What does one do when they are on a sold out world tour celebrating 10 albums and a 20 year career? Well, for Taylor Swift, releasing her eleventh studio album amongst the madness is the only right answer! THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT met listeners on April 19th, 2024 with sixteen tracks on its standard edition. Across the album, Swift takes listeners on a journey through heartbreak, confusion, and reflection regarding her public and private life through her elaborate storytelling. Opening the album with “Fortnight”, Swift is joined by Post Malone as she describes how her love for someone is “ruining” her life. “Fortnight” truly sets the scene for the remainder of Tortured Poets, and puts forth a number of emotions and concepts that Swift circles back to within the remaining 15 tracks. Evolving with the heavily synth driven sound of her previous album, Midnights, THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT dives into a darker synth sound while evolving into a bit more of a live production. Yet, within the darker tone of the record lies plenty of humorous aspects within Swift’s songwriting, like on the album’s title track when she sings “You left your typewriter at my apartment, straight from the tortured poets department, I think some things I never say, like ‘who uses typewriters anyways?’” 
Getting deeper into the of THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT brings forth the bittersweet and emotional context that is behind each track. As Swift has been highly publicized and heavily criticized throughout her career, there is undeniably a weight that has been placed upon her in the wake of such. A listen to “I Can Do It with a Broken Heart” depicts just this, and shows her commitment to her career despite her inner turmoil. This turmoil shines on songs like “Down Bad”, “So Long, London”, and “loml”, where Swift navigates the complexity of losing love and the end of a chapter in life. Songs like “Fresh Out the Slammer” and the Florence and the Machine assisted “Florida!!!” feel like a breath of fresh air, as the foresight of what has been allows Swift to take the first steps in this new time of her life. After the standard edition of THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT dropped, Swift surprised everyone two hours later with THE ANTHOLOGY edition of the album, bringing fifteen additional tracks to the story. 
This fifteen track addition serves as a double album to the original sixteen tracks, in which a prominently stripped back sound is favored. Highlights like “The Black Dog”, “imgonnagetyouback”, and “I Look in People’s Windows” amongst the additions show Swift blending together the popular synth sound amongst her pop-leaning tracks and a stripped sound in the likes of folklore and evermore. Bringing the album’s total count to thirty-one tracks, it is evident that THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT served as a safe space and outlet for Swift during the whirlwind of the last few years. Amongst everything that this album is within it’s emotions and its depiction of Swift’s life within recent times, THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT feels like both the end of one chapter of her life, and the beginning of another. The chart performance of the album proves just this, skyrocketing to number one of the Billboard Hot 200 Album chart and tracks from the album holding the entire Top 10 positions of the Billboard Hot 100 Songs chart. As Swift heals her wounds and finds comfort in the madness on this record, she opens the door to a world of creative liberation that sets the scene for all that is yet to come. Taylor Swift is indeed at the highest point of her career on her eleventh album, and time will show her pushing herself to even higher peaks down the road.
- Logan Bandi

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