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The Tortured Poets Department” is far from torture


Here we are… the last Taylor Swift album review from the three of us. In a way, this feels very cyclical, seeing as the first one that two of us wrote together was a review of “Red (Taylor’s Version)” back in November 2021, and that was a re-record of an album that covered a multitude of topics and had its toes dipped in a plethora of genres. “The Tortured Poets Department” has a similar feeling, and not only coaxes tears out of listeners, but wipes them with a tissue and wrings it out afterward.

Even though the initially anticipated 16 tracks had millions of listeners ready to crack hundreds of new Easter eggs when the album dropped, Swift’s meticulous detail-oriented promotion led to some suspicion surrounding 2 a.m. on April 19. Those suspicions were met with 15 extra tracks to decode and use for relating to relationship problems in the lives of her millions of fans worldwide. Though the over two-hour album is daunting to dive into, after several complete listens, we’ve been able to sift through the hefty tracklist to find new favorite songs.

Swift and her long-time collaborators Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner struck yet again in their respective fields; Antonoff specializing in producing songs with an irresistible melody and rhythm that get stuck in your head and Dessner producing songs laced with a particularly intense heartache intertwined. The production led to many masterpieces throughout the album, including the haunting twang of “Fresh Out The Slammer,” “Florida!!!” and “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can),” the suspense built up throughout “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” and “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” as well as the solemn nostalgia in “Peter” and “Robin.” The mixing and instrumentals used in “The Tortured Poets Department” truly fuel its intoxicating grip on the listener, and ensure that it gets stuck in the heads of listeners.

With that being said, a valuable criticism of this album is the predictability of the stylistic choices made through the production of the tracks, particularly from Antonoff. If you are a Jack Antonoff enthusiast, “The Tortured Poet’s Department” is him at his very best. If not, this album is not for you. While he does consistently make songs that fit what Swift seems to be aiming to accomplish, it would be interesting to see what an album that veered away from his synth-pop-infused touch would sound like, and if that would allow Swift to branch out of her comfort zone, even if within her comfort zone is successful and guaranteed to appease her fandom.

If there is one thing Taylor Swift is known for within her music, it’s not her reliably catchy melodies or broken records; it’s the fact that her lyrics are bound to illustrate a story so intricate and well-woven that the emotions drip through the words and into the ears of listeners, and “The Tortured Poets Department” is no exception. Songs like “loml,” “So Long, London” and “How Did It End?” are new prime examples of the excellence Swift brings to the field of heartbreak, and these join her ever-growing collection of songs that pluck at the heartstrings of listeners, no matter their relationship status. “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” “Clara Bow” and “thanK you aIMee” give Swift a chance to reflect on her fame in ways she’s never done before, and their vulnerability displays a new side of her and give fans a new perspective on how she feels after being under the magnifying glass of her hyper-zoomed-in celebrity status for so long.

The flipside of Swift’s highly specific lyrics, though, is that they occasionally are so out there that fans are taken out of the world of the song due to pure shock or confusion. Her title tracks “The Tortured Poet’s Department” and “But Daddy I Love Him” are prime examples of this. However, the rest of the writing regained our attention, and already, these lyrics have become some of the most iconic on the album. Swift carefully balances humor with flourishes of both her fountain and quill pens to create crave-able lyrics that leave the listener awestruck.

Overall, “The Tortured Poet’s Department” has a lot to love, but also a lot that has yet to grow on us. Nevertheless, we’ll be avid listeners in the coming weeks and remain Taylor Swift fans forever and always.

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About the Contributor
Dailey Jogan, Page Editor
Dailey Jogan ’24, is a second-year staff writer and page editor. Her interest in the Tower is rooted in tradition, as both her mother and brother were alumni of the Tower newspaper. Within Tower this year, she is most looking forward to working with Indesign as well as having more creative freedom within each of her designs. “As a second-year staffer, I feel more comfortable stepping out of my comfort zone, “ Jogan said.” Especially experimenting with color and different types of photoshop in my designs.” In addition to her commitment to the Tower, she is an avid swimmer who is a member of the varsity swim team here at Grosse Pointe South.

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