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Album Review: The Tortured Poets Department.

From the mind of a Swifite
Natalia Martinez
“The Tortured Poet Department: The Manuscript” official CD.

With the recent release of Taylor Swifts 11 studio album and her well known Easter egg drops, I will be taking a dive into dissecting the original 16 songs placed on ‘The Tortured Poets Department. This album theme is going with the five stages of grief, as fans speculated that it is a psychological therapy.

After dropping her album announcement at the Grammy’s in Feb., fans had speculated what each of the songs backgrounds might mean. This new album was speculated to be about her semi-recent break-up with Joe Alwyn, who she dated for almost over six years.  In an interview with Variety (2022), Joe Alwyn along with Paul Mescal stated they had a WhatsApp group chat called “the Tortured Man Club” which had Swifites (Taylor Swift Fans) wondering if that was the inspiration for the album name.

But many fans did not expect for the album to include songs about her summer fling with lead singer of the 1975 band, Matty Healy. Even when she announced that she began writing this album in 2022 and continued it throughout the tour. Which connected to the timeline for it to be about Joe Awlyn, Matty Healy, and her current boyfriend Travis Kelce.

Below is a comment sheet of the 16 original songs:

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Fortnight  (ft. Post Malone) – Associated writers: Jack Antonoff  & Austin Post

  • The song starts with a synth sort of background music. It was a sort of jump scare since I wasn’t expecting it but it blended in with the lyrics very nicely. Giving a Lana Del Ray moment through her vocals. Once the song hits the second verse is where Post Malone’s voice comes in, it definitely was more of a sprinkle of him rather than what a normal feature has. It compares to Lana’s feature in “Snow on the Beach” from the midnights album. For a 3:48 minute long song it gives heartbreak summer vibes.

The Tortured Poets Department –  Associated writer: Jack Antonoff

  • An almost five minute song it dives into the typewriter influence of Taylor’s promotion. Definitely giving breakup but healing as she starts the story as spiteful stating that no one is gonna know, hold, or decode, the person she’s speaking about, the way she does. Even stating that they are not like the famous writers Dylan Thomas and Patti Smith, which could connect to how said partner was also a singer-songwriter. She gives a fun mention about Charlie Puth, mainly how he “should be a bigger artist”. Swifites have deferred this song from Joe Alwyn into Matty Healy.

My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys

  • With a 3:24 timestamp the third song on the album is a comparison of Taylor being like a doll that was bought by “her boy”. Mainly speaking about the troubled times she went through in a delusional beginning. Talking about how she is the queen of the certain placed that were then torn down but she does move into stating that she will be missed once she’s put back together again. The most heartbreaking lyric that I heard was in the outro she states “He was my best friend at the sandlot, I felt more when we played pretend”, basically saying that although she felt as if they were best friends, she never felt anything when they were being real with each other.

Down Bad – Associated writer: Jack Antonoff

  • Beginning with a sort of guitar-riff the 4:21 long song starts in an outer space theme with the first lyric being “Did you really beam me up in a cloud of sparkling dust just to do experiments on?” The chorus of the song sticks to a feeling of loss without being able to get back up as Taylor talks about how if she didn’t have him it could be compared to her not getting up and staying, almost in the depression stage of grief. One of the lines that really hit a nerve is throughout the bridge she makes a dramatic pause before she continues the line “How dare you say that it’s…” and then never continues the lyric.

So Long, London – Associated writer: Aaron Dessner

  • Joe Alwyn is known for being a British actor born in London, England. Along with that in Taylors seventh studio album, Lover, she has a song entitled “London Boy” specifically about how loving someone from London can make a girl feel. Starting with the sound of wedding church bells, even sort of the walk down the aisle song and it moves into a sort of similar sound of the song “Call It What You Want” from her album reputation which is a love song dedicated to Joe. Hitting the listener with a parallel to the “You’re Losing Me”, from Midnights, heartbeat when she speaks about the fact that she stopped CPR. As well as the sad song reference as it was publicly known that the couple were avid listeners of sad songs together. I do have to say that the bridge of the song hits the heart as she starts it with “You swore that you loved me, but where were the clues? I died on the altar waiting for the proof” referring to the years she spent with Joe waiting on a proposal. She ends the song with “You’ll find someone” which I’m assuming is a small pep talk to herself.

