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Taylor Swift’s ‘gloriously chaotic’ new album The Tortured Poets Department is lauded by critics as they brand it her ‘most personal record yet’ and a ‘sharp savage attack on her British exes’


Taylor Swift‘s much-anticipated new album The Tortured Poets Department seems to have struck to same chord with critics as it did the star’s millions of fans, with many reviews praising the ‘gloriously chotic’ and ‘audacious’ effort.

Sparking accusations that she was trying to con her fans, the star sent social media into meltdown when she dropped the 16-track record, before announcing 15 bonus songs just two hours later.

In a slew of reviews, critics were quick to brand Taylor’s album her ‘most personal yet’ and branded it a ‘sharp savage attack on her British exes,’ after fans speculated that several tracks took aim at her former flames Joe Alwyn and Matty Healy.

Writing in Variety, Chris Willman noted that the album is ‘renewing Taylor’s vows with heartbreak,’ noting that it had been a decade since she had released a similar record taking such swipes at her exes.

He penned: ‘The Tortured Poets Department gives everyone a full dose of the never-getting-over-it Taylor that no one really wanted to get over. 

Taylor Swift's The Tortured Poets Department seems to have struck to same chord with critics as it did fans, with many reviews praising the 'gloriously chotic' and 'audacious' effort

Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department seems to have struck to same chord with critics as it did fans, with many reviews praising the ‘gloriously chotic’ and ‘audacious’ effort

‘As breakup albums go, it’s a doozy, as they would have said back in Clara Bow’s day – an unapologetically dramatic (if often witty) record that will be soundtracking untold millions of tragic rifts to come. If you’ve been putting one off, now might not be a bad time to schedule it.’

Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffeld described the album as her ‘most personal album yet,’ adding: ‘It’s the cathartic confession of a woman who thought she had adulthood — and adult romance — all figured out, only to find herself realizing she knows nothing.

‘Even by Swiftian standards, she gets wildly ambitious with her songwriting here.’

Meanwhile UK critic Neil McCormick, writing in The Telegraph puts focus on Taylor’s savage swipes at her British exes in the album, while awarding it four stars.

He wrote: ‘On the simplest of terms, what we have here is a very smart, seductive, lyrically sharp set of smooth synth pop songs about affairs of the heart, crafted with love, intelligence and passion – another hugely appealing addition to Swift’s expanding canon…

‘But it can be hard to disentangle the hook lines from the headlines on an album that is not so much a blockbuster entertainment release as a global news event.

‘Although it features one sumptuously sad and gorgeous, lyrically forensic dissection of a fading romance with a depressed Brit on So Long, (that would be actor Joe Alwyn, who she dated for six years, but sounds like she got over in about six minutes), the arc of this album is about a torrid and obsessive affair with a bad boy poet.’

Writing for The Guardian, Alexis Petridis awarded The Tortured Poets Department four stars, writing: ‘There’s clearly a risk involved in calling out elements of your own fanbase, however justified said attack is, but Swift pulls it off.

In a slew of reviews, critics were quick to brand Taylor's album her 'most personal yet' and branded it a 'sharp savage attack on her British exes' (the singer is pictured with Joe Alwyn)

In a slew of reviews, critics were quick to brand Taylor’s album her ‘most personal yet’ and branded it a ‘sharp savage attack on her British exes’ (the singer is pictured with Joe Alwyn)

The Tortured Poets Department: What do the critics think?

Variety – Chris Willman

‘The Tortured Poets Department gives everyone a full dose of the never-getting-over-it Taylor that no one really wanted to get over. 

‘As breakup albums go, it’s a doozy, as they would have said back in Clara Bow’s day – an unapologetically dramatic (if often witty) record that will be soundtracking untold millions of tragic rifts to come. If you’ve been putting one off, now might not be a bad time to schedule it.’

Rolling Stone – Rob Sheffeld

It’s the cathartic confession of a woman who thought she had adulthood — and adult romance — all figured out, only to find herself realizing she knows nothing.

‘Even by Swiftian standards, she gets wildly ambitious with her songwriting here.’

The Telegraph – Neil McCormick

Rating:

‘On the simplest of terms, what we have here is a very smart, seductive, lyrically sharp set of smooth synth pop songs about affairs of the heart, crafted with love, intelligence and passion – another hugely appealing addition to Swift’s expanding canon…’

The Guardian – Alexis Petridis

Rating:

‘There’s clearly a risk involved in calling out elements of your own fanbase, however justified said attack is, but Swift pulls it off.

‘She can do it because she’s an exceptionally talented writer: there’s a depth and maturity to this album that makes her competitors look a little wan by comparison.’

