When Your Ex Moves in Next Door: The Meaning Behind “Fortnight” by Taylor Swift and Post Malone from ‘The Tortured Poets Department’

Taylor Swift and Post Malone come together on “Fortnight,” the opening track to her ambitious new album The Tortured Poets Department.

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The opening track sets the stage for love and torture, which is to say, all the things you want from a Taylor Swift album. Under the guise of fiction, “Fortnight” tells the story of a former love affair turning into a suburban nightmare.

The Ex Moves in Next Door

On Folklore, Swift replaced her usual confessionals with fiction, and The Tortured Poets Department opens with a similar tale. “Fortnight” follows Swift after a breakup, and she details her life spiraling into addiction.

I was supposed to be sent away
But they forgot to come and get me
I was a functioning alcoholic
Till nobody noticed my new aesthetic
All of this to say, I hope you’re OK
But you’re the reason
And no one here’s to blame
But what about your quiet treason

However, there’s a twist. Swift’s ex moves in next door, and the former lovers must adapt to a new life as friendly neighbors. Both Swift and her ex have married, though her miracle move-on drug has limited effects.

And for a fortnight, there we were forever running
Till you sometimes ask about the weather
Now you’re in my backyard, turned into good neighbors
Your wife waters flowers; I wanna kill her

The End of Swift’s Anglophilia

“Fortnight” is a British noun meaning two weeks, and Swift’s word choice is a not-so-subtle reference to her ex, English actor Joe Alwyn, whom she dated for six years.

Though the opening track of The Tortured Poets Department appears to be Folklorian fiction, like most great writers, pieces of the author inevitably wind up in the tale.

Swift’s poignant new album is portrayed as exploring the five stages of grief, and her collaboration with Post Malone details the mental health breakdown from depression. But Swift’s heartache is a tortured one, and the plot twist of having to share fence lines with her ex while she fantasizes about killing his wife will likely make Stephen King smile.

Will She Ever Find Love?

It gets worse for Swift. A double chorus follows the second verse, where she sings about her cheating husband. Ultimately, the tortured poet will never find happiness.

And for a fortnight, there we were, together, running
Till you sometimes come and tug my sweater
Now you’re at the mailbox, turned into good neighbors
My husband is cheating; I wanna kill him

Swift’s Apartment Complex

Meanwhile, “Fortnight” adopts Lana Del Rey’s bleak Americana. Swift and Del Rey collaborated on Midnights’ “Snow on the Beach,” and both have made albums with producer Jack Antonoff.

Malone’s contribution is a floating, hazy vocal and sets the tone for the tortured real-life dream (or nightmare) Swift can’t seem to escape. The song echoes Midnights’ downtempo synth-pop, and Swift tells the story while borrowing Del Rey’s breathy detachment. It’s the desperate sound of someone so emotionally battered they can barely get the words out.

The Meaning Behind Florida

By the song’s end, Malone repeats:

Thought of callin’ ya, but you won’t pick up
’Nother fortnight lost in America
Move to Florida, buy the car you want
But it won’t start up till you touch, touch, touch me

Swifties—the reliable operatives that they are—noticed that the first city on the Eras Tour following her breakup with Joe Alwyn was Tampa, Florida. Also, The Tortured Poets Department features a song with Florence Welch from Florence + The Machine called “Florida!!!”

The suburban hellscape of “Fortnight” requires an escape route to Florida, and Swift acknowledges she’s still not over the fictional lover in this song.

A Cathartic Anthology

On Instagram, Swift called her new album “an anthology of new works that reflect events, opinions and sentiments from a fleeting and fatalistic moment in time—one that was both sensational and sorrowful in equal measure. This period of the author’s life is now over, the chapter closed and boarded up.”

She writes about herself in the third person, like she’s telling someone else’s story. Her dispassion may be a sign of healing. Swift mentions Dylan Thomas elsewhere on her new album. That tortured poet spent his final moments drinking at the White Horse Tavern before returning to the Chelsea Hotel. He later died at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York.

Nick Cave memorialized Thomas’s drunk death in his song “There She Goes, My Beautiful World,” which also gave Annie Clark her band name. Thomas is partly responsible for the cliché of good art born from pain.

You don’t call an album The Tortured Poets Department without facing life’s punishing realities. The melancholy of “Fortnight” lingers over the album. Like everything Swift does, it’s intentionally placed, opening an album where even the hopeful moments cast a shadow of impending sadness.

Swift and Malone begin some kind of healing on “Fortnight.” But they must endure the pain first.

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Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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