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The Advocate

The Student News Site of Albuquerque Academy

The Advocate

The Student News Site of Albuquerque Academy

The Advocate

TTPD: A Review (Elizabeth’s Version)

“I was supposed to be sent away but they forgot to come and get me.”

And so begins Taylor Swift’s most recent tour de force, “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT.” Spanning two heartbreaks, three relationships, a record-breaking tour, and everything in between, Swift’s 31-track album leaves listeners laughing, crying, and questioning their sanity and that of their favorite pop star. “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” mixes Swift’s iconic autobiographical songs with the lyrical storytelling she developed in “Folklore” and “Evermore” to create an album filled with fascinating storylines interspersed among heartbreaking ballads and catchy sing-alongs.
If it wasn’t already obvious, I love Swift’s newest work. To some, it may feel overambitious and meandering, but to me, it is a successful culmination of the many parts of Swift’s musical journey. In fact, there are so many amazing tracks that I could barely choose which ones to highlight; if I didn’t get to your favorite, please know that I probably love it too but couldn’t fit every single track in this review.

The double album cover.

According to Swift, she began writing this album right after her last one, “Midnights,” was sent off to publication. This means that “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT”–or TTPD as it is lovingly referred to by Swifties–was in the works for almost two years. During this time, Swift broke up with her boyfriend of six years Joe Alwyn, had a highly controversial situationship with singer Matty Healy, embarked on her record-breaking Eras Tour, began a highly publicized relationship with football player Travis Kelce, re-recorded two more of her original albums, and somehow wrote and produced 31 songs. When Swift originally announced TTPD at the Grammys, it only had 16 songs, but the other 15 came from the surprise double album drop two hours after the original was released. The full album is titled “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY,” and while it was a surprise for most, some diligent Swifties wondered for months why Taylor kept putting twos in every TTPD related message, photo, or announcement.
With two hours, two minutes of music (see the twos are everywhere!), it is unsurprising that TTPD is mind-boggling after the first (and even fifth) listen. This is not an album that can be fully appreciated the first time you hear it. Like the title suggests, Swift’s poetic lyrics and genre-crossing melodies make this album stand out in her award-winning repertoire, but those subtleties are not obvious from one listen, especially when there are 31 songs to unpack. While some might consider the length a flaw, I believe Swift achieves spectacular depth because of it. Instead of prioritizing a few catchy tracks, Swift gives her audience 31 diverse songs interwoven together to tell a complicated story, possibly making it her most emotional album yet.
With that said, plenty of the songs on this album are as fun and catchy as they are emotionally impactful. Both collaboration tracks–“Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)” and “Florida!!! (feat. Florence + The Machine)”– offer reprieves from emotionally intense songs. “Florida!!!” is especially entertaining as Swift herself admitted that the song is inspired by “Dateline” episodes that always end with criminals escaping to Florida to start over. No wonder there are so many mentions of bodies sinking into swamps. Another song that is equally as original and catchy, although not so light hearted, is “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart.” Here, Swift chronicles her thoughts during the first few months of the Eras Tour when she was privately heartbroken over her recent break-up with Joe Alwyn. The song is obviously over-the-top with lyrics like, “All the pieces of me shattered as the crowd was chanting, ‘More,’” accompanied by an upbeat sound. People seem to either love or hate it; some say that it is too much, while others believe that it’s an amazing depiction of what it feels like to put on a good face even as your private life falls apart. Personally, I’m in the second camp (shocking, I know) because I feel that the song leans into sarcasm and humor rather than blunt emotion, which is something Swift does phenomenally with her upbeat tunes across albums.

