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The student news site of Carlisle High School

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The student news site of Carlisle High School

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Noah Guillaume
Noah Guillaume
Staff Writer

With a Broken Heart: The Masterpiece that is The Tortured Poets Department (Review)

Swifts+color+scheme+for+the+album+is+an+thematically+appropriate+grey.+
Sophie Haque
Swift’s color scheme for the album is an thematically appropriate grey.

Taylor Swift, global superstar, released her eleventh album on April 19th. Titled The Tortured Poets Department, it originally contained seventeen tracks; however, fifteen more were added to create “The Anthology” which is thirty-one tracks and just over two hours in length. While it’s received some accolades, it has mostly had negative reviews. These focus on the amount of songs on this record, and how long and rambling they are lyrically. But this is what makes the album extraordinary.

The New York Times journalist Lindsay Zoladz claims that “Great poets know how to condense, or at least how to edit. The sharpest moments of ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ would be even more piercing in the absence of excess, but instead the clutter lingers.” Another New York Times article mentions what Vanity Fair writer Chris Murphy wrote on X about the new album, “It’s almost like if you produce too much… too fast… in a brazen attempt to completely saturate and dominate a market rather than having something important or even halfway interesting… the art suffers!”

However, this album wasn’t made for the critics. In fact, it wasn’t even made for the fans. Swift wrote this album for herself. She herself stated that this album “is an album that I think more than any of my albums I’ve ever made, I needed to make it… it was really a lifeline for me… it kind of reminded me of why songwriting is something that, like, actually gets me through my life and I’ve never had an album where I needed songwriting more.”

This album is longer, both in length and lyrics because it is genuine. It contains no falsities or condensations that hide critical details. It is straight from the heart and soul of Taylor Swift. That’s what makes this album unique and more piercing, the art flourishes. This album isn’t “a brazen attempt to completely saturate and dominate a market,” it is an unedited diary entry. That’s what makes this album beautiful.

Looking at criticism of an album can be helpful to see what it’s about, but looking at the album itself is much more eye-opening. Following is an examination of the record and its best tracks:

The vocals in this album are absolutely gorgeous. An excellent example of this is in the intro to the song “So Long, London.” She sings in an angelic echoing voice, repeating the line “so long, London.” Another great example is the beginning vocals in “How Did It End?” Swift softly croons “uh-oh” before diving into the song with a beautiful, breathy voice.

The best part of this album is, unsurprisingly, its lyrics. Swift’s greatest talent is her songwriting and this record proves that true. This album is ripe with beautiful and poetic lyrics. Some wonderful examples include “I don’t cater to all these vipers dressed in empath’s clothing” and “Sanctimoniously performing soliloquies I’ll never see” which are both from “But Daddy I Love Him.” Some other amazing lyrics are “It’s hell on earth to be heavenly” from “Clara Bow” and “Can we watch our phantoms like watching wild horses” from “Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus.”

Both parts of this double album have amazing songs but each has several stand-outs.

The original album’s noteworthy songs include “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart,” “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?,” and “So Long, London.” The first of these, “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart” is about Swift performing in her Eras Tour whilst being broken-hearted due to her breakup with actor Joe Alwyn. The song starts off slowly, but once it hits the chorus it really speeds up and becomes a bop. The choruses and post-choruses are immensely catchy and make you want to sing along. Not only is this song impressive melodically, so are its lyrics. One of the most poetic of these is “The lights refract sequined stars off her silhouette every night,” which references Swift’s gorgeous outfits whilst conducting the Eras Tour. Other lyrics on this song are less poetic and more relatable, such as “I cry a lot but I am so productive / It’s an art,” and “I’m so obsessed with him but he avoids me like the plague.”

