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The Tortured Poets Department: Taylor Swift’s 31-Song Anthology

From heartbreak to new love, Taylor Swift covers it all in her emotional and raw new album.

 

Credit: Republic Records via Associated Press
 

“Once we have spoken our saddest story, we can be free of it,” Taylor Swift wrote in an Instagram caption upon the release of her 11th studio album, “The Tortured Poets Department.” Her caption was a precursor to an incredibly lyrical, poetic, and emotional album that details the most intimate and raw of human emotions. 


Taylor Swift is considered by many to be the most ubiquitous artist in the media. From headlining her incredibly successful Eras World Tour to making the powerful move to re-record and re-claim the rights to her own music, Swift has her signature way of keeping her fans guessing her every move with a series of hidden clues. So, it came as no surprise that when she announced her newest album at the 66th Grammy Awards, fans all over the world tuned in to decode whatever tricks she had up her sleeve.


A frenzy of speculation ensued since the announcement of “The Tortured Poets Department,” as fans wondered what route Swift would take this time. As she is considered a master of genres, there was no telling just what Taylor would do with the whole world looking at her. Swifties speculated who the subject of her lyrics would be, whether it be her ex-boyfriend of 6 years, Joe Alwyn, or her new lover, Travis Kelce. 


This past week fans took to decoding hidden word-a-day clues on Apple Music, ultimately receiving the ambiguous message, “We hereby conduct this post-mortem.” What does this even mean? Just ask the Swifties who came up with a never-ending list of possibilities. Meanwhile, some fans started to put together clues that suggest Swift may have been planning to drop two albums. The artist had been suspiciously holding up peace signs (or the number two?), and it seemed many of her signature clocks in various teaser trailers had been pointing to the time 2 o’clock.


Swifties have been known to make something of nothing, but not this time. Just two hours after “The Tortured Poets Department” became available on streaming services, Swift took to social media to announce that she was not finished just yet. She was releasing 15 more songs, calling the secret double album “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology.” 

Credit: Business Insider

Throughout the double album’s 31 songs, Swift pushes the boundaries lyrically, jumping back and forth from moody, pulsating electronic tracks to emotional, piano-backed power ballads. She unexpectedly opened the album with a collaboration with popular artist, Post Malone, entitled “Fortnight.” With lyrics such as, “I love you, it’s ruining my life,” this opening track confirmed many fans’ suspicions that this album would stray from the upbeat, love songs of Swift’s last new release, “Midnights.” 


Eyes turned to the fifth track of the album, entitled “So Long, London,” as Taylor Swift is known for her particularly heart-wrenching fifth tracks on her previous albums. The reference to London strongly suggests this song would be about her ex-boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. Swift and Alwyn were together for six years before it hit the news that they went their separate ways early into her Eras Tour in 2023.


Taylor Swift sings, “For so long, London; Stitches undone; Two graves, one gun; I’ll find someone,” cutting straight to the heart as she talks about her loss. In comparison to the love song she wrote for Alwyn back in 2019 entitled, “London Boy”, in which she sang, “You know I love a London boy; Boy, I fancy you,” it is clear just how much things have changed between her and Alwyn.


Swift continues to detail her breakup throughout the album. Track 13 entitled, “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart,” is a particularly interesting song, in which Swift masterfully juxtaposes emotionally loaded lyrics with an upbeat, catchy tune. This song details the strength it took for Swift to carry on with her emotionally and physically grueling tour, where she performed three-hour shows for three to four days a week. She sings, “Breaking down, I hit the floor; All the pieces of me shattered as the crowd was chanting, ‘More,’” a line that cuts straight to the heart as she makes the reality of her situation clear. 


Credit: Getty Images

On the other hand, in track 22, “So High School,” Taylor Swift lightens up with a playful song in which she details feeling giddy and childish in love. This song is speculated to be about her most recent and ongoing relationship with star football player, Travis Kelce. She says, “‘Cause I feel so high school everytime I look at you.” This track is a refreshing break in the midst of an otherwise emotionally heavy album.


Later, in the extended version of her album, Taylor Swift makes an interesting and potentially controversial choice with her song, “thanK you aIMme,” in which she quite bluntly calls out Kim Kardashian. Swift and Kardashian have been known to feud in the past particularly when her husband, Kanye, name-dropped Swift in one of his songs saying, “I made that bitch famous.” In her song, “thanK you aIMme,” which spells out, “KIM,” Swift sings about feeling small and powerless but learning to grow from conflict. 


Taylor Swift closes out her 31-song anthology with a song called, “The Manuscript.” This song, stripped down to just lyrics and emotional piano-backing, is incredibly powerful and seems to be the perfect way to close out her 11th studio album. In this song she sings, “And at last; She knew what the agony had been for,” and “Now and then I reread the manuscript; but the story isn’t mine anymore,” suggesting quite clearly that she wishes to close the last chapter of her life and move forward. This song shows that although many of the songs on her album are primarily about her loss of love and her heartbreak, she is ready to move forward.


Overall, with 31 songs jumping between heartbreak and new love, Swift upholds her reputation as a woman of many surprises and an incredible lyricist. However, there are mixed reviews regarding her most recent album. Some argue that it is too long and becomes repetitive, and that they expected more from Swift in the height of her fame. On the other hand, some argue that this will prove to be her most raw and emotionally honest album, showing her growth and maturity through her lyrics and vocals. This begs the age-old question of whether or not Taylor Swift’s haters are simply threatened by her success and fame as a powerful woman speaking her mind, or if her fans are just too loyal to be honest about the quality of her work.


 

Gianna Gallo is a sophomore at the University of Florida majoring in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology with a minor in Women’s Studies. As a die-hard Swiftie, she personally loves Taylor’s latest album.

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