Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ Bonus Tracks Better Than the Album



Final Grade: 7.4/10 (Bonus tracks: 10/10. Standard edition: 5.8/10)

taylor swift midnights 3am version

“Midnights (3am Version)” consists of 20 tracks.

Taylor Swift/UMG


Ahlgrim: The primary goal of pop music is to communicate emotion in a way that feels vivid and relatable. When emotionalism is toned down in the lyrics, it needs to be punched up in the production, and vice versa.

Throughout the standard edition of “Midnights,” with some exceptions, both are toned down. 

In the bonus tracks, however, both are punched up. And I love all eight with my entire heart — the intricate poetry of “The Great War,” the soft-hearted intimacy of “Dear Reader,” the deceptive sparkle of “Hits Different.” They all hit different.

From a structural perspective, it’s a bit of a cop-out to tack extra songs onto the end of the album’s deluxe edition. Swift knows her fans will devour any scrap of music she doles out, so it releases her from the challenge of crafting a tight, focused tracklist with the strongest possible sequence.

This also feels like a symptom of the streaming era. More songs mean more streams, which translates to more sales, which seems very important to Swift and her team.

I wish I could say I’m angry at Swift for leaving these eight perfect songs off the official album in favor of duds like “Bejeweled” and “Midnight Rain” — especially since that’s the tracklist that I (and hundreds of thousands of fellow fans) will be stuck listening to on vinyl.

But in truth, I can’t stay mad at someone who wrote “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.” I’m just glad she didn’t keep these songs in the vault and leave us wondering.

Larocca: Swift had the material to make a perfect album, but instead, she banished all of her best songs to the deluxe editions. This is deeply frustrating, because, while I’ve loved receiving vault tracks with her rerecordings and peeks into her creative process, Swift made it clear these eight tracks were mere extensions of the album, and not the album itself. At the end of the day, the vinyl I preordered doesn’t include most of the songs that make this era shine so bright. 

I’m also a bit confused about how she decided on her “magic 13.” “Glitch” and “Paris” are far better pop songs than “Bejeweled” and “Karma;” “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” has vastly more emotional depth than “You’re on Your Own, Kid;” “Dear Reader” is a stronger ending note than “Mastermind.”

These faulty tracklisting decisions may have been a result of insisting on primarily collaborating with Antonoff. But for an album that was portrayed as being her most introspective to date, Swift should’ve leaned on Dessner more; his presence on the bonus tracks makes it clear she considered it. 

Regardless of how the tracklist came to be, however, Swift did, in fact, make magic in the making of “Midnights.” While creating the album, she unearthed some of her best storytelling to date on songs like “The Great War” and “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” confronted her darkest self on “High Infidelity” and “Dear Reader,” and proved yet again that she is one of our brightest pop stars (“Glitch,” “Hits Different,” “Paris.”)

I may not entirely vibe with where Swift’s head is at around midnight, but that’s OK. She does her best work at 3 a.m., anyway.

Worth listening to:

 “Lavender Haze”

“Maroon”

“You’re on Your Own, Kid”

“Question…?”

“Sweet Nothing”

“The Great War”

“Bigger Than the Whole Sky”

“Paris”

“High Infidelity”

“Glitch”

“Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”

“Dear Reader”

“Hits Different”

Background music:

“Snow on the Beach” (featuring Lana Del Rey)

“Labyrinth”

Split decision:

“Anti-Hero”

“Vigilante Shit”

“Karma”

Press skip:

“Midnight Rain”

“Bejeweled”

“Mastermind”

*Final album score based on songs per category (1 point for “Worth listening to,” .5 for “Background music,” .5 for “Split decision,” 0 for “Press skip”).



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