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Ranking Every Song From The Tortured Poets Department

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

From the desk of Taylor Swift: The Tortured Poets Department was released on April 19, 2024, with 16 songs exploring Taylor’s gripes with fame, betrayal, and freedom from old hindrances. Two hours following the album’s release, Taylor surprise-released The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology, a double album with 15 more songs — arguably the best work of Taylor’s career. After sitting with the 31 tracks for a week, I’ve created a personal ranking with my utmost respect for Taylor — because there isn’t one bad song on the album.

31. “I Can Fix HIm (No Really I Can)”

This track describes the determined delusion of trying to fix a man others warn to be trouble. Best lyrics: “I’ll show you heaven if you’ll be an angel all night / Trust me, I can handle a dangerous man.”

30. “Fresh Out the Slammer”

Depicting the fleet to another after ending a long-term relationship, this track is an unlikely love letter to freedom. Best lyrics: “Now pretty baby, I’m running / To the house where you still wait up and that porch light gleams / To the one who says I’m the girl of his American dreams.”

29. “The Alchemy”

This song takes a more positive spin on finding freedom in love. This new love helps Taylor feel like herself again. Best lyrics: “Where’s the trophy? / He just comes running over to me.”

28. “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys”

With production reminiscent of reputation, this takes the cake for being the most fun song to sing along to and would make for an electric addition to The Eras tour. Best lyrics: “I felt more when we played pretend / Than with all the Kens / Cause he took me out of my box / Stole my tortured heart / Left all these broken parts / Told me I’m better off / But I’m not.”

27. “Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus”

This track recounts a series of betrayals and abandonments, with an ode to “Maroon” from Midnights. Best lyric: “So if I sell my apartment / And you have some kids with an internet starlet / Will that make your memory fade from this scarlet maroon?”

26. “thanK you aIMee”

This track is Taylor’s thank you to those who have wronged her because they allowed her to learn how to heal. Best lyrics: “Screamed, ‘Fuck you, Aimee’ to the night sky as the blood was gushing / But I can’t forget the way you made me heal.”

25. “The Albatross”

Taylor warns about her existence being dangerous on this track. Best lyric: “Devils that you know / Raise worse hell than a stranger / She’s the death you chose / You’re in terrible danger.”

24. “Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)”

This is an excellent choice for the album’s first track, especially for its outstandingly produced outro. Best lyric: “I took the miracle move-on drug, but the effects were temporary / And I love you, it’s ruining my life.”

23. “The Manuscript”

This song depicts the revisiting of an old wound that has healed since you last looked at it — Taylor likely wrote it about revisiting “All Too Well” for the making of its short film. Best lyrics: “In the age of him, she wished she was thirty / And made coffee every morning in a French press / Afterwards she only ate kids’ cereal / And couldn’t sleep unless it was in her mother’s bed.”

22. “I Look in People’s Windows”

Describing the desperation of searching the oddest places for the slim chance of seeing someone’s face one more time, this is one of Taylor’s most heartbreaking songs. Best lyrics: “I look in people’s windows / In case you’re at their table / What if your eyes looked up and met mine / One more time?”

21. “Cassandra”

Taylor compares herself to the Greek mythological priestess Cassandra, who has the gift of prophecy and the curse of having no believers. Best lyrics: “Blood’s thick but nothing like a payroll / Bet they never spared a prayer for my soul.”

20. “So High School”

Taylor dives into a soft rock sound with this track, which describes a love that transports you back to the butterflies and flying sparks of adolescence. Best lyrics: “I’ll drink what you think, and I’m high / From smoking your jokes all damn night / The brink of a wrinkle in time / Bittersweet sixteen suddenly.”

19. “The Tortured Poets Department”

Swifties wondered for weeks how Taylor would work this poetic title into a tune, and Taylor delivered—this is one of the catchiest songs on the album. Best lyrics: “I laughed in your face and said, / ‘You’re not Dylan Thomas, I’m not Patti Smith / This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel, we’re modern idiots.’”

18. “How Did It End?”

This song describes a relationship ending, seemingly from afar and out of your control. Best lyrics: “We learned the right steps to different dances / And fell victim to interlopers’ glances / Lost the game of chance, what are the chances?”

17. “I Hate It Here”

This song describes feeling out of place and craving escape, reminiscent of “the lakes” from folklore. Best lyrics: “I hate it here so I will go to lunar valleys in my mind / When they found a better planet, only the gentle survived.”

16. “imgonnagetyouback”

This track features one of the album’s best bridges, in both lyrics and production. Best lyrics: “Bygones will be bygone, eras fading into gray / We broke all the pieces, but still wanna play the game / Told my friends I hate you, but I love you just the same / Pick your poison, babe, I’m poison either way.”

15. “Guilty as Sin?”

