Taylor Swift’s latest album is a masterpiece perhaps because it lacks a chart-topping lead single.

Before I get into my review of Taylor Swift’s 11th album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” I must preface with the fact that I’ve been a passionate Swiftie since I was probably seven years old. My favorite album was and still is “Speak Now.” Then this album came along.

As the eldest sister, I always longed for an older sister to blaze the trail in front of me and detail the emotions, experiences, and more that stand in front of me. Taylor Swift was and has always been that to me (of course I am well aware she does not know who I am).

For that reason alone, her latest album has shot its way to the top three in my rankings. This album is raw, heart-wrenching, vulnerable, and doesn’t hold back in any way and for that I am thankful.

But I have to be honest, sitting on the couch listening to the album the first way through on Thursday, I wasn’t sold. I was surprised by the slowness of it, the lack of a standout pop hit like that was on some of her previous albums and no one song really grabbed my attention right away. When the 16 songs wrapped up with “Clara Bow,” I was uneasy but still hopeful with the memory of all the number twos that have been thrown around lately…another album perhaps?


The clock struck 11 p.m., my boyfriend and friends drove to Taco Bell for a quick snack “just in case the night wasn’t over just yet.” All of a sudden, there were FIFTEEN new songs on the album making it a whopping 31-song album, over two hours long.

We rushed home and prepared to listen to “Anthology” (the extended version of the album) while eating chicken quesadillas. I remember that moment that the “Black Dog” played, I was so relieved. It was the perfect song to bring me back in and remind me that this was exactly what she was going for with this album.

The “Tortured Poets Department” isn’t supposed to be another pop album that everyone falls in love with and can’t get enough of that one song. It’s supposed to leave you feeling uneasy and uncomfortable as Swift opens up about the last two years of her life.

The grief, anger, acceptance and more that come with ending a six-year relationship and entering a short stint with a person you have had over a decade of history with before finally settling down with a professional athlete. Contrary to what she thought at fifteen, maybe there aren’t many things in life greater than dating a boy on the football team…

“The Tortured Poets Department” is not only about her relationships, but also the gigantic spotlight on her everyday life. In several songs like “Clara Bow,” “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart” and “But Daddy I Love Him”, she details the agonizing pain of living a life she feels she has no control over. She time and time again draws attention to these metaphors of asylums, cages and more that she feels confined within.

Swift’s ability to chronicle every step of this journey and the internal battles of picking yourself back up is what makes this album perfect in my eyes. There are characters, stories, and more just like “Folklore” and “Evermore” but like “Speak Now,” all those years before, Swift doesn’t hold back on how she truly feels. She speaks with her heart and for once, it is as though she wasn’t writing an album for her fans, but truly for herself; to set herself free from this period of her life.

“This period of the author’s life is now over, the chapter closed and boarded up,” Swift shared on Instagram. “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.”

While I could have done just a short recap of some of my favorite songs and the reasons why, I figured I should give a full-fledged review because it only seemed fitting for an album full of so many emotions.

So here it is, my current rankings, from greatest to least favorite, after the album’s debut weekend:

1. “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” – Has been my absolute favorite since the very first listen-through. I thought it served as a warning to everyone who’s tried to put her into a box and tell her how she should feel or what she should do. She even said this about the song: “I felt bitter about all the things we do to our artists as a society and culture. We love to watch artists in pain, often to the point where I think sometimes as a society we provoke that pain and we just watch what happens.” Also, try screaming this song in the shower, I swear it feels so good.

2. “Down Bad” – I knew this was a favorite from probably the second listen-through. It was one of the most memorable thanks to its chorus: “Now I’m down bad crying at the gym / Everything comes out teenage petulance/ “What if I can’t have him”/ “I might just die, it would make no difference.” Super catchy and head-boppy is what I wrote in my first listen-through notes. Definitely one of the best songs on the whole album!!! 