The haunting song, “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” revolves around how Swift views herself to be perceived in the media. It has an ominous melody, accompanied by heart-wrenching but beautiful lyrics. These include “If you wanted me dead / You should’ve just said / Nothing makes me feel more alive,” and “I was tame / I was gentle ‘til the circus life made me mean / Don’t you worry folks / We took out all her teeth.” The song reaches its peak when it hits the bridge, the backing melody getting more aggressive throughout the bridge, as does Swift’s voice, before both calm down to deliver more devastating lyrics. The most remarkable of these is “Put narcotics into all of my songs / And that’s why you’re still singing along.”

Relating the aftermath of her breakup, “So Long, London,” is one of the most depressing tracks from this album. Taylor Swift’s voice in it is absolutely gorgeous, it’s deeper than it usually is, something that perfectly fits this song. It is also tinted with emotion throughout the four-and-a-half minute track. The melody of the song perfectly backs Swift’s voice and makes it sound even better. Of course, the lyrics reign supreme in this song. Some excellent examples being “You say I abandoned the ship / But I was doing down with it / My white knuckle dying grip / Holding tight to your quiet resentment,” and “You swore that you loved me but where were the clues / I died at the altar waiting for the proof / You sacrificed us to the gods of your bluest days.”

The second part of this album, “The Anthology,” also has several stand-out songs. These include “I Hate It Here,” “The Prophecy,” and “Cassandra.” The first of these, “I Hate It Here,” is about how Swift escapes to made-up worlds inside her head, because she hates real life. It has a steady backing track of a guitar, creating a calming atmosphere. Swift has some beautiful vocals in this song, such as on the word “instead,” where she holds out the second syllable in a soft voice that has a slight tang to it. She also has great vocals in the bridge. Some great lyrics from the song are “My eternal consolation prize,” “I read about it in a book when I was a precocious child,” and “I’ll save all my romanticism for my inner life.”

“The Prophecy,” is another incredible song from this album. It concerns how Swift feels that she is prophesied to never find a lasting love. In this track, Swift has a soft voice with a rough tinge to it, accompanied by a guitar. She also harnesses her deeper voice in this song, adding to the melancholy vibe of it. As always, the lyrics of this song are superb and incredibly poetic. Some of the best of these include “Cards on the table / Mine play out like fools in a fable,” “Poison blood from the wound of the pricked hand,” “Gathered with a coven ‘round a sorceress’ table,” “Even statues crumble if they’re made to wait,” and “I’m just a paperweight in shades of greige.”

Revolving around the mythological figure, “Cassandra,” was a priestess of Apollo who would have accurate prophecies, but they would never be believed. Her most notable predictions were that her brother Paris would be the downfall of Troy, that the Trojan horse was a trick by the Greeks, and that she and Aegemmemon would be killed by his wife when they returned to his home. Mixing this and her own experiences, Swift crafts a beautiful tale about not being believed, despite turning out to be right in the end. Her voice starts out ethereal before turning deeper and rougher. Throughout the song, her vocals are boosted by a melodic and catchy piano backing. The most incredible lyrics from this number are “When the truth comes out / It’s quiet,” “I was in my tower weaving nightmares / Twisting all my smiles into snarls,” and “Blood’s thick but nothing like a payroll / Bet they never spared a prayer for my soul / You can mark my words that I said it first / In a mourning warning no one heard.”

Overall, The Tortured Poets Department, Taylor Swift’s eleventh album, is an incredible work of art. While not for the casual listener, or the popular audience, it is for the fans and for Swift herself. With its superb melodies and vocals and extremely poetic and beautiful lyrics, it is an album to be remembered.

Disclaimer: Articles designated as “Review” represent the views, opinions, and recommendations of the author, not the 2023-2024 Periscope staff, CHS/CASD administration, or the CHS student body. 

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About the Contributor
Sophie Haque
Sophie Haque, Staff Writer
Sophie is a freshman at CHS who is excited to be part of the Periscope staff. She loves writing, which is why she joined Journalism, and is looking forward to writing articles. In her free time she enjoys reading and singing along to Taylor Swift and musical theater. In CHS she participates in quizbowl, academic decathlon, and is part of the Shakespeare troupe.
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