Ireland Gorecki | A Semi-Swiftie’s Guide to Digesting ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ 

Ireland at “Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour” in 2018. / Photo credit: Ireland Gorecki

Taylor Swift’s new album is ‘torturing’ the hearts of obsessed romantics.

By Ireland Gorecki

Since the dawn of the Speak Now era, America’s darling, Taylor Swift, has become the impetus of lyrical masterpieces spanning teenage romance, heartbreak, and growing up. Some even say her eloquent harmonies have awarded her the title of a poet laureate catering to the hearts and souls of young audiences across the globe. Swift states it herself—she is, indeed, a poet. On April 19th, 2024, the musical sensation released a double album entitled “The Tortured Poets Department” as an anthology of “sensational and sorrowful” chapters of tortured poetry.

I will never claim the title of a “Swiftie” because, quite frankly, the passionate, obsessive nature of one is not my cup-of-tea. Keeping up with all of the twists and turns of her relationship drama, pop-culture scandals, and Instagram pictures, while interesting, is simply not where I personally choose to allocate my time. Call me a casual listener. So, how might a casual listener, like myself, even begin to swallow an album with 31 songs? 

Swift’s eleventh album has strong highs and mediocre lows. Some tracks feel like a dreary trip to the thesaurus to detract from ancient, shallow melodies and only a few will win the prize of being stuck in my head as we enter the summer season. In other words, she sends a message of quantity over quality. 

From my perspective, Swift became famous for her ability to mesh haunting and catchy lyrics in a diverse discography. Some songs on this new album, however, seem to only appeal to those enthralled by the easter eggs of how every bridge connects to some moment in her pop-culture whirlwind with her recent beaus, Joe Alwyn, Matty Healy, or Travis Kelce. In my first listen, it was safe to say I only liked about one third of the album but, as many of Swift’s songs go, time is the best test of their merits. After marinating on the album for a month, I have grown to love about half of the tracks.

For those of you who may not desire to keep up with the drama but instead like to apply Swift’s lyrics to your own life, this digest is for you. Enjoy my analysis but I encourage you to come to your own conclusions too.

My favorite tracks on the album were as follows, “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?,” “But Daddy I Love Him,” “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” “Guilty as Sin?,” “Fresh Out The Slammer,” “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys,” and “The Albatross.” However, you can read on for my takes on all of the songs in the album. 

Fortnight (feat. Post Malone): The beat is catchy and reminiscent of a song on the Midnights album with it’s synth-pop feel, but just a month post-release, it is already being overplayed on the radio. “All my mornings are Mondays stuck in an endless February” is incredibly relatable and the song as a whole reminds me of obsessing over short, stagnant relationships and what-could-have-beens. Post Malone felt like a bit of an odd feature on this track. 

The Tortured Poets Department: The start of this song feels similar to the 1989 era in both its sound and content. It discusses a relationship that took itself too seriously too quickly. The lyrics lead me to think about the way men can carelessly lead women on, and our simultaneous habit of reading very deeply into their every move. “Who else decodes you like me” is the ever-present truth of women thinking in layers about their relationships with men, who may not be “decoding” as much as their female partners. 

My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys: I love the catchy, lighthearted nature of this track. It feels like an ode to “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” from reputation and reminds me of how after a difficult relationship, men can often leave women worse than they started. Swift’s “boy” cannot handle complexities or take care of women who want to be in relationships that hurt them. 

Down Bad: This track is a horrible attempt at a hit single. Sure, some lyrics are relatable but it feels—oh, dear—pick me. I absolutely hate the “down bad crying at the gym” lyric; sure, it is relatable but it feels very rudimentary. Overall, this song takes me back to my 16-year-old self in a strange, irritating way. The vocal layering is nice but it lacks a significant build. 

So Long, London: Everything about this song, from the lyrics to the melodies, is absolutely stunning. Swift’s sentiment of leaving London as a city of pleasant memories and then associating it with a man tugs at my heart. I love how she capitalizes on being able to gracefully move on. “I’m pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free” is one of the most relatable lyrics she has ever written. “I died on the altar waiting for the proof” is so reminiscent of a man who cannot commit or share his true feelings with a woman. The lyrical building here is so magical. 

