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The Tortured Poets Department: Everything You Need to Know (and more)

By Olivia Fusca

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, Taylor Swift announced her brand new album, 'The Tortured Poets Department', at the 2024 GRAMMYs. She announced Tortured Poets (her 11th studio album) during her acceptance speech for Best Pop Vocal Album (her 13th GRAMMY, might I add). She then went on to win another GRAMMY that night, this time for Album of the Year.  

Her album is set to come out on the 19th of April.  This date is important for later, so remember it!

The Tracklist:

The 16-song album has been split into 4 sides (A, B, C, D).

Side A:

Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)

The Tortured Poets Department

My Boy Only Breaks His Favourite Toys

Down Bad

Side B:

So Long, London

But Daddy I Love Him

Fresh Out The Slammer

Florida!!! (feat. Florence + the Machine)

Side C:

Guilty As Sin?

Who’s Afraid Of Little Old Me?

I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)


Side D:

I Can Do It With A Broken Heart

The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived

The Alchemy

Clara Bow

There are also 4 other editions of the album, ‘The Manuscript’, ‘The Bolter’, ‘The Albatross’ and ‘The Black Dog’.  The editions each contain the original album, each with its respective title as a 17th song.

The Timeline:

In her acceptance speech, Taylor said she kept this album a secret for two years. Do you know what else was written about 2 years ago? ‘You’re Losing Me!’, a bonus track on Midnights Taylor wrote about her relationship with Joe Alwyn.  It has a lot of heartbreaking lyrics such as ‘I wouldn’t marry me either’, suggesting that Taylor thought the relationship was going to end. However, they dated for over a year after she wrote the song. Her saying that the album was being written around this time implies that the album will have a lot of songs about the end of their relationship and their breakup.  


After her messy break up with Alwyn, she had a few weeks-long relationship with Matty Healy. She was single for a few months and then started dating Travis Kelce. Due to the recentness of her relationship with Kelce, it is unlikely that there will be any songs about him. However, this depends on how long Taylor and Travis had been dating before she went to his game for the first time. 

At the Eras Tour Tokyo Night 1, she said that she started writing this album straight after 'Midnights' was finished. Some people believe that 'Midnights' was a breakup album, but what if 'The Tortured Poets Department' is almost a sequel to 'Midnights', and that 'Midnights' was her falling out of love and trying to salvage the relationship with Joe Alwyn, and 'The Tortured Poets Department' is the break-up and her journey of healing.

First thoughts:

When she first announced the album, my mind was immediately like ‘The Dead Poets Society??’ It has been a struggle since not to say The Dead Poets Society.  Many fans believe that the album title alludes to Joe Alwyn, Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott’s WhatsApp group chat ‘The Tortured Man Club’. A friend of Joe Alwyn’s recently made a statement saying that Alwyn was very offended by the Album title, and claimed that it was ‘an undeniable reference to the group chat’. When Taylor found out about the group chat, she didn’t want people to think it had anything to do with her and was annoyed and offended when he spoke about it in an interview. So, the fact that Joe Alwyn, while he was dating Taylor, called a group chat ‘The Tortured Man Club’, and is now mad about her ‘referencing’ the chat in her album about THEIR break up, seems a little ridiculous. After analysing the titles, it seems to me that this album tells a story, like 'Folklore' (her 8th studio album). However, unlike 'Folklore', the story is in order of the tracklist.

Remember that date? The album comes out on April 19th 2024. April 19th marks the day that the American Revolutionary War began in 1775. It should be noted that Britain fired the first bullet. For those who don’t know much about American History, the American Revolutionary War was America breaking apart from Britain and becoming its own country - AKA, Taylor Swift breaking up with Joe Alwyn and becoming her own person once more. April 19th is also National Cat Lady Day in America.

