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  • Writer's pictureDani Austin

A Glimpse into Taylor Swift's "The Tortured Poets Department"

Insights into the pop queen's new album and an exclusive details on Swifts Legend ranking in our upcoming issue!

A Glimpse into Taylor Swift's "The Tortured Poets Department"
A Glimpse into Taylor Swift's "The Tortured Poets Department"

With fourteen number-one albums, multiple Album of the Year awards, and chart-topping hits like “Cardigan,” “Lover,” and “All Too Well,” Taylor Swift has done it again. Her newest, and fifteenth studio album, ‘The Tortured Poets Department,’ which was expanded two hours after its initial release on April 19th, 2024, into a double album titled ‘The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology’, left her dedicated fans quaking in their custom rhinestone-embellished cowboy boots.

When listening to ‘The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology’ ‘Swifties’ and causal listeners alike will notice Swift's obvious poetic influences. Each track is lyrically reminiscent of the classical English or American poetry found in any college-level literature anthology textbook. Swift's constant use of continuous lyrics throughout her songs with minimal pauses in this album creates a pleasurable listening flow for Swift's audience. 

To no one's surprise, Swift has once again gifted her fans with songs about love, heartbreak, and the complexity of romantic relationships with lyrics that feel almost as if she has gathered us all around to listen to her as she opens her great big ‘poetry’ book and weaves together multiple verses of an epic sonnet that feature a few notable characters such as Post Malone and Florence + The Machine. 

Swift seems to have shed the fanciful melodies of her previous three albums for the complex poetical lyricism of ‘The Tortured Poets Department.’ And though this newest version of her music is different, it feels more like a natural progression from her last few albums versus an abrupt change, as she takes her iconic sound and pairs it with more intentional and less repetitive lyrics. 

‘The Tortured Poets Department’, originally highly anticipated by her fanbase, with many Swifties publicly counting down the days until its initial release on different social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, has been met with mixed reviews however, with some fans claiming that it could have been cut down to give her audience her best work, citing that some lyrics within her songs were “cringy”, while others have praised it for its “complexity” and “vulnerability”, claiming that her “stream of consciousness” writing allegedly shows the nuances of working through her feelings about her previous relationship with the lead singer of indie art pop band ‘The 1975’s’ Matty Healy. 

That said, the album has broken a few records, including becoming Spotify’s most-streamed album in a single day, and the first album to ever to reach three hundred million streams in one day. With ‘The Tortured Poets Department,’ Swift became the first artist to have the first fourteen slots on the Billboard Hot 100 list with songs from a singular album. 

This album starts off with ‘Fortnight’ (Feat. Post Malone), a longing melody that delivers a hummable and flowy tune to twirl around in your bedroom too with a couple of friends. Track two, ‘The Tortured Poets Department,’ the song the album was named after, displays poppy electronic bars with lyrics that have a contradictory sentiment to the upbeat feeling of the music, a catchy conundrum if there ever was one. Next on the album we hear ‘My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys,’ which is a track filled with a steady and energetic melody highlighted by a simple, yet memorable backbeat that keeps the rest of the song at a great pace through its three-minute and twenty-three second run time. 

Track four, “Down Bad” is a contradiction of uplifting beats and a sad and angry sentiment. It gives off all the vibes of being a good road trip song as well as being a great song for a crying session in the front seat of your car. The song describes the feeling of being upset over losing someone while simultaneously coming into the anger and ‘over it’ stage of your grief. 

 Track five, “So Long, London,” my personal favorite, has a steady synth beat with an overlay of soft lyrics. With Swift's silky, almost dreamlike voice, this track gracefully builds itself up and just as gracefully tears itself down as Swift describes the experience of trying to keep a relationship alive as your partner is slowly drifting apart from you and eventually giving up once you realize it is a battle you can never win. 

Track six, “But Daddy I Love Him” is suspected by Swifties and other entertainment news outlets to be a response by Taylor to some of her fans who criticized the singer for continuing to date Matt Healy after he made some questionable and racist remarks about Ice Spice back in February of 2023. In the song, she responds by saying, 

“I’ll tell you something right now/I’d rather burn my whole life down/Than listen to one more second of this bitching and moaning/I’ll tell you something about my good name/Its mine alone to disgrace/I don’t cater to all these vipers dressed in empaths clothing/God save the most judgmental creeps/Who say they want what’s best for me/ Sanctimoniously performing soliloquies I’ll Never see…” 

Just one line out of many in this song that has Swift’s fanbase speculating about its true meaning. Aside from its alleged controversial origins, “But Daddy I Love Him,” starts with a thoughtful build-up to the chorus before it unleashes this wave of energy, and this continues throughout the song as we build up to the chorus before coming back down just to build back up to the chorus once more. 