All the pieces of me shattered as the crowd was chanting, ‘More’”

Nevertheless, TTPD is still a break-up album at heart, and Swift has a song for each emotion such ordeals entail. “So Long, London” and “loml” (which stands for love of my life or loss of my life depending on who you ask) cover the sad portion of a breakup. In fact, some consider “loml” to be one of Swift’s saddest songs yet. Others, like “Down Bad” and “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” express obvious anger at Swift’s exes for ruining the relationship and breaking her heart. Others are relatable and gut-wrenching like “The Black Dog,” which is built on the premise that an ex forgot to turn off his location after their break-up, allowing Swift to see him enter a bar they used to go to together. Possibly the most impactful break up themes on TTPD come from understated songs like “The Prophecy” where Swift questions what her future will look like now that another one of her relationships has failed. As she begs for some greater force to “change the prophecy,” Swift feeds into a universal fear: What if life doesn’t get better?
Yet another part of this album are the songs pulling from Swift’s country roots. One such song, “So High School,” is about a relationship that, you guessed it, feels like the best parts of high school. It is a surprisingly happy song rumored to be about Travis Kelce and has a country twang like that of Swift’s earliest albums. “But Daddy I Love Him” is another country-esque song that screams playfulness. It is about a star crossed relationship that the entire town disapproves of and has parallel themes to one of Swift’s original hits, “Love Story.” Like any good country ballad, the story builds to a climatic end about finding happiness with the person you choose, regardless of others’ judgements. However, the best part of this song is the joking lyric that left Swifties shocked the first time they heard it: “I’m having his baby/ no I’m not but you should see your faces.”

I’m having his baby/ no I’m not but you should see your faces”

There’s one last group of songs that round out the themes covered in TTPD, and those are the ones unrelated to Swift’s love life. One such song is “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me,” in which Swift compares herself to a demented circus animal (think “Antihero” but darker). Unhinged lyrics like “I was tame, I was gentle ’til the circus life made me mean/ ‘Don’t you worry, folks, we took out all her teeth,’” create a grotesque yet oddly understandable picture in listeners’ minds. Other songs like “The Bolter” tell stories that very well might be about fictional characters; this one specifically follows a girl who “bolts” from every relationship she has in a beautiful song that adds another iconic musical bridge to Swift’s ever-growing collection. Yet another unique song on this album is “Clara Bow.” Clara Bow was the first “it girl” during the 1920s and 30s, meaning she gained international fame for the seemingly glamorous life she led, in addition to the movies she made. In this song, Swift explores the spotlight that is put on female stars throughout history, comparing Clara Bow to Stevie Nicks and eventually herself, all while criticizing the way that society considered each of these women, and those that came after them, to never be quite enough.

Swift did a phenomenal job of writing a final track for this album: “The Manuscript.” Here, she recounts a failed relationship, the pain of moving on, and the eventual acceptance she finds by writing everything down. The song ends with a heartfelt send off as Swift says that “the story isn’t [hers] anymore.” This final line concludes a behemoth of an album, and summarizes a music career that extends past Swift herself. As I explained earlier, “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY” is artistically astounding, yet it is a long and complicated album that lends itself to super fan dissection but can hinder its appeal to an average listener. However, I think Swift knew that this album wouldn’t be for everyone when she wrote it and decided that it didn’t matter. Taylor Swift spent 17 years and 10 albums writing in a way that anyone could enjoy, and it obviously worked as she is arguably the most popular singer right now. However, Swift herself has said that “I’ve never had an album where I’ve needed songwriting more than I needed it on Tortured Poets.” To me, this means that Swift knew TTPD might not be an album for the masses in the same way her previous works were; instead, it’s an album for herself and her most dedicated fans to revel in together.

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About the Contributor
Elizabeth Hiller '25
Elizabeth Hiller '25, Editor-in-Chief
Elizabeth has been writing for The Advocate since 7th grade. She enjoys writing news, school and local, and arts and culture articles. Outside of writing, Elizabeth enjoys riding her 2 horses, reading, participating in speech and debate, spending time with her dogs Harry and Oliver, and playing piano and guitar.  While she doesn't have many dislikes, Elizabeth hates pineapple.  She doesn't have a favorite class because she loves them all!

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  • D

    Dianne TohenApr 29, 2024 at 9:34 pm

    Wonderful review! You capture the listeners journey beautifully 🫶!

  • L

    Lorelei LoganApr 29, 2024 at 7:38 pm

    This is phenomenal, Elizabeth!! Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m going to send you my med school personal statement to look over 😅🤍