NME – Laura Malloy

Rating:

‘Swift seems to be in tireless pursuit for superstardom, yet the negative public opinion it can come with irks her, and it’s a tired theme now plaguing her discography and leaving little room for the poignant lyrical observations she excels at.’

The Daily Mail – Adrian Thrills

Rating:

‘There’s certainly a sense that she’s pulling out all the stops on The Tortured Poets Department. 

‘Even for someone with a track record of lengthy, value-for-money albums, it’s a mammoth undertaking.’

The Standard – El Hunt

Rating:

‘There are no doubt countless lyrical puzzles here, waiting to be unpicked, but The Tortured Poets Department is at its most potent when it does away with all of the arch devices and spells it out plainly.’ 

The Times – Will Hodgkinson

Rating:

‘Taking in synth pop, Eighties power ballads and the emotional AOR of Stevie Nicks (who offers her own poem on love gone wrong in the liner notes), these songs are delivered with Swift’s trademark gusto and megawatt professionalism – and it’s a five-star album.’

The Mirror – Mollie Quirk 

‘Overall, The Tortured Poets Department is the most magnificent body of work that sees Taylor combine her love of poetry and music. 

‘The album is incredibly deep and moving, hard to unravel and decode, yet easy to fall into and draw comparisons to of your own life.’

BBC – Mark Savage

‘The Tortured Poets Department is an uneven album, and one that lacks a slam-dunk radio anthem like Anti-Hero or Shake It Off – but Swift has pop music in a stranglehold for now, so it will sell by the bucketload, even though it leaked a day ahead of release.’

‘She can do it because she’s an exceptionally talented writer: there’s a depth and maturity to this album that makes her competitors look a little wan by comparison.

‘Clearly, the monocultural ubiquity she’s achieved isn’t terribly healthy for anything other than her bank balance – The Tortured Poets Department seems to concur – but if we have to have a single artist dominating pop, we could have picked worse.’

However, not all critics were as enamoured by Taylor’s latest record, with NME’s Laura Malloy describing it as ‘a rare misstep,’ while referencing that she takes a surprise aim at the struggles that come with her huge fame.

Writing: ‘Swift seems to be in tireless pursuit for superstardom, yet the negative public opinion it can come with irks her, and it’s a tired theme now plaguing her discography and leaving little room for the poignant lyrical observations she excels at.’

‘It’s why the pitfalls that mire her 11th studio album are all the more disappointing – she’s proven time and time again she can do better.’

Referencing the album before Taylor unveiled 15 bonus tracks, The Daily Mail’s Adrian Thrills penned: ‘There’s certainly a sense that she’s pulling out all the stops on The Tortured Poets Department. 

‘Even for someone with a track record of lengthy, value-for-money albums, it’s a mammoth undertaking. 

‘Its 16 songs stretch out across 66 tireless minutes, with bonus tracks take the running time to over 74 minutes. 

‘It’s essentially a double album. It’s also an immersive, cinematic affair that often feels more like an old Hollywood film script than a straightforward pop record.’

The Standard’s El Hunt penned an even harsher critique, awarding the album just two stars, writing: ‘I’m ultimately left wishing there was much more of this frankness. 

‘There are no doubt countless lyrical puzzles here, waiting to be unpicked, but The Tortured Poets Department is at its most potent when it does away with all of the arch devices and spells it out plainly.’

While ELLE’s Georgia Nelson described the album as ‘her best storytelling yet,’ The Times’ Will Hodgkinson added: ‘The musical style is also perfect for Swift at this stage in her career. Having come through the perky teenage pop of Shake It Off, the would-be hipster edge of Bad Blood and the lockdown-friendly indie folk of Cardigan, she has arrived at the all-conquering adult mainstream. 

‘Taking in synth pop, Eighties power ballads and the emotional AOR of Stevie Nicks (who offers her own poem on love gone wrong in the liner notes), these songs are delivered with Swift’s trademark gusto and megawatt professionalism – and it’s a five-star album.’

Sparking accusations that she was trying to con her fans, the star sent social media into meltdown when she dropped her album, before announcing 15 bonus songs two hours later

Sparking accusations that she was trying to con her fans, the star sent social media into meltdown when she dropped her album, before announcing 15 bonus songs two hours later 

The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology – The FULL tracklist

1. Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)

2. The Tortured Poets Department

3. My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys

4. Down Bad

5. So Long, London

6. But Daddy I Love Him

7. Fresh Out The Slammer

8. Florida!!! (feat. Florence + The Machine)

9. Guilty As Sin?

10. Who’s Afraid Of Little Old Me

11. I Can Fix Him (No I Really Can)

12. loml

13. I Can Do It With A Broken Heart

14. The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived

15. The Alchemy

16. Clara Bow

17. The Black Dog

18. Imgonnagetyouback

19. The Albatross

20. Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus

21. How Did It End?

22. So High School

23. I Hate It Here

24. Thank you Aimee

25. I Look in People’s Windows

26. The Prophecy

27. Cassandra

28. Peter

29. The Bolter

30. Robin

31. The Manuscript

Writing for The Mirror, Mollie Quirk gushed: ‘Overall, The Tortured Poets Department is the most magnificent body of work that sees Taylor combine her love of poetry and music. 

