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The Real Heartbreak Song on “The Tortured Poet’s Department”

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 SLU chapter.

2023 was the year of Taylor Swift. Within a year, Swift released her 11th album, two rerecordings (“Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” and “1989 (Taylor’s Version)”), was chosen as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, concluded the first U.S leg of her tour and began the international leg of the Eras Tour. Also, news of Swift and then-boyfriend Joe Alwyn’s split broke in early April 2023, a couple of weeks after the opening show of the Eras Tour. 

At the 2024 Grammys, Swift announced her 11th studio album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” which was released on April 19.

During the months and weeks leading up to the album release, Swifties picked apart every detail and investigated every possible clue that was given regarding the album. Theories were made and rumors spread, but the common agreement was that the album would be about her breakup with Alwyn. After the album was released, and the surprise second album shocked the fanbase, songs like “So Long, London” and “loml” proved the rumors to be true. But these tracks are not the most heartbreaking songs on the album.

Track 13 titled, “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart,” is one of the most genius and heartbreaking songs that Swift has released thus far. Swift is known for her glittering synth-pop sounds, and in this song, she hides painful lyrics behind an upbeat tone as she outlines her post-breakup outlook and experience while simultaneously performing and touring.

Swift begins the song by addressing the audience’s viewpoint of her, where they see her at the top of her game and doing better than ever before: “I can read your mind / ‘She’s having the time of her life’ / There in her glittering prime / The lights refract sequin stars off her silhouette.” However, Swift  quickly shuts these thoughts down, as she sings, “I can show you lies,” suggesting that the public’s perception of her happiness is false. 

Swift then takes listeners on an upbeat, joyful-sounding deep-dive of her mental state post-breakup and during the Eras Tour performances, where millions of eyes were on her. She shares the difficulty she has faced while on tour, having to put on a happy face during one of the lowest areas of her life.

She sings, “Cause I’m a real tough kid. I can handle my shit / They said, ‘Babe, you gotta fake it till you make it,’ and I did / 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 pieces of me shattered as the crowd was chanting, ‘More.’”

The lyric video, posted to Swift’s YouTube channel, included numerous clips of her performing on tour, implying that while she was putting on her best performances, she was grieving and repairing her heart. 

“I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” is a song for the girls who had to brave a smile to get through the day. It is for the girls who don’t want to impose on others with their issues. It is for the girls whose self-induced standards feel too high to reach. It is for the girls who secretly need a hand. 

In this song, Swift breaks down stereotypes regarding one’s mental health and is  extremely vulnerable about her mental state during her peak years, showing that not everything is what it seems. Swift also sets an important reminder: she is human just like the rest of us. Although she is extremely famous, Swift experiences heartbreak and struggles through mentally tough times but rises above the ashes like the rest of us do. If anything, being able to widely talk about the tough times doesn’t diminish them, it magnifies them and shows that it’s possible to grow stronger.

Amelia is a sophomore at St. Louis University studying physical therapy and a member of SLU's women's swim team. She is often found in the pool or in front of her computer with a coffee in hand. She uses writing as an outlet to express her thoughts and interests.