But Daddy I Love Him – Associated writer: Aaron Dessner

  • Swifites have related this song to the iconic “Little Mermaid” scene where Ariel bursts out in a fight with her father yelling “But daddy I love him” as she speaks about Prince Eric. Especially since the famous singer dressed up as the mermaid in 2019 at a New Years Party where she was spotted with Alwyn. Even with that speculation Taylor changes the theme and goes in the opposite of what many thought it was going to go. With the lines “Screaming, ‘But Daddy, I love him! I’m having his baby'” it was a shocking factor and then she hits you with the “No, I’m not, but you should see your faces”, breaking the fourth wall and sort of making fun of those who try to get in her business before she decides to reveal her truth. The song was more of a song for those who won’t leaver her alone but also a love dedication and defense to Travis Kelce, her current boyfriend.

Fresh Out the Slammer – Associated writer: Jack Antonoff

  • It does start with a wild west theme song as the first beats of the song and uses the concepts of letters. This song seems like a sort of play by play of her relationship after Joe, aka Matty Healy. Mainly about how they reconnected after the big split. Referenced made to feeling trapped in the relationship with the lyrics “Handcuffed to the spell I was under / Years of labor, locks and ceilings” and the moving onto the rekindled flame from Matty Healy as they first got together in 2014. Stating “Now, pretty baby, I’m runnin’ back home to you” as the first lyric proves this more.

Florida!!! (ft. Florence + the Machine) – Associated writer: Florence Welch

  • This is honestly one of my favorite, if not my favorite song as it’s a tribute to reinventing oneself. Taylor talks about the journey it takes to do that in someplace new while also burying the hatchets that have been weighing one down. Theories have been made that this song was written in-between the Texas and Florida Eras Tour shows. Taylor talks about her meanings of home, mainly about how “Home is town you’re just a guest in” since celebrities are known to be everywhere but home. Around a minute into the song Florence comes in the blend from their voices scratches and itch in my ear but in a good way. The tempo and overall beat of this songs is definitely different from the previous songs, it’s more upbeat and moving.  Taylor has admitted that the inspiration came from watching true crime shows and noticing that the criminals often flee to Florida to forget what had happened in the past.

Guilty as Sin? – Associated writer: Jack Antonoff

  • It gives off the same sort of vibe as her other songs; “False God”, “Dress”, and “Illicit Affairs” from the albums Lover, Reputation, and Folklore in the sense that it’s about fantasizing for someone that has you questioning if it will or if it ever did happen. It’s a good song to listen for when one is going through a delusion state or a situationship. Taylor does include a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus as she states “What if I roll the stone away?/They’re gonna crucify me anyway” to prove that no matter what she does it will still be seen as bad. Along with that she says “I choose you and me religiously” as a way to say that the partner she is imagining has her entire belief that it will work out. This song is one of the saddest but emotionally strong on the album.

Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?

  • A dedication to the public-eye that has been on her since she was 15 and released Fearless. Carrying the snarky and empowerment energy of the Reputation album this song begins to reflect on how the spotlight had hardened her as she was raised with the fame. Specifically referring to the lyric “I was tame, I was gentle ‘til the circus life made me mean”, while also saying that the critics could not walk a mile in her shoes “You wouldn’t last an hour in the asylum where they raised me”. The comparisons Taylor has made to certain aspects of her life showcases how self-aware she is about her life even in her own music.

I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can) – Associated writer: Jack Antonoff

  • This song is about Matty Healy. It’s not proven to be but the amount of references made about their relationship specifically since the public was all against them since they are plucked from different sides of life. Acknowledging Healy’s cigarette habits, controversial humor, and the specific reference to his six-string guitar skills. The publics dislike towards their relationship in 2023 is showcased in the lyrics “They shake their heads sayin’, “God, help her” / When I tell ’em he’s my man” as headlines flooded about her choice in that relationship being incorrect. The last lyric of the song does state that she admits this defeat with the lyric “Woah, maybe I can’t” reluctantly being that the she could not in fact fix him.

loml – Associated writer: Aaron Dessner

  • A continuous heart-wrenching 4:18 minute song. The acronym “loml” is commonly known to represent “Love of my life” however, Taylor takes the stereotypical remark into a different perspective with the change of “love” to “loss” in the outro. Evidently she never really states “love of my life” but rather states “love of YOUR life” with the only time she does reference the acronym is with the use of “loss of my life”. Inferred that she wrote about Joe Alwyn with the lyrics “‘We were just kids, babe’ / I said I don’t mind, it takes time'” as it references that they were never engaged but were together for a long time. Along with that the use of all lowercase emphasizes a somber tone through the lack of excitement. As well as the reference to her album Lover with the song entitled “Lover” publicly being about Joe Alwyn. This is one of the instrumental piano sounds that gives an acoustic sound change from the song before and after it. When the song ends and the piano stops with the last lyric, it showcases her pain stopping and leaves the listener with a melancholy feeling.

