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The Cub

The Tortured Poets Department: A Review

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Taylor’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department, was a huge success. This album took on a more sorrowful tone compared to some of her other albums, and focused more on poetic lyricism (hence the album name). This is something we’ve seen before in her music, however this album gave her the ability to expand on it.

 

Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)

The album opens with a feature from Post Malone. The song has a pop beat with eerie lyrics, repeating “I wanna kill her” throughout. The music video reflects this same tone, where she’s experimented on in a purely white room. Post Malone’s feature actually works well on this song, which surprised me since his discography is primarily rap. He’s able to match the softness of the song, however, and his vocals mix well with Taylor’s, in my opinion. I think this was a nice track to begin the album with, setting the tone for the rest of it and giving a taste of what’s to come. 

 

The Tortured Poets Department

The titled track of the album is sad and sweet. The melody is soft and lulling, but the lyrics are grieving and longing. She repeats “who’s gonna hold you like me?” throughout, showing that this is a song about reflecting on a breakup. I really like the melody of this song and some of the humorous lyrics like, “who uses typewriters anyway?”, as well as the sadder ones.

 

My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys

This song has less of a sad tone and more of an angry, aggressive one. It reminds me a little of her album Reputation. This song tells a story of a relationship, and how in the beginning the boy treated her kindly when she was shiny and new (“you should’ve seen him when he first got me”), but then “broke” her in the end. I think it does a good job of this and like how it’s edgier than the others on the album.

 

Down Bad

I like this track and its catchy chorus. This is about a girl hung up on an old relationship, struggling to let go of it. It’s simple, but it’s fun and a little catchy, and it works.

 

So Long, London

This song sounds both beautiful and incredibly heartbreaking. It’s about her previous relationship with Joe Alwyn (‘London’ in the title, refers to her previous song, ‘London Boy’, about Joe. Joe’s British.) I find the lyrics both beautiful and touching. Some of my favorites are: “And I’m pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free”, “Holding tight to your quiet resentment”, “And you say I abandoned the ship but I was going down with it, my white knuckle dying grip.” and a personal favorite, “You swore that you loved me but where were the clues? I died on the altar waiting for the proof. You sacrificed us to the gods of your bluest days.” The song starts out sad and resigning, but slowly leads up to a more intense, angrier bridge, and then ends again in this tone of resignation. I truly think this song shows some of Swift’s great lyricism. 

 

But Daddy I Love Him

This song is so fun! It’s about a relationship that the parents don’t approve of, but the couple stays together regardless. It uses humor, it’s short and sweet, and makes you believe in love again. I like how this song gives you a break from the constant dejectedness of the rest of the album. It’s one of my favorites to listen and dance to.

 

Fresh Out The Slammer

This song is about who you’re running back home to after being released from jail, which I’m guessing is a metaphor for something like messed up reputations or pasts. It has a nice beat and I like the range of her voice that we get.

 

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

This song is super catchy and has this insane chorus with loud, almost aggressive beats. Florence’s verse is absolutely gorgeous, and I think her deeper voice adds a nice contrast to Taylor’s. This song is about finding an escape in Florida, in sometimes unhealthy ways, describing it as “one hell of a drug”. This song is different from Swift’s other songs and I’m obsessed with it.

 

Guilty As Sin

This song is more upbeat compared to the others, while still having sadder undertones. The lyrics, about a couple, contain themes of religion. This is shown in lyrics like, “They’re gonna crucify me anyway. What if the way you hold me is actually what’s holy? If long-suffering propriety is what they want from me” and “I choose you and me, religiously.” I think it adds depth to the lyrics that allows it to stick out from other songs.

 

Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?

I’ve been in love with this song since I heard it. It has an intense sound that makes you feel everything the song is trying to make you feel. Lyrics such as “Don’t you worry folks, we took out all her teeth.”, “I was tame, I was gentle till the circus life made me mean.”, and “You wouldn’t last an hour in the asylum where they raised me” all help tell a complicated story with feelings of anger and resentment. It’s such a powerful song that you can listen to over and over again, and one of my favorites off the album.

