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A Quick Look at Taylor's "Midnights" and Zella Day's "Sunday in Heaven"

You'd quite literally have to be owning a compound under a rock to miss the nonstop constant saturation of Taylor Swift's "Midnights" the past week. Hell, I'm a Taylor fan, and even I was overwhelmed! And of course by now most pop music fans have either streamed it nonstop (testifying to the recent streaming records), listened to some of it out of spite, or skipped over it completely. "Midnights" showcased a return to Taylor's penchant for strong power-ish pop mastery, like the kind she made explicitly known on "1989" (another collaboration with "Midnights" producer Jack Antonoff, who has gone on to work with Taylor numerous times, the Chicks, Florence and the Machine, Lorde, St. Vincent, and Lana Del Rey on my favorite album of all time "Norman Fucking Rockwell!") 

Speaking of Lana, there was a much-hyped (and anticipated definitely for me) collab with her on the album. Titled "Snow on the Beach," the lyrics to this track are slightly absurdist but mark Taylor, Lana, and Jack in a lighthearted state of mind. That classic "All for You" by Janet Jackson even gets a shoutout, which fits in with the song's falling-in-requited-love vibe. And speaking of, the queen herself even gave the song her props.

Of course a lot has been said (and a lot of memes made!) about how you really can't hear Lana on this song except for her signature breathiness in select areas in the chorus. But for me it's either/or. Lana does this thing a lot in her collabs (check out "Woman" by Cat Power and "Hallicinogenics" by Matt Maeson for further proof). I would have loved her part to be more notable, but the song is still one of the more charming cuts on "Midnights."

I was kind of surprised - because judging by the title, I figured it would be cringeworthy - how "Vigilante Shit" easily was the strongest cut on the album by a mile for me. It's dark, synthy, sexy, and honestly a bit unexpected. I also like this more storyteller mode Taylor has been exploring lately, esp. on the "Folkmore"/"Evermore" saga. 

"Karma" - even tho those lyrics, in particular, are ludicrous - was another favorite for me, esp. thanks to the sheer catchiness of it. "Anti-Hero" is pretty great as well as is "You're on Your Own Kid, "Midnight Rain," and the opener "Lavender Haze." I wish I liked "Sweet Nothing" better, but felt like "New Year's Day" did that concept much better (and was one of the better songs on "Reputation.") 

HOWEVER, this all said, the "3 AM Edition" has some fantastic songs that blow the weaker tracks on "Midnights" proper out of the water. "Bigger Than The Whole Sky" (a heartwrenching track rumored to be about her own miscarriage), "Paris," and "The Great War" are all standouts. "The Great War" as well as "High Infidelity" (Zoe Kravitz Easter Egg?) and "Would've, Could've, Should've" feature work from Aaron Dessner of The National, another frequent Taylor collaborator. 

Overall, I think "Midnights" is one of her better more pure pop efforts, and I would rank it below "1989" and "Red" (legends!) but certainly way above "Reputation," which again had gems, but overall floundered. I view "Evermore" and "Folkmore" as their own beings off to the side, drinking tea and watching the rest in some dress from 1960. Kinda like the twins from "The Shining" if they ever grew up. 

A few paragraphs ago I mentioned Lana Del Rey, which is a fantastic segue to discuss her previous collaborator, Zella Day. Earlier in October, Zella released her second album ever (since 2015!), "Sunday in Heaven." But for the past few years, she's worked on some EPs that deserve your time, like "Where Does the Devil Hide." Nevertheless, she's provided a steady onslaught of singles like "Golden" and "Mushroom Punch" (which I both previously wrote about).

Definitely a bit of a different vibe than "Midnights" but not terribly far off that same pop music tree,  "Sunday in Heaven" actually feels something like its title. Zella has a knack for vintage-sounding music (maybe what originally attracted Lana to her), and you especially can hear it on the gorgeous second song, "Am I Still Your Baby?" She experiments with a few different sounds on the album, and to great success. 

This being said, the first half of "Sunday in Heaven" is stronger than the second half. The first half is just dramatic and fun - it tapers off as the album comes to a close with a somewhat slower sound. It's not to say it's by any means weak, but it's not as memorable as the first several songs, like "Dance For Love." 

I would highly recommend giving some time to "Sunday in Heaven." When it first came out, I replayed it repeatedly, and would certainly say it's one of my favorite albums of 2022 to date ... maybe slightly higher on my list than "Midnights," even. 

And here's Zella, Lana, and Weyes Blood together on a Joni Mitchell classic:


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