#45 Taylor Swift: Midnights

This post might actually be my last. It’s been fun. Occasionally.

OK, if you haven’t been following the news recently, I might have to give you a quick primer. I get it, don’t worry, it can be a nasty world out there and sometimes we have to attempt to protect our own mental health by not even engaging with the horror, I completely understand if you aren’t up on possibly the biggest story of late 2022. Trigger warning, this might be the most upsetting. Remember a few days ago when I posted my Pusha T post? Fifty second best album of the year? Not bad, right? Sure not as high as the near top five placing that Rolling Stone had (bafflingly) deemed it worthy of, but then I’ve certainly been questioning if it’s actually better than Alvvays, Lykke Li, The Smile or Big|Brave, so… it all works out? I dunno, whatever, that’s where the album fell. Was it a particularly good post? Hmmmmmmnot especially. I didn’t spend anyway near the time on it that I dedicated to Tanya Tagaq or Arcade Fire, for instance, but likely because there weren’t any sexual assaults or cultural genocides to discuss. I mentioned how Pusha’s lyrics often don’t convey what he thinks they do, which I would have liked to delve into more given the time. As a post in general though, particularly when compared to my best work, it was definitely m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m

Yes! It’s getting more and more difficult to use that MJF meme, but – bah Gahd! – I still manage it!

Well, that slightly brushed over and not especially noteworthy post actually got some attention. From Pusha fucking T:

Pusha T has 1.7 million Twitter followers. His beef with me was reported on first in smaller websites that nobody’s ever heard of, then in HipHopDX – amongst the biggest hip hop websites in the World. Also in… Spanish? Just to ensure that I went viral in multiple languages. That m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m

little article soon became the most viewed post on this website in all of 2022. Possibly of all time, I can never remember how you get the stats to show you that. Like, it was beating the Manics lists! Nobody beats the Manics lists!! That 100 greatest Manics song list? Yeah, took me a few months to write that, about 40’000 words. Really proud of it, and believe that it doesn’t just ‘stand up’ to similar lists on any artist written by more reputable publications for more money (more than ‘zero’ anyway), but it’s actually one of the best lists you’re likely to find. But, yeah, fuck all that, a celebrity noticed that dumb little Pusha T post, so now that’s all that matters. And it was reported on by multiple outlets, but all those outlets use the exact same wording as each other, adding nothing of note or even a different take on the biggest news story of 2022 (might have to rewrite this article), just churning out the exact same article multiple times. That m-m-m-m… middling little post I did may have done record numbers, but I’d imagine these views are dwarfed by all the clicks and ‘engagement’ all these pointless ‘news stories’ would have got. HipHopDX claims to have one million unique readers each month. That’s more than I get in a year! I’m not going to lie, I do appreciate the extra eyes that being called out by one of the biggest and most notable rappers of the last 25 years and then being incorporated into the endless ‘news’ cycle that automatically follows in his wake, but I felt like I knew what was about to happen: I was about to get cancelled!

Firstly, I think it’s always important to explain how being ‘cancelled’ is understood in 2022, and how it is differently utilised across the power divide. If you are at a certain socioeconomic level, if you are both rich and famous enough for a random person’s Mum to have heard of you, if you are notable enough to not just offer an ‘apology’ via a Notes app screenshot but get a full Piers Morgan interview. If you’re that powerful, then to be ‘cancelled’ is a synonym to ‘being criticised by some people’. Essentially, ‘cancellation’ means nothing for the rich and famous. Mel Gibson made four movies in 2022, Louis CK won a Grammy. Are they as popular as they once were? No, probably not, but neither are Hanson and as far as we know none of them have ever forced women to watch them masturbate or… Shit, where do you even start with Mel Gibson?? Guy’s ticked off all the boxes in Bigotry Bingo.

Unfortunately, in the wider scale of things, I’m actually not that famous and important. Let’s just agree that I am ‘minor’ celebrity. What I was likely to get was the version of ‘cancellation’ that us norms get: doxxing, online abuse, death threats from manic Pusha T fans. I was a little scared, but to be honest more excited about the experience and how much sweet, sweet content I’d hopefully be able to mine from it. Lindsay Ellis’s experience – similarly coming from a misunderstanding of a simple post – seemed horrible, but she got a 100 minute video out of it! I waited for the hatred to explode, I was confident that I could defend everything I’d said in the post to HipHopDX when they reached out for an interview, and to Jon Ronson in the future when I’m included in his next book. I said that Pusha T’s lyrics often don’t mean what he thinks they mean, so him arguing that I’d ‘misinterpreted’ them is actually the perfect response to my point. It’d be far more embarrassing if he had said “Dude, that’s exactly what I was trying to say. Can we please have a discourse over why you assumed that I wasn’t intelligent enough to consider these layers? #microaggression”. Oh, and a few people (but not fucking many!!) also visited my 2016 Pusha T post, wherein I noticed that I had posted my actual fucking phone number! Like, the one I still use?? Yeah, so I changed that as soon as I noticed, but that was hours after King Push had retweeted my ‘review’, was it all too late?? That’s also my fucking work number, so this was all about to become a lot less fun than I had hoped…