Tracklist Breakdown:

Track 1:

Track 1 is titled ‘Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)’. This marks the beginning of the Tortured Poets narrative: the break-up. Fortnight is a ‘British’ term (Australia also uses it) that means two weeks. Many fans have been saying that this song could be about the last two weeks of Joe and Taylor’s relationship (aka, a fortnight before they broke up).  However, I personally find that to be a bit too on-the-nose and doesn’t include any predictions on what it could be about. I do, however, think that the song is going to be the lead single of the album and will almost definitely have a music video.

Track 2:

Track 2 is titled ‘The Tortured Poets Department’. It is the first album that has a title track on the original album since ‘Lover’ in 2019. I have a feeling that this song is going to be about 'The Tortured Man Club’ (see above).

Track 3:

Track 3 is titled ‘My Boy Only Breaks His Favourite Toys’. This title is similar to the lyrics of ‘Cruel Summer’.

‘Bad, bad boy. Shiny toy with a price. You know that I bought it.’  

This comparison starts with the ‘toy’ being Joe Alwyn, in the Lover era, and as we move into the Tortured Poets era, Taylor has realised that she is the ‘toy’. This song might be about Taylor starting to realise that she and Joe need to break up.

Track 4:

Track 4 is titled ‘Down Bad’. The Urban Dictionary definition of the term is ‘the feeling of being so attracted to someone. You almost feel depressed that you two aren’t together.’  This song might be her reflecting on her relationship with Joe and how she doesn’t feel ‘down bad’ about him anymore.

Track 5:

The infamous track 5…  Taylor has not written a track 5 so obviously named since the days of ‘Dear John’. Track 5’s are a tradition in every Taylor album. It is the most emotionally gut-wrenching, raw and vulnerable song on every album. ‘So Long, London’ is the name of track 5. Get ready for some serious Joe Alwyn-induced hate from this song.

Track 6:

Track 6 is called ‘But Daddy I Love Him’. This is a direct quote from the Disney movie ‘The Little Mermaid’. The original ‘The Little Mermaid’ movie came out in 1989 and is about a girl who gives up her voice to be with the one she loves. Joe wanted Taylor to quit her career so that he would stay out of the spotlight. This song might be about her trying to convince her friends and family that she still loved him, even at the end of their relationship. She might also be trying to convince herself of this. Track 6’s are usually very upbeat - queue the likes of ‘22’ and ‘Shake It Off’. This implies that this track will be very upbeat, with some fun lyrics. Get ready for some severe whiplash between ‘So Long, London’ and ‘But Daddy I Love Him’.

Track 7:

Track 7 is titled ‘Fresh Out the Slammer’. Slammer means ‘jail’, so she is saying that she is fresh out of jail. A line from ‘...Ready For It?’ draws parallels: ‘He can be my jailer, Burton to this Taylor’. The song ‘...Ready For It?’ was written at the start of Joe and Taylor’s relationship and talks about how she wants to be in his ‘prison’. ‘Fresh Out the Slammer’ is her saying that she is finally free after being in Joe’s ‘prison’ for so many years. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, whom Taylor had dropped into ‘...Ready For It?’ (see lyrics above) are mentioned more in the breakdown of Track 10.

Track 8:

Track 8 is called ‘Florida!!! (feat. Florence + the Machine)'.  This is the next part of the Tortured Poets narrative - getting over the relationship.  Taylor’s first Eras Tour show after the break-up was in Florida.  

Track 9:

The likes of ‘Getaway Car’, ‘Cornelia Street’, ‘Bejeweled’, and ‘Enchanted’. If Taylor’s discography was only made up of Track 9’s, I would be so happy! Track 9’s have some of my all-time favourites, and it has high standards to meet. ‘Guilty As Sin?’ is an expression for being so completely guilty that it is undeniable. However, Ms Swift put a question mark at the end.  Maybe she isn’t so guilty after all? This is a long shot, but maybe the song might be about the haters saying that she is ‘guilty as sin’ for the Joe Alwyn break-up, but it might be her clapping back and saying, ‘Am I really that guilty?’