This song is a production highlight with catchy lyrics that yearn for someone the world says you shouldn’t have. Best lyrics: “What if I roll the stone away? / They’re gonna crucify me anyway / What if the way you hold me is actually what’s holy?”

14. “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”

This is a humorous yet endearing track about pushing through everyday work despite heartbreak and using productivity to cope. Best lyrics: “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!’”

13. “The Bolter”

This track about a woman who knows when it’s time to leave a bad situation shows off Taylor’s outstanding storytelling ability. Best lyrics: “Ended with the slam of a door / Then he’ll call her a whore / Wish he wouldn’t be sore / But as she was leaving / It felt like breathing.”

12. “Robin”

This song — along with “Never Grow Up” and “seven” — proves that the most underrated feeling Taylor captures in her songwriting is childhood innocence and nostalgia. Best lyrics: “You have no idea / The time will arrive for the cruel and the mean / You’ll learn to bounce back just like your trampoline.”

11. “Peter”

Alluding to Peter Pan to describe waiting around for someone to grow up and love you, this song nods to “cardigan” from folklore. Best lyrics: “And you said you’d come and get me, but you were twenty-five / And the shelf-life of those fantasies has expired / Lost to the ‘Lost Boys’ chapter of your life.”

10. “loml”

This piano ballad got even more gut-wrenching when it was revealed that the title doesn’t stand for “love of my life” but “loss of my life.” Best lyrics: “You shit-talked me under the table / Talking rings and talking cradles / I wish I could un-recall / How we almost had it all.”

9. “Down Bad”

This track juxtaposes the “teenage petulance” of Taylor’s expression and the severity of her situation: abandonment. Best lyrics: “How dare you think it’s romantic / Leaving me safe and stranded / Cause fuck it, I was in love / So fuck you if I can’t have us.”

8. “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?”

This belongs in the category of Taylor Swift songs that have the storytelling of a feature-length film. Best lyrics: “I was tame, I was gentle ‘til the circus life made me mean / ‘Don’t you worry, folks, we took out all her teeth’ / Who’s afraid of little old me? Well, you should be.”

7. “Florida!!! (feat. Florence + The Machine)”

Taylor and collaborator Florence Welch stage themselves as criminals running away to Florida to escape their pasts. Best lyrics: “So I did my best to lay rest / All of the bodies that have ever been on my body / And in my mind, they sink into the swamp / Is that a bad thing to say in a song?”

6. “But Daddy I Love Him”

With lyrics and production that recall Fearless, this song stands out on the album for how Taylor humorously teases her audience that she’s “having his baby.” Best lyrics: “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 empath’s clothing.”

5. “Clara Bow”

Taylor comments on young women being sacrificed to the music industry, a concept she’s been exploring since “The Lucky One” on Red. Best lyrics: “You look like Taylor Swift in this light / We’re loving it / You’ve got edge, she never did / The future’s bright, dazzling.”

4. “So Long, London”

This song intertwines a city with loss, a concept revisited from “Cornelia Street” on Lover. Best lyrics: “You swore that you loved me, but where were the clues? / I died on the altar waiting for the proof / You sacrificed us to the gods of your bluest days / And I’m just getting color back in my face / I’m just mad as hell cause I loved this place for / So long, London.”

3. “The Prophecy”

If one song could be a thesis of Taylor’s entire discography, it would be this one, in which she pleads to change her fate in favor of love rather than money and fame. Best lyrics: “A greater woman has faith / But even statues crumble if they’re made to wait / I’m so afraid I sealed my fate / No sign of soulmates.”

2. “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”

This track showcases what Taylor does best: an unexpected bridge, hard-hitting in both lyrics and production. Best lyrics: “Cause it wasn’t sexy once it wasn’t forbidden / I would’ve died for your sins, instead I just died inside / And you deserve prison, but you won’t get time.”

1. “The Black Dog”

This hits all the marks of a classic breakup song: the gradual ascent from sadness to anger, the recounting of minuscule details, and the delusion of imagining them moving on. However, the breakup song label is severely underselling because what Taylor captures is more than heartbreak: it’s the insanity of pretending the relationship never happened at all. With a standout bridge and three different choruses that each pack a harder punch than the previous, “The Black Dog” is undoubtedly the best song on the album, if not in Taylor’s entire discography. Best lyrics: “Now I wanna sell my house / And set fire to all my clothes / And hire a priest to come and exorcise my demons / Even if I die screaming / And I hope you hear it.”

The best part of ranking an album as excellent as The Tortured Poets Department is knowing that no two fans could have an identical ranking; every song is a masterpiece in its own right. Taylor has yet again created a collection of songs that speak to every listener differently, and it’s what she does best: writing music that, although it was once about her life, now feels like it’s about ours.

Hanna is an English major at UCLA, from Los Angeles, California. She loves traveling, attending concerts, and writing about her favorite music.