Taylor Swift’s latest record, ‘The Tortured Poets Department,’ flaunts the artist’s poetic talents — yet remains consistent in its musical approach. Critics share their thoughts.

The anticipated moment has arrived: On April 19, Taylor Swift unveiled her 11th studio collection, The Tortured Poets Department. The performer from the Eras Tour maintained her habit of issuing bonus tracks from Midnights when she surprised fans with an additional 16 songs just two hours post-release as part of the album’s “Anthology” edition. (Perceptive supporters, though, had already deciphered the “Fortnight” singer’s numerous subtle hints indicating the extended release.)

With the arrival of the 31-track album embracing a grayscale and academia aesthetic, followers are delving into the possible inspirations behind Swift’s tracks, including notable former flames. While The Tortured Poets Department resonates with themes of heartache, Swift assures us in an Instagram post from the evening of the release that this album signifies an end of an era, claiming she is now without vendettas to pursue or grudges to settle post healing. What remains, she expressed, “is the tortured poetry.”

Reviewers comment that The Tortured Poets Department, despite reflecting no significant strides in musical style, can be attributed in part to her ongoing partnership with the producer Jack Antonoff, whose collaborations include Reputation, Lover, Folklore, Evermore, and Midnights. However, the consensus is that lyrically, The Tortured Poets Department might be among her most impactful work.

Who listeners believe the tracks on The Tortured Poets Department reference

Listeners dove into the sorrow-laden album with assumptions that many melodious narratives were directed at Joe Alwyn, actor and Swift’s partner for six years before their reported separation in April 2023. While there are significant nods to Alwyn in tracks like “So Long, London,” the focus of The Tortured Poets Department might diverge from him, suggest devotees who have meticulously dissected her verses and personal narrative.

Regarding the inspirations Swift has collected metaphorically, there is speculation that Matty Healy, the 1975’s lead vocalist and Swift’s brief romantic interest in 2023, is a primary muse. Clues pointing toward Healy range from mentions of his beloved band to verses regarding a man with a penchant for tattoos and typewriters.

Another presumed subject is NFL athlete Travis Kelce, to whom the number “The Alchemy” with its plethora of sports analogies seems to be dedicated. Even more explicit, however, might be “thanK you aIMee,” whose appellation (and fiery verses) hint at Swift’s long-standing conflict with Kim Kardashian.

Discover more from Yahoo Entertainment: Is Taylor Swift singing about Joe Alwyn, Matty Healy or Travis Kelce on ‘The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology’? Supporters look into the intimate lyrics.

Assessments from critics

In a general view, evaluators commend the celebrity’s candidness—and occasional severity—in The Tortured Poets Department. While approval was given for the poetic and thematic depth of the work, some believe Swift continues to utilize the familiar synth-pop timbre associated with her constant collaborator Antonoff.

Rolling Stone opined that the record bears “the intimate ambiance of Folklore and Evermore, layered with a shine of Midnights synth-pop luster,” observing that her narratives retain the same “craftsmanship” as “Folklore,” yet now portray “deeply intimate purges that are frequently as heart-wrenching as they are comical.”

Variety observed that despite the album perhaps being criticized for a deficit of “bangers” or for being “overly intimate,” The Tortured Poets Department displays Swift’s sharpness. “In the collection’s most potent tunes, it’s as if she brought a dagger to a brawl,” they described. “There’s blood on the tracks, the good kind.”

USA Today proclaimed the album sits within the realm of lyrical (if not musical) “masterpieces,” naming it a “genuine headphones record.” They extolled “So Long, London” as well as the “melancholic piano ballad ‘Loml,’ which inflicts a feeling as though your heart has been dragged over sharp edges.”

Business Insider found the sonic identity Antonoff contributed with the main single “Fortnight,” deriding it as “the tune immediately feels like a derivative Midnights track: tedious, trivial, and far from what I seek in this record.” They acknowledge, nevertheless, that the record “begins to gain momentum” with the fourth composition “Down Bad,” remarking, “Antonoff’s glittery synthesizers and Swift’s light-hearted melody continue, yet we’re enticed with a glimpse of her psyche that’s captivatingly erratic.”

The Los Angeles Times acknowledged the album “demonstrates Swift’s skills as a lyricist, artist, and producer,” pointing out that her “tunes are memorable and her musical arrangements compelling; in the sound booth with Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, she’s refined an electro-acoustic style that stands out (even when it involves reiterating a melodic motif she’s employed before).”

The Independent mentioned that the “melodic motifs necessitate some time for full absorption,” similar to her past offering, Midnights. Nonetheless, “they’re accompanied by anchors – meant to embed slowly but steadfastly into your subconscious. The anecdotal content latches onto you, and unexpectedly you catch yourself humming refrains hours later.”

Slate suggested that the album “doesn’t reveal considerable maturation in lyrics beyond the Folklore phase,” adding that “musically, it extends the approach of her previous works.” They commend Antonoff’s input on tracks such as “Florida!!!,” but also observe “one could certainly miss [1989 producer] Max Martin and the undeniable structural and hook precision of a piece like ‘Blank Space.’”

The Telegraph described the collection as “a pointed, caustic critique of her British former partners,” remarking, “Swift is proficient with metaphors and similes, relishing in the construction of delicately arrayed flows of astute puns and brilliant linguistic acrobatics founded on authentic emotions.” About the “anthology” — Swift’s designation for the 15 songs released at 2 a.m. — the Telegraph noted that whilst these pieces are “less commercially oriented” than the first 16, there’s “no evident diminution in craftsmanship.”

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