Track 10:

Track 10 is titled ‘Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?’. The title could be a nod to the play, and later film ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’. The film stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the 2 main characters, playing an old married couple with relationship problems. The actors married and adopted a child in real life. In ‘...Ready For It?’ Taylor refers to herself as Elizabeth Taylor, a woman who was married to 7 men, 8 times. She married, then divorced, then remarried Richard Burton, whom she linked Joe Alwyn to in ‘...Ready For It?’

Track 11:

Taylor called Track 11 on Tortured Poets, ‘I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can). In terms of the timeline, it makes sense that this song is about Matty Healy. It can be interpreted in 1 of 2 ways: she could be trying to convince others that really, he isn’t so bad; or, she could be convincing herself that he isn’t bad, to get over her break-up with Joe. Either way, this could be a very gut-wrenching song.

Track 12:

Track 12 is called ‘loml’. This, in Gen Z slang, stands for ‘love of my life’. It is quite a mocking term, almost like she wasn’t bothered to write the full saying, so resorted to a lazy, bored way. She could be reflecting on her time in past relationships, teasing her past self for thinking that all her exes were the ‘love of her life’. 

Track 13:

Track 13 is titled ‘I Can Do It With A Broken Heart’. Taylor has so many things that she needs to do in her everyday life. It doesn’t matter if she is sick, sad, on her deathbed even - someone will always be mad at her for not doing something the way that is expected. This song might be about how, even though she is sad and lonely, she still has things that are expected of her. She might even be getting mad at herself for letting the breakup affect her so strongly. She needs to convince herself that she can still do things, and get on with her life.

Track 14:

Track 14 is titled ‘The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived’. Ummmmm, Taylor, what on earth is this meant to mean??  I’m not going to elaborate on that title, because my imagination would just run absolutely wild!

Track 15:

Track 15 is titled ‘The Alchemy’. The Merriam-Webster definition of alchemy is ‘the medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy whose aims were the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for diseases, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life’. ‘The Alchemy’ is not a proper term, instead would just be referred to as ‘alchemy’. In ‘Daylight’, Taylor refers to love as golden - specifically her and Joe’s love. Alchemy is the philosophy of turning basic metals into gold. Alchemy has not survived modern research and has been deemed fake. She could be referring to Joe with this title, saying that their relationship was not real.

Track 16:

Track 16 is the last song on the original album. It is called ‘Clara Bow’. Clara Bow was the original ‘it-girl’. She was an American actress during the silent film era of the 1920s, was one of the first actors to star in a ‘talkie’ film, and retired after marrying Rex Bell. Taylor Swift is undoubtedly the ‘it-girl’ of our generation, and I’m sure we will be able to trace many more parallels between the two women once the song is released. In my head, this song is going to sound similar to ‘the last great american dynasty’ from ‘Folklore’.

The Variants:

The Manuscript:

This song was announced along with the original album, but was advertised as a bonus track. This song could be summarising the Tortured Poets story so far.

The Bolter:

This variant was announced in Melbourne. To bolt means to unexpectedly run away.  She could be referring to Joe as ‘The Bolter’. When the variant was announced, an old viral video of Joe Alwyn dragging Taylor into a car, and bolting down the sidewalk was reposted about a million times. A bunch of jokes have been made regarding the clip and the song.

The Albatross:

An Albatross is a large, white bird, typically found in the southern oceans. The albatross also has another definition. An albatross is the symbol of ‘a seemingly inescapable moral or emotional burden, as of guilt or responsibility’. Watch out Joe Alwyn, Taylor just wrote another song about you.

The Black Dog:

The Black Dog is the final variant of The Tortured Poets Department. A black dog means ‘a metaphorical representation of melancholy or depression.’ In these bonus tracks, Taylor talks a lot about feeling sad and depressed. Joe Alwyn is about to be cancelled when this album comes out!!

Final Thoughts:

Taylor has said that she is so excited for us to hear this new album. She said that it is her favourite and best album yet. I, for one, am so excited for April 19th and have already started planning a listening party with my friends!


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