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‘The Tortured Poets Department’: Swift releases most heartbreaking album yet

Republic Records // Courtesy
“The Tortured Poets Department” is Swift’s 11th full-length album.

When Taylor Swift announced that her 11th album would be titled “The Tortured Poets Department,” fans anticipated a heartbreaking, lyrically profound exposé on the artist’s recent emotional turmoil. Swift’s latest record does not disappoint, delivering lyrics that cut deep and songs that place the listener into her sadness. The album echoes with sorrow, anger and all-consuming grudges.

“The Tortured Poets Department” stands apart from Swift’s previous work. She doesn’t hold back any anger, resentment or sadness. She doesn’t mince words in her scathing lyrics. She’s unconcerned — salvaging relationships, protecting her and others’ reputations and avoiding public judgment is not at the forefront of her mind with this album.

The album begins with the Post Malone-featuring “Fortnight,” in which Swift begins by singing about being “sent away” and functional alcoholism, making “Fortnight” her darkest album opener yet. She sings of her ex-lover’s wife watering flowers and remarks, “I wanna kill her.” “I love you,” Swift repeats throughout the song, “It’s ruining my life.”

In the fifth track of the album, “So Long, London,” Swift says goodbye to the city she previously shared with her ex-boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, for about seven years. Swift conveys the heartbreak of a relationship ending, a lover quietly resigning. Swift sings that she’s “pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free” and that she “died at the altar waitin’ for the proof.” One of the most depressing lyrics in her song is when she details a dark image of her long-term relationship: “two graves, one gun,” referencing a murder-suicide.

The title of the track “loml” can mean both “love of my life” and “loss of my life” — two extremes. Swift describes her and Alwyn discussing marriage and children, only for their lives to fall apart. She sings about their breakup: “Our field of dreams engulfed in fire. Your arson’s match, your somber eyes. And I’ll still see it until I die. You’re the loss of my life.”

In the closing track, “Clara Bow,” Swift sings about the “it girls” of past decades: Clara Bow and Stevie Nicks. Swift alludes to the public rises and falls of these “it girls” and how, over time, they changed “like a rose” yet were treated as if they hadn’t. The song covers the pressure on women in entertainment to always be “dazzling,” and how Swift knows as she gets older, society may want to cast her aside in favor of someone younger and more exciting. Swift predicts what the next “it girl” will be told: “You look like Taylor Swift… You have edge, she never did.”

Despite the bitterness she expresses in “Clara Bow,” Swift has proven she will not be fading into the rearview anytime soon. Even with minimal advertising for the album, “The Tortured Poets Department” broke numerous streaming records — records previously held by Swift’s last record released in late 2022, “Midnights.”

“The Tortured Poets Department” conveys hurt, depression and resentment. Swift’s lyrics match well with longtime collaborators Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner’s production. Swift’s new album is dark and beautiful all at once.

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About the Contributor
Caroline James Warner
Caroline James Warner, Asst. TimeOut Editor
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Comments (5)

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  • N

    Nikki SnyderApr 25, 2024 at 12:24 pm

    Great review! The more I listen to this album, the more I like it. The lyrics hit so hard; they’re beautiful!

  • M

    Megan HubbardApr 25, 2024 at 11:25 am

    Lovely review! I agree completely that TPD is both dark and beautiful–It’s definitely one of my favorite albums! As an English teacher, I can’t get enough of the Taylor’s literary references and her metaphor-rich lyrics. TPD gave me all the feels!

  • C

    Chelsea BlevinsApr 25, 2024 at 9:38 am

    Yes…so well said. This album is dark. And while I wasn’t sure if I was feeling it at first, as I’m usually more into her pop than her ballads, after many listens I’m LOVING it and all in my feels. It’s so fitting with what I’m currently reading, too. Ahhhhh, I love it when that happens.

    • N

      Nikki SnyderApr 25, 2024 at 12:22 pm

      Haha, I think about that too with TOG – especially “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?”

  • K

    katApr 25, 2024 at 9:33 am

    this is hype