The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Review | Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ aligns love, poetry (Part 1)

Photo Courtesy of Genius
The official album cover for Taylor Swift’s latest album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” released on April 19.

Fairness was clear in both love and in poetry. Taylor Swift’s new album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” mixes regret, warmth and a bittersweet nostalgia for what could have been in her 16-song slew of heartbreak. 

In an Instagram post on Feb. 4, Swift announced the release of the album. Swift, who is currently changing the world’s economy with her top-grossing Eras Tour, included 16 songs on the main album and four bonus tracks — the latter of which are currently publicly unreleased. 

Features on the album include Post Malone for track 1 “Fortnight” and Florence + The Machine on track 8 “Florida!!!” Swift hasn’t featured either artist on her discography prior. A music video for “Fortnight” is the only one Swift teased so far; it will be released Friday evening.

Many speculate that TTPD was written about Swift’s long-time ex-lover, Joe Alwyn. The couple was together for six years before splitting this time last year, and the title of the album supposedly mirrors a group chat Alwyn is in. 

However, the album — like the rest of Swift’s discography — does not solely focus on one person or emotion. “The Tortured Poets Department” mixes angst and love, rueing and longing in its 16-song, one-hour and five-minute runtime. 

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Track one — “Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)”

Notable lyrics: “And I love you/ it’s ruining my life”

As a head nod to “no body, no crime (feat. HAIM)” on Swift’s ninth album “Evermore,” “Fortnight” opens the album upbeat and slow. Post Malone is hardly heard throughout the song, having lines sporadically chosen in the chorus. The last verse is entirely him, however, and his voice blends very nicely with Swift’s. 


Track two — “The Tortured Poets Department”

Notable lyrics: “And who’s gonna hold you?/ Like me/ And who’s gonna know you?/ If not me” and, “At dinner, you take my ring off my middle finger and put it on the one people put wedding rings on/ And that’s the closest I’ve come to my heart exploding”

The namesake of the album did not disappoint. The sound is almost distinct to Swift and Jack Antonoff, and the symbolism of literature to describe her feelings displays her talent as a songwriter. 


Track three — “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys”

After the first listen, there wasn’t anything particularly standing out. The rhythm of the lyrics and the sassy beat are promising that it might be a grower. 


Track four — “Down Bad”

Notable lyrics: “So f— you if I can’t have us/ ‘Cause f— it, I was in love”

One of the angstier songs on the album, this song plainly states how the singer wants “him” in a certain way. The song — specifically the chorus — nods to her tenth studio album, “Midnights,” with its poppy base. 


Track five — “So Long, London”

Notable lyrics: “Pulled him in tighter each time he was drifting away,” “I stopped CPR/ after all it’s no use,” “My white knuckle dying grip holding tight to your quiet resentment” and “Every day old love affair/ Every breath feels like rarest air/ When you’re not sure if he wants to be there”

Unfortunately very upbeat, this song does not mirror the complete grief of Swift’s lyrics. Alwyn, who has faced scrutiny for not allowing Swift to her full extent as a popstar, is based in the United Kingdom, where he and Swift spent much of their time during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though not as sad as “You’re Losing Me,” “So Long, London” definitely drives some pressure and fuel into the fire.


Track six — “But Daddy I Love Him”

Swift kind of just yaps about being pregnant but not really, just to get their — her parents’ — attention. It’s got a much deeper meaning, but that was the most notable thing on first listen. 


Track seven — “Fresh Out The Slammer”

This one had a really fun beat and lyric run. The symbolism of the “slammer” as what could have been her six-year-long relationship was very Swift-like. 


Track eight — “Florida!!! (feat. Florence + The Machine)”

Notable lyrics: “Love left me like this and I don’t want to exist/ So take me to Florida”

This was fast-paced and very fun. Florence + The Machine was completely, utterly and very much the right choice for the feature; no one could have done it better. Perfect mix of voices too. Mixing drugs and the need to escape, Swift joined forces on this feature to create one of the most memorable songs on the album. 


Track nine — “Guilty as Sin?”

Nothing too extraordinary with this one; it wouldn’t be a shocker if Swift said it was originally supposed to be released as a vault song from “1989.” 


Track 10 — “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?”

Meh. The repetition of the lyric “You should be” was very unnecessary and took away from the beauty of the melody. The passion in her voice was evident, but a rather forgettable piece on the whole. 


Track 11 — “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)”

This song: short, delulu.


Track 12 — “loml”

Notable lyrics: “You said I’m the love of your life/ About a million times, ” “Talkin’ rings and talkin’ cradles/ I wish I could unrecall/ How we almost had it all”

The piano ballad of this song throws wrenches into guts, and knowing (and loving) the background of Alwyn and Swift’s relationship has enough power to raise goosebumps. Easily the saddest, most horrific piece on the album, “loml” joins “champagne problems” at the top of her heartbreak songs.  


Track 13 — “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”

Notable lyrics: “Lights, camera, b—-, smile/ Even when you wanna die/ He said he’d love me all his life”

She really can do it with a broken heart. Forty-four songs and three-and-a-half hours of straight discography all in Louboutin stilettos while mourning a half-decade relationship is superhuman. The song starts sad, and switches to some upbeat, happy and disgusting part that masterfully represents her fake happiness. The tempo changes and the slight key changes all come together for the most representative and reaffirming song of who Swift is.  


Track 14 — “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”

Speculated to be aimed at Matty Healey, the song was incredibly forward toward whoever it was written about.


Track 15 — “The Alchemy”

Beautiful melody. Fate is fate is alchemy is fate. Who are we to fight it?


Track 16 — “Clara Bow”

An “it girl” from the 1920s, this song pays homage to Clara Bow. It’s ironic and comes entirely full circle when Swift ends the song by introducing herself. Because she’s made it. 


Bonus track — “The Manuscript”

No review is available at this time. 


Bonus track — “The Bolter” 

No review is available at this time. 


Bonus track — “The Albatross”

No review is available at this time. 


Bonus track — “The Black Dog”

No review is available at this time. 


This album cemented Taylor Swift’s place at the top of the charts: her ability to use imagery and create memorable pieces of music will likely win her another Grammy Award, adding to the 14 currently in her collection.

Though “The Tortured Poets Department” included unmemorable songs, it came together very cohesively as a very lyrically depressing yet melodically encouraging album. 

“All’s fair in love and poetry…” Swift teased in the Instagram announcement post. Mastermind as she is, her lyrics all align.


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About the Contributor
Ella Narag
Ella Narag, Special Sections Editor
Hello! My name is Ella Narag, and I am a sophomore studying integrative biology honors and global studies. I’ve been writing for The Daily Illini since September 2022 and have been news editor since March 2023. I’m very hopeful and excited for the school year and all the content our team will be putting out. For any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out at [email protected] or [email protected].
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