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So Tortured, So Poetic — ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ Album Review

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 UGA chapter.

Taylor Swift’s latest studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, was released last Friday, April 19, and as always, I have thoughts. As a Taylor Swift fan, I would like to say that this review isn’t going to speculate what songs are about who. That is not the purpose of music once it’s out in the world; rather it’s about how it made me feel. And this album was exactly what I needed when I needed it. I needed the sadness, and I needed the rage, and I needed something raw.

If The Tortured Poets Department could be described in one word, it would be raw. It is the most honest and open we’ve seen Taylor in a while, writing what she wanted to as she felt it and publishing it, which is what made the album so incredible to me. Lines like “I love you, it’s ruining my life,” and “I’m so depressed I act like it’s my birthday every day,” are lines I never thought I’d hear Swift singing about, but hearing it felt like closure. The album along with the anthology represents a strong arc, with the first album being more synth-pop and produced largely by Jack Antonoff and the anthology being produced largely by Aaron Dessner and having a more mellow/indie sound. It provides a little something for all of the Taylor Swift fans. Both Dessner and Antonoff do wonderful jobs making callbacks to her older works via the production, emphasizing the introspective feels of the album. 

The album’s story is also well thought out. The motif of leaving a dead relationship like stopping CPR and leaving jail was well executed. Her analogies to the romanticism era and how this related to the feelings of depression, mania, hurt, and anger she was feeling at the time were impactful. The single “Fortnight,” set the tone for the album perfectly, reflecting on her leaving her old relationship and entering a tumultuous new one, only to realize that it wasn’t the savior she thought it would be. She hits the first peak of the album with “So Long London,” reflecting on the slow and eventual demise of a relationship. The song is retrospective on how no one was necessarily to blame and angry at the fact that she spent years on something that never was meant to be. The final track on the main album, “Clara Bow” is an uplifting number about the culture of “it-girls” and how she advises a younger artist, perhaps a younger version of herself, that there are brighter days again. The anthology has an independent story, beginning with the  motif that “old habits die screaming,” with heartbroken anger on “The Black Dog.” We see Swift coming to terms with the bullies of her past in “thanK you aIMee,” and her begging for another chance at a final, true love in “The Prophecy.” The album’s final track, “The Manuscript,” reflects Taylor’s life and past, and this idea that her music and life stories go out into the world and turn into something else, a strong theme of the era. Swift herself emphasized this in her album prologue, discussing how this was a very emotional and charged time in her life, and the cathartic process helped her get past the very events she sings about, sending a message to her fans to not send hate on her behalf. 

The Tortured Poets Department sees Taylor at her most mature because it sees her at her most heartbroken and enraged. Through letting out any pettiness and repressed feelings, we see her gain a new perspective and a stronger understanding of her world. The album is a cathartic listening process, but it isn’t going to be for everyone. Because it sees Taylor at her most unfiltered, it isn’t necessarily her most relatable album, and that’s ok. For me, the album is what I needed when I needed it, which is why I enjoy it so much. So much new music has come out, from Cowboy Carter to Eternal Sunshine, and while all of those were excellent masterpieces in their own right, none have hit me as strongly as this one. The Tortured Poets Department gets a perfect from me.

Rating: 10/10

Medhini is a first year student at UGA, majoring in Cell Biology, on the premed track, and minoring in the Classics. She listens to Taylor Swift 24/7, and loves to read. Follow her bookstagram @storyofusmedsversion!