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Taylor Swift surprises fans with ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ double album release

Album features 31 songs in total, but promises too much
Taylor Swift surprises fans with The Tortured Poets Department double album release
Julia Vetsch

Whether you listen to her music or not, you have likely heard something about Taylor Swift in the past year. From her record breaking “Eras Tour,” which has already earned the title of the highest grossing tour of all time, to her frequent appearances at Kansas City Chiefs Games, Swift has received quite a bit of media attention in recent years. 

This coverage extends to her 11th studio album, “The Tortured Poets Department,”which was released April 19, 2024. Taylor’s loyal fans anticipated staples in her songs such as emotionally devastating bridges and lyrics riddled with metaphors.

What many could not anticipate is that she would drop a surprise second album at 2 a.m. ET, “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology,” serving as a second half to an album that Swift described in an Instagram post as “tortured poetry.”


Those who are searching for the synth pop similar to ones Taylor produced on Midnights and her recent 1989 (Taylor’s Version) will likely find joy in “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart.” The second edition of the album has potential to appease fans of Folklore and Evermore, who have been craving a similar sound from Swift.

Upon the first few listens, “Florida!!!” is an obvious standout in the album. The song features Florence Welch providing haunting vocals and includes lyrics that scream of a desire to find a new identity after an emotionally taxing event, punctuated by loud drums. It is an electric track that the album needs, waking listeners up with Swift and Welch’s plea to “F–k me up, Florida.”

Other standout tracks include “But Daddy I Love Him” and “The Black Dog,” which cover Swift’s ability to cover a range of topics and emotions — defiance, fear, heartbreak and the complicated nature of being a public figure.

But interwoven in the few gems of this album are songs that commit a sin possibly worse than being bad — being unmemorable. “Down Bad,” while catchy and relatable, seems to have a production quality that aims to be purposely simplistic, but leaves more to be desired. Similarly lackluster tracks include “I Can Fix Him (No Really, I Can)” and “Fresh Out The Slammer.”

There are some memorable lyrical achievements from Swift on this album, particularly in “So Long, London.”

“I stoppеd CPR, after all, it’s no use,” Swift sings in the second verse. “The spirit was gonе, we would never come to. And I’m pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free,” comparing her fading relationship to a person on the brink of death like she did previously on Midnights bonus track “You’re Losing Me.”

But, this album has lyrics that fall flat. A notable example can be found in “So High School.”

“You know how to ball, I know Aristotle,” Swift sings, “Touch me while your bros play Grand Theft Auto.”

I will give it to Swift that the lyrics are fitting for the title, as they do sound like something someone half her age would have written.

On the title track, Swift seemingly tries to lean into the “dating a bad guy” vibe of the album, which once again sounds juvenile.

“You smoked 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.”

It’s also worth questioning whether or not the double album, which brings the material to over two hours long, was a wise choice for the singer. While Swift has been known to write an abundance of songs for each era — it’s why she had the material to produce “Evermore” and the vault tracks on her rerecordings — the double album seems to lose momentum quickly.

Tracks such as “The Black Dog,” “The Albatross,” “Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus” and “Cassandra” shine through on this second half, but they are surrounded by a series of tracks that seem to blend together, even after multiple listens. The theme of her album is simply not strong enough to sustain 31 songs, leading her to resort to childish imagery (So High School) and wishing death on an old feud via proxy (thanK you aIMee), which overwhelmed me as a listener and drowned out the songs that are actually worth some acclaim. While fans of Swift are always happy to receive more from the artist, perhaps including them all on this album was not the best choice. 

Whether Swift accomplished her aesthetic goal of “The Tortured Poets Department” is still up in the air. One could argue that the album is satirical, mocking a character  — perhaps her infamous ex-fling Matty Healy — who presents himself as a pretentious poet of sorts. But, if Swift is genuine when she refers to this work as “tortured poetry,” it reads as a misguided attempt to both replicate the sound that was so beloved during the “Folk-more” era and to cosplay as a small indie artist — neither of which she executes quite right. 

Overall, “The Tortured Poets Department” can be described as one of Swift’s most disappointing releases. I present these critiques as a longtime Swift listener not because I believe she is untalented, but because I am aware that she is capable of so much more.

I rate “The Tortured Poets Department” 3 out of 5 stars.

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