Taylor, I’m tired. Just freaking exhausted. I can barely keep up with my own deep-rooted dramatic ramblings, my own creative ideations. To keep up with yours is starting to become somewhat of a burden, and even though I was excited for the release of your new album, Midnights, I was also a little stressed out by it.

Maybe it’s because I listened to the album for the first time at eight in the morning instead of at midnight like was intended. Maybe it’s because I was honestly hoping Swift would finish up her “Taylor’s Version” project before moving on to new material. Maybe I’m just only writing negative reviews this semester.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t like this album when I listened to it the first time. While I could hear the lavender color coming through in Swift’s instrumental choices, I felt like so much of it was melodically uninteresting, or at least too similar to the random indie songs that serve as my playlist filler. I thought to myself, “Sure, I could listen to this album several hundreds of times until the melodies become something I can hold in my hand,” but at this point in her career, I think Swift can be held responsible for making music that pulls you in on its first play.

I was right that it got better the second time around, though. I will not concede the point that some the melodies are uninteresting, and the more I listened, the closer they sounded to old Swift songs or other popular pieces (“You’re on Your Own, Kid” and “Castle on the Hill”, “Lavender Haze” and “False God”, “High Infidelity” and “ivy”). But, because I am as deep and interesting and complicated as Swift herself, I can say that I really like "Midnights" now, even though I really did not initially.

What sold this album to me was the lyricism, which incidentally is also what sets the album apart from Swift's previous works. She says weird and cringey things, like “sexy baby” or “cat eye sharp enough to kill a man.” She talks about how much she hates herself and also how pretty she is and how she thinks everyone is out to get her, in a way that is less honest than it is blatant. You listen to “Bejeweled” and it just hits you in the face. “I polish up real nice.” It’s all sort of predictable — like the way that you see “Vigilante Shit” and “Karma” and you know it's going to sound like all of Reputation (and it totally does).

I want to take a moment to talk about personal symbologies. They are my favorite thing in this entire world; I like them even more than banana yogurt or 16-minute-long songs. And Taylor Swift has created a library of personal symbology like no other artist has ever done as successfully. She kind of has to — it would be absurd for an artist to have such a large collection of work with no interconnection. It’s one of the reasons I like her as much as I do. I want people to read the things I write and think, “Oh that’s interesting, I remember when she referenced that person or thing or idea 4 years ago in that one bonus track — it’s all connected.”

That’s great. However, it is not an excuse for bad music. This does not apply to the entire album by any means, but I do think Swift relied a little too heavily on her fans’ anticipation of her next “Taylor’s Version” album and references to past music and stories this time around. It’s just really easy, because we all know the stories now. All of the secrets have been told. Swift knows that all the Gen-Z/Millennials — whose brains are used to consuming massive amounts of media and connecting storyline dots that are sometimes miles apart — will eat her storylines up (I am no exception to this, I just generally prioritize sound over lore.) Her creative vision and process are on more evident display than ever before in Midnights to cater to this fan expectation.

They are so on display that I kind of squint one of my eyes and purse my lips. The 3 a.m. version Swift released three hours after the original album with seven whole extra songs … Taylor, that's not creative process. That’s just showing off. At the very least, she could have waited a week, let us all appreciate the symbolically quantized 13 songs for a little while. Especially considering that most people are streaming Midnights prior to purchasing a hard copy, there is literally no point. Publishing creative process means that there is just even more creative process we’re not seeing. It no longer feels authentic; it feels questionable.

Conceptually, I really liked the idea of "Midnights": songs written in the dead of night, while you’re lying awake thinking about everything that’s ever happened to you. It's raw and real and very very lore. The ideas and the images are all there, and there are even some tracks (“Labyrinth,” “High Infidelity,” “Dear Reader”) that are just plain good. There are some lyrical gems (“No one sees when you lose when you’re playing solitaire,” “Did you hear my covert narcissism I might disguise as altruism like some kind of congressman,” “I’ll be getting over you my whole life”). What remains falls a little flat though, especially when compared to Swift’s better/best work. We’re not going to talk about “Snow on the Beach.”

I can appreciate it for what it is though, and Swift for the true artist she has become. Merging a flourishing creative persona into a career which previously catered primarily to popular interest can’t be easy, and maybe Midnights is evidence of that. Maybe I just don’t get it, and that’s okay. I have always posited that Swift is so popular with our age group because she has essentially grown up alongside us and subsequently writes about things that are generally easy for us to relate to. I will take the awkward growth and self-redefinition of this album as an omen of my own journey, and I will probably listen to it on repeat until I love each and every song.