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  • Isabel Mays

Our "Tortured Poets Department" Theories

Photo Creds: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

If you know me at all, then you know that I consider Taylor Swift a revolutionary. So when I turned on the GRAMMYs, fully expecting Swift to announce reputation (Taylor’s Version), you can probably imagine my shock when she announced a whole new album! The Tortured Poets Department is set to be Swift's 11th studio album, and fans immediately began theorizing what the vibe of the album could possibly be following the announcement. There are plenty of theories and easter eggs to go over, so let’s get right into it!

The Album's Title

So one big theory for this album is that it will be heavily centered on Taylor Swift’s past relationship with ex Joe Alwyn. Swift and Alwyn were together for six years before they broke up not long after The Eras Tour began. Their breakup made headlines, and stirred a lot of questions surrounding what the reason behind it may have been. Well, fans are hoping this album answers some of their questions, starting with the album’s name. Fans speculate that The Tortured Poets Department could be in reference to a group chat Joe Alwyn is a part of. Alwyn, along with fellow actors Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott, share a group chat titled “The Tortured Man Club.” Coincidence? I think not. But, I look forward to finding out if this connection is, in fact, true.

The Vibe

Throughout the years, Swift has changed up her style of music on more than one occasion. Starting in the country-scene, she then transitioned to a more pop-like style. Then, as Folklore and Evermore hit the shelves during the pandemic, we got to hear Swift explore a more moody and poetic style of writing. And then she released Midnights, which let us experience Swift’s synth-pop skills. So the only question remaining is… what’s next? Fans theorized for a while that TPD would have a synth-pop vibe like Midnights did, but I don’t necessarily agree with that. 

If our theories are correct, and this is an album where we hear Swift saying goodbye to her relationship with Alwyn, I can only imagine TPD is going to have a similar sound to Folklore or Evermore. I’m expecting for it to be moody as she sings about her heartbreak and the events that led up to that, but also uplifting as Swift sings about acceptance and new love. However, Swift could completely surprise us and give us something we were not at ALL expecting. But a Folklore/Evermore style album seems the most likely to me.

Photo Creds: Beth Garrabant

The Track List

Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)

The Tortured Poets Department

My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys

Down Bad

So Long, London

But Daddy I Love Him

Fresh Out the Slammer

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

Guilty as Sin?

Who's Afraid of Little Old Me?

I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)


I Can Do It With a Broken Heart

The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived

The Alchemy

Clara Bow

Bonus: The Manuscript

Bonus: The Bolter

Bonus: The Albatross

This track list has me so excited, a big reason being that the titles alone hold so many hidden messages! Along with the main track list, Swift will be releasing three separate versions of TPD, each with a different bonus song! Maybe at some point, Swift will release a deluxe edition with all of the bonus songs, but for now, they are exclusive to their respective variations. Now, let’s go over what some of these songs could be about!

So Long, London

Swift tends to have an ongoing theme with each of her albums, and that is making the fifth track the most raw and vulnerable one in the set. Some notable track five hits include “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” from Red (Taylor’s Version), “tolerate it” from Evermore, and “Delicate” from reputation. And based on the track list, the song titled “So Long, London” appears to be the next one. There’s an incredibly high chance that “So Long, London” will center around the end of Swift’s relationship with Joe Alwyn. 

Alwyn, a British actor, grew up in London, and was the inspiration behind a slew of different songs on both reputation and Lover. Most of her songs dedicated to Alwyn are heartwarming and lighthearted, giving us a good glimpse into their seemingly happy relationship with one another. But many fans believe that this song will center around the end of their relationship, and the emotions Swift felt following the breakup. All I know, at least, is that I’m expecting this to be a big tear-jerker.

Photo Creds: Christopher Polk/NBC/Getty Images

Clara Bow

Like some of you could probably relate, I did not know who Clara Bow was prior to doing research on this album. Turns out, she is someone who could have been a big inspiration for the album itself! Clara Bow was a 1920’s silent film star, and caught the attention of many very quickly, donning the title “The It Girl.” She dealt with many mental health issues in her life, but to the naked eye, seemed to be the picture of joy and happiness.

