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The Tortured Poets Department: A sincere contextualization of the new Taylor Swift´s album

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

Taylor Swift completely captured the public’s attention with her participation in the 2024 Grammys. She won the most important award of the night with Midnights and established herself as the only artist to win the “Album of the Year” category four times, she also won her 13th gramophone for “Best Pop Vocal Album” and used her  speaking time to announce her 11th album: The Tortured Poets Department.

Initially, everyone expected the announcement of a new re-recording – Reputation Taylor’s Version, we continue to wait for you -, but Taylor’s brand is to never stop working. Even amid a world tour, re-releases, football games, and the end of relationships, she is always functioning as a songwriting machine.

Is Love still golden?

With the announcement of the album, fans’ anxiety now focused on what the themes of the new project would be. The end of Taylor’s longest-lasting relationship was announced in April 2023 – her 6-year relationship with actor Joe Alwyn – and it was expected that the lyrics describing the end of that love would come in a way as visceral and intense in pain as it was in his romantic statements in Lover and Reputation.

The singer released the album’s tracklist and just by names we already had the first clear reference to Joe: “So Long, London”. The song is a reference to the love song that was made for the “London Boy” actor.

In the song, the goodbye to London represents a goodbye to all the burden of trying to save the relationship that was doomed to end and giving intensely to his passion in a unilateral way, as demonstrated in the excerpt:

“I stopped CPR, after all, it’s no use

Thе spirit was gone, we would never come to

And I’m pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free

For so long, London” 

Apparently, it was also the first time that the couple’s admirers got “answers” ​​about what caused the end of such a discreet and long-lasting relationship. From the first songs, the composer clarifies her frustration with creating the illusion that their years-long romance would move to another level and that she would be proposed to. In the album’s song, Taylor explains:

“At dinner, you take my ring off my middle finger

And put it on the one people put wedding rings on

And that’s the closest I’ve come to my heart exploding” 

The process of accepting the end has lasted, as if accepting and overcoming were intertwined for Taylor. The pain of this acceptance seems deeper in “loml”, with the slow piano melody that accompanies the promises that were made to the writer and not kept, the feeling of pain of “it almost worked”, and the years they spent together wasting away as if he meant nothing to his partner.

“The coward claimed he was a lion

I’m combing through the braids of lies

I’ll never leave, never mind

Our field of dreams engulfed in fire

Your arson’s match, your somber eyes

And I’ll still see until I die

You’re the loss of my life” 

A composition that caused a buzz and generated criticism for Swift was “Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus”, as the singer talks about a partner’s addiction in the verse: “You needed me, but you needed drugs more”. According to some listeners, it wasn’t right of Taylor to expose the vices of whoever inspired her – but there are conspiracies that it’s for Joe.

I’m the problem, it’s me! 

And it’s not just songs for exes that Taylor’s albums sustain themselves on! With each new work, she starts to talk a little more about the problems that happen internally, within herself. In the fan favorite of the moment, Taylor euphorically shouts the title of the song: “Who’s Afraid Of Little Old Me?”. She confronts the judgments she received, shows a reaction that ratifies her resilience against criticism alludes to escaping a death sentence for a glorious return representing her return to the spotlight.

This is the only song on the album that has something that differs from his previous works, due to the way he interprets the lyrics and works on her vocals during the song, in addition to standing out on the album itself, due to the instrumental and lyrical part.

In a pop style like “Message In A Bottle” by Red, “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” starts well, until the production of the song has the input of a synthesizer that ruins the good melodic construction that was being done. The song seems like a description of the real behind-the-scenes of “The Eras Tour” – especially due to the countdown in the pre-chorus, simulating the point used by the singer during the shows – and in a very personal way, it basically says: “I continue to be productive even though I’m emotionally torn apart.”

“Lights, camera, bitch, smile, even when you wanna die

He said he’d love me all his life, but that life was too short

Breaking down, I hit the floor

All the piеces of me shatterеd as the crowd was chanting: More!

I was grinnin’ like I’m winnin’, I was hitting my marks

‘Cause I can do it with a broken heart”

Am I having his baby?

In “But Daddy, I Love Him” the artist aimed persecution and media pressure! In the song, a narrative is created that portrays a young woman who rebels against the will of the community she lives in and faces even her parents to live in love, despite all the judgments and bad warnings about the boy she loves.

“I’d rather burn my whole life down

Than listen to one more second of all this bitching and moaning

I’ll tell you something about my good name

It’s mine alone to disgrace

I don’t cater to all these vipers dressed in empaths clothing” 

In the song, Taylor still gave her fans a huge scare, which even led to a hilarious compilation of the first reactions to the excerpt:

“Now I’m running with my dress unbuttoned

Screaming: But, daddy, I love him!

