Taylor Swift opens up in “The Tortured Poets Department”

By Leigha Sepers
May 6, 2024

Taylor Swift's newest album "The Tortured Poets Department," released on April 19, 2024. Photo via Creative Commons/Wikimedia
Taylor Swift's newest album "The Tortured Poets Department," released on April 19, 2024. Photo via Creative Commons/Wikimedia

Taylor Swift, known for her vulnerable song writing, has never been so vulnerable. Swift’s 11th studio album takes a deep dive into her thoughts and feelings over the past two years.

Collaborating with two of her close friends, Aaron Dressner and Jack Antonoff, The Tortured Poets Department (TTPD) encapsulates Swift’s struggles through heartbreak and her treatment in the industry using a mix of synth pop and lyrics comparable to former albums Folklore and Evermore.

The main sentiment echoed throughout the album “And I love you, it’s ruining my life,” comes from title track “Fortnight ft. Post Malone.” This idea of loving someone who can’t love her back is echoed throughout the album showing the seven stages of grief: “I was supposed to be sent away/But they forgot to come and get me/I was a functioning alcoholic/’Til nobody noticed my new aesthetic.”

TTPD comes on the heels of Midnights, Swift’s 10th studio album release, a pop breakup album from 2022. Swift announced TTPD at the 66th Grammy Awards after winning Best Pop Vocal Album of the Year.

The name of the album is rumored to have come from a group chat of Swift’s former ex, Joe Alwyn, where he and his friends would discuss their different escapades with women. This idea is further proved in track two, “The Tortured Poets Department”: “At dinner you take my ring off my middle finger/and put it on the one people put wedding rings on.”

On “So Long Londonshe describes the end of her six-year relationship with Alwyn, in a heartbreaking chorus of how he used her until she couldn’t take it anymore. “And you say I abandoned the ship/but I was going down with it.” This track joins Swift’s ever-famous track fives, a spot reserved for her most heartbreaking songs.

Swift’s songwriting is the real star of this album, with lyrics that feel like they were sharpened with a knife, unlike her previous “glitter gel pen lyrics” many are used to.

Her emotional riffs add to the sound of the album, with a feel throughout the whole album of denial, sadness and finally acceptance.

Eras faded to gray

Contrasting Swift’s previous album, TTPD is a heartbreaking manuscript of the pain she endured for the past two years. The emotional range of her voice carries through each song, even when paired with light background sound.

Swift details her struggles with keeping her act together on her current world tour, the Eras Tour. Track 13, “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” goes into the struggle she faced performing on tour while keeping her emotions in check: “Cause I’m a real tough kid/I can handle my shit/They said, ‘Babe you gotta fake it till you make it’, and I did.”

The Tortured Poets Department pop-up in New York City. Photo via Taylor Swift.
The Tortured Poets Department pop-up in New York City. Photo via Taylor Swift.

The concept of these songs is easily relatable to her audience, as they can relate to the daily struggle of having to go on even when dealing with hardships. “I’m so depressed I act like it’s my birthday/every day” is something many can relate to as the world doesn’t stop turning because of a bad day.

With no need to validate her vocal ability, Swift focused on lyrics on this album, telling a cohesive story throughout the first 16 tracks.

Track 16, “Clara Bow” highlights the negative light in Hollywood, and the idealization of celebrities. Swift uses the example of Clara Bow, an actress in the 1920s, describing the end of Bow’s career when she suffered a psychotic break and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. Swift also relates herself to the idolization of Stevie Nicks and criticizes the industry for the immense pressure they place on artists to be perfect. “I’m not trying to exaggerate/But I think I might die if it happened.”

“Clara Bow” was a great cap off to the album, or so everyone thought, but true to form, Swift had another surprise waiting for fans.

“The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology” 

In a 2 a.m. drop, Swift surprised fans by announcing that TTPD was a double album, including 15 more songs, titled “The Anthology.”

A pleasant shock, “The Anthology” has more of a nostalgic feel, talking of Swift’s childhood and things that she learned throughout her career. The first track, “The Black Dog,” is undeniably about Alwyn and speaks of how she gave her youth to the relationship. “I pledged and I still mean it/Old habits die screaming.”

The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology album cover. Photo via Taylor Swift.

In October, Swift debuted a new romance with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. It seems not even Kelce was safe from her songbook. Track 22, “So High School,” details their whirlwind romance and the nostalgic feeling she gets when with him: “Truth, dare, spin bottles/You know how to ball/I know Aristotle.”

This song stands out from the devastating lyrics of the other songs and offers a nice fresh breath of air to the listener, with a pop beat that is an ode to her high school days. Though the lyrics are a different vibe than the rest of the album, the synth beat flows beautifully and is a good segue into the album’s final nine songs.

Track 24, “thanK you aIMee,” is believed to target Kim Kardashian, following the events that happened in 2016, concerning Swift, Kardashian, Ye and a tweet labeling Swift as a snake. “And so, I changed your name and any real defining clues/And one day, your kid comes home singing/A song that only us two are gonna know is about you.”

Another song that is noticeably different from the rest of the album but fits in with the nonchalant attitude Swift brought to the table. Referencing her “Reputation” was prominent throughout the album and shows a new side of Swift listeners haven’t seen before. With no reservations, fans are able to get a true peek into her mind and relate to her realness.

Swift ends the album fittingly with “The Manuscript,” an ode to her exes that leaves little to the imagination. In this song the anger is a defining feature, and listeners get to experience the final twist of the knife from her point of view. “And the years passed/Like scenes of a show/The professor said write what you know/Looking backwards might be the only way to move forwards.”

This album highlights Swift’s stellar songwriting and production team, and puts the nail in the coffin of what once was.

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Leigha Sepers

Hello, my name is Leigha Sepers and I am currently a sophomore at Cabrini University. I am studying digital communications and social media with a minor in sports communication. I am originally from South Jersey, where, as a swimmer, I developed my love for sports media. In the future, I hope to work with a professional sports team, running their social media page. This year I am very lucky to have obtained an internship with Eastern University's football program doing media for the team. I am very passionate not only about the world of sports, but on raising awareness of athletes' mental health issues. I am very excited to be writing for the Loquitur and getting to work with such a great group of people.

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