I like to think, and it would seem that fans agree, that “Clara Bow” is going to center around Swift’s relationship with fame, and how the cost of fame could lead to poor mental health. Others have also pointed out that this song could share some kind of connection with Swift’s song “Gorgeous” from her album reputation. This is mainly thanks to a lyric that reads “Whisky on ice, Sunset and Vine,” Sunset and Vine being the location of Bow’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I Can Do It With a Broken Heart

One can imagine that following a breakup, you’d want time to grieve. So when Swift went ahead and continued her tour, I’ll admit I was a little surprised. That being said, it made fans start to wonder if the song “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” will center around Swift continuing to tour following the breakup. Now listen, Swift is one of the best people I have seen perform live. She will perform rain or shine, happy or sad, hot or cold… so the fact that she went ahead and continued touring makes me think this song will be an uplifting and empowering hit.

But Daddy I Love Him

Fans of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) may recall how some songs like “Style” and “Out of the Woods” share some nods to her past relationship with Harry Styles. And a song on TPD may actually be about him as well! “But Daddy I Love Him,” which is a line from the classic Disney animated film, The Little Mermaid, is theorized to be about Styles because of a shirt he once wore with the line written on it. The movie was also released in 1989, which is another crazy coincidence!. We can only wait and see what this song could be about, but I think this is an interesting theory.

Photo Creds: Taylor Hill/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Mana

Post Malone and Florence + The Machine

I was super excited when it was revealed that Post Malone and Florence + The Machine would both be featured on this album! Malone’s announcement surprised me, honestly, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise! His song with Swift, “Fortnight,” is the first one on the track list, and fans think it could be another Joe Alwyn inspired hit. The word “fortnight” is a British term that you don’t hear used often in America. And a fortnight is a period of time that lasts two weeks, so maybe this song will center around the final two weeks of Swift and Alwyn’s relationship.

I just about screamed when I saw Florence + The Machine would be featured. I’m a massive fan, and I think their style would blend nicely with Swift's, so it makes sense they would make a song together. “Florida!!!” is a song also believed to be about Alwyn. If you remember, news surrounding their breakup went public on April 8. Following the news, Swift was set to continue her tour in Tampa, Florida, where she actually swapped the song “Invisible String” for “The 1” during the Folkore section. “Invisible String” is a song with many references to Alwyn, so it makes sense why she swapped it out, and only makes me further believe “Florida!!!” will center around Alwyn as well.ell.

The Bonus Tracks

I got to say, Swift’s bonus tracks are on a completely different level. Fans can expect at least three bonus track songs, including “The Manuscript,” “The Bolter,” and “The Albatross.” “The Manuscript” was listed on the album’s first variation, and is thought to be a play on the words “the man you script.” I like to think that it will center around how people may view Swift’s life as “scripted.” 

“The Bolter” was announced with the album’s second variation, and fans seem to think it will be another Alwyn-centered song. However, a bolter is defined as “an outsider in a contest or race,” so that makes me think it may be about Swift succeeding in life despite what others may think.

Finally, “The Albatross” is set to be included in the album’s third variation. If you don’t know what an albatross is, it’s a bird that can fly without landing for six years. This is crazily enough just how long Swift and Alwyn’s relationship lasted. So, if there was any bonus track that would be about him, it would without a doubt be this one.

The Tortured Poets Department is bound to be a lyrical masterpiece. With an incredible track list, some emotional themes, and absolutely GORGEOUS album art, I’m not sure if my heart can wait much longer for it to be released. But getting to theorize about the theme of the album is always super fun, and makes waiting for the initial release more bearable. Swifties, if you haven’t already marked your calendars, The Tortured Poet’s Department is set to release on April 19. I know we’re all excited, but hang in there! I think we are all going to witness some incredible things upon its release. I can’t wait.

Written By Isabel Mays

*copyright not intended. Fair use act, section 107.


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