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Co-Dependent Review: Taylor Swift's Midnights and Carly Rae Jepsen's The Loneliest Time

Every once in a while two albums are released and demand to be compared and contrasted. Co-Dependent Review brings together those albums as two of our writers give the albums a listen and rank the best they have to offer in a rotating lineup of categories. IN this inaugural edition Alex Orona and Julian Ramirez take on Taylor Swift's Midnights and Carly Rae Jepsen's The Loneliest Time.


Julian Ramirez: A couple weeks ago two behemoths of pop music, albeit with very different fan bases, released some highly anticipated albums. Taylor Swift’s Midnights and Carly Rae Jepsen ’s The Loneliest Time. Both albums have been receiving their flowers since release and with good cause. Both albums are worth late fall records that will surely be playing well into spring next year.


Alex Orona: Both are great pop music artists in their own right but Carly Rae Jepsen never really broke into the mainstream since "Call Me Maybe". Instead she continued garnering more underground and nerd cred to form a solid fan base while Taylor Swift still remains at the top of her game as far as being a prominent hit maker.


Best Single

JR: Carly Rae Jepsen - "Western Wind"

I’ve always considered Rostam Batmanglij the secret sauce of anything he’s involved with and this song is no exception. While I typically shy away from songs that sound so different from the rest of the album, this just hit the spot. The constant percussion and much more chilled presentation is a nice respite from the more 80s twinged jams that the album is chock full of. Plus I’m a sucker for layered references and the Greek pantheon nods are perfect.

AO: Carly Rae Jepsen "Beach House"

I absolutely agree with "Western Wind" as a solid single. I feel like Carly works best when she leans into that 80’s aesthetic. For me Beach House was too funny and too dancy to not put it as my favorite single off this album. I still dance around my kitchen to this one when cooking.

Most Danceable Track

JR: Carly Rae Jepsen "Beach House"

Who doesn't like dancing to a song about the terrors of the dating world and references to getting murdered in at a beach house? But seriously, the grooves on this song make you forget about the fuckboy/serial killer antics and make you lose yourself to dance. AO: Carly Rae Jepsen "Shooting Star"

I don’t know, while Beach House is fantastic for dancing, the beat of “Shooting Star” just hits so hard. Plus that tiny bit of auto tune to Carly’s voice here adds some extra flavor. You could have told me that this was a one off Daft Punk or Black Eyed Peas song and I’d believe it. I expect to hear this in the future at clubs.

Best Intro (Side 1, Track 1s)

Taylor Swift - "Lavender Haze"

AO: This really brings the vibes. A dark dance rhythm with some clear not giving a fuck attitude that makes you want to relax into a scene of smokey lavender haze. This is somehow both angsty and sexy in equal measure and I’m here for it. "Surrender My Heart" is a fantastic power ballad, I felt like Lavender Haze put me in a real mood that I didn’t want to come away from. Also considering Taylor uses a lot of vocal echo effects on this album, this was one where it felt restrained, which is good.

JR: Completely agree! I think the hazy instrumentals mixed with the almost hip hop beat lead in make for an interesting track that grabs you right off the bat. The reference to lavender haze from Mad Men is certainly interesting, especially since the phrase has grown over the years and has a more specific meaning than just any two people falling in love.


Best Ballad

Carly Rae Jepsen "Surrender My Heart"

AO: I feel both albums failed to bring the ballads but "Surrender My Heart" feels like the call out to the world that you are ready to love again. Real Lizzo "2 Be Loved" moods here and it feels confident. It’s putting your heart on your sleeve while emphasizing the 80’s synth that really punctuates CRJ’s style.

JR: Again, I agree. Could you say that a lot of the tracks on Swift's album are close to being ballads since they are so ingrained with storytelling and themes of love? Sure, but "Surrender My Heart" is so unabashedly a ballad that it takes this category easily.


Best Feel Good Track

AO: Taylor Swift - "Sweet Nothing"

Sometimes simplicity is best and in this case it’s just Taylor and a keyboard. It’s just a basic melody and lyrics but they speak volumes with their message. Sometimes a lack of expectations from your partner is all you need to feel welcome when the world feels so cold. Also the faint trumpets that punctuate the chorus are chefs kiss.

JR: Taylor Swift - "Snow on the Beach "

“Sweet Nothing” definitely has that easy go lucky feel to it but I think "Snow on the Beach" has this interesting fairy-tale quality to it. Lana Del Rey also adds a lot to the whole dreamy aesthetic the song (and album) is going for, really making it feel like it's floating as she and Swift serenade you with a tale of two people falling in love.

Best Final Track (not counting bonus tracks)

JR: Carly Rae Jepsen "The Loneliest Time"

Much like the opening track going to Swift, I don’t think there's any denying the closing track goes to Jepsen. Swift’s “Mastermind” feels like it’s ramping up to something but never truly gets there despite that being everything that the song is about - “You knew that I'm a mastermind and now you're mine”. “The Loneliest Time” on the other hand has Jepsen at her most sparkly and determined sounding despite the song’s theme of being just out of reach. Plus how can you deny the Rufus Wainwright’s duets and the infectious TikTok anthem in the line “But you know what? I'm comin' back for you, baby, I'm comin' back for you!”

AO: Carly Rae Jepsen "The Loneliest Time"

Absolutely. While “Mastermind” almost felt manipulative, ”The Loneliest Time” felt like an agreement between two people to just be together and enjoy each others company. Rufus Wainwright being the perfect accompaniment to CRJ’s confident vocals while the rest of her band transports you to the neon lights of a discotheque.

Best Bonus Track

AO: Carly Rae Jepsen "Anxious"

How do you make a song about being anxious about your partner’s reputation into a dancy funk disco track? I don’t know how but I was tapping my feet the entire way. It’s got a phenomenal headbob effect, where you can’t help but move to it. Top quality production with vocal drops, fantastic synth arrangements.

JR: Taylor Swift "Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve"

If there is any track that absolutely, positively, should have been included in the album proper: "Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve" is it. It feels like a great summation of a lot of Swift's songwriting about personal breakups. It's so layered with references and killer lines that are actually hold up Swift's lyrics properly with the driving rhythms haze.


Final Thoughts

AO: I felt like Taylor had more thematic elements, considering it was a concept album, I still found the voice echo effects overused. As a full project, Taylor’s is more fully realized, but I still feel like Carly Rae Jepsen’s music generally sticks with me longer as a singular song catalog.

JR: I typically gravitate to the more album focused releases, so I should like Midnights more than I do. But I think Carly Rae Jepsen has been making some of the funnest pop music in recent memory and while The Loneliest Time may just be a collection on 80s inspired hits, it more than satisfies my need for bright sounds in my life.

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