But Daddy I Love Him: For all of the small-town, southern girls, this is for you! “I just learned these people only raise you to cage you… Sarahs and Hannahs in their Sunday best clutching their pearls” takes me back to my hometown in Georgia. Taylor’s teasing chorus is everything it needs to be. “Lord knows the words we never heard, just screeching tires of true love” is another incredibly relatable lyric; reminding me of a girl not afraid to break the status quo. 

Fresh Out The Slammer: Another magical track that reminds me of coming back from a long-distance relationship. In a way, it feels like the second part of Getaway Car. “Splintered back in winter, silent dinners, bitter he was with her in dreams” is so relatable. “To the one who says I’m the girl of his American dreams;” I love that so much and I will be playing this all summer long!

Florida!!!: I have yet to understand why so many people dislike this song. It reminds me again of the reputation era and Florence is perfectly matched in the bridge. “Little did you know your home’s really only a town you’re just a guest in so you work your life away just to pay for a timeshare down in Destin” forces empathy on my childhood in Forsyth County. 

Guilty as Sin?: The lyrical layering of this song is just so addicting. “I keep these longings locked. In lowercase inside a vault” speaks so dearly to women who value physical boundaries in relationships but still face temptation. It maximizes the feeling that “good girls” have to not be… riskay. “We’ve already done it in my head” connects Swift to her conservative, Christian audience with deep religious themes. “What if the way you hold me is actually what’s holy?”—just oh so stunning. 

Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?: This song is absolutely outstanding. I love how it feels like graceful anger and it reminds me a lot of reputation. I wonder if the lyric “Crash the party like a record scratch as I scream” is a reference to the lyric from Betty that says “What if I show up at your party, would you have me would you love me?” The build up to each chorus feels like an inside look into Taylor’s mind while she battles the process of growing up in the public eye and being judged from every direction. I would love to see this as a music video especially with the lyric “You caged me and then you called me crazy”. “Put narcotics into all of my songs”…yes ma’am you certainly have!

I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can): While I cannot agree with the message of this song, I see the heart and the emotional vulnerability behind it. Let’s face it, we all had that toxic relationship we thought we could fix. Yet, this song feels too slow for my taste. It’s not catchy or diverse in its melodies.

Loml: While I am seldom a fan of slow songs such as this, it is beautiful and reminds me of “New Year’s Day.” The lyrics of this song truly speak to the level of endearment felt after ending a serious relationship. “When you blew in with the winds of fate and told me I reformed you?” furthers biblical themes in the entire album. Could these mock Christianity, as many critics have suggested, or nod to her vulnerability in her religious upbringing? This song is a necessary beauty for TTPD.

I Can Do It With a Broken Heart: Every inch of me loves this song. It so eloquently appeals to the successful, oldest-daughter trope; the over-achieving girl who puts on a brave face in every situation. The build is spectacular and it echoes a story of a woman who is unfortunately used to heartbreak. I could apply this to anything from a bad grade on an assignment to a struggle with a friendship to a breakup. I especially love how I can almost picture myself in Taylor’s shoes preparing for the Eras Tour concert after her breakup. At the same time, however, this is one of many of her songs where I can say it was made for me. If anything can explain Penn-Face, it’s this song.

The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived: It’s a shame that this song has such a slow build. “If rusting my sparkling summer was the goal” is a lovely string of words and the preemptive mixture of anger and sadness at this point in the song is quite breathtaking. I wish the bridge was longer or more present throughout the song. It is one of those tracks that I will skip right to the bridge instead of listening to the full song. Taylor continues with the biblical themes with the lyric: “I would’ve died for your sins, instead, I just died inside”

The Alchemy: The lyrical blending is beautiful here and it reminds me of overcoming a breakup and slowly getting back to myself. I definitely see the references to football and her relationship with Travis Kelce, which is sweet but probably less relatable to a broader audience. It also feels like the ending is a bit rushed.

Clara Bow: I appreciate the airy feeling of this song and the biblical themes remain consistent. “No one in my small town thought I’d see the lights of Manhattan” is a sentimental lyric and adds to the feeling that this song is a kind message to herself. 

