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Review: ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ by Taylor Swift

Fans of “Folklore” and “Evermore” will adore Swift’s latest double album.
Image by Ava Weinreis
“The Tortured Poets Department” is Swift’s first album of original material since 2022’s “Midnights.”

Taylor Swift’s new double album “The Tortured Poets Department” shows Swift singing eloquent, illustrative lyrics all about a break-up over compelling instrumentals, yet the album is slightly long-winded with a tracklist of 31 songs.

Swift gave her fans two album re-recordings last year. Now, with a new double album released Thursday night, Swift is truly keeping her fans fed — especially those who are into breakup ballads.

Swift’s newest album seems to be a victory lap after breaking Ticketmaster, selling out stadiums around the world, sweeping at this year’s Grammys and going on the mega-successful “Eras Tour.” 

“The Tortured Poets Department,” stylistically, steers toward Swift’s more stripped-down style. Swift collaborates with Aaron Dessner of The National, who worked on many tracks from “Folklore” and “Evermore.”

Some of Swift’s writing choices will certainly come across as head-scratchers to some, like the curiously titled “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)” and “But Daddy I Love Him.”

On the title track, “The Tortured Poets Department,” Swift sings, “You smokеd, then ate seven bars of chocolate / We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist / I scratch your head, you fall asleep / Like a tattooed golden retriever.”

Some will find these lyrical details to be a bit too much, but Swift succeeds by being as descriptive as ever. Lyrics aside, the title track is musically remarkable with its atmospheric, sugary-sweet production.

The biggest problem — using the word problem loosely — with this album is the long tracklist. Both halves of this double album have impressive tracks, however it feels like there are some lulls in quality between the high points.

The first several songs on the album are some of its best.

The album opener “Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)” has an ‘80s-style rhythmic synth, foreshadowing a bit of ‘80s nostalgia in the production of this record. The track is emotional and, by its end, it swells and becomes very sentimental.

Any Swiftie knows that the fifth song on any Swift album packs the biggest emotional punch, and track five on this album does not disappoint. 

“So Long, London” opens on a reverb-y call-and-response choir vocal before transitioning into a bubbly, eccentric synth pattern as it fleshes out into an atmospheric ballad. The track is speculated to be about Swift’s ex, English actor Joe Alwyn.

The strongest track on the entire project comes 11th, “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can).” This song has a sinister grungyness that no other in Swift’s catalog has. It is an outstanding example of Swift staying creative and experimental.

While much of the album is quiet and stripped-down, one of the more high-energy pop-adjacent tracks on here is “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart.” This song is dancy and fun with a chorus dominated by a moving synth bass.

The album’s second half has its strong tracks as well.

“imgonnagetyouback” is well-produced and features a beautiful vocal performance from Swift. “Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus” is one of the quietest and softest songs on the album but is still notable.

“So High School” is up there with “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)” when it comes to the best songs on the album. “So High School” is more indie rock with a hint of shoegaze in its guitar playing, differentiating itself on the double album. Make sure to listen to this one if you have ever wanted to hear Swift sing the words “Grand Theft Auto” on a song.

“The Bolter,” 29th in the track list, is stripped-down but super catchy, for example. The warm presence of acoustic guitars on this track calls back to “Folklore” and “Evermore.”

Things are business as usual with Taylor Swift, she has released another good album. While it may not be the strongest in her discography, fans will love dissecting the lyrics and instrumentals of this over-two-hour-long album.

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