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Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” is her most emotionally complex album yet (Op-Ed)

Taylor Swift has long been lauded for her versatile songwriting and diverse range of genres. 

In her nearly-20 year career, she’s transitioned from simple country roots in debut album “Taylor Swift,” (2006) to incorporating influences of soft pop in “Fearless” (2008) and blends of pop, rock, and country in “Speak Now” (2010), her first fully self-written album. “Red” (2012) was a true career shift as a full pop album with lingering traces of country influence, while “1989” (2014) amped the genre to 100. “Reputation” (2017) acted as a genre and public image rebrand into electropop, providing a strong juxtaposing precedent to alternative rock, folk pop, and indie pop sister albums “folklore” (2020) and “evermore” (2020). “Midnights” (2022) provided not only a look back to more traditional pop roots, but also a full embrace of the electropop/bedroom pop/synth pop vibe that was initially introduced in “1989” (2014) and “Reputation” (2017).” 

“The Tortured Poets Department” (2024), released on April 19, is one of Swift’s most extensive and vulnerable projects yet, employing elements of previous albums and genres while delving into songwriting and lyricism that is hardly paralleled by other modern mainstream artists in the industry. 

Originally only consisting of 16 songs with a runtime of one hour and five minutes, Swift pulled a usual, yet unexpected curveball on the fanbase and released “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology” (2024) at 2:00 a.m. EST, providing an additional 15 songs to the original album- a move that is quite reminiscent of her release of “Midnights” (2022) and the subsequent “Midnights (3am Edition)” appropriately released 3 hours after the original tracks. 

This full collection of tracks, accompanied by a album aesthetic swathe of cool white, taupe, charcoal, beige, and black, reminisces on the complex emotional turmoil, joy, questioning, elation, and devastation of love and fame, written with thematic and deeply poetic lyrics that are quite personal to Swift while simultaneously providing a relatable voice for those listening who may experience the same feelings and emotions. 

With collaborations featuring Post Malone and Florence + The Machine, Swift embraces a marriage of her pop, folk, and alternative rock ventures, all supported by a strong synth throughout. 

From the lead single “Fortnite (feat. Post Malone)” (2024) detailing the impact of a whirlwind two-week fling, to a reflection on continuing a tour and music releases while shunning public opinion amid the fallout of a long-term breakup in “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” (2024), Swift fully exposes her deepest experiences a a global pop star who has experienced life and love as anyone else in all of its intricate, beautiful, and heartbreaking forms, asserting that no amount of criticism, negative reviews, or doubt can take away the one thing that is truly hers: her voice. 

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