But… No… Nothing. The news cycle rolled on, and it all blew over. Two days on, that original Tweet by me doesn’t have a single comment (even Pusha’s Tweet barely has twenty comments, all reasonably level headed, despite the fact at time of writing he hasn’t Tweeted anything since!!) and the only comments on the original post are links from over websites desperately clawing at the content churn. What I learned is that Pusha T’s fans are clearly in awe of the artist himself – completely understandably. Go listen to ‘Hell Hath No Fury‘ right now! – but they don’t feel the need to validate that fandom through abuse, harassment or bullying. Everyone actually came out of this quite well – it’s great that Pusha T is both highlighting and engaging with smaller creators; his fans come across as a level headed bunch who don’t have manic episodes when anyone calls their God into question; and most of all me. I come out of this great, don’t I? Amazing stuff by me. Definitely goated with the sauce.

The reason I’m bringing this up is to make the plea to everyone reading this: please don’t show this post to the Swifties. They will fucking destroy me.

Normal behaviour

Closer to ‘Midnights’ release, this was a far simpler post to write. Because for the longest time I did not rate it at all. After the career highlights that Swift reached with her fantastic lockdown albums ‘evermore‘ and ‘folklore‘, which reframed her music and her writing ability to reveal how well her artistry thrives without the bells and whistles, ‘Midnights; is a massive step backwards. It doesn’t just reintroduce the bells and whistles of commercial pop, seemingly trying its best to eliminate any sharp edges that might have been evident in her previous two albums in order to hurriedly ensure the mainstream “No! Don’t worry! Put me back on your Spotify playlist! I can be commercial again! I can fit right back in with the consensus! I can be dull as fuck, don’t worry!”. The largest presence of ‘Midnights’ isn’t Taylor’s now widely accepted generational talent, but the mollifying production of Jack Antonoff desperately ensuring all the songs sound exactly the same as each other and as everything else. To use production terminology, ‘Midnights’ was Jacked Off to Fuck. It’s bland, it’s inessential, it struggles for any defining features, it is – say it with me now – m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m

Yet the slavering reviews nonetheless came dribbling in. Every outlet from Rolling Stone to Miniature Donkey Talk hailed it as the best thing since sliced Jesus. Review site aggregator albumoftheyear.org currently have it as generally agreed to be the thirteenth best album of the year, which could well go higher (or lower, if they included proper review sites like this one. Fucking fascists). The liberal love site The Guardian stated that “Swift’s sophisticated 10th album indicates that she no longer feels she has to compete with her peers”, which… what? This “sophisticated 10th album” indicates that Swift is desperate to sound exactly like her peers! Whaddaya talkin about??

I began to sense a critical wave -nay! – a conspiracy! Swift was so long rejected by mainstream (more like lamestream, ammi right??) music critics, ridiculously and unfairly (and, let’s be honest, sexist…ly…) considered silly pop music for girls. The idea that any music that girls (or, at a pinch, The Gays) like being substandard and disposable isn’t some 1970s oddity, but an underlying belief that has been widely held as long as anyone can remember. Now, I was going to suggest, these mainstream (lamestream! Did I do that joke? Bears repeating: funny line) writers are now all too aware of past digressions, and are now using Taylor as a barometer for how far they’ve come. Let’s give Taylor five stars for any shit she releases, that will prove we’re no longer sexist! Liberal high five! Women in general don’t benefit, of course, as that would mean addressing structural problems and liberals hate any suggestion of challenging the status quo, but Taylor benefits, with beatifying reviews of her current work, no matter how m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m

it might be. Man, i was going to take those liberals down!!

Sigh… but then…

Then I listened to the album more and realised that, underneath the Jacking Off, it was pretty fucking brilliant. Jesus, dude, why?

As we so frequently have to do with Taylor Swift: Appreciate. Motherfucking. Craft. So many of these tracks are simply incredible pop songs. They have to fight to be recognise after someone’s Jacked Off all over them, meaning to gain any appreciation you first need to wade through a slimy layer of Antonoff’s involuntary proclamations of pleasure. But – bah Gahd! – the songs are there. And they’re so often amazing. Swift’s lyrical game is patchy – from the memeable “Everybody is a sexy baby” to the inane “Karma is a cat/Purring in my lap ’cause it loves me/…Me and karma vibe like that” – but she’s still capable of pulling out lines like “When my depression works the graveyard shift/All of the people/I’ve ghosted stand there in the room” or “You’re terrified to look down cause if you dare/You’ll see the glare of everyone you burned just to get there“. In the same songs!

Fuck you, Taylor. I still think the production and the striving for mainstream uniformity still makes this a m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m

album, but kind of the greatest m-m-m-m-m-m-m

album of the year??

OK, now I’m going to discuss the controversy surrounding Taylor using the word ‘fat’ in the video for Antihero

Jesus, can you imagine? Keep it up, Ms Swift, you are a veritable content volcano.

2021 #12

2020 #32 

2019 #45 

2018 #59 

2014 #24

Metacritic: 85

4 thoughts on “#45 Taylor Swift: Midnights

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