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  • Anonymous Swiftie

OPINION: A disgruntled Swiftie on The Tortured Poets Department

Fans of artists can have ups and downs through their careers. Expectations can weigh heavily on artists and fans can feel betrayed by directions taken by those they'd previously held in admiration. Taylor Swift is one artist with more fans than most - known as 'Swifties' - and following the release of her latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, one such Swiftie (writing anonymously for fear of a backlash) have shared their thoughts on what they feel is a low for the artist...

The Tortured Poets Department review: How much sad did you think I had?

I’ve been a Swiftie since 2006 and I’ve never been more excited for an album. I studied English Literature. I spotted the title references to Coleridge and Woolf on release day. I made a prison break from a dying long-term relationship with someone ill-advised. We went for our first drink at the Black Dog, and when I told him I loved him, I said almost verbatim “It's ruining my life”. I always find a personal connection to Taylor’s lyrics.

After I first listened to the album, I felt dried out and hungover – of course, I’d just sunk a bottle of pure, unfiltered, narcissistic depression. The Tortured Poets Department is a grey day haze. Jack Antonoff has taken the heat for the relentless, morose synths – but Taylor is in charge of the process. She’s the one who gave her heartbeat, her tears and her breath to this soundtrack.

Taylor, how much sad did you think I had? It was exhausting – a pity party for the perpetual victim. Everyone is out to get her – her fans, her boyfriends, Kim Kardashian. It's unclear if this is cruel curation or bad editing. Was the running order meant to overwhelm or punish us, make us unwell and lose perspective? The morosity is monstrous – and nothing stands out, except cruel comparisons.

What was so beautiful about Evermore, Folklore, and Lover was that it felt like I was growing with Taylor. Her lyrics about relationships were powerful, but they were not the whole sky. She asked deep questions and she wrote with kindness about other people, Marjorie, Betty, and herself. The Tortured Poets Department is relentlessly bitter – the title scorns the poet, and there is disdain for her fans (“you hung me on your wall, stabbed me with your push pins”) and her boyfriends (“tell me something awful, like you are a poet, trapped inside the body of a finance guy”). Even in the only happy song in the album, 'So High School', Taylor bonds with her partner with a mocking impression of his father, with his friends, she’s stifling her sighs. She’s mean, and she’s become what she vowed she wouldn’t – bragging about dating some guy on the football team.

Some of the lyrics are searing and beautiful, such as 'The Black Dog', 'So Long, London' and 'Florida!!!'. But many flare awkwardly, as though Taylor had ingested internet memes, and sicked them up as song writing. Golden retriever boyfriends might be on trend, but it doesn’t match the album’s alleged subject. Some lines made me wince, others lacked any self-awareness (“I’m pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free”). This is unparalleled capitalist extraction from a relationship. Prophecies are self-fulfilling to their unaware subject – she knows she is cursed, but where is the introspection? Plus, a canon becomes self-referential. when the vocabulary originates from the same author- every phrase doesn’t have an intentionally hidden meaning, it's not all a masterstroke.

Even women have the right to flout the rules of likeability, but to enjoy listening to a record, there has to be something to like. Taylor is the zeitgeist and she punched far down. For safeguarding reasons, it's inappropriate to namecheck Kim Kardashian’s child in your lyrics – worse still that Swifties are laughing about this all over the internet. Taylor’s madness has marketed this album, yet in the most personal track, number five, she gives up loving her partner because he’s depressed. I hope she got consent before she disclosed a man’s mental illness on the most streamed album in history.

The Swiftiverse is North Korea. Even Peppa Pig had to delete a tweet saying it had received better critic reviews. The onion ring lyrics beg fans to discover the lore of her relationship with Healy. But this is self-imposed Stockholm Syndrome – lyrics catch on if you force yourself to listen to them over and over again, scouring for Easter eggs. But I’m not here for The 1975 or snippets of her personal life – I’m here for Taylor’s music.

Since Taylor begged me into her personal life, I’m now supposed to believe TS12 and TS13 will be devoted to a happy ending man who screams unironically “Viva Las Vegas” and needs her fashion advisers to stop him from wearing a T-shirt that advertises Crazy Horse 3’s strip club? Healing this album is not. And it’s emotionally dishonest too.


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