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鈥楾he Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology:’ Swift attracts listeners through skillful show of vulnerability

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Taylor Swift鈥檚 11th album, 鈥淭he Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology,鈥 includes a total of 31 tracks. Swift announced this album at the 2024 Grammys Feb. 5, and it was later released April 19.

Taylor Swift鈥檚 latest album, 鈥淭he Tortured Poet鈥檚 Department,鈥 garnered 300 million streams on Spotify in the first 24 hours after its release, surpassing her previous album, 鈥淢idnights,鈥 which had held the record of 184.6 million streams. The album features a mix of upbeat and slow songs with poetic lyrics and profound meanings and was released April 19.

When Swift first announced the album at the 2024 Grammys Feb. 5, she revealed it would consist of 16 songs and drop at 5 a.m. However, when the album dropped, an unexpected two-hour countdown began on Swift鈥檚 Instagram account. At 7 a.m., Swift released a double album called 鈥淭he Tortured Poet鈥檚 Department: The Anthology,鈥 which contained an additional 16 tracks.

Despite criticism that 鈥淭he Anthology鈥 is overly long, these songs are all individually valuable to the album, each exploring different themes such as betrayal, grief and heartbreak. They make the album appeal to a broader range of audiences, as there are a variety of songs for people to relate to.

Swift announced the names of the tracks on 鈥淭he Tortured Poets Department,鈥 with the fifth track titled 鈥淪o Long, London,鈥 Feb. 6. Previously, Swift has placed her most devastating and emotional songs in the track five spot of her albums 鈥 for example, 鈥淭olerate It鈥 from 鈥淓vermore鈥 and 鈥淢y Tears Ricochet鈥 from 鈥淔olklore.鈥 Thus, many fans expected this track to follow this pattern, which it certainly did.

Another reason 鈥淪o Long, London鈥 was so eagerly anticipated, especially by Swift鈥檚 British fanbase, was its title. 鈥淟ondon Boy,鈥 a track on Swift鈥檚 seventh album 鈥淟over,鈥 is an upbeat love song that references many locations around London. Fans appreciated that 鈥淪o Long, London鈥 served as a heartbreaking parallel to 鈥淟ondon Boy.鈥

Furthermore, the album’s first track, titled 鈥淔ortnight,鈥 piqued the interest of many after it featured popular musical artist Post Malone. Because both Swift and Malone have vastly different styles of music, I wondered whether the singers would complement or contrast each other through this song. Much to my surprise, the final result was a pleasant blend of both Swift and Malone鈥檚 musical talent.

With a slow tempo and upbeat tune, 鈥淔ortnight鈥 has hyperbolic and exaggerated lyrics, like 鈥淚 love you/ It鈥檚 ruining my life.鈥 These lyrics capture the intense emotions of moving on with life after a heartbreak 鈥 a theme often left unaddressed in mainstream music. According to , this track quickly became number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It gained 76.2 million streams in its first week, breaking Olivia Rodrigo鈥檚 record for her song 鈥淒river鈥檚 License鈥 released in 2021.

The album’s 13th track, 鈥淚 Can Do It With a Broken Heart,鈥 has an ironically upbeat tune compared to its disheartening lyrics describing how Swift struggled with heartbreak during her performances at the 鈥淓ras Tour.鈥 The contrast in the tone and content of the song perfectly depicts the exhaustion of faking happiness. The lyrics, 鈥溾楥ause I鈥檓 miserable/ And nobody even knows,鈥 describe how Swift masks sad feelings while acting cheerful towards others.

Although the vast majority of Swift鈥檚 listeners may not relate to the emotions associated with performing onstage, this song captures the common struggle to suppress one’s feelings. As someone who has found myself having to carry on with daily responsibilities despite being consumed by intense emotions, this song resonates deeply with me. I also feel more endearment and empathy towards Swift after discovering she faces similar struggles.

Moreover, 鈥淭he Smallest Man Who Ever Lived鈥 is about one of Swift鈥檚 previous toxic romantic relationships. The most compelling aspect of this song is its bridge, which demonstrates feelings of rage, conveyed through lines such as, 鈥淏ut you are what you did/ And I鈥檒l forget you, but I鈥檒l never forgive/ The smallest man who ever lived.鈥 Swift’s strong word choice and descriptive similes render the song emotionally compelling and evocative.

There are using the audio from 鈥淭he Smallest Man Who Ever Lived鈥 on TikTok as of May 7. Users post this song as a means of contextualizing their own lives by describing who they feel their 鈥淪mallest Man Who Ever Lived鈥 is based on how they have been treated in past relationships. Watching fellow Swifties 鈥 a commonly used term to refer to Taylor Swift fans 鈥 use this song to share their stories has fostered a sense of understanding and community.

In addition, marriage is referenced consistently throughout the album. Even in her previous albums, Swift seems to idealize marriage. In 鈥淧aper Rings鈥 from 鈥淟over,鈥 she repeats, 鈥淚 love shiny things but I鈥檇 marry you with paper rings.鈥 Furthermore, in a 鈥淢idnights鈥 track titled 鈥淵ou鈥檙e Losing Me,鈥 Swift sings, 鈥淚 wouldn鈥檛 marry me either/ A pathological people pleaser.鈥

This pattern of mentioning marriage is why, in 鈥淭he Tortured Poets Department,鈥 lines such as, 鈥淵ou swore that you loved me, but where were the clues? I died on the altar waitin鈥 for the proof鈥 in 鈥淪o Long, London,鈥 and, 鈥淵ou and I go from one kiss to gettin’ married鈥 in the song 鈥渓oml鈥 intrigued fans who are curious about Swift鈥檚 life outside of her music career. Swift鈥檚 demonstration of vulnerability and opening up about the feelings she associates with marriage makes the album more engaging as Swift creates a more personal connection with listeners.

Some may argue that the songs in 鈥淭he Tortured Poet鈥檚 Department: The Anthology鈥 lack meaning and attempt to distract listeners from this with its use of complex words such as 鈥減recocious,鈥 鈥渆soteric鈥 and 鈥渞evelry.鈥 However, despite these critiques, the album lyrics undeniably showcase depth. Take, for instance, 鈥淭he Black Dog,鈥 where Swift describes a song by the band 鈥淭he Starting Line鈥 as being 鈥渋ntertwined in the tragic fabric of our dreaming.鈥 This demonstrates Swift’s ability to make profound connections through intricate wordplay, elevating the album’s emotional impact beyond mere superficiality.

Ultimately, Swift鈥檚 poetic ability to craft powerful metaphors and beautifully written songs shines through her latest release, cementing her as arguably one of the most iconic artists of our time.

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About the Contributor
Ayla Rafiq, Reporter
Ayla Rafiq ('27) is a Reporter for The 黄色电影 in Multimedia Journalism.

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