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Going Through a Heartbreak? These Five Playlists from Taylor Swift Might Help You Through It.

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 SJSU chapter.

With the highly anticipated release of Taylor Swift’s eleventh studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, Swift has made five new playlists on Apple Music for fans to listen to before the release of the album. Featuring songs from her discography, the playlists represent the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. The playlists were announced April 5 on Taylor Nation’s Instagram page, two weeks before the album’s release on April 19.

Taylor Swift’s 5 Stages of Grief playlist post

Many Swifties speculate that the upcoming album will be about the demise of Swift’s long-time relationship with her former boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. After spending six years together, the two ultimately decided to part ways at the beginning of the Eras Tour in April 2023. In an article with People Magazine, a source revealed that the two broke up due to “differences in their personalities,” and that Alwyn struggled with the amount of fame and recognition Swift received globally. Although there were rumors of an engagement leading up to the breakup, fans were devastated to learn that happily ever after was not in the cards for the couple.

Now that a year has passed after Swift and Alwyn’s breakup, her album, The Tortured Poets Department, will undoubtedly give fans the closure that they have been searching for. With the playlists she created, Swift has given fans another piece of the puzzle as they await the release of the new album. 

“I Love You, It’s Ruining My Life” – The Denial Stage

To start  this playlist, Swift left a personal message to her fans, and said, “This is a list of songs about getting so caught up in the idea of something that you have a hard time seeing the red flags, possibly resulting in moments of denial and…a little bit of delusion.”

Throughout the playlist, she includes songs like “Lavender Haze”, “False God”, and “Cruel Summer”, which all revolve around anxiousness and uncertainty about the relationship between Swift and Alwyn. In “False God,” Swift is singing about going through a rough patch during her relationship with Alwyn, and how her friends warned her about blindly jumping into a relationship.

In the song, Swift and Alwyn are navigating through problems in their relationship, The lyrics, “They all warned us about times like this / they say the road gets hard and you get lost when you’re led by blind faith,” reference how Swift jumped into a relationship with Alwyn during one of the most turbulent times of her musical career when she hit rock bottom. 

When they first began dating, she was facing endless backlash from the public due to the drama she was involved in with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, but Alwyn stood by  her side throughout all of it. One of the reasons I think that Swift was in denial about her relationship ending for such a long time was because Alwyn supported her  through one of the toughest times of her career. Once you form a deep attachment to someone in a stressful, high-stakes environment, it is easy to have a false sense of intimacy between you and the person you’re with. 

“You Don’t Get to Tell Me About Sad” – The Anger Stage

At the beginning of this playlist, Swift’s message to Swifties is, “These songs all have one thing in common, I wrote them while feeling anger. Over the years, I’ve learned that anger can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. But the healthiest way that it manifests itself in my life is when I can write a song about it and then, oftentimes, that’s what helps me get past it.”

One of the songs that I want to discuss in the playlist is the song “tolerate it” from her album Evermore. This song gained immense popularity and recognition during Swift’s performance during the Eras Tour, and fans have speculated that this song is about Alwyn. The lyrics, “Where’s that man who’d throw blankets over my barbed wire? / I made you my temple, my mural, my sky / Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life,” feels like Swift is venting about her frustration towards the relationship and references other songs in her discography. 

Making Alwyn her everything refers to how she changed her priorities during the Reputation era, with the lyrics in “King of My Heart” being, “Your love is a secret I’m hoping, dreaming, dying to keep / Changed my priorities / The taste of your lips is my idea of luxury.” During her Reputation era, Swift and Alwyn’s relationship was still brand new, so they had to keep it a secret to avoid public scrutiny. To keep her relationship with Alwyn safe from the criticisms and judgments of others, Swift made very few public appearances and rarely spoke about their relationship with the press. However, keeping their relationship private strained their communication with each other, which could have resulted in bottled-up anger and resentment. 

“Am I Allowed to Cry?” – The Bargaining Stage

During the bargaining stage of grieving, someone could be trapped in a toxic cycle of sacrificing their wants and needs in exchange for “feeling less sad or having a different outcome.” In her experience, Swift said, “This playlist takes you through the songs I’ve written when I was in the bargaining stage. Times when…you’re trying to make deals with yourself or someone you care about. You’re trying to make things better, you’re oftentimes feeling desperate, because oftentimes, we have a…gut intuition that tells us things are not gonna go the way that we hope.” 

