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A track-by-track review of Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department”

Taylor Swift walks across the 2024 Grammy’s stage to accept her 13th Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album for “Midnights.” With a mischievous smirk on her face, Swift starts to talk about her appreciation for her fans, and the people that listen to her music.

“I want to say thank you to the fans by telling you a secret that I’ve been keeping from you for the last two years,” Swift said, “which is that my brand new album comes out April 19th.”

“The Tortured Poets Department,” Swift’s longest title for an album yet, consists of 16 songs, every single one written by Swift. Swift collaborated with producers Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, both of whom she also worked on her previous works “folklore” and “evermore” with.

 

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Fortnight (featuring Post Malone)

Introducing the album as covering many different topics and aspects of Taylor’s life, this song’s synth pop sound is a perfect way to start the album. The subtle entrance of the chorus, and the flow of the melody afterwards, really helps bring this song to life.

 

The Tortured Poets Department

Questioning Taylor’s break up with the person she is writing about, this song asks things such as, “Who’s gonna love you like me?”

When I first listened to this song, I thought that it was okay and pretty mediocre. There was nothing special about it and no reason for me to come back and listen to it again. I guess at first, I just felt as if the production and the drums were just very simple.

 However, as the weeks have gone by, I have found myself singing lyrics from this song over and over again. Although not my most favorite song on this project, “The Tortured Poets Department,” in my opinion, is probably one of the most memorable. Since the release of the album, I have grown to admire this song and have fallen in love with the work.

 

My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys

This is another one of the songs on this album that grew on me. At first I thought that this song was very simple, but I have grown to see it for what it is, and the song is magnificent.

Everything about this track, from the melody to the unnoticeable flow of the verses into the chorus, is so wonderfully put together. Swift says, “I’m queen of sand castles he destroys,” which reminds me of “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” when Swift also references castles in her song “New Romantics:” “‘Cause baby, I can build a castle out of all the bricks they threw at me.”

 

Down Bad

This song is one of my most favorite songs on this record. Its upbeat nature and chill vibe really help bring it together. Not only just the beat, I also love the lyrics of the song, as they represent letting go of what you can’t have any longer. How are we to move forward with our life if we continue to hold onto things from the past?

 

So Long, London

Swift has a tradition of putting her most emotional and heartfelt songs from an album as track 5. “So Long, London” is truly a masterpiece. The song starts off with a vocal arrangement that sounds like church bells, but soon, a fast paced synth beat is heard, and the song transforms.

On track 5, Swift is reminiscing on her time in London, symbolizing the six years she was dating Joe Alwyn, who is British. She talks about leaving London, a place she’s loved for so long.

Swift’s seventh studio album, “Lover,” features the song “London Boy,” which was also written about Alwyn. I think it’s interesting to see how much her feelings and sentiments have changed as the years have gone by, and how Alwyn’s departure has left Taylor feeling.

 

But Daddy I Love Him

This song was a shocker to say the least. It’s not every day Swift says that she loves a man so much that she wants to have his babies (yeah, SHOCKER!), so when I heard that lyric, my jaw dropped to the floor. 

However, I’m left to wonder who this song was written about, as I, and the Swifties, still haven’t really been able to decipher who Swift had in mind while singing.

 

Fresh Out The Slammer

This track is a very brand new production style for Swift. I have never heard Taylor sing the way she sang on this track and it was almost as if she was rapping.

On this song, Swift talks about being fresh out of jail, and how the first person she’s running to is her “pretty baby,” the person she is singing about. Midway through, the song completely changes, with the production and the tempo being totally different than the first half of the track. The switch-up is like a gust of fresh wind, and helps move the song along.

 

Florida!!! (featuring Florence & The Machine)

Another one of my top songs from this album, this track brings out yet another new style of production for Swift. The song remains peaceful and quiet throughout, with the lyrics and melodies of Swift’s singing creating a dark and mysterious atmosphere. Suddenly, drums and cymbals play out seven beats (each beat standing for each letter in the title), as Swift yells, “Florida!!!”

By the end of the song, the production has picked up tremendously. Swift and Florence now sing in a call and response style, and they ask to be taken back to Florida, where they can bury all of their problems and be free.

 

Guilty As Sin?

My all time favorite song on this album, track nine truly speaks to the soul. Everything about this song, from the production to the drums and from the guitar to Swift’s voice, is wonderful. I play this song every day, and each day, I fall more in love with it. 

