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An Official Guide To The Lore Behind Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets 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 UCSB chapter.

Taylor Swift released her newest album, The Tortured Poets Department on April 19 and fans seem to be divided on the verdict: is it a good or a mid album? This Swiftie believes it is a different concept than the rest of Swift’s discography which is what is causing the rift among fans. While I personally am growing to be a big fan of the album, it seems that the only thing that is bringing Swifties together is uncovering the mountains of lore behind the album. I am a strong believer that all of Swift’s albums are so much more fun when you apply them to your own life, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little fun unpacking the lore.

It’s joever, thank you Joe Alwyn for Your service.

After Swift announced her new album the Grammy’s, the speculation about who it would be about began. Many fans, including myself, believed the subject of “Tortured Poets Department” would be Alwyn — Swift’s partner for six years — after the two ended their relationship last April. We weren’t wrong, but interestingly there were fewer songs that can be traced back to him than what was expected. The most obvious track — the track 5 — being “So Long, London.” After all, Alwyn has always been more well known for being Swift’s “London Boy” than for his acting career. I couldn’t even find a picture of him in the Her Campus gallery!

From my research, “loml,” “The Black Dog,” “How Did It End?,” “I Look in People’s Windows,” “The Prophecy,” and “Peter” are also about him. Aside from being some of the more heart wrenching songs on the album, these tracks also seem to prove the cheating rumors that have been circulating ever since the break-up. It truly is a tragic ending to the six year relationship many Swifties were rooting for. “So Long, London,” it was fun while it lasted.

Taylor Swift and Matty Healy Have been together for longer than we thought.

How long has this been going on?” is exactly what Swifites were thinking after we listened to the album. The biggest take away from TTPD is that Swift and Healy have had an on-and-off relationship and the rest of us were none the wiser. Rumors of the two dating began surfacing last year in May, but “Fresh Out The Slammer” and other album parallels reveal that this situationship may be one of 10 years. There’s two pictures from 2014 that prove the two definitely had something going on. Either way, in the short time that the two were seen together last year, they wreaked havoc on Swift’s fandom. From mouthing secret messages to each other on stage to Healy joining Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julian Baker as openers for one Ears show, they truly had the fandom in a frenzy. Some even thought The 1975 would be featured on a 1989 vault track, but alas, that did not happen.

From what I can tell, “Tortured Poets Department,” “Down Bad,” “But Daddy I Love Him,” “Fresh Out The Slammer,” “Guilty as Sin?,” “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can),” “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived,” and “imgonnagetyouback” are all about Healy. Swift did a funny thing with some of the tracks by making them resemble the production of some of The 1975 songs and even parallel some of Healy’s own lyrics. Fans have even gathered that Healy’s hit song “About You” is indeed about Swift. I for one, am glad he is out of the picture because contrary to what Swift may think, no one can fix that man.

Welcome, Travis Kelce.

It seems that the Kansas Chiefs’ golden boy has made it onto Swift’s discography after less than a year of dating. With not one, but two songs — love songs at that — Kelce officially has more songs about him than Calvin Harris. “The Alchemy” and “So High School” are two of very few songs on TTPD that are seemingly happy, which has been good news after months of seeing Swift brokenhearted. Even if a little corny, the songs are actually really catchy and seem to match the vibes of Swift and Kelce’s relationship. Some have joked that “The Alchemy” is a better version of the TikTok A.I. generated song that goes “I’m so happy my Travy made it to the big game.” 

He jokes that it’s heroin, but this time with an ‘E’” in “The Alchemy” is quite clever once you realize she’s referring to her previous relationship with Healy. “So High School” is a personal favorite, even with the Grand Theft Auto line. This couple could be endgame, and I for one, am rooting for them.

Kim Kardashian or Karlie Kloss? The world may never know.

Immediately after Swift dropped the second album two hours after the original release, fans were quick to notice the wonky capitalization of “thanK you aIMee.” There is only one Kim is the Taylor Swift universe who the song could be referencing: Kim Kardashian. “And one day, you kid comes singin’/ A song that only us two is gonna know is about you” is a jab at North West being a Swiftie despite her mom’s history with Swift. But, what if I told you Kim is a red herring for Karlie Kloss?

Now, unless you’re deep into the Swift lore, you may be wondering what Kloss has to do with Swift. Aside from being one of Swift’s closest friends circa 2012, Kloss has also been rumored to have helped Scooter Braun buy Swift’s original masters. It’s a friendship, maybe more than that, that had a brutal fall out in 2018 and no one is quite sure what went down between the two. It’s not new news that the two have “Bad Blood” after Kloss was spotted at the Eras Tour in LA, sitting in the general audience without VIP access. If “thanK you aIMee” was about Kloss then that would explain the line, “So I changed your name and any real defining clues” a little better. After all, “thanK you aIMee” is not all that subtle. 

As if to rub salt in the wound, Kardashian posted a selfie of her and Kloss together to Instagram after the release of the album. “thanK you aIMee” could be a red herring or a double meaning, but one thing I know for sure is that Andrea Swift had every right to want both Kim and Karlie dead after the way they treated her daughter.

Did the Eras Tour help Taylor Swift through her break-up?

During the early shows of Swift’s Eras Tour, many noticed that she not only looked really sad while playing “champagne problems” and “tolerate it,” but also during “Lover.” Once the news broke about her break-up with Alwyn, it suddenly made sense why she was continuously tearing up during her performances. The release of “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart” provides even more clarity into the situation and has led to many fans on TikTok expressing guilt for having attended those early shows. With lyrics like “All the pieces of me shattered as the crowd was chanting, “More” and Antonoff shouting Swift’s stage cues in the background, ICDIWABH reveals that while most people were having the time of their lives at the Eras Tour, Swift was actually dying on the inside.

On Amazon Music, Swift released short voice memos about the meaning behind some of the songs, including “Florida!!!(feat. Florence + The Machine).” She claims to have been inspired by true crime and the need to reinvent yourself after committing a crime. Swift also relates it to breakups, “I think when you go through a heartbreak, there’s a part of you that thinks ‘I want a new name. I want a new life. I don’t want anyone to know where I’ve been or know me at all.’” So, Swift wrote a song about escaping to avoid major life problems. And where was Swift’s first Eras show after her breakup? Florida!

While it may have been difficult to sing songs that may have been written about Alwyn on tour, in the end Swift was surrounded by thousands of people that were cheering for her. She did have to do it with a broken heart, but I think her tour and fans also helped heal that broken heart.

jake Gyllenhaal And John Mayer, It’s Not over.

Just when Mr. “All Too Well” and Mr. “Dear John” may have thought they might be in the clear and finally done with Swift, she releases “The Manuscript.” “In the age of him, she wished she was thirty” and “She thought about how he said since she was so wise beyond her years/ Everything had been above board” are two lines that reference the age gap Swift had when she was dating the two men. Having been 19 when dating 32 year-old Mayer and 20 when dating 29 year-old Gyllenhaal. Swift also highlights Gyllenhaal’s pretentiousness and fans have drawn parallels between some of the lines in “The Manuscript” to the “All Too Well” music video. Really, these men will never escape their history with Swift and who’s to say they don’t deserve it.

This is not all the lore behind TTPD, but unfortunately, I do have a word count. Besides, I’m sure more theories and connections will arise as more Swifties take the time to pick apart each and every song. Whether you love or hate the album, it’s undeniable that it is probably one of the more raw pieces of art Swift has shared with us.

Hey! I'm Kendra and I'm a first-year student at UCSB! I'm love journalism and enjoy writing about various topics including pop culture and entertainment. I especially love writing about Taylor Swift!