‘The album is incredibly deep and moving, hard to unravel and decode, yet easy to fall into and draw comparisons to of your own life.’

The BBC’s Mark Savage wrote: ‘The Tortured Poets Department is an uneven album, and one that lacks a slam-dunk radio anthem like Anti-Hero or Shake It Off – but Swift has pop music in a stranglehold for now, so it will sell by the bucketload, even though it leaked a day ahead of release.’

Taylor – who recently teased a ‘timetable’ to her fans ahead of the LP’s release – initially announced the album while attending the 2024 Grammys in February.

The title of her latest work had caused fans to speculate that the name was aimed at her ex, Joe. 

As the album hit streaming platforms, Swift published a lengthy statement on Instagram where she described it as ‘an anthology of new works that reflect events, opinions and sentiments from a fleeting and fatalistic moment in time – one that was both sensational and sorrowful in equal measure.’ 

She continued: ‘This period of the author’s life is now over, the chapter closed and boarded up. There is nothing to avenge, no scores to settle once wounds have healed. And upon further reflection, a good number of them turned out to be self-inflicted.

‘This writer is of the firm belief that our tears become holy in the form of ink on a page. Once we have spoken our saddest story, we can be free of it.

‘And then all that’s left behind is the tortured poetry,’ concluded Swift, as she announced: ‘THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT is out now.’

Hours later, Swift surprised fans by announcing it was a surprise double album.  

Despite already splashing out for multiple versions of the record in a bid to get their hands on all four bonus tracks, fans will have to part with even more hard-earned cash when the super-sized record goes on sale.

After releasing her new album at midnight ET (2am UK time), Taylor took to Instagram to announce her latest record was actually a surprise ‘double album,’ after sparking a flurry of speculation by posting a countdown clock on social media.

Captioning the post, Taylor told her followers that she’d written ‘so much tortured poetry in the past two years’ that she wanted to share it with her fans.

Sharing the double album was called The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology, she wrote: ‘It’s a 2am surprise: The Tortured Poets Department is a secret DOUBLE album. ✌️ 

‘I’d written so much tortured poetry in the past 2 years and wanted to share it all with you, so here’s the second installment of TTPD: The Anthology. 15 extra songs. And now the story isn’t mine anymore… it’s all yours.’ 

Fans are convinced the 24th track – thanK you aIMee – is aimed at Kim, as the letters K,I and M are capped up to spell out her name. 

Taylor sings in one line: ‘There’s a bronze spray-tanned statue of you and a plaque underneath it/That threatens to push me down the stairs, at our school.’

Taylor also seems to hit out at Kim’s 10-year-old daughter North West as she sings: ‘And so I changed your name, and any real defining clues/And one day, your kid comes home singin’ a song that only us two is gonna know is about you.’

Sharing their thoughts on social media platform X, fans wrote: ‘The ultimate f**k you’;

‘OMFG thanK you aIMee is about Kim Kardashian. This album is SO unhinged’;

‘Kim your day of reckoning is here’; ‘Welcome to your tape’ 

Regardless, the new record earned a flurry of praise from fans on social media, with some quickly labelling the LP a ‘masterpiece.’

Posts included: ‘IM CRYING RN. TAYLOR WE LOVE YOU!!!!; This is going to be the best album Taylor has made I know it.’ 

’13 seconds in and its already the best album; ‘OMG Taylor this is a masterpiece!! Thank you for this amazing album!! Love you.’ 

‘Me as soon as each track begins; ‘I love this song!’

‘I love it so much already; THIS IS THE BEST ALBUM YOU’VE EVER MADE.’ 

‘You literally have a way with words that no one else has, it’s SO breathtaking. THANK you for all that you do, once again. now if you’ll excuse me, I got an album to stream all day;’

‘Fortnight is so so soooooo good you and @PostMalone together #TSTTPD I can’t believe I went this long without you two on a track together! I’m so excited to delve into this album!’ 

‘the realization that this album is more about matty healy than joe alwyn; Joe Alwyn breathing a sigh of relief tonight #TTPD;

‘She so real for this. This album is so good and the same unique.’

