While those records found her telling other people’s stories in an acoustic indie style, this is a highly produced pop album about her personal and professional experiences.

Overall, I currently rank Midnights at or near the bottom of Swift’s impressive catalog, which is more a tribute to the greatness of her prior albums than a dismissal of this one. I just can’t make a case for it topping anything other than maybe her self-titled debut on a track-by-track basis.

But I acknowledge that might change. After all, I once dismissed Reputation as a failure but I now place it in her top four or five.

On to the songs…

[Note: I am ranking only the official album’s tracklist, not the bonus songs included on the 3 AM edition]

#13. ‘Question…?

I find this monotonous, meandering, and lyrically uninspiring.

#12. ‘Karma

My daughters defend this song as mindless fun. I agree about the mindless part but I can’t say I find it very fun. Lyrically and musically, I find this track beneath Swift’s usual high standards.

#11. ‘Bejeweled

This song is fine. It’s suitably catchy, with a few clever lyrics. It will make for a pretty light show on the tour. I just expect more from Swift ten albums into her career.

#10. ‘Midnight Rain’

I’m not a fan of the overall production on Midnights, and today’s track is a good example of why. This is a very good song I had to bump down several slots due to the distorted vocal effect utilized on the chorus throughout. What is the purpose of including such an off-putting technique so prominently?

How much better would this song be with a collaborator handling those parts? Or just have Taylor sing them herself, as she does splendidly later in the song.

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
All of me changed like midnight

[Verse 1]
My town was a wasteland
Full of cages, full of fences
Pageant queens and big pretenders
But for some, it was paradise
My boy was a montage
A slow-motion, love potion
Jumping off things in the ocean
I broke his heart ’cause he was nice
He was sunshine, I was midnight rain

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
All of me changed like midnight

[Verse 2]
It came like a postcard
Picture perfect shiny family
Holiday peppermint candy
But for him, it’s every day
So I peered through a window
A deep portal, time travel
All the love we unravel
And the life I gave away
‘Cause he was sunshine, I was midnight rain

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
All of me changed like midnight rain
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
All of me changed like midnight

I guess sometimes we all get
Just what we wanted, just what we wanted
And he never thinks of me
Except for when I’m on TV
I guess sometimes we all get
Some kind of haunted, some kind of haunted
And I never think of him
Except on midnights like this
(Midnights like this, midnights like this)

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,260: ‘Midnight Rain’ – Taylor Swift

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I’ve noted in the past that you tend to be harsher and more critical of Swift than you are toward other artists, and so I am not surprised by your negative response to her latest offering.

    I do get being turned off by the vocal distortion, but I don’t agree with the broader criticism of the album’s production quality.

    Anyway, I’ll be curious to see the rest of my family weigh in on your review and ranking of the new album.

    • Clay says:

      I consider Swift’s last three albums (before this one) the best work she’s ever done. I’m also a bigger fan than most of 1989 and Reputation. On her early albums, I was a bit weary of the victim card, but I think her writing has become far more self-aware and nuanced in the back half of her career.

  2. Amy says:

    As you point out in your post, the very act of choosing to rank albums or songs by an artist you love is inherently difficult. How do you put a song/album you love at the bottom of a list? When I first opened your post and was disgruntled to see “Question…?”and “Karma,” two gems I love and find myself singing in my head long after the album ends, I went straight to the album (3 AM… all freaking 20 beauties) and was hard pressed to demand you choose this one or that one to rank lower.

    That said, I do find this album has jumped tier by tier into my favorites as I’ve listened to it as incessantly as I listen to anything these days.

    And verses like this one…
    “It was one drink after another
    Fuckin’ politics and gender roles
    And you’re not sure and I don’t know
    Got swept away in the gray
    I just may like to have a conversation”
    are profound, casual, and incredibly catchy all at once. Can I ask you a question? How could you possibly put this song at the end of any list?

  3. The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

    I echo your sentiments completely as to the difficulty of placing this album in the greater context of Swift’s discography! The woman just has produced so much quality work that it almost seems unfair to place those expectations on an upcoming album this far into her career. However, I did do just that. Going into this album I made the mistake of waiting a little too long to give it a listen and thus was victim to popular opinions on TikTok which I tried not to let infect my listening experience once I finally gave it a go. I tend to be adverse to change especially when undergone by one of my favorite artists. I viscerally remember hating “Redbone” the first time I heard it, but much like “Redbone” this album has grown on me with subsequent listens.

    “Karma” was one of the songs that on first lesson I immediately gravitated towards. I’d never heard a song express the value of being a good person and the way it can come back to you quite so succinctly and poppily. For an artist like Swift who has almost been plagued by unjust criticisms and perceptions her whole career, it’s heartwarming to hear her embrace all the good she’s come to recognize in her recent life. She does deserve to have karma be her boyfriend.

    As to “Question…?” and “Bejeweled”, I take no real issue. These are good songs, but fine placements for them. “Midnight Rain” on the other hand I feel is such a cool use of pitch shifting. It’s difficult for an artist like Swift to show evolution with every record, but employing this technique that’s been used well by other artists she respects like Lorde and Kendrick Lamar was cool to hear on this record. Very excited to hear the rest of the list and see where we differ and butt heads :P!

  4. Maddie says:

    I’ll complete the Gallup family chime in here!

    I would have a hell of time ranking this album, so kudos to you for taking it on in the first place. I believe the only songs that really operate on a lower tier for me (and I still jam to them) would be “Lavender Haze” and “Snow on the Beach.”

    Other than that… this album really fires on all levels for me. I think the production is unique and well suited to every song and her lyrics are fully on fire (including the more casual and sarcastic ones… like her sense of humor truly shines on this album in addition to her ability to pull at heartstrings).

    Anyway, “Question…?” and “Midnight Rain” in particular are two of my favorites from this album, so I definitely disagree with the placements. Big “Karma” and “Bejeweled” fan as well, though I recognize them as the more “fun” songs in the bunch.

    I do think this album has a really clear feminine energy to it, and “Question…?” in particular feels like a song that just mirrors the way girls get information and learn about each other/situations in such a perfect way. It slaps.

    Anyway, looking forward to hearing more positive things going forward!!!

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