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REVIEW: The Tortured Poets Department

By Kathryn Taleporos | April 22, 2024 

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Taylor Swift has done it again. Her 11th studio album “The Tortured Poets Department” topped the charts immediately. The album is a deep-dive into Swift’s personal life, exploring past relationships as well as her challenges with fame. This album is incredibly personal and sonically beautiful. 

Originally consisting of 16 songs, Swift surprised fans at 2 a.m. on April 19, by releasing 15 new songs and creating a double album. 

“The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology” is 31 songs for a total of two hours and three minutes. 

The album itself is different from her past projects. All of her other albums have what Swift calls “glitter gel pen songs.” Swift makes three categories out of her songs: quill pen songs, fountain pen songs, and glitter gel pen songs. Glitter gel pen songs are songs that are upbeat, like “22” and “You Belong With Me.” Even if the vibe of the album is sad, there’s at least one or two songs that are upbeat pop songs. “The Tortured Poets Department” is truly tortured though, featuring no glitter gel pen songs. 

This album is sonically cohesive; all of the songs sound like they belong on this album. This is not the case with all of her albums, on her last album “Midnights,” the songs “You’re on Your Own Kid” and “Karma,” sound like they could be on totally different albums because they do not match. That is not the case with this album though. All of the songs make sense together, even if that means the exclusion of glitter gel pen songs. 

Swift takes a dark turn on many of the songs of this album. A personal favorite, while very dark, is the song “Down Bad,” where she sings “Might just die it would make no difference.” Mental health is something Swift has touched upon in a few of her previous songs, but never at such a personal level. 

Swift truly lets the listener into her mind through all the songs on this album. “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart” evokes a little guilt on the part of the listener, especially if they went to The Eras Tour, because Swift talks about how she had to pretend to smile and have the time of her life performing The Eras Tour, while inside she wanted to die. 

Collaboration on this album was also a highlight. Swift has a pattern of stealing the spotlight when she shares songs. The initial release of the song “Snow on the Beach” with Lana Del Rey barely featured Lana Del Rey at all. 

The first single and song on the album has a similar problem with Post Malone, however “Fortnight”  highlights Post Malone in a different way than he usually presents himself. Post Malone gets one verse to showcase his vocal abilities, and he balances Swift’s voice well throughout the song. The only flaw with this song is there could be so much more of Post Malone. 

However, the song “Florida!!!” features Florence and the Machine, and Swift truly lets Florence shine during this song, giving Florence and the Machine her own verse and beautiful harmonies throughout, showcasing Florence’s incredible voice. 

The producers that Swift worked with also left their mark on this album. Many of the original 16 songs were produced by Jack Antonoff, producer and member of The Bleachers. Antonoff has a distinct style that was seen in other songs he produced for Swift, such as “Getaway Car” and “Bejeweled.” 

His style is very different from the other producer, Aaron Dessener, who produced many of the songs that are on the full project. Dessener has recently produced songs for Ed Sheeran and Gracie Abrams, and his style is more focused on heartbreaking lyrics with music to compliment them whereas Antonoff’s style focuses more on the music and sometimes features more goofy lyrics like “I’m so depressed I act like it’s my birthday every day” from the song “I Can Do it With a Broken Heart.” Dessener’s songs are the highlights of this album, while some of Antonoff’s songs fall short. 

The album as a whole is one of Swift’s most personal, and it truly humanizes her and shows that taking mental health seriously is important, and that it is ok to be heartbroken. Grief is natural, and Swift put it perfectly into words and music in this album.


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