The Black Dog: This song is so sad. I have no idea what it’s about but it feels like a breakup I never want to experience. The rhythm is beautiful and the build is so fun. “Remember how my rain-soaked body was shakin” seems written for a relationship I once had. I could have done without the reference to exorcisms here, seems she is taking the religious metaphors a bit far.

I’m Gonna Get You Back: I like this rhythm a lot and I love the internal conflict that Taylor has with these lyrics. The bridge is really nice but the song as a whole feels a bit juvenile alongside the other mysterious, complex, and more sophisticated tracks.

The Albatross: I can already picture myself driving down the backroads of my hometown blasting this song in my car speakers. It reminds me so much of “no body, no crime” with its elusive, mysterious nature. The background humming of Taylor’s voice is beautiful. 

Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus: This is where the album goes downhill for me. It has a very sad undertone and the build is addicting but it feels repetitive with the remainder of the album. Nonetheless, the addition of the violin near the end is incredible. 

How Did It End?: The opening piano here is charming when singing about a relationship that shouldn’t have ended. “The deflation of our dreaming leaving me bereft and reeling” made me tear up. Here is where the five stages of grief begin, my friends. 

So High School: When I first heard this song, I strongly disliked it. Let’s just say this was not my experience in high school. It portrays the joys of young, puppy love but feels like the kind of love that says, “I love you because you love me.” At first, it felt somewhat unreliable to me, like most Penn students, I spent my high school experience studying for AP exams and ACTs. Now, in college, I have grown to love this song because it lets me daydream about a high school love I wish I had. 

I Hate It Here: The lyric “a poet trapped inside the body of a finance guy” is absolutely hysterical given my experience with Wharton men and finance guys. I can see this being useful for when I am actually homesick and mad about being at Penn, but I like Penn! The bit about the 1830s felt like I was listening to one very annoying run-on sentence. “I’ll save all my romanticism for my inner life” is quite relatable, however. 

Thank You alMee: Apparently this is a nod to Kim Kardashian but it does bring out the optimist in me. “And I can’t forgive the way you made me feel… But I can’t forget the way you made me heal” is very applicable and satisfying to listen to but, at this point in the album, I am bored! It simply has too many songs.

I Look In People’s Windows: This is a nice track but not terribly memorable. It reminds me of when I would search for people I knew in my small town or when I would pay attention to cars on the roads to see if it was someone I knew. “I tried searching faces on streets…what are the chances you’d be downtown” is right there with me when I was in high school. 

The Prophecy: Oooh I do like this. It reminds me of hoping for a better outcome when something is out of my control. The biblical themes are worth noting again. Is this a mock of Christian prophecies or is it Taylor speaking from experience begging for a better outcome?

Cassandra: Now I am at the point where there are too many songs on this album. While this song is nice, again, it feels repetitive. It reminds me more of “no body, no crime” again but The Albatross did a better job. 

Peter: This song is very sad and prompts me to remember all the goodbyes I have had to say. “We both did the best we could do underneath the same moon in different galaxies” feels directed to one of my dearest memories. “Love’s never lost when perspective is earned.” Wow. That lyric is so powerful. 

The Bolter: So many lyrics of this song speak directly to a relationship I had in high school that encompassed a lot of on-again-off-again. Yet, all these songs near the end of the album feel so repetitive and should be on a completely separate album. 

Robin: I would love to slow dance to this song because it is really that sweet. “The secret we all vowed to keep it from you in sweetness” is beautiful but this track, along with many many others, seems like it will take many listens to warm up to. 

The Manuscript: The build here is quite magical but the song as a whole feels like it could be in a musical. “In the age of him, she wished she was thirty” is quite pertinent to the Swiftie in love with an older man. I felt like the album deserved a better ending than this. 

After listening to Swift’s album for the past month and soaking in all the lyrics as I digest their meanings, I can say that this is one of her better albums. While long, it confidently surpasses the Midnights album and, honestly, gives listeners tracks comparable to the reputation era. Maybe this album will make me a Swiftie after all!

Ireland Gorecki is a rising sophomore in the College studying Biology and American Public Policy from Atlanta, GA. Ireland is also a photographer and staff writer for The Pennsylvania Post. Her email is

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