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How to Start Listening to 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 Virginia Tech chapter.

Last Friday at midnight, Taylor Swift released her 11th studio album “The Tortured Poets Department,” her first brand new album since “Midnights” released in 2022. Being the lifelong Swiftie that I am, I stayed up until 1am to listen to all 16 songs on the album. I felt many emotions and those were enhanced when I found out it was a double album and she released “The Anthology” with 15 more songs at 2am that same night. The double album’s 31 tracks explore love, loss, historical figures and storytelling, feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness, and even a track referencing her longtime feud with Kim Kardashian. On this album she collaborates with Post Malone for the first single and music video for the opening track “Fortnight” and Florence + The Machine on “Florida!!!”

Some are critiquing the fact that there are no ‘certified bops’ on this album as it is more reflective of the lyricism or “folklore” and “evermore” than the poppiness of “Midnights.” However, longtime fans will grab their dictionaries and deep dive into her storytelling to attempt to figure out what events in her life any given song may be about. Originally, fans expected this to be a major breakup album, given that last April it was announced that Swift and long-term boyfriend Joe Alwyn split. However, there are few songs on this album that seem to be about Alwyn as more seem to be referencing “The 1975” frontman Matty Healy. Swift was associated with Healy in what seemed like a short-term fling following the announcement of her split from Alwyn, but after further review of lyrics and songs on this album, their relationship may have been more of a 10-year on-and-off situationship. There are also a few songs about Travis Kelce, Swift’s newest NFL beau. Overall, I am still learning all the lyrics and analyzing all the stories and determining my favorite songs. I always recommend listening to an entire album in order the first time, as that is the way intended by the artist. However, for those who have not yet listened to the album, here are six of my current favorites and suggestions on songs to start with. Unfortunately, there are too many amazing songs and I have decided I won’t be including any from “The Anthology” as I do not want to make this too long.

“Fortnight” feat. Post Malone

The opening song on the album and the album’s first—and currently only—single, is a great starting point for those just getting into “TTPD.” I would definitely recommend watching the music video as well. There is a lot of old-timey psych ward imagery in the video and gives it an eerie feel. “I love you it’s ruining my life” has been in my head on repeat for the last week. Post Malone also does a great job on the bridge and in the video and helps to enhance the song overall.

“But Daddy I Love Him”

When I saw this title on the tracklist, I immediately thought of the line from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” which was my favorite movie growing up. Ironically, this movie also came out in 1989, which is famously the year Taylor Swift was born. This song could be analyzed to be about Matty Healy or Travis Kelce. It is also one of the funnier songs where she breaks the fourth wall stating “I’m having his baby/no I’m not/but you should see your faces.” I can tell you that the first time I heard this, I reacted in the way she probably intended to have listeners react to that line. It is an upbeat fun song that also calls out people who judge her for her choices in men and feel the need to have a say in her personal life.

Halle Bailey as Ariel in the Little Mermaid
“Florida!!!” feat. Florence + The Machine

I have never really listened to Florence + The Machine but I have always thought Florence Welch’s voice was so beautiful and unique. I was excited to hear how her and Taylor’s voices would mesh when I saw she was a collaborator on this song. “Florida!!!” is a track that is reminiscent of “no body no crime” feat. HAIM off of “evermore” as the lyrics mention escaping their homes to Florida for mentally committing a crime against ex lovers. The chorus is one that makes you wanna stomp around. I have nothing else to say other than I am obsessed with this song at the moment.

“Guilty as Sin”

One of the only ‘ovulation songs’—a category created by fans to explain her more sexually charged tracks—on this album. Think “False God,” “Dress,” “Maroon,” etc. The key change in the chorus after the bridge is something I wanna scream at the top of my lungs. In this song she fantasizes about someone who she has never actually touched. This song is also starting a TikTok trend for individuals to get their partners to write ‘mine’ so they can get it tattooed as “what if he’s written mine on my upper thigh only in my mind” is a lyric in the song. Definitely one of my favorites on the album right now.

“The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”

Fans love a Taylor Swift bridge as they are often the catchiest or most heart-wrenching parts of her songs. This song, likely about Matty Healy, contains arguably one of Swift’s best bridges. You can feel the emotion in her voice throughout the whole song with just a simple piano in the background. When you get to the bridge, however, the emotion is amplified and you can tell she maybe got closer to the mic and wants everyone to know how she really feels. It makes you wonder what happened but is also relatable for many listeners.

“The Alchemy”

A cute “High School Musical”-esque song—and yes you should also listen to “So High School” from “The Anthology”—about her new love with football player Travis Kelce. The bridge even describes the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl this year where Taylor was in attendance. This song makes me think of a cute romance novel where you read about the popstar and her athlete boyfriend and how they have essentially won at life through winning in sports, music stats, and love. This song always has me giggling and kicking my feet.

Overall, I am still falling in love with this album and learning all of the songs every day. My favorite songs will likely change but after one week, I feel this album keeps growing on me. I am loving it and cannot stop listening to it. Tay Tay has done it again. Go stream “The Tortured Poets Department” wherever you get your music.

Grace Schillmaier

Virginia Tech '24

Grace is super excited to be a Senior Editor for HerCampus at Virginia Tech! Grace is a senior with a double major in Criminology and Psychology. She is from Northern VA and in her free time she enjoys drinking coffee, listening to Taylor Swift, reading, and hanging out with friends.