The Tortured Listeners Department

Beloved pop icon Taylor Swift has recently released a new album titled “The Tortured Poets Department” following her GRAMMY award for Album of the Year on February 4th, 2023.
Taylor Swifts newest album, The Tortured Poets Department.

Beloved pop icon Taylor Swift has recently released a new album titled “The Tortured Poets Department” following her GRAMMY award for Album of the Year on February 4th, 2023.

She announced it at the prestigious awards ceremony during her acceptance speech and then shared about the album on social media. The album succeeds her previous album “Midnights,” a pop album that was well received by critics.

Taylor Swift has over 100 million monthly listeners on Spotify and is the only artist to attain four GRAMMY awards for Album of the Year. Her Eras Tour is the highest-grossing tour of all time, raking in over one billion dollars. It’s an understatement to say that every time she releases an album, it instantly becomes a major cultural event.

That brings us to her new album titled, “The Tortured Poets Department.” After her announcement, she showed the album’s tracklist and released multiple editions to pre-order. Then, the album was finally released on April 19th at midnight, with fans across the world staying up to listen to it. It is sixteen tracks long, lasting 65 minutes. 

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At 2 AM on the same day, she announced that it was a double album containing fifteen bonus tracks titled “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology.” This version contains 31 songs and runs for over two hours.

The features on the album work well for the most part. Post Malone’s feature on the lead single “Fortnight” matches Swift’s singing voice well, adding another layer of depth to the track. Another popular song is the second and last feature on the whole album, titled “Florida!!!” featuring Florence Welch. She has a great singing voice, though it contrasts with Swift’s a little too much, to the point where it is difficult for them to harmonize.

Many of the other songs on the album are rather hit-or-miss. While many have great choruses, high-quality instrumentals, and good lyrics, just as many are lacking in at least one of these departments. Some tracks have short choruses that aren’t particularly catchy, uninspired instrumentals that come off as uninteresting, or lyrics that are sometimes cringeworthy. 

Of her lyrics on the album, many of them don’t make sense without knowledge of Taylor Swift’s past feuds and relationships, which not many people care about. Unless you enjoy her self-referential lyrics and picking apart who they could be referencing, this album has little else to say that she hasn’t said before. Many of these lyrics don’t help to create the album’s narrative without external context and only serve to fuel the fire of celebrity drama and gossip, which detracts from the album’s lyrical substance.

Many of these tracks are just outright uninteresting with boring instrumentals and choruses that rarely move out of the small vocal palate on this album. Tracks like “loml” or “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” go with a more laid-back piano melody produced by Aaron Dessner. His style heavily contrasts that of Jack Antonoff’s synthpop instrumentals that are featured throughout the album.

Other tracks are just generic and feel like they have been done before. “Down Bad” feels like a generic pop song that could have been made by any pop star at any time in the past few years. “But Daddy I Love Him” is similar to the song “Love Story,” a track that she has already made. Even the imagery and country influence is reminiscent of the song. Overall, Taylor Swift doesn’t have many new things to say in her music and is just retreading old topics.

Some songs just end up blending due to the monotony of the album, especially the latter half. The Aaron Dessner-produced songs suffer from this issue especially. It often feels like they are just basic demos that don’t add to the album that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Jack Antonoff-produced songs suffer from sounding generic and washed out, though they are at least discernable. The album struggles with creating its own identity or reason for existing other than being a new Taylor Swift album.

Though I am reviewing the base album, Swift also released “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology,” containing fifteen extra songs. Most of these are produced by Dessner, and they manage to have a higher quality than the base album. Overall, her lyrical prowess appears to be displayed far better on these extra songs, and Dessner’s production also feels far better than what he produced on the base album. For the most part, these bonus tracks feel far more mature than the base album. While the base album is mediocre, this “anthology” is overall good.

However, despite the album lacking in many areas, it still has seen major commercial success in multiple areas: most vinyl preorders at Target, over 300 million Spotify streams in one day, and even the first fourteen entries of the Billboard Top 100 being taken by the new album. No matter how you feel about the quality of her music, she likely won’t have any motive to improve with this level of success.

“The Tortured Poets Department” mainly tortures its listeners with its mediocrity and monotony both sonically and lyrically. There are maybe half or a third of the songs that are standouts and have their own identity, but there are just as many that sound like generic synthpop and are designed to just keep her fans complacent. Unless you participate in celebrity gossip and care about Taylor Swift’s every move, this album likely won’t provide much other than a healthy batch of enjoyable songs mixed in with some that are lesser quality; and it definitely won’t move the needle for Swift artistically.


Brandle, Lars. “Taylor Swift’s 2 a.m. ‘Tortured Poets’ Surprise Is a Double Album.” Billboard, 19 April 2024, Accessed 3 May 2024.

Brow, Jason. “Taylor Swift’s Tortured Poets Department Credits Reveal Collaborators.” Us Weekly, 16 April 2024, Accessed 3 May 2024.

Dailey, Hannah. “Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’: Everything We Know.” Billboard, 16 April 2024, Accessed 2 May 2024.

Franklin, McKinley. “Taylor Swift Becomes First Female Artist to Hit 100 Million Monthly Spotify Listeners.” Variety, 29 August 2023, Accessed 2 May 2024.

Nelson, Dustin. “Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is first tour to make $1 billion.” Entertainment Weekly, 11 December 2023, Accessed 3 May 2024.

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