Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department full tracklist and meanings: How singer’s lyrics reflect on her ill-fated romances and reignite bitter feud in most personal album yet

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Written By Maya Cantina

Taylor Swift officially dropped The Tortured Poets Department on Friday – her hotly-anticipated 11th studio album.

The album featured 16 songs and a bonus track detailing her breakups from the likes of Joe Alwyn and Matty Healy and fans were eager to listen and dissect the lyrics. 

Side A began with the Post Malone collaboration, Fortnight, and was followed by the album’s title track, My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys and Down Bad. 

Side B had So Long, London, But Daddy I Love Him, Fresh Out the Slammer, and Florida!!!, with the latter song featuring Florence + the Machine.

Side C offered Guilty as Sin?, Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?, I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can), and ‘Ioml’.

The final part of the album, Side D, had I Can Do It With a Broken Heart, The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived, The Alchemy, Clara Bow and bonus track The Manuscript.

Just hours after fans shelled out for her new album, the star sparked a social media frenzy by dropping 15 more tracks.

So what do these tracks mean and who is Taylor singing about?  

Taylor Swift officially dropped The Tortured Poets Department on Friday – her hotly-anticipated 11th studio album 

Fortnight (feat. Post Malone) 

Taylor appears to reference the end of her relationship with Joe Alwyn and her subsequent fling with Matty Healy in the first track on her album. 

The first verse appears to hint at the end of her romance with Joe as she sings: I was supposed to be sent away but they forgot to come and get me. 

Taylor then wishes an ex well who betrayed her: All of this to say, I hope you’re okay, but you’re the reason / No one here’s to blame but what about your quiet treason.

In the second verse, Taylor talks about a short-lived fling that helped her ‘move on’, potentially a reference to Matt. 

She sings: ‘All my mornings are Mondays stuck in an endless February / I took the miracle move on drug and the effects were temporary / And I love you, it’s ruining my life / I touched you for only a fortnight.’

The Tortured Poets Department

The titular track is a shimmering melody which suggest that Taylor, modestly, doesn’t see herself at the top table of tortured poets: ‘You’re not Dylan Thomas, and I’m not Patti Smith.’

It also appears to heavily reference her fling with Matty as she sings: ‘You smokеd 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 / But you awaken with dread.’ 

She also makes a candid reference to her mental health, singing: ‘But you told Lucy you’d kill yourself if I ever leave /And I had said that to Jack about you so I felt seen’. 

My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys

Written solely by Taylor, this song’s dense electronic hum adds forceful notes. 

Fans have suggested the title is a reference to the ‘shiny toy she sang about in her hit Cruel Summer from the album Lover. 

It’s not clear if she is referring to heartbreak after splitting from Joe or the abrupt end to her romance with Matty. 

‘Once I fix me, he’s gonna miss me,’ she vows, adding: ‘I know I’m just repeating mysеlf Put me back on my shelf / But first, pull the string And I’ll tell you that he runs Because he loves me (He loves me).’

Down Bad

Taylor references mental health again as she details how ‘down’ she feels without an ex and the infatuation she felt with him.

‘Everything comes out teenage petulance,’ sings Taylor as she bitterly surveys the fallout from an old relationship.

She continues: ‘Everything comes out teenage petulance / F**k it if I can’t have him / I might just die, it would make no difference / Down bad, waking up in blood /Staring at the sky, come back and pick me up.

‘F**k it if I can’t have us / I might just not get up / I might stay down bad.’

So Long, London

The first track to be written with The National’s Aaron Dessner brings a change of pace, with a lovely, choral intro. ‘So long, London, you’ll find someone,’ sings Taylor.

The song appears to be a reference to British ex Joe and a follow up to her hit London Boy from Lover. 

She references their different approaches to the end of their romance, singing in the first verse: ‘I kept calm and carried the weight of the rift / Pulled him in tighter each time he was drifting away / My spine split from carrying us up the hill.’ 

Verse three she muses: ‘And you say I abandoned the ship, but I was going down with it / My white knuckle dying grip holding tight to your quiet resentment.’ 

But Daddy I Love Him

‘I know he’s crazy, but he’s the one I want,’ sings Taylor, showing wry humour as she admits to falling for the bad boys. Produced, with real brightness, by Dessner.

She goes on to revel in the fact she dismisses warning from critics, singing: ‘They slammed the door on my whole world / The one thing I wanted

‘Now I’m running with my dress unbuttoned, / Screaming, But daddy I love him / I’m having his baby / No I’m not, but you should see your faces.’ 

Fresh Out The Slammer

Finger-picked acoustic guitar adds folky notes reminiscent of lockdown albums Folklore and Evermore to Fresh Out The Slammer, which details rushing into a new relationship. 

Seemingly a reference to her fling with Matty – who she previously dated in 2015 – she sings: ‘Now pretty baby, I’m running back home to you. / Fresh out the slammer I know who my first call will be to.’ 

