“The Tortured Poets Department”: Swift’s Newest Album Finds Fatalistic Humor

By @taylorswift on Instagram, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76672878

On the weekend of April 19, “The Tortured Poets Department” and its subsequent anthology provided fans with a total of 31 new songs, 16 of which were initially expected on the standard edition. This album marks a new chapter for Taylor Swift, as a writer and creative. In Swift’s return to confessional songwriting, she is able to beautifully balance her acclaimed lyricism with striking honesty.

“The Tortured Poets Department” demonstrates Swift’s candor and ability to unabashedly reveal herself within her craft. It is also her most self-referential work; Swift unapologetically breaks the fourth wall by addressing her audience and the hysteria surrounding her persona directly. She manages to be both vulnerable and cutting with the listener. The days of Swift mincing words for fans are long gone. Swift has pulled her feelings of grief, anger and confusion apart — opening them up for public consumption once more.

“The Tortured Poets Department” observes its own madness and delusions about love quite astutely. Swift’s ill-fated relationship with the album’s central muse quickly becomes clear, even when she is not yet ready to accept the circumstance. It is apparent that Swift has also perfected the skill of the “composite sketch” — writing about more than one person or situation at once. While fans may search for clues and insight into the inspiration behind these songs, Swift continuously aims for something higher.

Swift is self-aware, but not self-conscious; she is defiant and truthful and resigned. “The Tortured Poets Department” is often fatalistic and hyperbolic, but it finds its own humor within such pain and grandeur. Swift has brought the best of albums like “folklore” to this work and demystified it with her honesty, where her roots of diaristic songwriting shine.

The record’s production is some of the best work of collaborators Swift, Antonoff and Dessner. Swift’s vocal delivery is versatile and emotive, shapeshifting over a variety of dark, dazzling and melancholic tracks. Although known for her lyrical prowess, Swift has notably honed the ability to utilize her voice as its own instrument. Her wide-eyed hopefulness and consequential hurt is palpable and bruising. While “The Tortured Poets Department” attests to Swift’s growth as an artist, she remains in touch with the quintessential elements of her writing that first brought her to fame.

Before her audience, Swift finds momentary solace in the chaos of a whirlwind romance. She is unguarded when uncovering the devastation this loss would leave behind, detailing how she crumbled in a situation that could have been prevented. Was it necessary? Was it legendary? Swift emerges triumphantly from the gallows of her heartbreak, even when its questions linger. Listeners learn alongside Swift that there is often no tangible reason or closure to come with a sudden twist of fate. It simply is and will be — but she can do it, even with a broken heart.