3. “The Black Dog” – This song emerged as a favorite as of literally yesterday. I couldn’t get it out of my head. As I will mention later, I am a sucker for piano ballads in Taylor Swift songs so I had a good feeling about this one. It was also the first song of the surprise double album so I think I was really high off the adrenaline that there were in fact, 15 more songs. But then, after several listen-throughs, I did some research on this song. The phrase “black dog” is actually a common metaphor for depression and she even performed this song on tour in Singapore saying: “The ‘black dog’ metaphor can represent the gradual overtaking of enjoyable activities you once loved, the person you once recognized in the mirror, or the life you once lived.”

4. “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart” – This song had me with a hand over my mouth the whole time. I think we all knew this was going to be about her ability to keep performing on the Eras Tour amidst the breakup but wow. The song is pure honesty about how she felt every single day back in April and May constantly feeling like she was being held under a microscope. While the song may be upbeat and catchy almost like “Bejeweled” you can’t help but feel so sad for her that she just kept the show going despite feeling the lowest of lows. “They said, baby, gotta fake it ’til you make it and I did / Lights, camera, bitch smile, even when you wanna die / He said he’d love me all his life / But that life was too short / Breaking down, I hit the floor / All the pieces of me shattered as the crowd was chanting, “More.” This song brings so much humanity to someone who feels so greater than life, superhuman if you will. I gained such a deeper respect for her through this song and I especially appreciated the subtle counting in her ear to show she was “hitting her marks even with a broken heart.” So good. 

5. “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” – Got me from the very first sigh and the first line. Also, I had my hand over my mouth the entire time thinking this was going to be about Joe Alwyn but ended up likely being about Matty Healy? “Rusting my spark this summer…Jehovah’s Witness suit…” While I’ve been very adamant about not assuming what songs are about who, I do think whoever she was writing this about definitely cut her deep. I think the bridge is also up there in probably the top 10: “Were you sent by someone who wanted me dead? / Did you sleep with a gun underneath our bed? / Were you writing a book? Were you a sleeper-cell spy?/ In fifty years will all this be declassified?” I like that the anger progressively builds up throughout the song too.

6. “How Did It End?” – The song that gets sadder and sadder the more you listen to it. “Come one come all, it’s happening again,” gives off this idea that while she isn’t inviting anyone to talk about her personal love life, they seem to enjoy doing it anyways. She tells the story of people who tell people about the tragic ending to Swift’s own story and she has no say in it herself. The classic story of rumors that spread like wildfire and she has no power over them, leaving her feeling like “D-Y-I-N-G.”

7. “Imgonnagetyouback” – This song has been really on my mind lately, it’s very catchy and it’s the pop beat she’s so good at. A very obvious Jack Antonoff project. This might be too niche but it reminds me of “something special” by joan. I’m not sure if it makes sense but they just have a similar sound when it comes to synth pop.

8. “I Hate It Here” – I love how people on TikTok are using this song to talk about books that take them to “secret gardens in their mind.” I’m not sure what about this song I like so much maybe it reminds me a bit of missing home but also the nostalgia of going home and missing the place you’ve now made home…if that makes sense.

9. “The Albatross” – This song has really clicked for me lately. I think it’s a beautiful yet really sad analogy of how she feels when it comes to dating. What she is trying to say in the song and through the allegory of the albatross is that people will spread all of these “terrible dangers” about her and that people should be careful when it comes to her.

10. “Guilty as Sin?” – I couldn’t tell you half of the words she says because it slurs together but the beat is super catchy. Feels almost country-like, if it wasn’t so sexual then I would say it sounds almost like it could fit on Fearless.

11. “But Daddy I Love Him” – Like a few of these songs, this one took me the weekend to really appreciate. I was a little off-put by it the first time supposedly because of the line “Screaming “But Daddy I love him!”/ I’m having his baby / No, I’m not, but you should see your faces” but I’ve come to appreciate the freedom she embraces within this song. This idea that she doesn’t really care anymore because there will always be people who hate her and judge her from afar. I can just imagine running through a field screaming this song in a long dress!!! The song also feels very evermore-ish.