Track seven, “Fresh Out the Slammer” is an ode to this experience of learning the hard way of how someone in a relationship should treat you. In the song, Swift explains how now that she has “learned her lesson” after having put a lot of labor into a man just to get him to tell her how he is feeling, she knows which guy she is going to run home to once she’s “fresh out the slammer”, a clear metaphor for being freed from this emotional prison that she was trapped in during her time spent in this other relationship. This track has a great background guitar riff accented by a soft rhythmic beat that creates this unique vintage-like sound. 

Following ‘Florida!!!’ is a track titled ‘Guilty as Sin,’ a song describing falling back into lustful fantasies that never happened about someone in her life. Swift describes how the world wants her to act a certain way, but they don’t know how this love interest has haunted her. Throughout this track, listeners will hear twang-like guitar accents and a heavy drumbeat. 

Tracks ten, eleven, and twelve have a darker tone to them. Track ten, ‘Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me’ seems to be a clap back at all of Swift’s haters, with lines like, 

“I'm always drunk on my own/ tears, isn't that what they all said?/ That I'll sue you if you step on my lawn/ That I'm fearsome and I'm wretched and I'm wrong/ Putting narcotics into all of my songs/ And that's why you're still singing along…” 

Besides its message, ‘Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me’ is sad girl pop at its finest, with an upbeat tune and a tragic chorus, this is a song that is sure to be a staple of the summer. 

Track eleven, ‘I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)’ is for every girl who felt like they were ‘the one’ who would be able to ‘fix’ their man. Swift writes a somber beat for this song and sings in an incredibly low tone throughout its entirety as she tries to convince those around her, and in some ways, herself, that she can repair this man. 

Moving on to track twelve we have ‘loml.’ A simple melody paired with a repetitive piano riff. Swift seems to tone down the album here with a song about loss and being fooled by someone into thinking that you both are in love with each other when the other party is not serious. Compared to the previous songs on this album, Swift is the shining star of this hymn, it’s just her and the piano. You can almost picture her performing it at one of her concerts as the crowd quiets in awe as the sheer emotion of the song takes hold of them, maybe they sway, maybe they hold their significant others or friends a little closer to them as the song continues to play, but they are, with absolute certainty, holding their breath until that last verse, “You’re the loss of my life” rings out with a sense of finality. 

The following track is energetic and manic. It takes the feeling of ‘loml,’ flips it on its head, and hits it out of center field. ‘I Can Do It with A Broken Heart’ in many ways shows Swift's resilience, and her ability to be an amazing entertainer even when she’s experiencing an extremely low point in her life. With lines like, 

“He said he'd love me all his life/ But that life was too short/ Breaking down I hit the floor/ All the pieces of me shattered/ As the crowd was chanting “MORE!”/ I was grinning like I’m winning/ I was hitting my marks/ Cause I can do it with a broken heart…” 

This anthem perfectly captures the sentiment of being a ‘Girl boss’ while simultaneously feeling like you're coming apart at the seams on the inside. 

Track fourteen on this album titled ‘The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived’ seems to follow the same formula as many of Swift's other tracks on this album, starting soft and small and then building until the very end where she leaves you with this soft low, lasting note. This song is bitter and spiteful hitting all the right nerves. 

Swift's fifteenth track, ‘The Alchemy’ is about questioning why you shouldn’t be with someone when you have so much chemistry, so much in common. This song has energy and a melody that almost gives you a sense of freedom, hair blowing in the wind arms stretched wide. With an incredibly catchy chorus, this track is sure to be one of the most popular songs on the album. 

Moving on from ‘The Alchemy,’ we are given the next track on the album, ‘Clara Bow,’ a reference to the popular silent film actress of the 1920s. Through Swift’s lyrics in this song, she describes seeing herself in this woman from the ’20s, this woman who was the ‘It Girl’ of her time, much like who Taylor Swift is now in modern-day society. This song is also about how Swift sees herself in another woman who also had to face being celebrated and condemned by the public. Swift also references Stevie Nicks who also was the ‘It Girl’ of her era, and how all of them are compared and contrasted to each other. This track boasts a soft melody that’s energetic yet calming to hear. 

