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Review: The Tortured Poets Department

Taylor+Swift+in+Fortnight+music+video+from+her+latest+album
Taylor Swift in “Fortnight” music video from her latest album


Global phenomenon and record-breaking artist Taylor Swift who needs no introduction released her 11th studio album,
The Tortured Poets Department. After the announcement at the 2024 Grammys, fans all over the world have been anticipating the release on April 19th. The album has already broken the record for the most streamed in a single day on Spotify. 

The Tortured Poets Department is a double album with a total of 31 songs with a 2-hour and 2-minute run time. The double album announcement at 2 am shocked many fans who were awake at the hour to listen to the first half. The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology contains many of the bonus tracks that were announced on vinyls as well as songs that were completely unknown to fans. The album consists of a downtempo synth-pop sound reminiscent of her Midnights album but with the intimacy and depth of folklore and evermore. Taylor Swift, Jack Antanoff and Aaron Dessner all have producing credits on the album. Each song is very diverse sonically with many lyrics that are absolutely heart-wrenching and honest. The first single of the album is “Fortnight” featuring Post Malone which has a music video that is filled with some very notable easter eggs. The video features actors Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles to pay tribute to their film The Dead Poets Society.  

Fans are speculating the origins behind who each song is about (Taylor Swift’s public and long relationship with actor Joe Alwyn, suspected short-lived romance with the lead singer of The 1975, Matty Healy or current boyfriend Travis Kielce) and trying to piece together the different narratives. This album is overwhelmingly vulnerable, emotionally raw and even the most charismatic album she has put out to date. Many lyrics catch your attention instantly for a variety of different reasons ranging from how upsetting it is or how humorous it is. From lyrics such as “ I’m so obsessed with him but he avoids me, like the plague!” to poetic lyrics like “ When your impressionist painting of heaven turned out to be fake”. 

Track 2 : The Tortured Poets Department

The “Tortured Poets Department” is the album’s title track and perfectly suits the album. Its romantically tragic lyrics coincide with the album’s energy perfectly. Sonically and lyrically it is the most familiar to Taylor Swift’s style but with more of an influence of ’80s synth. “The Tortured Poets Department” makes the perfect reference to poets Dylan Thomas and Patti Smith with the lyric “ I laughed in your face and said, you’re not Dylan Thomas, and I’m not Patti Smith, this ain’t the Chelsea Hotel, we’re modern idiots.” Dylan Thomas was a Welsh poet and famous writer. He was born in 1984 and died in 1953. Patti Smith is a famous poet, author, songwriter, singer and painter born in 1947. The Chelsea Hotel is in Manhattan, New York, it was built in the late 19th century. It is a place that famously housed writers, authors, painters and artists, still to this day. Dylan Thomas and Patti Smith lived in that hotel. Dylan Thomas was an alcoholic who is what a person may call a “doomed poet”. Whereas Patti Smith produced albums and toured the world and is known to be a star. The lyric is Taylor informing the person she is singing to that they should not be the type of artist that makes their self-destructive natures central to the art they create and attract people to the art because of that. 

Track 5: So Long, London 

“So Long, London” is track 5 of this album. Track 5 songs are known to be the most emotionally vulnerable of each of Swift’s albums. Fans have speculated since the tracklist was released that this song is about Joe Alwyn, a British actor and Taylor Swift’s longest relationship. This is one of Taylor Swift’s most painful and truthful songs. The song speaks about why she stopped fighting the seemingly never-ending battle for her relationship. Taylor Swift used the term “decaying” to describe their relationship in “You’re Losing Me”. In “So Long London” she continued this narrative. The song contains many different references to aspects of their relationship that were public, such as how they wrote songs together for Midnights, folklore and evermore, and their mutual love for sad songs. The song reflects on the six years of their relationship and alludes to the idea of Taylor waiting for him to fight for their relationship with the idea of her “dying on the altar”. With its spoken tone melodies and ’80s synth, the song is a painful cathartic goodbye to a relationship that shaped a person. 

Track 10: Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?

“Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” is one of the more musically diverse songs on the album. Its powerful percussion, vocals and self-aware lyrics make it a standout. The song is a comment on her reputation after 15 years in the spotlight. She plays on the comments of her being compared to a “witch” and how fame has affected her life. “ I was tame, I was gentle ’till the circus life made me mean / ‘don’t you worry folks, we took out all her teeth’”. This lyric mirrors “Mirrorball,” a song from folklore, with the lyric “and they called off the circus, burnt the disco down.” The idea of the circus is that the crowds typically gawk at acts seeing them as “freaks” throughout history. Taylor Swift uses this idea to compare her experience in public where she was constantly scrutinized and overly criticized throughout her years. 

Track 12: loml 

The song “loml” is the first piano ballad on the album. With its very simplistic production, the focus is all on Swift’s songwriting and her vocals. The deep-cut lyrics are a highlight of the song and are a major highlight of the song. The song speaks of a romance that was supposed to last forever but didn’t. The acronym stands for “love of my life” at the start, but the song ends with a play on the acronym now standing for “loss of my life”. The song contains some of Swift’s most emotionally complex lyrics, such as “ I wish I could un-recall how we almost had it all, dancing phantoms on the terrace, are they second-hand embarrassed, that I can’t get out of bed, because something counterfeit’s dead?”

Track 13: I Can Do It With a Broken Heart 

 “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” is lyrically witty and humorous compared to the rest of the album, which makes it stick out amongst the rest. With the ’80s synth that is familiar to many other songs on the album, it is the perfect song to dance around your room to. It is empowering with lyrics like “ I’m a real tough kid, I can handle my s**t /they say baby fake it ’till you make it and I did”. Taylor is brutally honest with the listener all the same time with lyrics like  “I’m so miserable! And nobody even knows!”. Though this song is not as poetic as the rest it is such a fun unique song. 

Track 15: The Alchemy 

This is one of the few romantic songs on the album and the lyrics suggest that it is about Taylor Swift’s most recent romance with football player Travis Kelce. With lyrics relating to the sport such as “ So when I touch down / call the amateurs and cut ’em from the team”. The song also relates to alchemists, which were the earliest versions of scientists who were on their journey to turn lead into gold. 

Track 24: thanK you aIMee 

The song “thanK you aIMee” is on the second part of the album and  is about a supposed high school bully named bully who only made Taylor Swift stronger. When noticing the capitalized letters in the songs titled, it spells out “KIM”, meaning the song actually speaks on how Kim Kardiashian has treated Taylor Swift over the years since the early days in her career.  The song is ultimately about rising above from those bad experiences and learning from them, soon later appreciating them for shaping who you are now, while also recognizing you do not need to forgive to forget. 

Track 31: The Manuscript 

“ The Manuscript” is the final track on The Tortured Poets Department. The song uses the idea of the manuscript to look back on a very long relationship, going from start to finish to see where it fell apart and the lessons learnt. As summarized in the final lyrics of the song “ In synchronicity with the score and at last she knew what the agony had been for,” she discovered what all the heartbreak was for and realized that she is not truly all alone. 

The Tortured Poets Department is an album people will be talking about for decades when talking about the complications of heartbreak, love and self discovery. Already being a record breaking album, there are many more accomplishments to come for Taylor Swift in the next many years of her legendary career. 



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About the Contributor
Aleesha Qureshi, Contributor
Aleesha Qureshi is a contributor for the Kingsley Voice. She has been a part of the team since 2023.

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  • S

    SabihaApr 26, 2024 at 10:59 am

    This review is so accurate I love loml so much!

    Reply
  • L

    LaibaApr 26, 2024 at 10:29 am

    I enjoyed these insights of Tay Tays new album!

    Reply