‘It’s crazy but her saying that they think Charlie Puth should be bigger just confirms for me that the song is 100% Matty. That is exactly something Matty Healy would say;’

‘joe alwyn to matty healy tonight,’ a fan penned, along with a GIF of, ‘Call the ambulance! But not for me!’

‘joe alwyn you will begin to cough in two minutes,’ and shared the lyrics, ‘And I’m p***ed off you let me give you all that youth for free.’ 

They were also quick to clock that Taylor’s album offered plenty of insight into the end of her six-year romance with actor Joe Alwyn, as well as her short-lived fling with The 1975 rocker Matty Healy.

Many fans had predicted that The Tortured Poets Department album would be the ultimate Joe/Taylor ‘breakup album’ as it’s been speculated the name was a direct dig at the British actor, who she dated from 2016 to early 2023. 

Swift found herself in a whirlwind romance with Healy — though neither ever directly confirmed — that started in April 2023 after they were seen kissing in NYC

But the fling ended as fast as it began after Healy’s ‘bad boy’ image and ‘racist’ remarks caused squeaky clean Swift to face backlash.

Swift is now happily in love with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce — but it’s clear she still has a few bones to pick with the ‘worst men’ in her life.

THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: TRACK-BY-TRACK 

Fortnight 

A tuneful duet with Post Malone and a song seemingly about a two-week fling. The slow, electronic rhythms set the early tone.

The Tortured Poets Department

Another shimmering melody, and lyrics which suggest that Taylor, modestly, doesn’t see herself at the top table of tortured poets: ‘You’re not Dylan Thomas, and I’m not Patti Smith.’

My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys

Written solely by Swift, this song’s dense electronic hum adds forceful notes. ‘Once I fix me, he’s gonna miss me,’ she vows.

Down Bad

‘Everything comes out teenage petulance,’ sings Taylor as she bitterly surveys the fallout from an old relationship.

So Long, London

The first track to be written with The National’s Aaron Dessner brings a change of pace, with a lovely, choral intro. ‘So long, London, you’ll find someone,’ sings Taylor.

This is her first new album since the end of her six-year relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn and, while she doesn't mention Alwyn by name, speculation will be rife that tracks such as So Long, London are about him. Pictured together in 2019

This is her first new album since the end of her six-year relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn and, while she doesn’t mention Alwyn by name, speculation will be rife that tracks such as So Long, London are about him. Pictured together in 2019

But Daddy I Love Him

‘I know he’s crazy, but he’s the one I want,’ sings Swift, showing wry humour as she admits to falling for the bad boys. Produced, with real brightness, by Dessner.

Fresh Out The Slammer

Finger-picked acoustic guitar adds folky notes reminiscent of lockdown albums Folklore and Evermore.

Florida!!!

An album highlight, this theatrical duet with London singer Florence Welch is an uplifting song of escape – from small-town life and a bad romance.

Guilty As Sin?

A tale of unrequited love, and a superb slice of 1980s-style soft rock. It even mentions The Downtown Lights, a 1989 single by Scottish band The Blue Nile.

Who’s Afraid Of Little Old Me?

Big drums, a dramatic arrangement, and more dry humour in another song penned solely by Swift. ‘You wouldn’t last an hour in the asylum where they raised me,’ she snarls.

I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)

A moody, stripped-down number worthy of Lana Del Rey, who has also worked extensively with the song’s producer, Jack Antonoff.

The Alchemy: Sporting metaphors aplenty suggest a track inspired by the singer's current boyfriend, American football star Travis Kelce. Pictured at Coachella this week

The Alchemy: Sporting metaphors aplenty suggest a track inspired by the singer’s current boyfriend, American football star Travis Kelce. Pictured at Coachella this week

Loml

‘You said I’m the love of your life,’ sings Taylor on this warm, resonant piano ballad. In a smart twist, the ‘loml’ ultimately becomes ‘the loss of my life’.

I Can Do It With A Broken Heart

More 1980s influences on an electronic pop track that sees Taylor vowing to remain a trouper, despite any romantic strife.

The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived

‘You didn’t measure up in any measure of a man,’ sings a disdainful Swift on a melodramatic ballad.

The Alchemy

Sporting metaphors aplenty suggest a track inspired by the singer’s current boyfriend, American football star Travis Kelce. ‘When I touch down, call the amateurs and cut them from the team,’ she sings.

Clara Bow

It’s tempting to think Taylor sees something of herself in a closing track inspired by an American actress of the 1920s who lived her life in the Hollywood goldfish bowl.



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