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REVIEW: The Tortured Poets Department

Taylor Swift releases her 11th studio album with 31 songs, here is the hot take.
New York Times
Taylor Swift’s album cover for her album, The Tortured Poets Department.

On Sunday, May 4, Taylor Swift walked to the stage to accept her fourth “Album of the Year” GRAMMY award. While giving her acceptance speech, Swift announced that she would be releasing her 11th studio album on April 19. With that announcement, fans went wild. Many Swifties were expecting a re-release of her 6th studio album, Reputation, from the many black and white color hints. The Tortured Poets Department is a messy album filled with so much feminine rage, laughter, mourning and sadness and I am here for it all. 

“Fortnight ft Post Malone”

Starting off the album with a duet of Taylor Swift and Post Malone was not what I was expecting. Having a feature song be the opening song to her album was a brave artistic move however she did it well nonetheless. My first thought was that the beats were very techno with a monotone voice. It had a very “The 1975” production and can almost tell it was under the production of Jack Antonoff.

“The Tortured Poets Department”

While listening to this song, the beats stuck out to me mixed with the little electric keys it paired with. To me, I feel this song is the question you might ask yourself during the breakup with the lyrics “Who’s going to hold you like you like me?” I was surprised with the Charlie Puth shout-out. I might be a little biased but she did in fact name drop me which gave this song extra points. 

“My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys”

I noticed that in this song, her voice is deeper than in the past two songs paired with deeper beats. The backtrack in the song is giving Midnights with a little hint of Bejeweled. I am obsessed with the high-pitch “repeating myself” she does. I was left wondering if the “he loves me” echo is her mimicking herself. I loved how she ended the song with a big build-up which I think tied the whole song together.

“Down Bad”

I love the first few seconds of the song just for the techno part. In this song, she is in love and trying to move on, she refers to it as “cosmic love”, but it isn’t working. To me, she is convincing herself and giving up. I love the pause in production before she sings the next line.

“So Long, London”

Track five songs for Taylor Swift are her most honest and vulnerable songs. It is like a secret kept between her and her fan base about the importance of this single song.

It is dream-like. I am in love with the harmonies in her voice before starting the fast-paced production. The beat reminds me of a song that would play in a movie while a montage of happy moments happens. The fast pace resembles a fast pace relationship. In this, the guy she refers to was drifting away and not putting any effort into their relationship. The most important line that stuck out to me was giving her youth up to this person for free, but I think it was because of the crack and sadness in her voice. This was one of my favorites because of the raw emotion in her voice.

“But Daddy I Love Him”

When I first saw this track title I thought of Harry Styles (iykyk). Throughout this whole song, I kept thinking of the trend “I’m just a girl.” It brought me into the honeymoon phase of a relationship, thinking he was the one. The line that made me think of “I’m just a girl” was when she said “Dancing in my dress in the sun. It is a song for the girlies. 

“Fresh Out the Slammer”

When I heard this song I instantly thought of a western Phoebe Bridgers. It is very folksy with the guitar chord progression in this song. I love the isolated vocals this song has with the single beat drop. I love the whole production alteration that happened at 2 minutes and 28 seconds. It just fits so well. 

“Florida!!!(Featuring Florence + The Machine)”

This whole song was giving 1989 vibes so much, especially. When she sang “Little did you know your homes really only a town you’re just a guest in” she had so much power in that one line. Florence’s voice fits so well in this song. This song is very storytelling, especially when she sings about the husband’s disappearance. 

“Guilty as Sin?”

I love the rhythmic patterns she uses in this song. The play on words was such a smart move, especially when she connected words that end in -ocks. This song is such a daydreamy song, all make-believe. This song is for the girls who romanticize fake relationship fantasies in their heads. When she sang “I choose you and me religiously” with a pause and then the first few words of the next line being isolated left me speechless. 

“Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?”

