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The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

Geer, signing off
Geer, signing off
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So long, farewell, I’ve got no more stories to tell
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Unlike my fellow student media seniors who’ve written this before me, I came into Simpson knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I did independent...

Review: “The Tortured Poets Department”

A place for the broken, the broken-hearted and everyone else, too

Well, hello there, fellow tortured poets. I’m glad you’re here. At least “here” on The Simpsonian website. This is my final review of a Taylor Swift album, at least while I’m still on campus. I’ve reviewed “Midnights” and “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” (yes, I know I didn’t review Speak Now TV, but that’s because it was in July), and here’s my last hoo-rah. 

So, after waiting what feels like a fortnight, let’s get into it. 

The marketing of “The Tortured Poets Department” (TTPD, for short) was different than other albums. For “Midnights”, she did “Midnights mayhem with me” which was a game of chance on the titles of the songs on the album. With TTPD, she released the songs on the album as early as Feb. 5, 2024, the day after she announced the album at the 2024 Grammys. 

She announced TTPD after winning her 13th Grammy, which, if you didn’t know, Swift’s lucky number is 13. 

But the lead-up to TTPD felt a lot different for a few reasons. First, we knew it would be a breakup album because she just entered a new relationship with Travis Kelce last summer. With a title like “The Tortured Poets Department” I think we all knew it wouldn’t be the 2024 equivalent of “Lover”.

What WAS different was the installations. I can name a few at the top of my head, but in the days leading up to release, there was a pop-up exhibit at The Grove in Los Angeles. The exhibit featured a library-themed room riddled with subtle clues about the upcoming album. It felt like an escape room for Swifties. This installation may be the start of a new marketing plan for escape rooms. 

The marketing of the album didn’t really start until the week before the new holy day (TTPD release day, you can refer to me as the starting point of calling release days holy days, sorry if you’re Catholic). Which, I think after listening through the album, makes more sense. There were lyric teasers, which I thought was clever. It started so late in the game, but here we are, listening to it.

Speaking of listening to it, this review is going to consist less of the production value of the album, like my other reviews included. The reason is that the album is NOT her best-produced album, but it may be one of the most lyrically genius, complex and devastating albums released in our lifetime. By that, I mean us in college, us born into Gen Z, born in the Taylor Swift Era of music. 

But compare this album to anything by Fleetwood Mac, and you’re on the chopping block.

Before I started listening to the album this morning, when I woke up at 7:45 a.m. sharp, I looked to Swift’s socials for guidance. 

“This period of the author’s life is now over, the chapter closed and boarded up,” Swift said on Instagram right at album release time at midnight Eastern time. “There is nothing to avenge, no scores to settle once wounds have healed. And upon further reflection, a good number of them turned out to be self-inflicted.” 

With that in mind, I dove right in. 

I’ll start by saying I do NOT think this is Swift’s best album, at least not musically. I know it’s basically a mix of “Folklore” and “Midnights” with a twang of Lana Del Ray here and there, but the songs fall a little short for me because they all sound the same. 

In fact, at one point I was texting my best friend and fellow Swiftie that a lot of it sounded like the TikTok sound of what “Taylor Swift sounds like to someone who doesn’t listen to her”. 

But that doesn’t mean I don’t think this is her most lyrically powerful album ever. After all, it’s a breakup album after her longest relationship, Joe Alwyn. 

She felt so many emotions during the relationship and the breakup, and if you can’t tell that from the lyrics, maybe consult an English major for help. Each song feels incredibly similar in terms of production, but lyrically it’s whiplash. And it’s a lot, two hours worth.

I told my boyfriend: “It’s word vomit after you break up. You need to get it out no matter what. Every last word. Every last feeling.” 

And I think that’s the embodiment of the album: getting the words out. Swift has so much to say after six years with Joe, it’s only natural that she produced this album and didn’t cut it down.

Believe it or not, the titles of the songs clue you in more than you’d think. “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys” is exactly about that: a metaphor about a toddler who breaks his toys and leaves them for dead, to put it simply. Damn, Joe, what’d you do to her? 

This continues throughout the entire album and it only snowballs from there. I don’t think this album is chronological, like how the vault songs from re-records usually feel. If you don’t know what I mean, look at my “1989 TV” review.

I won’t spoil the lyrics, because they’re so powerful. But, as Lindsay Zoladz from the New York Times said in her review, Swift could use an editor. 

The songs are lyric-heavy, and that’s kind of it. They’re emotionally devasting, but they may be better suited in print. They feel like they belong in a book of poetry rather than put into a two-hour-long album. It’s just so repetitive and wordy. If any of us editors here at The Simpsonian or any of the Multi-Comm department professors had a crack at it, there’d probably be half the amount of songs, nixing the need to have a double album release with “The Anthology”. 

But that doesn’t mean I think it’s bad. It’s not my top album, and maybe it’d hit different if I were going through a breakup, it’d be a euphoric album that hits all the right notes. But, I think you should give it a listen no matter what. She’s our generation’s artist, we should at least hear her out, unlike Joe because he clearly didn’t hear her out during their six-year stint.

And here’s what I know you’re really here for:

Kyle’s top songs:

  • “Fortnight” featuring Post Malone
  • “Clara Bow” 
  • “The Black Dog”
  • “The Albatross”

I like the second half, or “The Anthology”, more than the first. I think it’s more cohesive without sounding the same, but I can’t help but keep the entire album on repeat. 

I hope you at least give it a shot. Farewell, fellow tortured poets. I’m not going too far away.

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Kyle Werner
Kyle Werner, Managing Editor & Social Media Manager

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