Taylor Tells All In The Tortured Poets Department

On April 19th, Taylor Swift dropped her highly anticipated 11th studio album titled The Tortured Poets Department (also referred to as TTPD). It’s a synth-pop album mixed with folk and rock, reminiscent of her folklore and evermore albums with a hint of production similar to her previous album Midnights. Swift is again joined by frequent producers Jack Antonoff (lead singer of Bleachers and producer to many) and Aaron Dessner (Founding member of the National). 

TTPD begins with its lead single β€œFortnight,” a collaboration with Post Malone. It introduces the listener to the slow synth-pop that would be apparent throughout the album. The song focuses on themes of pining, fatalism, and love, or lack of, all of which are revealed throughout the album to be leading forces behind the songs and the stories of her life she tells through them. 

This album comes after Swift and British Actor Joe Alwyn split after 6 years together, with the split being a leading factor throughout certain moments of this album. Songs specifically about Alwyn like β€œSo Long, London ” describe the end of their relationship, and saying goodbye, she sings ”You swore that you loved me but where were the clues? /I died on the altar waiting for the proof.” The song begins with a choir-like vocal melody and transitions to a driving synth that smoothly carries the listener throughout the rest of the song as they get hit with each blow from Taylor’s lyricism. 

Songs like β€œMy boy only breaks his favorite toys” and β€œDown Bad” pick up the tempo a bit while still carrying the heavy synths that Jack Antonoff is known for. The synths die down in the middle of the album and songs like β€œBut Daddy I Love Him”, β€œFresh out the Slammer”, and β€œI Can Fix Him (no really I Can)” are carried by guitars that feel western-esque at times. Swift also collaborated with Florence and the Machine on β€œFlorida!!!” a song with a heavy drum chorus. The haunting vocals of Florence Welch and a catchy back-and-forth between Swift and Welch make this a stand-out track. 

Towards the end of the album, tracks that sound almost cinematic like β€œWho’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” take hold of your attention as Swift shouts in the chorus. The synths from the start of the album make a triumphant return in β€œI Can Do It with a Broken Heart,” a song in which she details going on tour amidst heartbreak. With upbeat production behind sad lyrics, Swift sings β€œAll the Pieces of me shattered as the crowd was chanting, β€˜More’.” Swift sings about ex-fling Matty Healy in β€œThe Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” followed by her first track about current boyfriend Travis Kelce in β€œThe Alchemy”. 

Swift ends the album, or at least this part of the album, with β€œClara Bow” a song that references 1920’s actress and first β€œIt Girl”, Clara Bow, in the first verse. Swift touches on fame and how over time she’s seen in the industry that new artists, especially women, are compared to one another and taught to be a replacement for an older artist. She mentions iconic singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks (who also wrote a poem for Swift that’s featured on the insides of the physical releases of the albums), and then mentions herself, Taylor Swift, in the final chorus to close out the album. Overall this was a strong album. It’s a big change from Midnights, which was fun pop and easy for everyone to listen to. This album had a slower vibe, while still being lyrically stunning. It also required a bit of background knowledge to appreciate the lyrics and further enjoy the songs. This album feels more vulnerable, and it has a good mix of catchy choruses and heart-wrenching revelations. I loved this album, especially as someone who loved her word-heavy folklore and evermore albums, but I can understand those who might not. It’s so different from what she’s known for, but for Swift, it works so well. Vital parts of this album lay in its lyrics and the stories they tell. Overall, it’s a good album stitched with tortured poetry throughout its sixteen tracks.