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Quill pens write best in blood: Taylor Swift's 'THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT' will decode you

By Sophia Oppedisano 

Editorial Staff

I hereby call this meeting of the Tortured Poets Department to order with a summary of my findings. 

On April 19 the public sphere had its magnifying glass trained on pop starlet Taylor Swift’s 11th LP release - “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT.” 

After a surprise announcement at the Grammys Feb. 4, Swift teased the release of the album with sultry black and white photos and scrawled out lyrics including the album's tagline - “All's fair in love and poetry.”

Fans were left to wonder what corner of Swift’s sonic multiverse she would usher us into after her 2022 LP release “Midnights,” a synth-pop collection of songs that portray a fitful Swift as she teeters on the edges of her nightmares.

If “Midnights” served as the edge of the pool that became “Tortured Poets,” then Swift has chosen to dive deep into her cathartic, anguished, and most confessional songwriting to date.

This album is a mosaic of dream-like reflections of failed relationships and an angry diary entry about the isolation of heartbreak told in terms of the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

Swift spirals in denial in tracks like “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys” and “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)” as she describes being used by needy men.

In “My Boy,” Swift becomes an abused doll in a flailing romance. “Put me back on my shelf/ but first - pull the string/ and I’ll tell you that he runs/ because he loves me,” she urges.

To counter the desperation of “My Boy,” “I Can Fix Him” is denial in delusion as we step into an aural saloon in which Swift holds court singing about a man whose jokes “told across the bar/ were revolting and far too loud.” 

“Trust me,” she says, vocals dropping low as if she’s telling us a secret, “I can handle me a dangerous man.” 

Denial progresses to anger in “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived,” a quiet, introspective piano piece with building production where Swift seems to have been pushed to a breaking point, assaulting a lover with questions like “Were you sent by someone who wanted me dead?”

Swift, known for her bridges, might have truly outdone herself here as her emotion comes out in churning anguish as she sings “I would’ve died for your sins/ instead I just died inside.” 

The song listens like the angry email you never sent to that one tragic ex-boyfriend.

“Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” seethes revenge from between its teeth as she tells us a seemingly autobiographical tale about a “fearsome” and “wretched” woman. 

Bargaining lies in the album's titular track “TTPD,” another question-laden track where Swift asks “who’s gonna know you like me?” The answer is of course, “nof---inbody.”

Depression rears its head in “loml,” “Down Bad,” and both of the albums features, “Fortnight” featuring Post Malone, and “Florida!!!” featuring Florence + The Machine. 

“Florida!!!” is an ethereal masterpiece as pop mastress Florence Welch beautifully complements Swift’s vocals, and Post Malone, who Swift dubbed the “tortured hero of the department” calmly counteracts Swift’s staccato on “Fortnight.”

Finally, Swift reaches acceptance in her most melancholy track, “So Long, London” the antithesis to “King of My Heart,” a swelling love song off her album “reputation.” 

Swift weaves the tale of a failing relationship that she alone carried the weight of - “Just how low did you think I’d go/ before I’d self implode/ before I’d have to go be free?” 

“TTPD” is a confession from Swift, an honest and messy confrontation that cuts deep into the heart of anyone who knows heartbreak.

Gone are the days of whimsy and romance we saw in works like “Love Story” or “Teardrops On My Guitar.” 

Listening to this album feels like you are the one on the other side of the conversation - you are the one who will bear the weight of her testimony. 

The details of Swift’s misery are all laid out for the listener with undeniable clarity in an album that is entirely her own and soaked in blood. 

I hereby call this meeting to a close. 

Rating: A

This album is one hell of a drug


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