This song talks about wanting a person you clearly cannot have, so you naturally make up scenarios of them in your mind. Swift questions her sanity and asks, “Without ever touching his skin, how can I be guilty as sin?”

 

Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me

The album takes on a wholly different feel when this song starts to play. From the very first moment I heard this song, I felt as if I was watching the climax of a movie, and this song was the soundtrack playing in the background.

On track 10, Swift’s anger and wrath is felt throughout as she tells the person she’s singing to that they have no control over her, and that they “don’t get to tell her about sad.” Swift also states that “everything is not about her,” but then asks, “but what if it is?”

I think one of my favorite parts of this album is how many different elements of Swift’s life it covers. All of the songs are not about the same person, however, they all contain emotions and feelings that Swift has previously felt, and is currently feeling.

Listening to this song, I was already scared as to what was going on, however, I was genuinely concerned about Swift when she stated, “Who’s afraid of little old me? Well, you should be.”

 

I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)

The title of this song speaks for itself. The song is about the world’s disapproval of Swift’s man, the person she loves, who is clearly known for doing some bad things, and in which, she is reassuring the world that she can truly fix him.

This song is one of my least favorite songs on the record, and sounds as if it lacks some of the finesse that many of the other songs on the album have. I guess the production on this song is pretty different from the other songs, so I just wasn’t ready to hear something like it.

 

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Swift has a smart play on words when she changes the meaning of the abbreviation from “love of my life,” to “loss of my life,” as she looks back on her love life. Swift speaks to her past lover and all of the broken promises left in their departure.

 

I Can Do It With A Broken Heart

A complete bop and party anthem, this song speaks on Swift’s record-breaking “The Eras Tour,” and talks about having to perform for thousands of people, while also having to deal with a break up and mental health issues, along with creating multiple albums to put on. Swift proudly states, “I cry a lot but I am so productive, it’s an art.”

Personally, I love this song for its optimism and fun tone. The song exudes confidence, and is a great track to listen to when you’re feeling down.

 

The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived

This song was honestly another shocker to listen to. On this song, Swift says, “You didn’t measure up in any measure of a man… could someone give a message to the smallest man who ever lived?”

Reading those lyrics, it is very obvious that Swift is angry and unforgiving, asking if the person she is singing about was sent by someone who wanted her dead. Though she may be over this person and all of their wrongdoings, it is very clear that Swift will never forgive them for all the bad things they did.

 

The Alchemy

One of the first ones about Swift and boyfriend Travis Kelce’s relationship, this song speaks about going along with the flow, and not fighting the alchemy. Swift recalls football games and watching Kelce play, and celebrating his wins at parties afterwards.

Swift talks about winning football games, and how instead of searching for the trophy, Kelce comes running to her.

Though low on my list of favorites, “The Alchemy” is still a great song, and a song I often find myself going back to.

 

Clara Bow

An actress who rose to fame during the Roaring 20’s, Clara Bow, was a popular celebrity during the “Silent Film Era.” Later in her career, she worked in a movie called “The It Girl,” from which she became the original “It Girl.”

Swift talks about the industry, and how rising stars are often compared to bigger celebrities. Swift also references Stevie Nicks, a person she was told she looked like when she was first getting started with her career.

The song, and the album, ends with Swift referencing herself: “You look like Taylor Swift. In this light, we’re loving it.” She also states that the future looks bright and dazzling, with all of the new superstars rising to fame.

 

A well-balanced and greatly constructed body of work, “The Tortured Poets Department” is an amazing album that takes us through all of the ups and downs and goods and bads of Swift’s life after her breakup with Alwyn, while also perfecting incorporating elements of Swift’s life now, dating Kelce.

The album is very much autobiographical, but I love the fact that this doesn’t stop people from listening to the album, and enjoying all of the songs on it, even if you don’t know what the songs are written about. From the day of its release on April 19, it has broken, and continues to break, numerous records. I give this album a 9/10 stars.

 

Sophomore Karan Singh poses with “the Manuscript” vinyl variant of “The Tortured Poets Department.” The record, Taylor Swift’s eleventh studio album, came out on April 19. (Photo by Harvir Singh)

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About the Contributor
Karan Singh
Karan Singh, business manager
Karan Singh is a sophomore at Loudoun County High School. This is his first year working for The County Chronicle. Karan likes writing investigative reports and articles that expose secrets. Outside of school, Karan likes listening to music, reading, writing, hanging out with friends, and talking.

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