Reviewing Tortured Poetry

The tortured poet herself on the album’s main cover.
The tortured poet herself on the album’s main cover.

On February 4, 2024, Taylor Swift made Swifties everywhere clown about Reputation (Taylor’s Version). At the 66th Annual Grammy Awards, Swift walked the red carpet wearing an outfit fans might call “rep-coded” from the hair, to the makeup, to the gloves. However, when Swift went on stage to accept her 13th (her famous lucky number) Grammy, she revealed a secret she’d kept for the last two years. That secret was that her eleventh studio album, The Tortured Poets Department (TTPD), would be out on April 19. The album has now been out for a few weeks and there’s much to be said about it. 

When The Tortured Poets Department was released at midnight (EST), Swifties tuned in to hear the set of 16 songs, which included: “Fortnight (feat. Post Malone),” “So Long, London,” “loml,” and “The Smallest Man Who Ever lived.” But Swift, being the mastermind she is, surprise-dropped a second half of the album at 2 am (EST) called The Anthology that she had been subtly hinting at leading up to the album. The Anthology added 15 more songs and made TTPD an album over two hours long. Two hours of brutal honesty about Swift’s romantic relationships, friendships, and life under a constant, brutal spotlight. 

Many of these songs are allegedly about Swift’s exes Joe Alwyn, whom she dated from 2017 to early 2023, and Matty Healy, lead singer and songwriter of indie art pop band The 1975. The timeline of Swift’s relationship with Healy is more layered with a rumored relationship at the end of 2014-early 2015 and then rekindling feelings in May 2023, as reported by Elle. Their “spring fling” really was just a fling as they called it off again after just a month or two. 

Songs allegedly about Joe Alwyn address talk about his withholding from proposing to the mega popstar even after being together for more than six years. Swift conveys the emotional turmoil felt in the ups and downs of her long-term relationship and how she dealt with the gut-wrenching breakup with the man she wanted to marry. In “So Long London,” Swift sings crushing lyrics like, “You swore that you loved me but where were the clues? I died on the altar waiting for the proof.” Various songs display the “post mortem” Swift went through as she analyzed her and Joe’s relationship. She feels confused and broken trying to sift through what went wrong which can be seen in “How Did It End?” The tragic breakup left Swift “bereft and reeling” as she became disillusioned towards the six years of loving Joe. TTPD makes listeners question if the songs in the albums Folklore and Evermore are as fictional as Swift claims them to be or if they were actually made to help her work through problems she was already having with Alwyn. 

Songs possibly about Matty Healy show Swift addressing her unwanted critics and their backlash to her relationships. She declares in track six: “But Daddy I Love Him,” that, “I’d rather burn my whole life down than listen to one more second of all this bi***ing and moaning.” Swift states that only she has the power to degrade her name and doesn’t live to please the “judgemental creeps” who try to make decisions about her life. 

In a much lighter contrast to the sorrowful theme of TTPD, Taylor Swift snuck in her first song dedicated to her current boyfriend of about eight months, Travis Kelce. “So High School” is a refreshing song that shows Swift finally getting the love she’s always desired. Lyrics such as, “No one’s ever had me, not like you,” and “You knew what you wanted, and, boy, you got her,” are heartwarming to hear in the middle of an album that shows Swift going through one of the toughest eras of her life.

Rolling Stone describes the sound of TTPD as, “Wildly ambitious and gloriously chaotic.” The unique but satisfying production on TTPD by Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner makes a lyrically impressive album also sonically remarkable. The composition of TTPD adds even more depth to the already brilliant album. Someone could spend countless hours analyzing and breaking down every song and still discover new layers that show Taylor Swift’s genius. 

The Tortured Poets Department really is a work of poetry. The clever metaphors, allusion, and imagery Swift incorporates in her music show that she deserves her spot as the first artist to reach one billion streams on Spotify in a single week, according to People. TTPD is another astounding era to add to Taylor Swift’s stellar discography.

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