I’m having his baby

No, I’m not, but you should see your faces”


Some theories suggest that at one point the song was also intended for the artist’s followers about the disapproval of the quick relationship that Swift had with the singer and guitarist of the band “The 1975”, Matty Healy. The two’s involvement was, apparently, shortly after Taylor’s breakup with Joe, and was not approved by the public, mainly due to accusations that Healy had already had racist speeches and that he had given the Nazi salute during a show.

And this supposed affair between the two artists is not recent. Some rumors spread in 2014, when Taylor attended some of Healy’s shows, and then made an appearance wearing the band’s t-shirt. Rumors ignited when the guitarist also wore a 1989 t-shirt, Taylor’s release that year, at a performance.

In 2023, the rumors began after an alleged exchange of secret messages at shows, in addition to reports of some meetings in New York.


Taylor’s songs tend to have nuances, and in the same lyric, she can mention real, past, fictional cases, or even take inspiration from the life of someone close to her. Even so, listeners never stop theorizing to understand the composer’s intention with those lyrics, and it seems that other songs on the album also target Matty.

Among all the painful and frustrating songs, one stands out marked by anger even in the way it was vocally interpreted, “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”. In the lyrics, Swift starts calmly – like a relationship that starts lightly – and progresses to an aggressive and strong bridge – representing a reaction to disillusionment -, attacking a man who she morally classifies as small.

“And I don’t even want you back, I just want to know

If rusting my sparkling summer was the goal

And I don’t miss what we had, but could someone give

A message to the smallest man who ever lived?” 


Among so many lyrics about heartbreak, self-deprecation, and endless depression, some stand out, as they talk about the beginning of a new relationship and even use American football terms. Travis Kelce got his first compositions from Taylor Swift: “The Alchemy” and “High School”. The first also draws a parallel between Kelce’s victories and the times Taylor entered the field to honor her lover.

“Shirts off, and your friends lift you up over their heads

Beer stickin’ to the floor, cheers chanted ’cause they said

There was no chance trying to be the greatest in the league

Where’s the trophy? He just comes, running over to me

Touch-down, call the amateurs and cut ’em from the team”

“High School” really is a teen pop song, it brings the energy of starting a relationship, moments that take us back to the feeling of falling in love for the first time, of discoveries that come when you are young.

“Truth, dare, spin bottles

You know how to ball, I know Aristotle

Brand new, full throttle

Touch me while your bros play Grand Theft Auto

It’s true, swear, scout’s honor

You knew what you wanted, and, boy, you got he 

National Snake`s Day?

For the first time since the launch of Reputation, Taylor sent a very direct shade to Kim Kardashian, still referring to the events that led the singer to disappear from the media for 1 year.

In “thanK you aIMme” – yes! with these letters in capital letters – Swift highlights a theme that she raised a few times during the album: for her, no one is capable of taking her down. I believe that certain insecurities regarding media exposure or the power of false controversies no longer affect the artist.

In the lyrics, she says: “And one day, your kid comes home singing’ a song that only us two are gonna know is about you”. Which is ironic after seeing North West getting Kim to dance to “Shake It Off.”

The song exposes all the genuine anger that Taylor felt when seeing her legacy being threatened but says that despite not believing in Kim’s change, she is grateful for the way it made the singer stronger.

“All that time you were throwing’ punches, it was all for nothing

And our town, it looks so small from way up here

Screamed: Thank you, Aimee! To the night sky, and the stars are stunning

‘Cause I can’t forget the way you made me heal” 

And what is Taylor’s motivation for returning to this subject on an album that leaves this fight so separate? The singer classified this work as a last opportunity to talk about pain and events that have passed, officially the closing of a chapter.

Result of the album 

Taylor wasn’t lying when she said she’s very productive. On the same night she released the album, she announced the second part, The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology, with 15 extra songs that made the project total 31 songs. The album received 313 million streams on its debut day on Spotify, and now holds the biggest debut for an album in the app’s history, in addition to having achieved the record for being the fastest to reach one billion streams.

Of course, although deluxe versions exist to add songs that were left out of the original format, or even add remixes and new versions, nowadays it is nothing more than a way to count more streams and sell more (generally speaking in the industry).

In the case of this specific album, some songs, especially in the second part, do not bring anything innovative or very necessary to the album – except for some songs, such as “Peter”, “The Prophecy” or “The Albatross” – they do not add great revelations for the album lyrically and melodically, and in fact, they leave the entire work a bit boring to be consumed in its entirety.

The album maintains the standards we saw in Taylor’s old works, mainly in Folklore and Midnights, with interesting compositions, already-known melodies, and characters that were expected.


The article above was edited by Isabelle Bignardi.

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