Secrets from The Tortured Poets Department

Context and theories surrounding Taylor Swift’s upcoming eleventh album

Class is in session! It is soon time to drop out of your respective undergraduate programs and enroll as a student in The Tortured Poets Department. But who is the head of this department and your main professor? Dr. Taylor Allison Swift. This, of course, is all in relation to Swift’s upcoming eleventh studio album, The Tortured Poets Department. But, how exactly did we get to this point in Swift’s career, and what can we theorize about the sound and themes of this upcoming album? As The Argosy’s resident “Swiftie-in-Chief,” I have compiled my ideas and theories about next year’s Grammy winner for Album of the Year.

It would be hard to talk about The Tortured Poets Department and not bring up the circumstances of its announcement. As many of those chronically online will already be aware of, Taylor Swift has become known for dropping subtle hints and “Easter eggs” on what albums, songs, or music videos are coming up next. With this album, however, Swift completely threw all of that out of the window. Just before this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony, Swift mysteriously changed her profile picture on all socials to a black-and-white image. Given Swift’s recent “Easter eggs” pointing towards a re-recorded album of her 2017 pop Bible reputation, many fans, myself included, felt that an announcement of that re-recording was imminent. All we had to do was hope and pray that Swift’s 2022 smash-hit album Midnights would win one of its nominated awards. And then came the award for “Best Pop Vocal Album.” Huddled on my friend’s couch with baited breath, I watched and waited as U2 lead singer, Bono, announced that Midnights had won. It only took minutes for Swift to quickly allude in her speech that she had an announcement. Of course, everyone’s thoughts immediately went to reputation, but the woman fans refer to as the “music industry herself” had other plans. In a completely out-of-left-field move, we found out that her brand new album, The Tortured Poets Department, would be released on April 19. Swifties worldwide exclaimed in excitement and confusion, and stan Twitter has never been the same.  

Then came the tracklist. On February 5, amidst rumours of leaks and potential song titles swirling on Tiktok, Swift posted the list of all 16 track titles and some features. Firstly, two of the tracks feature artists Swift previously has not collaborated with on a major release. The album opener, “Fortnight,” features rapper Post Malone. It will be incredible to see just how exactly these two artists with contrasting styles will sound together. Additionally, track eight of the album, entitled “Florida!!!,” features Florence and the Machine, fronted by the queen of alternative herself, Florence Welch. The excitement surrounding these collaborations then turned to theories surrounding the inspirations and influences of Swift’s upcoming tracks. Here are some of mine:

Most prevalent in my mind is the recent breakdown of Swift’s relationship with English actor Joe Alwyn. When the two split amid the beginning of the “Eras Tour” last year, many fans speculated that Swift’s next project would heavily center around their relationship. The release of track titles certainly led me to believe that this would be the case. During their relationship, Alwyn’s commitment to privacy was a major talking point among fans. Some felt his aversion to a public relationship was holding Swift back in her status as a notable recognizable figure. This leads me to believe that track seven, “Fresh Out the Slammer,” will be about Swift’s freedom from the prison of that relationship. Additionally, fans have gone on to speculate that track five, “So Long, London,” is a reference to Alwyn’s British identity and Swift’s newfound independence from him. It is also important to note that track five of Swift’s albums is always the most deeply personal and intimate song on each of her albums. I, personally, am most excited to hear track four, “Down Bad,” which I estimate will be about Swift’s liberation from Alwyn and her new relationship with Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce. 

As with all of Swift’s albums, fan theories will never be proven or disproven until the album’s release. The only thing we can do now is countdown the days until the doors open to The Tortured Poets Department.

Gabriel Theriault – Argosy Illustrator


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