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What’s Yours to Share?: Taylor Swift and the Ethics of Diaristic Songwriting 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

For me, most Thursday’s look identical. I wake up, go to the gym, go to work and go home with the hopes of sleeping by nine. However, every so often there is a Thursday when the routine is broken and something exciting happens. This was the case a couple Thursday ago on April 18, when Taylor Swift’s new album dropped. I excitedly stayed up until midnight to hear her new album, “The Tortured Poets Department” (“TTPD”). I clicked the first track, excited to see where the next hour and five minutes would take me. 

In the chorus of the opening track, Swift sings, “I love you, it’s ruining my life / I touched you for only a fortnight.” As someone who spends a considerable amount of time on the internet, it wasn’t hard to decode who the opening song, and in turn the album, could possibly be about. The song was most likely about Swift’s short-lived relationship with Matty Healy in the summer of 2023. This clued me in that Healy would be a bigger part of Swift’s album than I originally thought. On “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology,” Swift returns to the Healy theme running through the album by hinting at why their relationship ended. In the track titled “Chloe or Sam or Sofia or Marcus,” Swift sings: “You turned me into an idea of sorts / You needed me, but you needed drugs more.” Here, Swift obviously alludes to Matty Heal’s struggle with addiction as a reason for the eventual demise of their relationship. 

While I generally liked “TTPD,” and would consider myself a Swiftie, Swift’s mentioning of Healy’s drug addiction asked me to wonder: how ethical is it to share such personal details about someone else’s life, especially coming from someone as famous as Swift? While in past songs Swift does attempt to be more ambiguous with her references, in this album, the details seem pointedly specific, which could potentially lead to public scrutiny on Healy’s personal challenges. This transition from the general to the specific in Swift’s songwriting raises important ethical questions about the boundaries between public art and private lives.

While other people may have differing opinions on this topic, for me the answer is clear. It is never right to share such intimate details without consent, no matter the artist’s intent. As much as I enjoy Swift’s music, I find myself conflicted with this hyper-personal approach to songwriting. I believe that music can be a powerful tool for personal expression and healing, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of someone else’s privacy or personal struggles with something as difficult as addiction. These larger conversations that arise from listening to “TTPD” serve as a reminder of the responsibilities artists bear, especially those as influential as Taylor Swift.