On the decay of her past relationship, she sings: ‘Splintered back in winter, silent dinners, bitter he was with her in dreams / Gray and blue and fights and tunnels, handcuffed to the spell I was under.

‘For just one hour of sunshine / Years of labor, locks and ceilings / In the shade of how he was feeling.’

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

An album highlight, this theatrical duet with London singer Florence Welch is an uplifting song of escape – from small-town life and a bad romance.

Tellingly the first tour stop following her split from Joe was in Tampa, Florida and she begins her song by singing: ‘You can beat the heat if you beat the charges too. 

‘They said I was a cheat, I guess it must be true / And my friends all smell like weed or little babies / And this city reeks of driving myself crazy.’

Guilty As Sin?

A tale of unrequited love, and a superb slice of 1980s-style soft rock. It even mentions The Downtown Lights, a 1989 single by Scottish band The Blue Nile.

She begins the track with her feelings on being ‘trapped’ in a relationship, singing: ‘My boredom’s bone-deep, this cage was once just fine / Am I allowed to cry? 

‘I dream of cracking locks, throwing my life to the wolves or the ocean rocks.’

She hints at an emotional affair providing her release, singing: ‘These fatal fantasies giving way to labored breath taking all of me we’ve already done it in my head. 

‘If it’s make-believe why does it feel like a vow we’ll both uphold somehow?”’

Who’s Afraid Of Little Old Me?

Big drums, a dramatic arrangement, and more dry humour in another song penned solely by Taylor. ‘You wouldn’t last an hour in the asylum where they raised me,’ she snarls.

It’s reminiscent of her hit single Look What You Made Me Do and the villain arc is prominent in her lyrics. 

She sings: ‘I was tame, I was gentle till the circus life made me mean /Don’t you worry folks, we took out all her teeth

‘Who’s afraid of little old me? Well you should be.’

I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)

A moody, stripped-down number worthy of Lana Del Rey, who has also worked extensively with the song’s producer, Jack Antonoff.

This is her first new album since the end of her six-year relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn and, while she doesn't mention Alwyn by name, speculation will be rife that tracks such as So Long, London are about him. Pictured together in 2019

This is her first new album since the end of her six-year relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn and, while she doesn’t mention Alwyn by name, speculation will be rife that tracks such as So Long, London are about him. Pictured together in 2019

The Alchemy: Sporting metaphors aplenty suggest a track inspired by the singer's current boyfriend, American football star Travis Kelce. Pictured at Coachella this week

The Alchemy: Sporting metaphors aplenty suggest a track inspired by the singer’s current boyfriend, American football star Travis Kelce. Pictured at Coachella this week

loml

‘You said I’m the love of your life,’ sings Taylor on this warm, resonant piano ballad. In a smart twist, the ‘loml’ ultimately becomes ‘the loss of my life’.

I Can Do It With A Broken Heart

More 1980s influences on an electronic pop track that sees Taylor vowing to remain a trouper, despite any romantic strife.

The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived

‘You didn’t measure up in any measure of a man,’ sings a disdainful Swift on a melodramatic ballad.

The Alchemy

Sporting metaphors aplenty suggest a track inspired by the singer’s current boyfriend, American football star Travis Kelce. ‘When I touch down, call the amateurs and cut them from the team,’ she sings.

Clara Bow

It’s tempting to think Taylor sees something of herself in a closing track inspired by an American actress of the 1920s who lived her life in the Hollywood goldfish bowl.

The Black Dog 

The Black Dog is also a reference to depression and lack of energy based on a demonic hellhound acting as an omen of death in English folklore and literature. 

As well as the eerie lyrical meaning to the title, The Black Dog is a bar in Vauxhall, London – her ex Matt’s city of birth and just a stone’s throw away from Joe’s hometown of Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent. 

In the song, she belts out: ‘I am someone who until recent events you shared your secrets with and your location / you forgot to turn it off / And so I watch as you walk into some bar called The Black Dog…

‘I just don’t understand how you don’t miss me in The Black Dog when someone plays The Starting Line and you jump up, but she’s too young to know this song that was intertwined in the magic fabric of our dreaming.’ 

Imgonnagetyouback

Taylor is torn between calling things off for good or rekindling with an ex in imgonnagetyouback.

Emotions are clearly running high as she sings: ‘Whether Im gonna be your wife / Or smash up your bike / I haven’t decided yet’.

The Albatross

It seems London watering holes are a theme of the album, with The Black Dog and The Bolter joining The Albatross as apparent references to venues. 

The Albatross Club is a pub in Farringdon, London but also has particularly eerie significance in its meaning as a word alone. 

Albatross is defined in the Britannica Dictionary as: ‘A continuing problem that makes it difficult or impossible to do or achieve something. Fame has become an albatross that prevents her from leading a normal and happy life.’