I Can Do It With A Broken Heart – Associated writer: Jack Antonoff

  • Being on one of if not the biggest tour of your life while recently being broken up with the partner you were with for six years is such a power move for her. Even more the song includes the backtrack artists listen to while they are performing on the stage as the background chorus is “(One, two, three, four)”. Proving that she could do everything and more while pushing through to provide the best for her fans. Empowering herself and her fans to keep going in their work while personal lives are a mess while also making sure that although she is famous, the fame does not shield her from the experiences of life but rather it enhances it. My favorite like hit to the haters that she says is the last little whisper she says “Ah, try and come for my job” as the song is ending.

The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived – Associated writer: Aaron Dessner

  • Trending on TikTok, this song is connected to the thought of dating a someone who pulled down one’s reputation for their benefits. Taylor talks about the certain someone “rusting” her “sparkling summer” as if it was their goal. As well as the following lines stating “And I don’t miss what we had, but could someone give / a message to the smallest man who ever lived” not only connecting to the title but also talking about how the relationship was a one and only experience. Insultingly the song insinuates that the partner was sabotaging the relationship since the beginning.

The Alchemy – Associated writer: Jack Antonoff

  • The canon love song that also has football references galore. A story about love that was unexpected but works like it was chemically enhanced into gold, referencing the ancient quests to find the philosopher’s stone who would turn any substance into gold aka the alchemy. Taylor references the 2024 superbowl in the bridge with the lines “Where’s the trophy? / He just comes running over to me / Touchdown!” as it was noticed by fans that once the field was flooded, Travis had been looking for Taylor. This song takes a dive into their coveted relationship that swifites have been dying to know more about.

Clara Bow – Associated writers Aaron Dessner

  • Named after the famous silent movie actress, Taylor wrote this as commentary of what she has seen happened in the industry over times. Specifically about how when she was being signed for record labels they would compare her to some other singer, point of their flaws, and then state how she was so much better. She references Clara Bow in first verse of the song with the lyrics “You look like Clara Bow / In this light, remarkable / All your life, did you know / You’d be picked like a rose?”, she also references Stevie Nicks in verse two and herself in the outro. Showcasing that she did make it big although their were doubts about it earlier in her career. Her outro, where she references herself, is a sort of thank you to the future generations of artist whos careers are booming off. Swifites believe it was written with the thought of current name artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Sabrina Carpenter, and Gracie Abrams who have all stated that Taylor has been who they have looked up to since they were little. 

Taylor also released four different variants including “The Manuscript”, “The Bolter”, “The Albatross” and “The Black Dog” with each variant only including one of them.Along with the original release Taylor dropped a 2 a.m. (1 a.m. for us due to time difference) surprise with 15 additional songs. Naming that deluxe album to be “The Tortured Poets Department: The Arthrology” with it having a grand total of 31, making it a two hour and two minute album.

Overall this album has definitely been on my top list ever since it was released along with the deluxe edition. If you are into the moody, synth, and sort of pushing through even the hard times kind of music this album is for you. The merch for the album is a different thing. Although the jewelry that was released is really cute and trending, the official cardigan that was released does disappoint especially for 70 dollars. Clothing merch is fit for a certain taste and is alike the normal album merch artists have been releasing recently and most of it is already sold out. As a CD collector spending $12.99 for her CD was definitely worth it along with the vinyl for those who collect. Other than that most main streaming platforms already have the album out for poeple to listen to under their subscriptions.

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About the Contributor
Natalia Martinez
Natalia Martinez, Web Editor
Hey Coogs :) I’m Natalia and this is my third year on staff. I am a Senior and plan to major in Journalism for college. Along with newspaper, I am in the Tomball Cougar Pride Band as a member of the drumline!