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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Criticism: ‘The Tortured Poets Department’

Another possible classic Taylor Swift album in the making
Art+critic+Theresa+Lozano+says+Taylor+Swift%E2%80%99s+%E2%80%9CThe+Tortured+Poets+Department%E2%80%9D+isn%E2%80%99t+as+bad+as+other+critics+say+it+is.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Republic+Records%29
Art critic Theresa Lozano says Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” isn’t as bad as other critics say it is. (Photo courtesy of Republic Records)

Rating: 8.8/10

From an anticipated release to a surprise double album at 2 a.m., Taylor Swift put it all out there with her recently released album “The Tortured Poets Department.” 

The first part of Swift’s 11th studio album contains 16 songs and is a little over an hour, but the extended version “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology” boasts 31 songs — over two hours. Upon its release on April 19, it immediately broke multiple records on the platform as the first album in Spotify history to have over 300 million streams in a single day, and it became the most-streamed album in a single day in 2024 after less than 12 hours. 

She also broke her own record (again) for most streamed album on Spotify, now occupying the top three spots with her “Midnights” and “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” according to Forbes

Listening parties were held around the world, with one hosted by two student organizations and co-sponsored by Texas A&M’s School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts, or PVFA. A&M student organizations TAMU Swiftie Society and Album of the Week hosted a “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” listening party last semester. They joined forces again to bring together a community that shares the love for music while promoting what the department has to offer. 

“We’re always interested in any opportunity to foster music culture around campus,” founder and president of Album of the Week, computer engineering senior Carson Duffy said. “Our members aren’t just fans of one particular genre or one particular artist, they’re music fans, period. And that takes a lot of different forms. Our members place a lot of value in these kinds of experiences where they get to listen to new music with each other and create those first-listen memories that they can reflect on years later.”

The listening party had multiple screens and speakers ready upon arrival, friendship bracelets, raffles, stickers, photo-ops and booklets that provided lore about Swift, the album, fan phenomena attached to the Swift name fandom and information about PVFA minors. 

“Taylor Swift has a lot of involvement with the music industry and how it’s going with newer artists,” founder and president of the Swiftie Society, environmental engineering junior Kennedy Orzechowski said. “We wanted to highlight how PVFA can introduce people to music minors and the different minors that they have to offer.” 

 

The album

Honestly, being at the listening party validated some of my first listen feelings about the album with the facial reactions, comments made and overall energy around me crowded by other fans. With the production, slight features, imagery and lyrics, Swift takes us on a journey through her heartbreak, growing while knowing she might be the problem, destruction in her private life and numerous versions of how she sees herself. 

One of the best ways I can describe this album is that it’s the long lost third sister to the “Folklore” and “Evermore” sisters, and a more somber “Midnights.” The sister albums — which were born during the pandemic — dove into indie folk and alternative rock, and although this was definitely not either of those, it brought me back to that familiarity and feelings that those two pulled out.

When I hear this album, I see Swift alternating between writing lyrics with a quill pen and using a typewriter, surrounded by candles, antiques and dusty books (or more like polished but worn; this woman wants us to know she knows Aristotle.) She set this scene with a black and white color scheme with neutrals that can’t be mistaken for another work of hers. It’s giving: we’re in some beach house but not on the coast, but instead we’re in the middle of the sea on a giant rock with nothing to do except lie down wearing Victorian age undergarments, rotting under a black and white sun, and listen to the crashing waves.

Call me crazy, but I think this album is on its way to becoming a classic and will age well (I hope I’m not completely wrong at least). There hasn’t been one song yet that I absolutely hate or can’t stand. Swift took a new intentional direction with this album and production and that shows … I don’t think the amazing duo of her and Jack Antonoff are “burnt out.” These are not just the leftovers as a result. It may not be exactly like her previous works, but that’s the beauty of it. With her mostly beautifully written lyrics and changes of pitch in her voice, I wasn’t dreading the next song in fear of it being monotone. Of course some other lyrics were iffy and questionable, though in this day and age, many artists spout random lines as well. 

Swift not only aired out some dirty laundry, but declared some lines that made me clutch my pearls. We got some, honestly, devastating lines about her former flame, speculated songs about her rumored situationship and a peek into the promising bright future of her current love. Ex-boyfriend this and boyfriend that, she also let us further into her headspace with how she perceives herself and knows she’s the problem sometimes, a Kim Kardashian diss track, what I think is to be an almost grown up version of “Long Live” and other songs that are more of stories. 

I liked the double album for a number of reasons. It’s a heavy vocal album with, in my opinion, great production. If some words didn’t feel like the best choice for her to have used (like the Grand Theft Auto line or anything else “corny”) it’s fine since one: it’s already released and two: it’s how she felt and that’s how she explained herself. There are so many songs on this album that’s going to do it for me every single time, lyrically and production wise. She is a phenomenal writer and has explored themes and stories in songs perfectly many times, but she isn’t always going to write like Shakespeare and no one has to use a thesaurus to get their point across every time. Many great musicians just speak from the heart, and that’s what she did bluntly, and has been doing. I haven’t experienced half of what she captures in “The Tortured Poets Department,” yet I still find myself singing along like I’ve lived it in every lifetime. 

I love the light synth-pop and instrumentals presented throughout the album, and no, I don’t think it all sounds the same. Maybe at first listen some seem to blend together, but as time goes on and I’m able to get more comfortable with it, specific lines and beats will linger in my head until I ultimately have to put the song on and listen again. For now, I have faith in it and am being bold and am going to rate the overall double album a 8.8/10.

I’m not sure if the color scheme tied to the album is a nod to “Reputation,” which might’ve been the start of a story and this is the official closing and ending of it (and/or the beginning of a new chapter) … there are some things we may never know. I might not know everything about what she put into it or all the context behind this album.

But I do know it might just be on sight if I see Joe Alwyn.

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About the Contributor
Theresa Lozano
Theresa Lozano, Life & Arts Writer
Howdy! I'm Theresa Lozano and I am a journalism major. I love living life with those around me. Gig 'em!!!
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