The “You don’t get to tell me about sad” lyric holds so much power. There was a rumor that when Taylor Swift and her ex-boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, went to dinner, this was a sentence Alwyn had spoken to her during an argument. However, it was not confirmed but it is still interesting to see that line brought up in one of her songs. The whole production of this song is giving “Willow” from her album Evermore. When she shares that the scandal was contained could this mean there was no media around the time of their breakup and or cheating situation? The big bum. bum. bum x2 in the middle of the song added such a dramatic effect on the song. At the end of it, I am living for the short beats of the song. 

“I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)”

This song is so Matty Healy coded. The first thing I thought of when I read this title was how it is titled like a “The 1975” song. It further confirms my suspicions when vulgar jokes were brought up. Healy is known for these jokes and being canceled from them. The smoke cloud makes me think of Healy as well. This song was very Western and country which we have seen previously on the album. I love the closing line changing from “I can fix him, no really I can” to “woah, maybe I can’t” with a strong emphasis on the word “can’t.”


It was a change from the previous song, having just vocals and vocals at the beginning of the song. I instantly thought that this would make a good song for the acoustic portion of her set for her Eras Tour tour. When Swift sang “Embroidered the memories” it was such a clever way to describe a way of capturing memories. We went from “Mr. Perfectly Fine” to “Mr. Steal Your Girl.”

“I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”

This song starts with some background noise of people and things at someplace. Taylor Swift takes herself out of first person in the song, singing about what people had been saying about her at the time. After listening to this song for the first time, it made me, as a fan, realize just how new this breakup was as she was on tour while going through this pain. I instantly thought of Barbie. It had backhanded comments and satirical ring to it. I really enjoyed this song even though it might be one of the most open and saddest songs on the album.

“The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”

The fast-paced beat with the piano was throwing me off in this song. I really enjoyed the artistic aspect of leaving it this large depth breath before starting the song. I think it allowed listeners to show how exhausted she was and added to the lyrical message she was trying to leave. I feel like this song shows the emotions of anger after the breakup has been over for a bit. “Normal girls are boring, but you were gone by morning” is such a heavy lyric in this song. There is so much to dissect in that one line.

“The Alchemy”

When I heard the line “but I’m coming back so strong” right away I thought of “But I come back stronger than a 90’s trend.” I loved the bridge in this song. I really enjoyed listening to this song. 

“Clara Bow”

Clara Bow could not have been a better decision to have as a closing song. I feel it is a great closing for this song. Clara Bow grew to fame in the 1920s with the silent film era where she earned her the name, “The It Girl.” Throughout this whole song, Swift is reflecting on how her popularity grew and she is the current “it girl” wanting to try her hardest and what life has been like. She also referenced singer Stevie Nicks as she was “the it girl” of her time. The closing line really made me sad because she ends it “talking” to the new incoming “it girl” and reassuring this new girl. Swift sings “You look like Taylor Swift” meaning the new incoming “it girl” will soon be compared to Taylor Swift just like she had been with other artists. I think a perfect example of being in the spotlight is captured beautifully by Swift’s line, “It’s hell on earth to be heavenly.”

2 AM Version: Leading up to the release of “The Tortured Poets Department” Swift had been leaving easter eggs with the number two. Her fans thought of all the theories and why the number two kept recurring. Later in the morning, at 2:00 AM, Swift released a second version of the album including 15 more songs bringing the total number of tracks on “The Tortured Poets Department” to 31 songs.

“The Black Dog”

This song is mourning the relationship. The Black Dog is a true pub in London which makes the song even more honest. I love it when she sings “screaming” since her voice not only gets louder and crazier following the emotions that come wit it. louder but the music gets loud in crazy following the emotions that come with that.


“Whether I’m gonna get you back” with silent vocals with the beat is perfection. This song is carried with feminine rage because she sings about carrying so much hostility while still being in love with them.”

“The Albatross”

I love the picking of the garden and how her voice goes up at the end of each line. It is such a strong storyteller song and the line “one bad seed kills the garden” is such a smart line in my opinion. I am obsessed with the lyric “So I crossed my thoughtless heart” since the backtracking is so catchy. 

“Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus”

I feel like this song is the end of a relationship and the hurtful things that get said. When Swift talks about wanting her heart to be broken, she sings “just say that I loved you that way that you are.” She refers to this person as an accident when she sings “crashed into you just like so many wrecks do.”

“How Did it End?”

I love the piano progression at the beginning of the song with the light harmonizing vocals joining in. It is a question I believe she had in her head, being blind to what was happening and learning how to ignore certain things in the relationship. I think it was so smart how she sang “D-Y-I-N-G.”

“So High School”

I love the guitar in this with the drums in the back. It is the first few stages in young high school relationships just being caught up in each other. She references pink cheeks and a happy feeling when she looks at this person. It is a happy little melody for the album.

“I Hate It Here”

This song is for the girlies who read and want to escape reality. The words on the pages are an escape and she can embody that feeling so well into a song. It is a soft sweet song for this album.

“thanK you aIMee”

I believe this song is about Kim Kardashian. The capital letter spells out Kim. When she sings about how “Kim” was throwing punches, Taylor is building something. Could that be reputation, a relationship, self-confidence, and self-worth? I love her line “There wouldn’t be this if it hadn’t been you.” In simple terms, that is a mic drop. It referenced that this person’s kid came home singing a song that only the two of them would know is about you. As many know, North West, Kim Kardashian’s daughter, has posted videos of the mother and daughter with Swift’s music.

“I Look in People’s Windows”

I love the chord progression with the simple picking. I am obsessed with how Swift repeats the last word, for example, when she sings “south.” further repeating it in different octaves. 

“The Prophecy”

I found it cool with all the rhyming. I love the “the’s” and the emphasis she puts on those words. This is a really cool song. I love that throughout the song it keeps the same strumming pattern, not having a lot of layering of other instruments.


I feel like “the call” could have another connection to the Kardashian-West family. Cassandra is a reference to Greek Mythology. She is known to have the power to sabotage power with a curse making nobody believe them. This kind of correlates to Swift’s line “Do you believe me now.” I love how she is able to connect so many different things to her music.


I thought of Peter Pan and Wend when I first heard this song. It can connect to a long-distance relationship with empty promises, waiting for something to happen. She sings “Lost Boy” and later mentions a “woman who sits by the window.” I love her storytelling abilities while still being able to connect it to her life. 

‘The Bolter”

There are so many name-drops in this album and I love the name of Viola and her character. I love the pace and pitch of “Started with a kiss “Oh, we must stop meeting like this.”” I think “The Bolter” is a catchy tune for this album.


Swift brings back the piano in this song. “Way to go tiger” and “for you” were common repetitive phrases shared in this song. I love how simple it is and I feel there is a deeper message in the words she sings. It is not one of my favorites on the album however, it is still well-written.

“The Manuscript”

The finale, the end, it is everything you would expect it to be. After listening to all 30 songs, this 31st song is closer to the rollercoaster of emotions that Swift just took listeners through. It is reminiscent of the start of the relationship, “looking backwards might be the only way to move forward” is a staple line for not only this song but for this entire album as well. Swift leaves listeners with the closing line “But the story isn’t mine anymore” and in that line, she accepts that her feelings and memories are for her to share.

Long story short, Joe Alywn needs to sleep with one eye open after causing this much distress to Ms. Swift and Matty Healy needs to apologize which caused her to write 31 break-up songs. This album gives you a raw-cut experience of a breakup in her 30s while being the current “it girl.” I am very pleased with this album, all sounding connected in the same realm with passion, sadness and recovery.

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About the Contributor
Lucy Prescott
Lucy Prescott, Print Co-Editor-In-Chief; Yearbook Photography Editor
(she/her) Lucy Prescott is a senior at West High. This is her first year on the Wahawk Insider staff. This is her second year apart of the Wahawk yearbook, serving as  the  photography editor this year. Outside of involvement with West, you can find her looking up new concerts to attend, listening to Harry Styles, or taking pictures.
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