 

I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)

This song has a softer and quieter melody compared to the others, which I find more emotional and a bit more serious. In this way, it’s a nice break from the heart-wrenching lyrics of the others. It’s about thinking you can fix a bad person in a bad relationship, and I like it. I do think it’s pretty simple, and don’t catch myself listening to this one as much as the others. 

 

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This song is one of the saddest sounding on the album. Taylor sings over a piano track about a relationship that didn’t work out. She conveys the words in such an emotional way that it gets you in the feels for a relationship you know nothing about. I enjoy the lyrics “That I can’t get out of bed ‘cause something counterfeit’s dead?” and “You’re the loss of my life.” I think comparing this to some of her other, more happier songs, you can really see the range of emotions and moods that she’s able to showcase in her music.

 

I Can Do It With a Broken Heart

This song is about Swift’s ability to perform and act (specifically on stage) as if everything’s normal while being severely depressed. I adore the chorus, “I’m so depressed I act like it’s my birthday everyday. I’m so obsessed with him but he avoids me like the plague. I cry a lot but I am so productive. It’s an art.” which is sung over an overly bright and upbeat track, contrasting the tone of the lyrics. I think this summarizes Swift’s situation well; the lyrics showcase her internal thoughts and feelings, while the overall sound of the song shows her (almost artificial) appearance to the outside world. Despite the meaning, this feels like a dance-around-in-your-bedroom song and I love it.  

 

The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived

I’m seriously so obsessed with this song. The majority of this song consists of sad, quiet, and tame verses. She talks about a past relationship and reflects on it, specifically what she currently thinks of her past boyfriend. What I especially love about this song is how it slowly builds up to an intense, loud, and angry bridge. She lets out all her feelings, practically yelling lyrics like, “Were you sent by someone who wanted me dead?” “‘Cause it wasn’t sexy once it wasn’t forbidden.” “And you deserve prison but you won’t get time.” It ends with these final parting words, “But you are what you did. And I’ll forget you, but I’ll never forgive the smallest man who ever lived.”

 

The Alchemy

This song sounds nice and sweet. On listening to it again I realize how much I’ve ignored it; it’s a happy song with a good beat that makes you happier, and I honestly hadn’t listened to it enough. It’s your average Taylor love song, nothing special, but I like it!

 

Clara Bow

This is another great song off of the album! It’s about new, upcoming artists and the common experiences, which Swift herself has dealt with, of being compared to older, popular artists, as well as the feelings that come with rising to fame. This is shown in lyrics “You look like Stevie Nicks in ‘75, the hair and lips.”, “You look like Clara Bow in this light, remarkable.”, as well as “You’re the new god we’re worshiping” and “I’m not trying to exaggerate, but I think I might die if I made it.” It ends (both the song and album) bittersweetly in the lyrics, “”You look like Taylor Swift in this light, we’re loving it. You’ve got edge, she never did. The future’s bright, dazzling.” I really like the sound of this song, and how it’s a little bittersweet, showcasing both the good and bad feelings of fame. I also like how it takes from some of Swift’s own experiences, making it all the more personal. 

 

Swift also released 15 extra tracks, and while I’m not going to review them all, I want to say something about my favorites: The Black Dog, The Albatross, How Did It End?, The Prophecy, and Peter were the most memorable for me (there’s a lot) and the ones I haven’t been able to stop listening to. They all have such beautiful lyrics and communicate such powerful stories and feelings. I honestly think they’re some of my favorite Taylor songs of all time. She’s done a great job with this album, and it makes me excited for things to come.

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About the Contributor
Eva Lasky
Eva Lasky, Staff Writer
Eva is apart of the class of 2025. This is her first year writing for the Cub. She loves both reading and writing. In her free time, she also enjoys listening to music, baking, traveling, and spending time with her loved ones. She’s excited to begin writing for the Cub!

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