Album Review

Taylor Swift - The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology

Each of the record’s 31 tracks unfold as a specific set piece filled with anecdotes, some more cleverly worded than others.

Taylor Swift - The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology

Taking on Taylor Swift’s eighth record in four years is a mammoth task, running at over two hours in length, but let’s face it, brevity has rarely been the name of the game for one of the biggest artists in the world. Launching into a prolific release schedule kickstarted by 2017’s ‘Reputation’ and only further ramping up over time, it’s largely a miracle that there have been almost no duds in her acclaimed repertoire. The isolation of 2020 arguably produced her highest quality work to date, whilst re-recordings with equally epic runtimes have unearthed a sea of musical gems. You’d certainly be hard pushed to find another fanbase who can belt out every word to a lyrically dense 10-minute track like the extended ‘All Too Well’ – a song that seemingly lays the foundation for much of ‘The Tortured Poets Department’.

It’s all in the name really; breakups, heartbreak and generalised trauma lead the charge on Taylor’s 11th studio album proper. Each of the record’s 31 tracks unfold as a specific set piece filled with anecdotes, some more cleverly worded than others. But recent challenges to Taylor Swift’s song writing are perhaps misaligned – her entire catalogue is filled with a balance of candid memories and diary-like musings. Here, she notes shared opinions of the quality of Charlie Puth rather than recalling dropped keys on the floor, but ultimately the winning formula hasn’t changed - it’s a direct line into her life and another showcase of the magic that has secured a die-hard following. In sound, it sits somewhere between the sparse nature of ‘folklore’ and the overt pop of ‘Midnights’, across its two hours settling into a steady pace that forgoes massive fan favourites in favour of a continuous pull on the heartstrings.

The issue with a two-hour album is that you’re not going to hit the mark on every track (no song should have three exclamation marks in the title), and it’s tricky to keep momentum when the name of the game is introspective storytelling. And yes, even the biggest fans will agree that none of ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ will be joining ‘Shake It Off’ or ‘Cruel Summer’ in filling pop dancefloors with their huge singalong choruses anytime soon. But if the last two decades have taught us anything, there are many sides to Taylor Swift and she knows how to play them well. Being tortured is far from new for the global powerhouse, and even if there’s some work to do on editing the poetry, it won’t be long before fans are belting every word across the full two hours – and rightly so.

Tags: Taylor Swift, Reviews, Album Reviews

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