Throughout this playlist, Swift and Alwyn’s relationship reach a breaking point, where they can no longer deny that they are bound to break up. In “Afterglow” from Lover, there is a conflict between her and Alwyn, resulting from her insecurities and issues regarding differences in their identities. However, she does not want to take responsibility for her role in the conflict, and instead, wants Alwyn to reassure her that they aren’t going to break up. 

The lyrics, “Tell me that you’re still mine / Tell me that we’ll be just fine / Even when I lose my mind / I need to say / Tell me that it’s not my fault / Tell me that I’m all you want / Even when I break your heart”, clearly demonstrate her trying to hold on to the illusion that was mentioned in the denial stage. Although there were signs that their relationship was not going to survive, Swift tried to convince herself that she could resolve underlying issues internally and with Alwyn. However, bargaining with herself and refusing to face the reality of their relationship only caused her pain and resentment to fester. 

“Old Habits Die Screaming” – The Depression Stage

Engulfed in sadness and loss after a heartbreak, the Depression Stage playlist is Swift “exploring the feelings of depression that often lace their way through [her] songs.” As a way of coping with the intensity of her emotions, she writes songs as a way to process them, and the songs she writes let her reflect on her emotions. 

One of the notable songs on this playlist is “You’re Losing Me” from her latest album Midnights. Swift released the song on streaming platforms on November 29, 2023. According to an article by Cosmopolitan, her producer, Jack Antonoff, posted a story on Instagram with a caption that revealed“You’re Losing Me” was “written and recorded at home on 12/5/21.” After uncovering the truth that Swift wrote “You’re Losing Me” a year before she broke up with Alwyn, fans have speculated that their relationship was dying long before the media suspected anything.

Link to embed: Taylor Swift’s “You’re Losing Me” post

In “You’re Losing Me”, Swift is finished fighting for a relationship that isn’t going to last, although she did her best to make it work. The lyrics in the pre-chorus, “Do I throw out everything we built or keep it? / I’m getting tired even for a phoenix / Always risin’ from the ashes / Mendin’ all her gashes / You might just have dealt the final blow,” show how tirelessly she tried to patch things up between them, but her attempts were in vain because Alwyn was not willing to admit that their relationship was ending.

In the bridge, she wrote, “How long could we be a sad song / ‘Til we were too far gone to bring back to life? / I gave you all my best me’s, my endless empathy.” Given their history, Alwyn has seen several different versions of her throughout their relationship, and with many different eras throughout her musical career; she grew into and discarded numerous versions of herself through her work. The timeline that “You’re Losing Me” was written shows that their breakup was inevitable and long overdue. 

“I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” – The Acceptance Stage

The final stage of grief is acceptance, “where we finally find acceptance and can start moving forward from loss or heartbreak.” To make more room for good in our lives, we first have to experience loss in order to reach acceptance. Oftentimes, rejection from something or losing someone can be a hidden redirection for new possibilities and doors to open. 

In her song, “Labyrinth” from Midnights, she sings about freshly getting out of a relationship and navigating heartbreak, believing that she will never fall in love again after her last relationship ended. However, as all cycles repeat themselves, she finds herself falling in love again, despite her hesitation and resistance. 

This song holds a special place in my heart because it encapsulates the feeling of finding love serendipitously. I believe that the greatest love stories happen when you’re not looking for them, and “Labyrinth” captures the feeling of finding love again. It shows us that love is like the seasons:although it goes through changes, it will always continue to bloom and grow after a season of loss. 

If you’ve listened to these playlists, what are your thoughts on them? Do you have any theories to share? Let us know @HerCampusSJSU!

Lillian is currently apart of the Writers team for Her Campus at SJSU. She is currently a third-year at SJSU, majoring in Advertising with a concentration in Marketing Communications. One area of marketing that she is really interested in is social media marketing, and she hopes to someday be able to work with brands and companies to curate their social media image and branding. Her hobbies include journaling, writing, baking, and reading. As an avid reader, she fell in love with storytelling and creative writing by reading stories from her favorite authors, and she hopes to be able to have the same lasting impact on those who read her stories.