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The Tortured Poets Department: For Fans Who Know The Lore

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 TCU chapter.

Where do even begin? The Tortured Poets Department — or TTPD as we will be referring to it — has taken the world by storm this past week. From breaking streaming records to breaking people’s hearts, there is plenty to dive into with this 2 hour long, 31 song, double album.

You may remember us from our 1989 (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault) review, but we — Abby and Vinisha —  are ready to dissect some new music. 

Upon first listen and many more after the first week post-release, it is evident that TTPD’s sound is a combination of Midnights and folklore/evermore. As a Midnights stan (Vinisha) and a folklore/evermore stan (Abby), the combination of production involving Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner is nothing but a dream situation. However, the stark contrast between the production of the first and second half of the album has created a stark separation between the fandom of Swifties — unfortunately leaving several to question Antonoff’s production. 

So on such a divisive album, what do a Jack and Aaron fan have to agree on? Well, as it turns out, it’s quite a bit. First, we agreed that both of our current hyper-fixation is on the song “The Black Dog.” As opener of the second part of the album, we agree that it is a much stronger start than “Fortnight,” which didn’t stand out to us much other than Post Malone’s feature. The song is a smooth synthesis of the two different production styles featured on the album while feeling more raw, authentic, and emotional than some of the other TTPD breakup anthems. This song feels intentionally crafted in a way that some tracks of the album lack, thoughtfully matching form to function.

A breakup track that didn’t quite measure up to our hopes was “So Long, London.” We felt that the metaphorical nature of the song diluted the emotional depth–and for a track five, it didn’t quite compare to the raw honesty we’re accustomed to. The song has endless poetic comparisons to fairy lights, rain, and shipwrecks, but it feels like Swift is intellectualizing her pain rather than feeling it. She wraps up her emotions into a neat little bow with no loose strings, but it doesn’t cut deep like a true track five. But then again, perhaps this choice was purposeful, expressing that Swift felt defeated rather than heartbroken at the end of her relationship.

The features of this album are definitely a high point. Even though we didn’t love “Fortnight” as an opener, we can’t help but love Post Malone. He sounds great on the track and we can’t get enough of his and Swift’s friendship. However, “Florida!!!” featuring Florence + the Machine stands out as our favorite feature of the album. Florence was the perfect, nay, the only choice, for this wild, reckless anthem about escapism. Her vocals are perfection and the hypnotic overlapping of her voice with Swift’s during the bridge is a drug as addictive as Florida itself.

Well, let’s talk about the elephant in the room…. We got some songs about Travis Kelce! As a football fan through and through, this made my heart very happy. Through “The Alchemy” and “So High School,” Swift explores various facets of their relationship that are incredibly special.

Alchemy, defined by Merriam-Webster as “an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting,” is a clever way to describe the draw that Taylor feels towards her relationship. “So High School,” takes the listener back to an early 2000s rom-com movie, illustrating a rekindling of a youth-like feeling in Swift. In stark contrast to “So Long London” where she exclaims, “I’m pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free,” it is evident that Taylor feels some of that youth has been reignited in her newfound love. In an album saturated with loss, depression, and longing, it is refreshing to hear songs detailing her happiness. 

Upon a deeper dive into the lyrics, it became clear that these are some of the first love songs that she has written without anxiety. Taylor’s songs about relationships have often been plagued with extreme angst. A few songs including “Come Back, Be Here,” “Lover,” and “Peace,” reveal that underlying a seemingly unconditional love is torment and an endless stream of unanswered existential questions. “So High School” and “The Alchemy” mark a drastic transition. Through lyrics such as “tell me about the first time you saw me” and “but I’m coming back to where I belong,” Taylor expresses incredible confidence in her newfound love. 

As an album closer (for the first half of the album) “Clara Bow” brings home a powerful message. In chronological verses, Swift’s references to Clara Bow, Stevie Nicks, and herself represent the recyclable nature of the entertainment industry. Swift, in detailing the meaning behind this song, reminisces on her trips to record labels as a teenager seeking out record deals. She eloquently expresses the idea that women within the industry often receive the message that they can be the next “it” person while simultaneously being told that they are easily replaceable by someone bigger and better. Swift’s self reference in the same vein as past industry icons powerfully demonstrated her awareness of the magnitude of her greatness and impact – an incredibly special sentiment to close the album with. 

Some honorable mentions that we couldn’t leave out: The lines “I’m having his baby / No I’m not, but you should see your faces” in “But Daddy I Love Him” are possibly the most iconic way to break the fourth wall. Swift was crazy for that, and the reaction videos all over TikTok and YouTube are too hysterical.

Another line we did a double take at: “Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist.” Hot take, Taylor…but go off I guess. Another trend we are in love with are the TikTok edits of Post Malone dancing to “Guilty As Sin.” If you haven’t seen them, you need to go search it up right now–we promise you won’t regret it.

One final thing we noticed is the similarity in production style in many of the tracks to The 1975’s iconic sound. Taylor has done this before in tracks like “Dear John” with the iconic John Mayer wavering guitar, and she uses this trick again in TTPD. It seems Taylor’s long-lasting situationship with Matty Healy hurt just as much as her break-up with her very serious boyfriend, and isn’t that the most relatable thing in the world?

Overall, the TTPD was a rollercoaster of easter eggs, drama, production, and emotion. We cannot wait to spend more time with this album to further absorb these songs, and we are looking forward to whatever Taylor does next. Thanks for tuning in, and we’re sure we’ll be back for the next album!

I am currently a Graphic Design major at Texas Christian University. I love reading, making art, being outdoors, and Taylor Swift!
Vinisha Inaganti is a writer for the Her Campus chapter at TCU. She is a junior neuroscience major and enjoys writing about sports and culture in addition to science and its applications in the real world. Beyond Her Campus, Vinisha is an RA through Housing and Residence life at TCU, the treasurer of the John V. Roach honor's cabinet, a research assistant at the Institute of Behavioral Research, and most importantly the biggest horned frogs football fan. In her free time Vinisha loves to listen to podcasts, go on long walks, watch football (both kinds), hang out with family and friends, travel, and most of all meet new people!