Not Everything has to be Groundbreaking
Why does it matter if “Midnights” is mid?
Written by: Sophie Farrar
Nowadays it seems like people’s standards for art have reached an all-time high. If something isn’t groundbreaking, earth-shattering and world-changing all at the same time, then it is proclaimed as garbage and the person that created it is ridiculed. So why is art now held to such high standards? And why is the general public so hypercritical of everything? Not all music has to be Grammy-nominated and record-breaking. Sometimes things are just okay, and that in itself should be okay.
Taylor Swift’s newest album “Midnights” has been the latest victim of society’s high standards for artwork. Despite the records the highly-anticipated album broke and its positive critic reviews, much of the general public and Swift’s fans alike were left disappointed by the singer-songwriter's most recent release.
Sometimes things are just okay, and that in itself should be okay.
“Midnights” saw Swift return to her pop past and leave her folk era behind with 2021’s sister albums “Folklore” and “Evermore.” New fans that started listening to Swift because of her stark switch in genre with “Folklore,” and old fans that started listening to Swift again because of the album’s craftsmanship, were surprised to hear her pivot back to pop with “Midnights.” The album in itself was reminiscent of Swift’s prior works, such as “1989” and “Lover.” While some fans were excited for Swift’s popgirl comeback, others were left feeling let down by “Midnights.” Swift’s innovation and change of pace in “Folklore” and “Evermore” set her up for disappointment from “Midnights” listeners.
Admittedly, I’m pretty easy to please and am not super critical when it comes to the art that I’m consuming. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed “Midnights.” Was it my favorite Swift album? No, nothing will ever top “Red” for me, but it was well-written and catchy with a unique concept. Songs from “Midnights (3 a.m. Edition)” such as “The Great War” and “Bigger Than The Whole Sky” even reminded me of songs on “Folklore” and “Evermore.” I can admit that the album is perhaps not as good as Swift’s previous two releases, but I think it would be plain silly to qualify the album as bad just because of that fact. To me, the public’s reception of “Midnights” is a prime example of society’s need for all art to be revolutionary and remarkable.
Creating art is no easy feat. And we shouldn’t treat it as if it is.
So why did this shift in standards happen? And when did society become the ultimate judge of what art is worthy and what is worthless?
I believe the main culprit is the high quantity and intake of art that there is now. We have the world at our fingertips, thanks to the complexity and ability of our smartphones. Social media and music streaming services in tandem allow us to absorb rampant amounts of art everyday. It also places pressure on artists to continuously create to keep up with the evermoving pace. When a never-ending stream of art is available for us to constantly consume, our standards for said art are going to increase, especially when considering how art had to be consumed in the past.
What artists had to achieve to be deemed successful or talented in the past is far different from what they have to achieve today. The rise in popularity of streaming and the decline in use of physical media like CDs has changed how frequently we can listen to music and how available it is to us. Before, if you wanted to listen to an artist’s new song or album, you had to either buy the single or CD in a store or online on a site such as iTunes. Now, you can listen to new releases on a variety of platforms such as YouTube, Spotify or Apple Music, just to name a few. As always, the radio is there too, of course.
The easy access of music on these platforms has allowed us to consume a plethora of art like we never could before. Gone are the limitations that buying CDs and individual songs brought along with them. You are no longer restricted to only listening to the songs that you could afford to purchase and own. Purchasing a premium subscription to most streaming services is unnecessary in order to access their library of songs, with the exception of some limitations and ads.
Switching from song to song, album to album and artist to artist is as painless as ever. You can access the majority of music made by a simple tap of a finger. The ease of streaming feeds into our ability to be overly judgmental of what we’re listening to. When you have almost all of the music that’s ever been created at your fingertips, you’re undoubtedly going to be more critical because of the amount of comparison you can make.
I’m asking people to take a step back and appreciate things for what they are. The next time you’re listening to new — or old — music, take a second to appreciate the work that went into creating what is playing in your ears and the effort that was necessary for it to be made available to you. Ask yourself: could I make this? If the answer is yes, that doesn’t automatically make it bad. Take it as inspiration to create something yourself.
Creating art is no easy feat. And we shouldn’t treat it as if it is. You’re allowed to not like something or to think that something isn’t particularly great. Just remember that that doesn’t make it inherently bad. So what if something is just okay? Not everything needs to be groundbreaking to be worthy of love, respect and enjoyment.
Taylor Swift’s Albums from Most to Least Groundbreaking (in my opinion)
1. Most Groundbreaking: “Folklore” (2020)
No album can top the surprise drop and genre shift that was “Folklore.”
2. “Reputation” (2017)
The girls that get it, get it. There’s nothing quite like Swift releasing an album about her bad reputation when her reputation was at an all-time low.
3. “Red” (2012)
The original genre-changing, system-shaking Swift album. With “Red,” Swift established herself as a pop-girl.
4. “1989” (2014)
“1989” set the tone for pop music in 2014 and the years to follow.
5. “Speak Now” (2010)
Swift was widely criticized for using too many writers, so she wrote “Speak Now” completely on her own. It not only became the fastest-selling digital album by a female artist, but also debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, proving Swift’s musical prowess.
6. “Lover” (2019)
Dua Lipa once sang, “Did a full 180, crazy.” Rumor is Lipa’s lyrics were inspired by Swift’s complete turn-around from “Reputation” to “Lover.”
7. “Fearless” (2008)
“Fearless” is home to Swift classics such as “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me.” Where would we be without her?
8. “Evermore” (2020)
Fans were still recovering from “Folklore” when Swift surprise-dropped her sister “Evermore.”
9. “Midnights” (2022)
Swift’s pivot back to pop was a pleasant surprise for fans with a particular love for her albums preceding “Folklore.”
10. “Taylor Swift” (2006)
Least groundbreaking does not mean not groundbreaking at all. Not only did Swift release her debut album at only 16, but she was also the first female country singer to write or co-write a US platinum-certified album completely.