Additionally, an albatross is a large white ocean bird that has very long and often black wings – which many likened to her outfit from the Grammys. 

Taylor is taking no prisoners in this track, referring to herself as one of the largest seabirds on Earth – famed for their giant wingspan and ability to glide seamlessly. 

She sings about taking revenge with the lyrics: ‘She is here to destroy you/ Devils that you know / Raise worse hell than a stranger’. 

Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus

Taylor makes references to a partner abusing drugs. 

She sings ‘You said some things that I can’t unabsorb / You turned me into an idea of sorts / And I couldn’t watch it happen’. 

How Did It End? 

Taylor appears to reference the speculation over her relationship with Joe Alwyn as she details in the chorus: 

‘Come one come all It’s happ’nin’ again / The empathetic hunger descends We’ll tell no-one / ‘Cept all of our friends / We must know How did it end?’ 

So High School

While many tracks are bold aims at her exes Matt and Joe, happiness does reign in her track So High School where she discusses current boyfriend Travis. 

She sings: ‘You know how to ball, I know Aristotle, brand new, full throttle // Touch me while your bros play Grand Theft Auto // It’s true, swear, scouts honor // You knew what you wanted, and, boy, you got her.’

Taylor the directly references a resurfaced video in which Travis was asked who marry, kiss or kill between Ariana Grande, Katy Perry and Taylor. 

She sings: ‘Are you gonna marry, kiss or kill me? Kill me. It’s just a game, but really, really, I’m betting on all three for us two. 

The Bolter 

Fans have made many interpretations of The Bolter – with links to a London pub in the form of Mansion House’s bar of the same name while also alluding to a suitor running into the night – something fans insisted was about Joe. 

Some Twitter users claimed the location is where the former couple enjoyed their first date – yet the claims were quickly disputed by devoted followers.

The initial claim came from a fan writing: ‘The Bolter is a bar in London where Taylor and Joe went on their first outing?!?!???? I’m done, BYE’. 

Others followed up writing: ‘***Apparently that’s not the bar they were publicly first seen together!!!!*** But there is indeed this bar in London which is crazy anyway… guys it’s not real, it was different place’. 

She sings: ‘Started with a kiss // “Oh, we must stop meeting like this” // But it always ends with a town car speeding // Out the drive one evenin’ // Ended with the slam of a door // But she’s got the best stories // You can be sure…

‘All her fuckin’ lives // Flashed before her eyes // And she realized // It feels like the time // She fell through the ice // Then came out alive’.

The Bad Blood songstress, 34 – who recently teased a ‘timetable’ to her fans ahead of the LP’s release – initially announced the album while attending the 2024 Grammys earlier this year in February.

The title of her latest work had caused fans to speculate that the name was aimed at her ex, Joe. 

As the album hit streaming platforms, Swift published a lengthy statement on Instagram where she described it as ‘an anthology of new works that reflect events, opinions and sentiments from a fleeting and fatalistic moment in time – one that was both sensational and sorrowful in equal measure.’ 

She continued: ‘This period of the author’s life is now over, the chapter closed and boarded up. There is nothing to avenge, no scores to settle once wounds have healed. And upon further reflection, a good number of them turned out to be self-inflicted.

‘This writer is of the firm belief that our tears become holy in the form of ink on a page. Once we have spoken our saddest story, we can be free of it.

‘And then all that’s left behind is the tortured poetry,’ concluded Swift, as she announced: ‘THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT is out now.’

Hours later, Swift surprised fans by announcing it was a surprise double album.  

Despite already splashing out for multiple versions of the record in a bid to get their hands on all four bonus tracks, fans will have to part with even more hard-earned cash when the super-sized record goes on sale.

After releasing her new album at midnight ET (2am UK time), Taylor took to Instagram to announce her latest record was actually a surprise ‘double album,’ after sparking a flurry of speculation by posting a countdown clock on social media.

Captioning the post, Taylor told her followers that she’d written ‘so much tortured poetry in the past two years’ that she wanted to share it with her fans.

Sharing the double album was called The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology, she wrote: ‘It’s a 2am surprise: The Tortured Poets Department is a secret DOUBLE album. ✌️ 

‘I’d written so much tortured poetry in the past 2 years and wanted to share it all with you, so here’s the second installment of TTPD: The Anthology. 15 extra songs. And now the story isn’t mine anymore… it’s all yours.’ 

While the deluxe version is not yet available for Taylor’s website, there were four different versions of the original album available, each containing a different bonus track, and priced at £13.99 ($17.38).

The vinyl version, including bonus track The Manuscript, costs £33.99 ($42.23), while a ‘phantom clear vinyl’ is price the same.

This means, that if Swifties were willing to splash out on every incarnation of the album, it’s already set them back over £140 ($174).

It remains to be seen how much more this new supersized version of the album, and its various vinyl counterparts, will cost.

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