Reviews May 14, 2024

Taylor Swift’s, “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT,” Isn’t Great. 

by Landon Ungerman

With the sudden release of Taylor’s Swift recent double album “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT”, and it’s second half, “THE ANTHOLOGY”, which released two hours apart on April 19th, 2024, an uproar of conversation about the album took over social media. While the album shattered first-day streaming records, becoming the most streamed album in one day on Spotify, fans who weren’t desperately defending Taylor and the album were flooding their feeds with memes critiquing the awkward songwriting and unfinished sound of the album. “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” (TTPD) explores a familiar synth-pop sound with folk stylings, and aims to tackle Taylor’s self-aware psyche amidst becoming a global icon. But, the album fell short. The writing was poor, the arrangement was confusing, and stylistically, it just felt like a sloppy, synth-pop leftovers of Taylor’s last album, “Midnights.”

THE WRITING

Between the endless web of awkward metaphors, directionless arrangement, and the daunting 31 songs (TWO HOURS) worth of listening, TTPD is poorly written. In seemingly every song, there were a few lyrics that just didn’t land:

“You smoked then ate seven bars of chocolate / We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist / I scratch your head you fall asleep / Like a tattooed golden retriever”

“Touch me while your boys play Grand Theft Auto”

Pair these absurd lyrics with too many murky metaphors, ranging from figurative alien abductions to insane asylums, and listeners are left with lengthy songs that seemingly say nothing (Granted, Taylor intended for TTPD to reflect an overwhelmed state of mind). The track “But Daddy I Love Him” takes on the Romeo and Juliet narrative (Love Story much?), but does so in 6 minutes using words like “sanctimoniously.” The unnatural edginess of Taylor’s writing style on this project distracts from its solid musical moments. Hearing “Screaming ‘but Daddy I love him!’ / I’m having his baby / No, I’m not, but you should see your faces” on top of any amount of synth isn’t particularly pleasant.

THE STYLE & SOUND

A little cringe here and there doesn’t make an album bad, but “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT,” fell short in its musical style. Over-synthesized pop motifs that felt derivative to not only “Midnights,” but recent hits from Arianna Granda and Lana Del Rey smothered the first half of the album.. One of Taylor’s established collaborators, producer Jack Antonoff, is credited as the producer for the first half of TTPD, while Aaron Dessner produced the second half, “THE ANTHOLOGY.”. It is clear that Antonoff had a very strong sonic idea for the album and rarely strayed from it, even when it sacrificed a song’s style. For example, the track “So Long, London” was crying out for warmer, acoustic instrumentation like that of Taylor’s recent folk releases, but instead forced a staccato, grassy vocal melody onto an instrumental that should’ve been much simpler. An anonymous Swifty had this to say when asked about Taylor’s voice on TTPD:

“LIKE, OMG JACK. LET TAYLOR BE THE TWANGY POP GIRLY WE LOVE AND PUT THE SYNTH AND VOCODER AWAY.”

This project featured two artists, Post Malone and Florence Welch, on tracks “Fortnight” and “Florida!!!” respectively, and both collaborations missed the mark. Post Malone’s feature was complementary at most, as though any other male artist could have filled the same void on the track (perhaps Charlie Puth???). As for “Florida!!!” with Florence Welch… it simply shouldn’t have happened. The vocal style of Taylor and Florence blend like sriracha and waffles; they don’t go together at all. 

ALBUM HIGHLIGHT

Taylor Swift has written incredible songs over the course of her career, and it’s clear that the writing on TTPD was more personal and raw than her recent albums. The track “How Did It End?,” produced by Aaron Dessner, begins with a simple piano riff before developing into a clear soundscape that supports the raw, unfinished nature of the lyrics well. This was the most refreshing musical moment on the album, and had Taylor and her producers scaled back the production on the rest of the album, it would’ve been much stronger.

OUR RATING

Taylor Swift’s “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” is tired. The production is lackluster and the writing feels unnatural. This album is far from her best work. Despite its shortcomings, TTPD will undoubtedly shatter the charts for weeks to come, as the Swifty army is not one to be messed with, and that’s exactly the point. This album is meaningful for people who like Taylor Swift, but many fans agree that it should have developed for longer.

THANK YOU INTERNET, FOR THE MEMES

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