Connect with us


Taylor Swift’s Long-Awaited New Era: “The Tortured Poets Department”



When Taylor Swift first teased her new album cycle with a series of chaotic “bingo caller” videos, fans had no idea what to expect. Would she build off the moody synth-pop of “Midnights”? Revisit the indie folk vibes of “folklore” and “evermore”? Channel the country roots she recently re-explored on her re-recorded albums? Or maybe return to the bombastic 1980s pop of “1989”? 

As it turns out, Swift’s 11th original studio album “The Tortured Poets Department,” released April 14th, draws from all eras of her shapeshifting career. It’s an eclectic, cathartic artistic statement that sees Swift at her most versatile and emotionally candid yet.

At its core, “The Tortured Poets Department” is a breakup album, documenting the dissolution of Swift’s high-profile relationship and reflecting on heartbreak’s tangled emotions. But it does so through the stylistic kaleidoscope that defines Swift’s artistry in 2024.

The leadoff track and opening salvo “But Daddy I Love Him” is a return to Swift’s country roots, with fairytale lyrics, plucky acoustic guitar, and a full-band singalong chorus. Lines like “No, I’m not / But you should see your faces” inject the singer’s modern tongue-in-cheek humor into the nostalgic aesthetic.

Moments later, she pivots to indie folk-pop on “Clara Bow,” an aching closer that uses the tragic trajectory of the 1920s “It girl” silent film star as an allegory for Swift’s own rollercoaster career and public scrutiny. “You look like Taylor Swift in this light / We’re loving it / You’ve got an edge / She never did,” she sings self-awarely.

Elsewhere, Swift indulges her newfound love of literary references and dense lyrics, with tracks like “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” delivering searing, poetic put-downs of an ex over propulsive piano: “You didn’t measure up in any measure of a man / I’ll forget you, but I won’t ever forgive.” Even Jack Antonoff’s glitchy production can’t soften the blow.

On the title track, she doles out juvenile insults like calling an ex a “tattooed golden retriever.” But she’s equally candid about her own flaws and melodrama, laughing at herself on songs like “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”: “I’m miserable and nobody even knows! Try and come for my job.”

That self-awareness is a through line on “The Tortured Poets Department” as Swift seems to be examining her status as a “tortured artist” and public figure. On “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” she embraces her vindictive reputation (“You should be afraid of me”) while also poking fun at her self-seriousness over hulking indie-rock riffs.

Speaking of indie-rock, the blistering “Florida!!” is quintessential 2010s indie a la Arcade Fire or Sufjan Stevens, with its explosive singalong chorus evoking nostalgic imagery. Florence Welch even guests on the track, her powerhouse vocals blending seamlessly with Swift’s.  

Moments like that make for some of the album’s most thrilling and unexpected stylistic curveballs. The propulsive new wave drive of “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys” is another, with crunchy guitar tones putting a fresh spin on Swift’s confessional lyricism.

More familiar is “The Alchemy,” a sleepy romantic pop ode with telling lyrics that seem to confirm the inspiration behind this breakup opus (“cutting someone from the team”). That said, while Swift’s albums are inevitably mined for personal clues, songs like “So Long, London” offer artistic distance too, their inspirations more obfuscated in fiction and metaphor.

On the simmering electro-pop highlight “Fresh Out the Slammer,” Swift employs lush production to set a vivid scene of romantic tension: “The psych guitar tone when you first got home / Blew away with the wind.” It’s the album’s most evocative display of her storytelling prowess.

Not everything lands as memorably. Tracks like “Down Bad” and “Guilty as Sin?” are more mawkish misfires that pale next to “The Tortured Poets Department’s” more indelible pop moments and introspective highlights.

But that’s a minor gripe for an album stacked with both vulnerability and variety. Thematically, it presents not just one perspective on heartbreak, but rica tapestry of emotions from resentment and melancholy to self-deprecation and wisdom.

While the narratives and perspectives may shift song-to-song, “The Tortured Poets Department” is a remarkably cohesive album linked by confessional lyricism and expansive, adventurous production.

Ultimately, it’s an exhilarating artistic rebirth for Taylor Swift – an eclectic yet intensely personal statement that runs the gamut from her country roots to indie-rock sojourns, pop mastery to vulnerable autobiography.

In fiercely following her creative muses, wherever they lead, Swift has crafted a magnum opus of complexity, empowerment, and yes, tortured artistry. “The Tortured Poets Department” is a bold step forward from one of modern music’s most unpredictable and formidable songwriters.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *