For fans of: Midnights by Taylor Swift

I want to preface this review by saying that I don’t consider myself a Taylor Swift hater. 

I think “1989” and “evermore” are both great albums, and I love “folklore.” Plenty of her big hits are songs that I have a lot of nostalgia for. However, I was quite disappointed by “Midnights,” which delivered middling synth-pop with few takeaways. When she announced “The Tortured Poets Department” after “Midnights” (undeservedly) won Album of The Year at the Grammys, I was pretty skeptical. I was hoping for a return to the more impactful singer-songwriter material she did with “folklore” and “evermore,” but feared that it would be a continuation of the blandness of “Midnights.” 

Unfortunately, the latter turned out to be the case.

I don’t see why this album was released. Most of these songs feel like they should have been left on the cutting room floor. The fact that this ended up being a “secret double album” astounds me; an hour of this was more than enough for me (bear in mind that I am only reviewing the standard edition of the album, as the “Anthology” addition has an additional 15 tracks and counts as a reissue). 

“The Tortured Poets Department” is a collection of sleepy ballads and dreary laments from Swift, with many of the lyrics being about her increasingly unrelatable personal life. I don’t begrudge anyone who enjoys this album or connects to its lyrics, but I can’t help but roll my eyes at some of these lines — “You smoked then ate seven bars of chocolate/We declared that Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist,” “Now I’m down bad crying at the gym/Everything comes out as teenage petulance,” “Who’s afraid of little old me…well you should be,” are all some lines that stood out as particularly bad to me. 

I see this as a huge step down from the lyrics on “folklore” and much of Swift’s earlier work. While I do think she has always been a bit overrated as a songwriter, she tended to write poignant narratives that were very relatable and was good at storytelling. Now, I can’t bring myself to care about what she has to say.

The sound of the album is also nothing interesting. Despite Jack Antonoff being an accomplished producer who has done some fantastic work, he brings nothing special to the table here. The instrumentals are dull and flavorless, and while there’s occasionally a burst of energy, like on my favorite track, “Florida!!!” featuring Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine breathing some much needed life into the album, most of these songs have nothing special or memorable going on instrumentally.

This album isn’t bad in my eyes –– it’s fine in the background, occasionally it caught a vibe, and one or two tracks were pretty interesting. But given Swift’s profile as an artist and the amount of attention she commands, she could be doing much, much better. Hopefully, she takes some time before pumping out another album that feels as drab as this one.

Rating: 5/10


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