The next two tracks ‘The Black Dog’ and ‘imgonnagetyouback’ almost go hand in hand with each other. ‘The Black Dog’ discusses seeing her previous romantic interest walk into ‘The Black Dog,’ a bar, and her thinking how they don’t miss her as they sit in this establishment and try to hit on another girl who is too young for them. Then we get Swift’s next immediate thought about this guy in the bar with ‘imgonnagetyouback,’ as she has now entered the bar wearing a short skirt that shows off her body. And then, in this song we see the next part of that interaction as she is deciding how she’s going to get this guy back either with revenge or get him to come back to their relationship. A great concept by Swift having one song's narrative lead into the next. 

Swift's nineteenth track ‘The Albatross’ is thought to be a reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.’ The poem itself has many meanings, but it heavily references regret as the Mariner (a sailor) has this burden and remorse over shooting this friendly and beautiful bird. So much so, that his crewmates hang the bird around his neck as a symbol of a crucifix. In Swift's song, she sings,

“She’s the Albatross/ she is here to destroy you…”

In many analyses of the lyrics from fans and news outlets alike, it is suspected that this line and this song represent a portion of the public’s opinion about Swift's relationship with the NFL Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Leaving the question of the song's meaning to another place and time, the music itself is a simplified melody starting with just Swift and an acoustic guitar. Swift builds this song, but only ever so slightly as she adds a layer of humming and what I can only guess as high notes from an electric keyboard. Regardless, I would go as far as to sum this song up in one simple word, beautiful. 

Swift brings the energy back down a bit from ‘The Albatross’ and gives us this soft piano ballad with her next track titled, ‘Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus’. A song about having to change yourself to survive leaving someone you loved but who you knew would never need you more than the drugs they were taking and who watched you change and never tried to change themselves for the better to be with you. This song is sad and soft, tied together with an interesting electric guitar riff and a continuous acoustic guitar accompaniment as the backdrop for this graceful piece. 

The superstar’s next track ‘How Did It End?,’ stands out from its counterparts on the album as a haunting melody, the first vocal on the track heard are these two ‘Uh ohs’ that set the mood for the rest of the song. And Swift's first line, ‘We hereby conduct this postmortem’ in this soft lullaby tone immediately gives you chills as the rest of the song plays. Swift seems to be once again calling out the public in regards to their criticism of her dating life, specifically her breakups when she doesn’t even know how, or get the chance to process why her relationships ended. In the song swift gives us these couple of verses, 

“It's happening again/ How did it end?/ I can't pretend like I understand/ How did it end?” “Come one, come all/ It's happening again/ The empathetic hunger descends…” 

This song, with its simplistically beautiful piano accompaniment, and these lyrics in particular, perfectly encapsulate Swift’s feelings towards the continuous criticism she receives about her romantic relationships at the hands of her biggest haters.

Throughout this album, Swift seems to be flip-flopping between high-energy bops and soft ballads. Her next track, ‘So High School’ is another one of her high-energy bops. This song feels like an homage to summer, something you can roll your windows down to while taking a nice drive on a hot summer evening. As someone who was a fan of her first couple of albums, it reminds me a lot of the sound she had on her album Speak Now. This is definitely a song for the OG Swifties that'll bring them back to their childhood. 

‘I Hate It Here,’ Swift's twenty-third track, is about trying to escape from your life. It is about escaping from a life that sucks all the hope, farfetched dreams, and fantasies that we hold close to our hearts out of us. Swift, in some instances, has the great ability to take a simple song in terms of notes and chords and turn it into something complex and profound with her lyrics. ‘I Hate It Here’ is one of those songs. 

On the album, we eventually come across a track titled ‘thanK you aIMee’. A song that some fans have suspected is a track about moving on from Swift’s feud with American media personality and socialite Kim Kardashian. Fans have claimed that the capitalized letters in the song's title that spell out ‘KIM’ is a clear call out of the businesswoman and the two stars' longtime hostility towards each other. Fans have also drawn a connection between the feud and a few of the lines in the song. In one particular line, Swift writes,

“I don’t think you’ve changed much/ 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 is gonna know is about you…”

Some fans have pointed out that this is a reference to the TikTok’s that Kim’s oldest daughter North West has posted about Swift. Besides this song having some controversy surrounding it like many of the other tracks on this album, the song itself is colored with an acoustic guitar, a beat that sounds like it possibly comes from a kick drum, and Swift's clear-cut sound. 