12. “So Long, London” – This song took me by surprise because I think like most people, I was expecting a diss at her longtime boyfriend Joe Alwyn whom she wrote “London Boy” about back on the “Lover” album. But this turned out to be a farewell to her past with Alwyn in a city she once loved so much. Also seems to be tying a bow on “You’re Losing Me” which was a bonus track from Midnights she released seemingly right after she and Alwyn reportedly had broken up. Also, this deserves to be this high for this line alone: “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 / And I’m just getting color back into my face.” Notably, the song is also track five which is reserved for some of her saddest songs alongside “All Too Well” (“Red”), “Dear John” (Speak Now), “You’re On Your Own Kid” (“Midnights”), “White Horse” (“Fearless”), “tolerate it” (“evermore”).

13. “Fresh Out The Slammer” – Honestly, surprised that this is so far down but I think on first listen this was one of my favorites. Also, I appreciate the uneasy ending to the song because it feels like it’s the ending to a story that doesn’t have anything left to write about. Like the ending of a book! “Here, at the park where we used to sit on children’s swings / Wearing imaginary rings / But it’s gonna be alright, I did my time.”

14. “The Bolter” – This song makes me feel like dancing! It also reminds me of “Getaway Car” which feels ironic because it was written during the “Reputation” era which this album seems to wrap a bow on and send it away into the past. But anyway, I think this song has earned its way up my list in the last few days because of the chorus.

15. “The Manuscript” — The most perfect perfect ending to the album. I KNEW that “Clara Bow” wasn’t the end. Since this was the name of one of her vinyls I was sure hoping this would be a bonus track and it did not disappoint. It’s raw and beautiful leaving you gasping multiple times. “The story isn’t mine anymore” is the most perfect way to wrap up the album and end such a pivotal era in her life.

16. “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys” – Super catchy but also a very sad concept?! Swift talked about this song in detail which I think sums up what she was trying to say perfectly:  “the song is about being somebody’s favorite toy until they break you and then don’t want to play with you anymore…Which is how a lot of us are in relationships where we are so valued by a person in the beginning, and then all of the sudden, they break us or they devalue us in their mind,” she adds. “We’re still clinging on to ‘No no, no. You should’ve seen them the first time they saw me. They’ll come back to that.” Ouch.

17. “Florida!!” – This song is DEFINITELY growing on me so I won’t be surprised if in a week it’s in my top 10 or so. I really like the duality of Florence and Taylor Swift and that the song is so different from the other songs in the album. It signifies this point in a relationship or breakup for that matter where you want to run away and reinvent yourself and start fresh. Seemingly, starting with a getaway to Dustin, Florida.

18. “loml” – As someone in almost a two-and-a-half-year relationship this song is hard to relate to but oh it’s so so beautiful. You can just feel the deep, deep grief in her voice. It’s shaky, raw, and vulnerable. I had a feeling “loml” was going to mean more than just the love of my life and sure enough I was right. The last line is the final twist of the knife: (“You’re the loss of my life”). I also love me a good piano ballad, the minute I heard those first notes I knew this would be a favorite.

19. “thanK you aIMee” – This song was a MAJOR surprise because I didn’t have the chance to look at the tracklist for the second album so when you look at the uppercase letters you see “KIM” spelled out and sure enough, she makes no secret to reference Kim Kardashian throughout the song. While their feud goes back all the way to 2011, this song details the pain that Taylor Swift hasn’t been able to put behind her all those years. 

20. “The Alchemy” – Perhaps the first Travis Kelce song?? Might be reading too much into it but overall this song is a cute song about the chemistry between her and a lover. Seems like a prelude to the other rumored song about him “So High School.” Especially towards the end perhaps about the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory: “Greatest in the league / Where’s the trophy? / He just comes running over to me.” Honestly, the more I listen to this song, the beat and the bridge even remind me of Halsey’s “Colors.” 

