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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

The Tortured Poets Department is a Modern-Day Shakespearean Album

Kate McLaughlin

Swift married together the sounds and themes of “Folklore,” “Evermore,” and “Midnights” to give us a look into her mind, one that seems rather chaotic yet organized, sad yet happy, and relatable yet entirely unrelatable, all at the same time. There are parts of the album that made me wonder if she went into my brain to get inspiration; I imagine there will be a song that makes you feel the same. 

Taylor Swift published her most intimate, vulnerable, and honest diary entries in “The Tortured Poets Department.” It is not just one sound, one theme, or even one album; it is one hell of an experience from start to finish.  

Then, as if the 14-time winning Grammy artist wasn’t giving us enough, she announced that “The Tortured Poets Department” was a secret double album two hours after its initial release, ultimately leaving us with 31 new songs. 

Thirty. One. New. Songs.  

Being a Swifite is a full-time job, and I am employee of the year. 

Swift’s highly anticipated eleventh studio album was met on release night by over 300 million people streaming the new release in the first 12 hours. She entered her bravest and strongest album into the record and did not disappoint. By the end of the first week, Billboard reported that “The Tortured Poets Department” has been streamed more times in one week than any other album in history. 

Fans are speculating that it details the aftermath of her breakup with Joe Alwyn, her long-term boyfriend. Many believe it also includes songs about Matty Healy, her rebound boyfriend after she split from Alwyn, with references to fans, fame, and even Kim Kardashian, or aIMee, as she’s referred to on the album. 

Pour yourself a glass of wine, get a couple boxes of tissues, maybe a dictionary, and let’s become tortured poets together.  

The album-opener, Fortnight, is a collaboration with singer and rapper Post Malone. The song sets the tone for the album, both sonically and lyrically. The steady beat and pace of the song, paired with the back and forth between Swift and Malone singing “I love you, it’s ruining my life” seems to be a recurring theme in The Tortured Poets Department.  

Every Swiftie knows to be both excited and scared of whatever song is track five on an album, including my dad, who greeted me this weekend by saying, “talk about a track five!” Swift always makes this track her most honest, vulnerable, and usually the most devastating song on the album. This album is basically one album of track fives’s, and “So Long, London” may be the most track five song of all track five songs. 

“So Long, London” is believed to be a breakup song about Joe Alwyn, her English ex-boyfriend. She is saying goodbye to a place she called home for a long time, but more painfully, the person who made it that way. She details having a “white knuckle dying grip” in this relationship with someone who pushed her love away, even saying “I died on the altar waiting for the proof,” at the end of the song.  

Fans took note of a song called “thanK you aIMee,” which only capitalizes letters spelling out ‘Kim.’ In 2016, Kim Kardashian illegally recorded and edited a phone call making Swift look like a liar after Kanye West wrote a song claiming her fame and saying she owed him sex.  

Swift sings one of my own personal mantras: you do not need to forgive and forget, you can move on and never forget how someone made you feel. Despite that, she expresses gratitude for how she grew from her time in hiding after Kim Kardashian and Kanye West made the world turn on her. In songs like this, she reclaims her own experiences and livelihood that were wrongfully taken from her, and she does so in a poetic and entrepreneurial way. Swift is showing that she is loyal to herself; I hope you are, too. 

Upon first listen, I immediately took note of the cohesiveness of this album; historically, Swift has been criticized for a lack of that in earlier albums. Without sounding repetitive, Swift touches upon topics varying from fame to haters to growth to breakups to love. I somehow found myself dancing to lyrics like, “I might just die it would make no difference” and crying to lyrics like “I act like it’s my birthday every day.”  

Her catalog is sprawling, but still presents new sounds. Her usage of drums specifically mimics heartbeats in moments of anxiety, a feeling she seems to have gotten familiar with. Other drum progressions, like in “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” symbolize the pendulum of emotions humans encounter throughout their lives. Some moments have powerful beats, illustrating anger that then simmers down into sad bargaining.  

This album has been criticized for its length, but its beauty lies within it. Swift walks us through the 5 stages of grief, and then some, with this album. Even its length is symbolic of the never-ending emotions that can come from a breakup.  

I am in awe of the way Taylor Swift can communicate and compose in a way that resonates with hundreds of millions of people. To say her talent, grit, and love of her work is palpable is an understatement.  

The once in a lifetime talent that is Taylor Swift did not disappoint with “The Tortured Poets Department.” Her culmination of music, lyrics, and life is something special.  

Thank you, Dr. Taylor Swift, for blessing my ears with this album.  

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