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October 26, 2023

Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department lacks tortured poetry

Safiya Azam
Taylor Swift, a popular American pop singer, released her 11th studio album, Tortured Poets Department, consisting of 17 tracks on April 19. The Sidekick staff writer Neha Nathwani delves into the album’s lyrics as well as collaboration with Post Malone and Florence + the Machine in two of her album tracks.

I thought this was The Tortured Poets Department? However, when I look inside, I cannot seem to find any tortured poets. 

No intricacies of words weaved together, nothing for me to hold onto after song endings, just lazy, repetitive rhyming and shallow symbolism. 

American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift has undeniable talent, proven by her ability to produce exceptional tracks on a mediocre album. Despite this, her predictable, profitable pop formula has taken away from her innovation and depth. 

Swift released her 11th studio album on April 19, venturing into multifaceted themes of love, heartbreak, mental health struggles and her complexities with fame.  

The album opens with a sonic, lush space where fast paced synth notes are juxtaposed by Swift’s tranquil tone in the song “Fortnight.” It swiftly immerses listeners in a passionate yet fleeting romance, a fortnight-long affair with British singer-songwriter Matty Healy.

A stinging sensation of barely experiencing a relationship yet deeply feeling its impact is eloquently presented. Swift expresses this emotional depth, amplified through hyperbole as she sings, “I love you, it’s ruining my life,” softly echoed by American singer Post Malone, enriching the impassioned depth. 

Vengefulness gradually emerges, with the lyrics “Your wife waters flowers / I wanna kill her,” expressing her bitterness after the relationship’s demise through emotional turmoil, leaving the listener also longing for more.   

The titled track, “The Tortured Poets Department,” instills humor into her lyrical narrative. Fluidly singing “You’re not Dylan Thomas / I’m not Patti Smith / This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel / We’re modern idiots,” Swift characterizes herself and Healy. They both are tortured artists who only understand each other’s artistic souls and poetic references. 

“Down Bad” begins on an otherworldly, stratospheric melody. Melancholically, she portrays coming to terms with how “Down Bad,” or profound her yearning truly is. She takes us in her navigation through a post-breakup state of distress singing, “I might just not get up / I might stay down bad.

“Fresh Out The Slammer” emerges as an enticing, soothing sound being the best track of the album. With music sounding like a crisp breath of fresh air, Swift uses the term slammer as a symbolism for her confining, repressing relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn. 

“Florida!!!” stands out as the most memorable song, having the most vocal variation. British rock band Florence + the Machine, brings captivatingly shaky vocals. As they both exclaim “Florida,” in the chorus, they move away from grief and towards newfound liberation found in the coastal state.  

Despite these enjoyable tracks, a sense of monotony sets in midway through the album, leaving me craving more. The repetitive synth sounds, chord progressions and vocal midranges make the album soulless; I fail to connect with the artist behind the typewriter.  

After just two years since the release of Swift’s previous album, Midnights, we received a loaded body of work. Swift’s large quantity of music has become formulaic and overly marketable, leaving me to question if the album was produced for artistry and authenticity or commercial success.

In “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” she cheesily recites thoughtless lyrics. It seems as though every lyric is made to be a quote belonging to a viral tweet posted by a teenager. When I hear “I’m so depressed I act like it’s my birthday, everyday,” I ask myself if the song was a mindless prank.

Her iconic pop legacy needs to be pushed outside its boundaries, not remain limited to them.

Compared to the rest of her discography, there is a more vulnerable part of Swift to be explored in this album. She puts us in raw moments such as “At dinner you take my ring off my middle finger and put it on the one / People put wedding rings on.” 

Though the attempt at an unfiltered persona is appreciated, it isn’t authentically done. Masked with predictable pop notes, Swift’s talent and emotion isn’t able to come into fruition.

Through her billion dollar Eras Tour and countless hits, I hope she is able to regain her artist’s soul, innovative melodies, broad vocal ranges and invoking lyricism. Because, I am still left wondering, where did the tortured poets go?

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About the Contributors
Neha Nathwani
Neha Nathwani, Staff Writer
Neha Nathwani is a junior staff writer for The Sidekick. She is currently in Speech and Debate and DECA. She loves to listen to music and her favorite artists are Tyler, the Creator and Lana Del Rey. Although these are her favorites, she explores various genres and finds random artists to broaden her music taste. She collects vinyls and her favorite movies are Before Sunrise and La La Land. In her spare time, she enjoys reading tarot cards, taking pictures of sunsets with her friends and learning about astrology.
Safiya Azam
Safiya Azam, Staff Designer

Safiya Azam is a first-year sophomore on The Sidekick, diving headfirst into the world of multimedia and creative exploration on The Sidekick. As a budding artist, she thrives on embracing various art forms and is set on pushing her boundaries. You can contact Safiya at [email protected].


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