21. “Clara Bow” – This song is definitely growing on me. I think it’s such a cute song that reminds me of “The Lucky One” from Red in 2012. I’ve heard that while it might be a song about her growth in the industry, some have also connected it to Sabrina Carpenter, an up-and-coming artist who also performed as an opener for parts of the Eras Tour. I do think this is about Taylor though, it reminds me of when she gave herself a shoutout in “Last Great American Dynasty.” For more on who Clara Bow is, you can go here!

22. “Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus” – It’s growing on me but it doesn’t JUMP out to me, I like the chorus and think it’s a sad but pretty song. Not quite sure what the story/ name references are though and I think that’s why it’s so low for me.

23. “Fortnight (ft. Post Malone)” I know this may be controversial but it still isn’t clicking for me. I think it’s a catchy beat and it definitely caught me off guard when I started the album but I think it’s catchy, just not the hit single I was expecting. I do love the Post Malone feature on here and I think the music video was fantastic but just for being the lead single, I was a little disappointed.

24. “The Prophecy” – I honestly don’t love how low this is for me because I do really love this song and the lyrics are starting to stick with me more and more. It’s another heart-wrenching song about how she just wants to be happy and find someone who “wants her company.” It seems like another follow-up to a song, this time “peace” from folklore where she self-depreciates and feels like she’s too much for someone to ever love. In this song she is begging for things to change and that someone will finally love her for all she offers instead of it being the very things that hold another back.

25. “The Tortured Poets Department” – Also not super memorable other than the typewriter part. I kinda like the “Who’s gonna hold you like me?” parts but I also think the references to Patti Smith and Dylan Thomas are a little over my head.

26. “So High School” – Sorry Travis Kelce, I think we all know this one is about you but I just can’t get hooked on this song. It’s very high school obviously and some of the lines feel a little…well just interesting. “You know how to ball, I know Aristotle” was a line that stood out to me the most and while it pays a cute homage to their relationship, I (sorry everyone) found it a little cringey…It’s very cute and I’m so happy she’s doing so well now after writing some of the most gut-wrenching songs but just not the song for me!

27. “I Look in People’s Windows” – Cute and catchy, I like what she did with this one because it is in fact relatable if you understand. She’s trying to say that this person is no longer in her life so the “not knowing” forces her to look for him in everything and everyone. It’s this madness that is hard to act like isn’t there when you have it. “Addicted to the if only.” She is putting herself in other people’s lives and stories because she can’t stomach the reality she is living in where this person isn’t in her story anymore.

28. “Peter” – Once again, Taylor Swift shares another allegory with us. This time using Peter Pan as a metaphor. Perhaps a play on her song from Folklore “Cardigan” that references “Peter losing Wendy.”

29. “Cassandra” – Seems like a follow-up to “Mad Woman” from “Folklore.” Once again, I think it’s a good song but also doesn’t super stand out to me maybe because I also don’t know the references.

30. “Robin” – Nothing really wrong with this song, just can’t get into it; however, it reminds me of “epiphany” from “folklore.” This very soft feathery song in front of a beautiful piano ballad. I will say I do like the “Way to go Tiger” but wondering if there is some type of reference I may be missing as to what tiger means.

31. “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)” – Not sure why but I just can’t get hooked on this song. I’ve tried several times. Doesn’t have a super catchy chorus or bridge but it sounds almost Western-ish maybe folkloreish.


After talking to a few people and spending a chronic amount of time on X (Twitter), I’ve come to realize that this album certainly isn’t a favorite for people. While I do agree that there are probably five to seven songs that seemed thrown into the album, I do however feel like her transparency and willingness to open up about her mental health struggles over the past few years is what makes this album so special to me and to other longtime fans.

While we’ve seen the album break several Spotify records already, I really don’t think it will smash the charts and sell out as much as some of her former work like 1989, Reputation and more. But nonetheless, I think this album was like reading her diary alongside her and listening to her share every impulsive thought that we can’t deny we have felt (maybe to a far lesser degree but can share some similarity) at some point in our lives.