Swift’s next track, ‘I Look in People’s Windows’ describes what seems to have been a passionate encounter between Swift and a stranger before they were both led in different directions from each other by their own lives. Some fans on sites like Reddit have noted the similarities between Swifts’ line, ‘I had died the tiniest death/ I spied the catch in your breath’ to the French saying for organisms, “Le Petit Morte” or “The Little Death”, further confirming their theories that this was a passionate encounter with someone who might be a stranger. The ‘stranger’ theory comes from the fact that in the song, Swift writes multiple times that she looks in people's windows, as the title would suggest. As if she is searching for someone because she has no other means by which she can look for them other than to physically go back to the place where they met or where she thinks that stranger might be. The just over two-minute song is another great example of a lost love, or in this case the loss of potential love, and never knowing what could have been between Swift, or us from her perspective, and someone we could have had the opportunity to love and be loved by. 

Track twenty-seven titled ‘Cassandra’ is a song that has a sort of divine quality to its sound with its delicate background vocals and airy piano. Critics and Swifties suspect that this song might be referencing Kanye’s song “Famous” back in 2016 where he infamously stated, “Me and Taylor still might have sex/ I made that bitch famous”. The rapper claimed that Swift did agree to be mentioned in his song after Swift claimed that she never approved of the lyrics. To exonerate her husband Kim Kardashian at the time released a phone call between Swift and Kanye where the singer seemed to permit Kanye to mention her in his song. This is where Swift's downfall in the eyes of the public began. Years later in 2020, the full phone call was leaked to the public that showed that Swift was telling the truth. She sings, “When the truth comes out it's quiet” referring to how no one came to her defense, even when the truth was revealed. Throughout the song, she repeatedly states “Do you believe me now.”  So, that begs the question, will the public believe her now? 

Swift's next song ‘Peter’ talks about a boy, or perhaps a man, who made Swift a promise and broke it, as Swift sings,

 “You said you were going to grow up/ Then you were gonna come find me/ said you were gonna grow up/ Then you were gonna come find me/ Words from the mouths of babes/ Promises, oceans deep/ but never to keep.” 

This song is melancholy and reminds us of the heartbreak of broken promises that have been made to us or we have made and broken ourselves when we were too young to understand what we were promising each other or how we were going to keep those promises. Beautifully arranged, this song could be the backdrop for many heartbreaks. 

Swift’s twenty-ninth song ‘The Bolter’ is once again mostly Swift and her guitar. This lively song is suspected to have been inspired by Idina Sackville an Edwardian-era socialite who earned the nickname ‘The Bolter’ after she decided to defy social convention by marrying multiple men throughout her life and having several husbands. With many other songs on this album alluding to famous written works and people, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was also the case. In this song you will find catchy lyrics such as ‘Splendidly selfish, charmingly helpless’ and ‘And she liked the way it tastes/ Taming a bear, making him care/ Watching him jump then pulling him under..” With songs like this one, Swift truly is a master of lyrics and lyricism. 

Her second to last song, ‘Robin’ is an advice letter to the inner child who is unprepared to grow into adulthood. A wistful song, ‘Robin’ is as if Swift was watching a child play and realizing that one day this child will have to face the cruelties of growing up but for now is allowed to experience life with protected naivety. One of the last few lines of the song reminds the child that they will have to experience hardships but that they will be able to bounce back from them. Swift writes, ‘The time will arrive for the cruel and the mean/ You’ll learn to bounce back just like your trampoline…” 

Last, but certainly not least is a track dubbed ‘The Manuscript.’ A song that seems to be about a woman who is looking back at how she got involved with an older man who she never should have been involved with in the first place. In the song, she's dealing with the repercussions of her decision. Swift goes on to say how the woman comes alive again once she starts writing for a college course that lets her put her feelings onto paper and by the end, she seems to take back the power that this man stole from her. Swift writes, ‘The only thing that's left is the manuscript/ One last souvenir from my trip to your shores/ Now and then I reread the manuscript/ But the story isn't mine anymore.’ 

Whether you love her or hate her, adore her, or scorn her, there is no denying that Taylor Alison Swift is an international phenomenon and a force to be reckoned with which is why she is ranked #1 on Legend's "25 Most Powerful People In Entertainment" list that drops June 22, 2024! You definitely want to make sure you pick up your copy of this legendary issue!


About The Writer

Danielle Austin

Danielle Austin, a native of the Bay Area, is a passionate and determined Journalist. Growing up in Gilroy, Danielle pursued her love for storytelling and obtained an Associate's degree in English from Gavilan college. Currently enrolled at California State University Long Beach, Danielle actively engages in the arts and culture scene as she regularly contributes her writing and photography skills to DIG Mag, the university's acclaimed arts and culture magazine.


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