Taylor Swift’s eleventh album, THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT, is torturously long

Taylor Swift released her highly-anticipated 11th album, THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT, April 19, 2024.
Taylor Swift released her highly-anticipated 11th album, “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT,” April 19, 2024.
Courtesy of Republic Records

On Friday, April 19, amid high anticipation, Grammy-winning music artist Taylor Swift released her eleventh album, THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT. The album features 16 tracks, but Swift quickly released 15 additional tracks on the 2 a.m. double album release, THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY. Despite the album’s catchy and lyrically masterful aspects, the double album’s excessive number of songs overshadows the quality.

THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT features collaborations with artists Post Malone and Florence + The Machine, straying from Swift’s typical indie artist choices. The album itself takes a step back from her indie albums folklore and evermore, as she shifts towards the background synths and thumping drums reminiscent of previous albums reputation and Midnights. While the production style is at times powerful, the repetitive beats quickly become monotonous.

Swift has experimented with many different musical sounds and genres, now seeming to have landed on gloomy piano and synth-pop. Her long-time producer, Jack Antonoff, has recently received criticism from fans for his overused drumbeats and synth sounds in regards to both Swift’s new and re-recorded albums. The newer genre journey has also received positive fan feedback, as well as broken music records. On April 19, the album’s first track, “Fortnight (feat. Post Malone),” set a new Spotify record for the most streamed song in a single day.

Swift currently holds the title of the second most-streamed artist on Spotify, after The Weeknd, establishing her as one of the most famous artists in the music industry. Her fans, self-proclaimed “Swifties,” consistently want more music from Swift, and THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT certainly accomplishes the quantity goal. With 31 tracks, the album is her longest yet, but unfortunately, the length diminishes the uniqueness and exceptionality of the individual songs.

Swift is known for her ability to incorporate numerous “easter eggs” (clues and teasers she leaves for her fans) in her poetic lyrics. Many in THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT seemingly reference her current boyfriend, NFL football player Travis Kelce. The album’s fifteenth track, “The Alchemy,” hints at the football player, with lyrics such as, “Touchdown, call the amateurs and cut ‘em from the team” and, “These blokes warm the benches / We’ve been on a winning streak.” 

She also includes several songs about ex-boyfriends. The fifth track, “So Long, London,” is a presumed sequel to “London Boy,” a love song on her Lover album speculated to be about Swift’s ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn. Track seven, “Fresh Out the Slammer,” and track 21, “How Did It End?” reference the end of their six-year relationship with their lyrics. Swift later references her brief relationship with The 1975 singer Matty Healy in later tracks, including track six, “But Daddy I Love Him,” a song reminiscent of her 1989 (Taylor’s Version) vault tracks and others. 

Most notably, Swift gives listeners insight into her personal experiences performing on her world-renowned Eras Tour. In “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” a heartbreaking song disguised by hard-hitting staccato notes and a peppy chorus, Swift opens up about the difficulty of faking a smile and performing after a breakup. “I cry a lot, but I am so productive; it’s an art / You know you’re good when you can even do it with a broken heart.” Given that she continued her tour immediately after her breakup with Alwyn, it is no surprise that she wasn’t as cheerful as she appeared on the outside.

Track 24, “thanK you aIMee,” serves as a refreshing return to the lighthearted guitar Swifties have missed, as Swift thanks a former bully, dubbed “Aimee,” for making her who she is. The song is rumored to be about Swift’s rivalry with reality TV star Kim Kardashian. “thanK you aIMee” weaves together nostalgic feelings reminiscent of  “Mean” from Swift’s third album, Speak Now, and “the last great american dynasty” from folklore. The lyrics, “And one day, your kid comes home singing, a song that only us two is gonna know is about you,” and “All that time you were throwing punches, it was all for nothing,” remark on the long-standing tension between the two celebrities.

While no bridge will ever top “Death By A Thousand Cuts” from her Lover album, Swift continues to sew her songs together with increasingly powerful bridges to rival her finest songwriting. The bridge from track 14, “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived,” is undoubtedly a runner-up. The lyrics, “You said, ‘Normal girls were boring,’ but you were gone by the morning” and “I would’ve died for your sins/Instead, I just died inside,” are simultaneously heart-wrenching and catchy, contributing to Swift’s ongoing reputation of masterfully crafted bridges. 

In short, THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT provided Swift with a catharsis and showcases some of her best lyrical work. Unfortunately, while the album contains a few notable highlights, most of the songs fade into the background and merely add to the unnecessary length. It also will leave listeners feeling nostalgic for the happier, cheerful songs of Swift’s past and disappointed by the melancholic messages of her newest songs. 

As usual, Swift didn’t shy away from tackling complex themes, such as commitment, coping, and forced composure. So far, nearly two million copies of the album have sold, and it is expected to only grow in popularity. With its poetic lyrics but overused themes and excessive length, THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT earns four out of five feathers.

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