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Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

REVIEW: ‘The Tortured Poets Department’

Taylor Swift demonstrates the power of her poetry in her latest 31-song album
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Mekaila Rickert

Released April 19, Taylor Swift’s newest album is a masterpiece full of emotional ballads and some of her most vulnerable work yet. Listeners take a poetic journey through Swift’s life and love while listening to the harmonies of heartache in “The Tortured Poets Department.”

The album has a cohesive sound full of stunning instrumentals and genius lyrics that solidify Swift as a true poet. Several tracks on the album, produced by Jack Antonoff, possess a synth that echoes Swift’s “Midnights” album. Many of the Aaron Dessner-produced tracks are reminiscent of the “folklore” album, but this time, the lyrics are not fairytales but melancholic retellings of Swift’s real life.

One of the best things about Swift’s writing are the countless metaphors and songwriting tricks she uses that force listeners to decode her lyrics. She also uses many lyrical parallels between “The Tortured Poets Department” and her other albums.

The most striking parallels are found in her album “Lover.” For instance, lyrics from the song “The Black Dog” like “Six weeks of breathing clean air / I still miss the smoke” mirror lines from “Daylight,” “Clearing the air, I breathed in the smoke.”

An additional connection between “Lover” and “The Tortured Poets Department” is the similarity between the songs “So Long, London” and “London Boy.” Swift wrote “London Boy” about a relationship she was in for “Lover,” and “So Long, London” is about the end of that relationship. 

However, while “The Tortured Poets Department” features many breakup songs, the album transcends being just another breakup album. Its lyrics describe how grieving an ended relationship can make areas of your life difficult. For example, in “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” Swift’s lyrics detail the struggles of breaking up while on tour, singing: “All the pieces of me shattered / As the crowd was chanting, ‘More!’” 

Swift’s attention to detail shines through in “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” especially with the incorporation of the counting from her in-ear monitors. This is such a small detail that allows listeners to fully immerse themselves in the raw emotion and heartache felt while Swift has to push personal pain aside to maintain professionalism while performing. 

Another parallel between “The Tortured Poets Department” and Swift’s other works is found in the songs “Clara Bow” and “Nothing New” from the “Red (Taylor’s Version)” album. Both songs have similar themes about women in the music industry, highlighting the constant pressure to be the “it girl” or the “one to watch.” 

Once that status fades, they often feel replaced. Lyrics like “Lord, what will become of me / Once I’ve lost my novelty?” from “Nothing New” express her need to constantly reinvent herself to remain relevant. She fears the next rising star will replace her, or as Swift refers to them in the song, the next “ingénue.”

In “Clara Bow,” Swift sings about being compared to the “it girls” Clara Bow and Stevie Nicks. Then she writes, “You look like Taylor Swift / In this light, we’re loving it / You’ve got edge, she never did.” This lyric references the young singers today who are compared to Swift. This relates to the lyrics of “Nothing New,” where Swift expresses her fear of being replaced.

“The Tortured Poets Department” contains two features. The first is “Fortnight (feat. Post Malone).” This catchy yet emotional song is the first single on the album and has its own music video. The video is hauntingly gorgeous, and Post Malone’s voice blends wonderfully with Swift’s.

It also includes actors Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles from “Dead Poets Society.” This clever layer to the video playfully acknowledges the potential for confusion between the album and movie title while celebrating the iconic film. 

The second feature is “Florida!!! (feat. Florence + The Machine).” This track stands out for its interesting musical techniques that perfectly coexist with Florence + The Machine’s vocals.

“The Tortured Poets Department” is a lyrical masterpiece that will stand the test of time and is an amazing asset to Swift’s diverse discography. Swift proves once again that she is an “it girl” who is a once-in-a-lifetime talent.

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