Am I stalling? Vivian doesn’t like Midnights that much. She thinks it’s fine. When I put on “Lavender Haze” for her last Friday morning, at 7:50am, my earbuds wedged into her little ears, she said, “This is…different.” When I put on “Maroon,” she asked me, “Does this ever get…loud?”
That question cheered me a little. Truth is, Vivian’s tastes have changed a lot since evermore came out. They’ve hardened, gone alt and spiky. Olivia Rodrigo may be singularly responsible for this—the afternoon Vivian heard “Brutal” she declared it more “punk” than “rock.” She and I karaoke’d to “Misery Business” at her 10th birthday party. The first time she heard “Bois Lie,” the Avril Lavigne duet with Machine Gun Kelly, I watched her spirit lift out of her body.
She’s an Avril girl, actually, through and through. She’s studied the “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi” videos for clues to her oncoming adolescence. She likes Halsey too, but thinks her videos are too sexy. Thrillingly, she wears an Alkaline Trio sweatshirt to school.
So where does Taylor Swift fit in? Vivian did spend much of the weekend listening to Midnights, absorbing its 13 tracks, sifting them for her favorites. Number one, she told me over breakfast this morning, is “Lavender Haze” with its synth-y groove, then the sugary “Karma,” then the single “Anti-Hero” (though she thought the video’s comic interlude tedious), then the moody “Maroon.” There are a lot of F-bombs on Midnights, but she has no interest in the clean version. Regarding “Snow on the Beach,” the duet with Lana Del Ray, Vivian had this to say: “It’s like when she says the curse word, she thinks it makes this song sound different from her others, but it doesn’t.”
On the upside: “This album has a lot of Reputation in it.”
When we put on “Midnight Rain,” which seems to feature a male voice (but is actually just Taylor’s vocals pitched low), she asked, “Who is this guy singing? I don’t like this guy.”
“Do you like him more or less than Bonnie Bear?”
The emerging consensus on Midnights is that it’s something of a look backwards, Taylor combining the elements of her past albums into one dark and slightly familiar sounding stew. I like the album fine, but I sense it may have a short shelf-life with my daughter. Vivian hasn’t said as much, but I think the problem is that it sounds too much like where she’s been. Taylor Swift taught my daughter to have taste, to make judgments, to crack jokes, to sing, to dance, to go from being a toddler to a little girl to someone on the brink of her teens. Growing up is about moving on, casting off, not looking back, and if anyone can appreciate that, it’s Taylor Swift. Viv’s ready. So long, Midnights.