Taylor Swift - The Tortured Poets Department

he/him
My takeaway from this album so far, now that I'm right up to The Smallest Man, is that her break-up with Joe clearly didn't provide as much material as people thought it would. Which makes the Swifties villainising him even funnier. Like oh he really is just a sort of plain/boring guy that she happily dated for years... shocking.
So her star-crossed but with vinyl that actually sold.
 
It's more "indie" than Midnights.

There is rock flourishes here and there. She should had dive more into that, it could have been more of a surprise.
 
Like I feel crazy! My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toy sounds like Anti-Hero, Florida has the Wonderland outro, I Can Do It With a Broken Heart is an inferior version of Mastermind.
 
I rebuke the notion that this is just more of Midnights since Midnights was shit to these ears. It wasn’t necessarily the soundscape that was the problem, it was just the songs within that soundscape weren’t good. Like, I remember listening to that leak as I was drunk and walking to a concert through the streets of NYC and having such a visceral, gutteral reaction of disappointment that only got worse as every song continued. Here however, even for the few songs I didn’t care for as much, they were just “fine” at worst.

Not everything here works. Some of the lyrics are a bit clunky, and she falls into familiar tropes at times - but there’s also a lot to really love here. Absolutely, unequivocally a better album than Midnights (and Lover kii) but only time will tell how it holds up against the rest of her discography. But as someone who was optimistic but nervous, I’m pretty happy with this album on first listen! In fact I’m ready to press play on listen 2 already.
 
I have boarded.

Though I fear I may still not get to TTPD until tomorrow because I really need to have my mom listen to Speak Now, Red, 1989, Reputation and Midnights in order first.
 
My first overall impression; it definitely sounds like an album she genuinely needed to get out of her system. There's a lot of wordiness and a lot of venting going on, and I think it pretty accurately showcases how much of a mess she was throughout the end of the relationship, despite us mainly seeing her put on a happy face on stage (also addressed here). She said how this album was a time where songwriting was the life vessel she really needed, and it shows. Sonically, I was definitely hoping for something a little fresher and I'm glad that there's at least some of it! I just wish they leaned further into that stuff. But I guess the main point of this album is the venting and documentation of what she was going through, not so much about pushing herself artistically.
 
It’s a shame that folklore/evermore seem so far in the rear mirror at this stage. Lyrically her best, but there was also some really good pop writing on there (august, gold rush) that didn’t feel as forced as some of these more recent tracks.

She doesn’t seem to be able to marry up her songwriting abilities with her pop sensibilities in a way that works or feels natural to her anymore.

Edit: I wish she’d drilled down a bit more into the Hits Different sound for this and ran with it.
 
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All the hype for The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived and the emotion is really interesting and honestly what she should've tapped into for the whole album but somehow the breakup songs she wrote while they were still ostensibly together on Midnights are all way better.
 
First listen, and honestly, I'm not sure what to make of it. It's kind of a big mess, isn't it? (semi-complimentary) The first 4 songs could have been pulled directly from Midnights, then she goes on an escapist, hint-of-country altpop journey in tracks 6-9, and then the album just goes haywire stylistically from tracks 10-16.

She makes it pretty apparent that she's NOT OKAY, but the lyrics are all over the place, too. The title track is unhinged. Guilty As Sin is strange - it gives me purity culture, church camp, "saving my virginity til marriage" vibes, like it's some unearthed song that she wrote when she was 17. I still have no clue what Fortnight or But Daddy I Love Him are on about. Who's Afraid of Little Old Me is her mandatory-per-album "I am such a victim!!" track that makes my eyes roll at this point (although it seems slightly masochistic, in that she dials the melodrama and victimhood to 10 just to get a reaction). I Can Fix Him is clearly a Matty track.

The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived is eviscerating, and a highlight for sure. I Can Do It With a Broken Heart might be my top favorite, those lyrics are raw and I think the most telling on the album. Down Bad is also perfection in my book - I'd make it the first single (unless she actually went with The Smallest Man, which would be wild). Fresh Out The Slammer is also a sleeper highlight that I don't think will receive much love, but oh well.

So yeah. A lot that I liked. A lot that had me scratching my head. And a couple that made me cringe. I need a lyrics sheet and a few more listens to try and make sense of it more. I agree that it seems like an album she needed to get out of her system, dd.

First listen top 5: I Can Do It With a Broken Heart, Down Bad, Fresh Out the Slammer, The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived, Guilty As Sin
 
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