Album Review

Taylor Swift - The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology

At a staggering 31 songs, The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology is certainly not a succinct body of work. But, it does serve as an in-depth, raw examination of how an artist processes life through their music.

Artwork for Taylor Swift's 2024 album, The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology.
April 24, 2024 2:52 pm GMT

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Taylor Swift - The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology

Label: Republic Records

Producers: Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner

Release Date: April 19, 2024

Tracklisting:

1. Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)

2. The Tortured Poets Department

3. My Boy Only Breaks His Favourite Toys

4. Down Bad

5. So Long, London

6. But Daddy I Love Him

7. Fresh Out the Slammer

8. Florida!!! (feat. Florence and the Machine)

9. Guilty as Sin?

10. Who's Afraid of Little Old Me?

11. I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)

12. Loml

13. I Can Do It with a Broken Heart

14. The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived

15. The Alchemy

16. Clara Bow

17. The Black Dog

18. Imgonnagetyouback

19. The Albatross

20. Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus

21. How Did It End?

22. So High School

23. I Hate It Here

24. thanK you aIMee

25. I Look in People's Windows

26. The Prophecy

27. Cassandra

28. Peter

29. The Bolter

30. Robin

31. The Manuscript

“This was a Poet -

It is That

Distills amazing sense

From Ordinary Meanings -

And Attar so immense

From the familiar species

That perished by the Door -

We wonder it was not Ourselves

Arrested it - before -”

- Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson’s 'This Was A Poet' memorializes one of the most intoxicating parts of her legend. Unwilling to resist her craft, Dickinson relentlessly created with the belief that not even her mortal death would denounce her title. She would always be a poet and her words would transcend through both space and time.

Like Dickinson, Taylor Swift is secure in her calling. In fact, she’s fully committed - she’s locked in, keys tossed.  On her eleventh studio album, The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology, Swift allows herself to be completely consumed by her craft, conjuring gloriously chaotic and chilling results that reinvent the work of her origin. The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology is not the break-up album of yesteryear, nor even Swift’s most notable work, but is something more thrilling. It’s a beguiling love letter to the art form itself.

This is not a collection for radio domination, but instead a richer listening experience of an artist untethered from form or structure. With producers Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, Swift has created a striking, often understated sound unlike anything she’s released, yet somehow still makes something eerily familiar. She dances in the dark of her own secret vault, speaking her heart’s whispers into every empty candle-lit hallway that awaits a distant listener to hear her beckoned calls.

We of course do hear her, every single time. The melancholic ‘Fortnight’ finds Swift dramatically firing warning shots, with the line “Your wife waters flowers / I wanna kill her” making it clear that all formalities have exited the premises. Even Post Malone’s contribution serves less as an established feature and more as an echoing into the wind of Swift’s unfiltered subconscious. The ethereal ‘So Long, London’ continues this dissent, unraveling militant questions on a partner who cruelly allowed Swift to “carry the weight of the rift”.

Of course, Swift always finds the answers herself, at least those that serve in this moment on her journey. Perhaps more importantly, she gives herself ample space to do so. Evolving from previous viewpoints, she demonstrates her critical growth not just as an artist but more importantly as a human being. No longer romanticising each step of life, on TTPD she offers messy, haunting and often jarring portrayals of love and loss.

On the beautifully mournful ‘loml’, she dismantles the pristine castles she so elegantly built within her own ‘Love Story’. ‘The Black Dog’, meanwhile, builds a palpable magnitude of emotion like beloved classic ‘All Too Well’, the syncopated delivery of “I just don’t understand/how you don’t miss me” heaves heavily with the universal woe of being forgotten.

Swift can’t stay forlorn forever, though. Pulsating with nonchalant sexual energy, ‘imgonnagetyouback’ finds her showering a fling with attention until she leaves him “like a dumb house party”, while the glorious ‘Florida!!!’ finds Swift sharpening her teeth alongside the immense talent of Florence + the Machine. Each cathartic section of the song’s chorus is delivered with a knowing snarl at the mass hysteria the mystery of the story will create. With the already infamous ‘thanK you aIMee’ though, the details are already universally known. Swift delivers a severe form of gratitude for the public pain inflicted on her, signaling that the days of gunshy ‘Mean” are far behind her.

At a staggering 31 songs, The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology is certainly not a succinct body of work. But, it does serve as an in-depth, raw examination of how an artist processes life through their music. Even after conquering the world, Swift remains uniquely obsessed in not just experimenting with her craft, but noting her own personal evolution.

In a distant future, it is hard not to envision how this volume of her catalog will be interpreted. Our current times will have been forgotten. The names exposed will no longer be relevant. Our collective beliefs will have changed. Yet what will remain here is truly all that matters. The tortured words of a poet.

8.5 / 10

Taylor Swift's The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology is out now via

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Written by Soda Canter
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