The Gloves are off on Taylor Swift’s Double Album, ‘The Tortured Poets Department’

Taylor Swift has come out with two more albums worth of music–her ninth/tenth album (counting re-recordings) since 2019. For many other artists, that amount of work in a relatively short period would prove to be stale. It’s one thing to be prolific. It’s another to keep things fresh. Swift, somehow, manages to do both, and no matter how many times she does it, the world remains awestruck.

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Several long months after Swift’s surprise announcement of The Tortured Poets Department (stylized in all-caps), the album arrived. Even more of a surprise, Swift shared a second part to the record, The Anthology, an hour later.

A title that distinctive naturally dusted up some strong opinions. Opinions about what the album would be. Who it was about. What era of Swift’s career this would bring about. And all of that was before fans even got around the double album theory–which proved to be right. Now that the albums are out, we have the answers to all of those questions.

Swift is fairly prosaic–particularly post-folklore. She often sings with a perspective that might sooner fit a classic novel than a pop hit. It’s interesting that, despite the inferences of the title, Swift has chosen to speak more plainly than ever before. These albums are not without their metaphors, allegories, and proverbs, but it’s clear that Swift wanted her listeners (or perhaps one person in particular) to hear her loud and clear. The gloves are certainly off.

Swift comes out of the gate with the kind of energy that would surely send someone cowering if it was directed at you. The title track sees Swift set the scene of a love affair gone awry. Because Swift’s personal life is easy to keep up with–given her expansive coverage and dedicated fanbase–we know that this album is likely about her relationship with actor Joe Alwyn. Or the end of it, anyway.

She name-drops friends, lets expletives fly, and calls out bad behavior with a marked ease. This isn’t just Swift heartbroken. This is Swift utterly changed forever.

She makes even more iron-clad references to Alwyn in “So Long, London.” Swift dated the English actor for six years before shockingly calling it quits. I’m pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free, she sings in this track. It’s one of her most biting lyrics to date.

She keeps a similarly sharp tongue across the rest of the expansive tracklist of The Tortured Poets Department. The lines ‘Cause it wasn’t sexy once it wasn’t forbidden from “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” and You saw my bones out with somebody new / who seeming like he would’ve bullied you in school from “Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus” are seething standouts.

But, it’s not all about heartbreak. From her career-defining Eras Tour to her whirlwind relationship with Travis Kelce, Swift has lived a lot of life over the past year or so. She leaves room in the track list to dictate her new beginnings amongst diatribes about her past.

“The Alchemy” is a sauntering, sexy song presumably about the NFL star. At any rate, it’s more hopeful than 99 percent of the tracklist. “So High School” also makes nods to Kelce. I’m sinking, my fingers intertwine / Cheeks pink and the twinkling nights feels like a fairly apt descriptor of the pair’s gushing romance.

[RELATED: Did Taylor Swift Write a Song About Travis Kelce? All About “The Alchemy” From ‘The Tortured Poets Department’]

Elsewhere, some songs feel like Swift assuming a character. Though the subject matter of songs like “But Daddy I Love Him” and “Florida!!!” will likely be unfurled by the Swifties in a day or two, they are intriguing mysteries that add even more color to this emotionally rich album.

Despite the high expectations put on her, Swift manages to blow them out of the water. She’s made it clear that she’s not comfortable resting on her laurels–ever. She’s constantly evolving and pushing her limits.

In terms of what era we would dub The Tortured Poets Department and The Anthology, we’d call them Swift’s most vengeful, self-serving albums. The latter isn’t a diss in the slightest. Swift’s confidence as an artist is at a peak. She doesn’t seem to be worrying about the larger purpose of this project. It feels deeply personal.

Swift’s music has always been somewhat of a diary entry, but both parts of The Tortured Poets Department are from some redacted, crumbled-up page. It reads like Swift making an album to heal herself only–and if she gets under the skin of a certain someone along the way, all the better.

Taylor Swift and Post Malone (Image via Instagram).

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