<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=192888919167017&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Thursday,  May 30 , 2024

Linkedin Pinterest
News / Life / Entertainment

Review: Our critic and a 13-year-old Swiftie discuss Taylor Swift’s new album (first iteration)

By Jon Bream, Star Tribune
Published: April 21, 2024, 6:00am

Taylor Swift tantalizes and tortures us once again. This time it’s with her new album “The Tortured Poets Department,” which dropped at midnight ET Friday. Which guy(s) in her life is she singing about? Why is she so unlucky in love? Which of these songs is about new beau Travis Kelce?

After one listen to the 16 songs on her 11th studio album, we have a few quick impressions, a few answers and a lot more questions.

Wait! Stop the presses! Swift dropped a second installment of the album — 15 additional songs — at 2 a.m., two hours after the first record.

To help examine the initial iteration of the new album, I reached out to the resident Swiftie in my family, my 13-year-old cousin Alivia. She listens to Taylor music about 10 hours a week but streams Swift songs with the volume off during school to boost streaming numbers. She got lucky in the lottery and scored tickets to see the pop icon’s Eras Tour in October in New Orleans.

We shared our early thoughts about the first 16 songs in a late-night phone call.

  • Overall impression

Swiftie: “It was a lot. It’s really good. One of my friends and I were texting each other the whole time we were listening and we were both freaking out.

I was expecting more upbeat songs. I’m super excited to go back and listen to it and analyze it and read all about it. It’s definitely going to be in my Top 5 [of Swift albums]. It’s going to go up. Maybe it’s like my third or fourth at the moment. No. 1 is “Reputation” and No. 2 is “Folklore.”

Critic: It’s deep and complicated because Taylor is both a detailed and obtuse lyricist at the same time. Despite seemingly being crazy in love with her football superstar, she is mostly expressing a lot of anger and heartbreak about relationships here. Didn’t we expect some more romantic songs? This kiss-off collection is heavy on ballads and medium-tempo tunes with only one bop (“I Can Do It with a Broken Heart”) and one almost-banger (“Florida!!!”). Parents be forewarned: Seven of the 16 selections have explicit lyrics.

  • Favorite lyrics

Swiftie: In “Tortured Poets Department,” there was one that just hit: “At dinner you take my ring off my middle finger and put it on the one that people put wedding rings on and that’s the closest I’ve come to my heart exploding.”

Critic: My pick comes from the title track, too: “I laughed in your face and said, ‘You’re not Dylan Thomas/ I’m not Patti Smith/ This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel/ We’re modern idiots.” But there are a lot of memorable lines throughout the record.

  • Who is this song about?

Swiftie: Obviously a lot of them are about Joe Alwyn. Probably “Tortured Poets Department, “So Long, London, “LOML,” “I Could Do It with a Broken Heart.” Most of them, I feel like.

Critic: Alwyn, her British actor beau of half a decade, is presumably the subject of a few songs, especially “So Long, London.” “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” is likely inspired by the 1975′s singer Matty Healy, with whom Taylor had a rumored fling. And Scooter Braun, who sold Swift’s catalog of her first six albums without consulting her, is probably the target of “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me,” a decidedly unromantic taunt.

  • Which song(s) might be about Travis Kelce?

Swiftie: I thought she would do one, but I feel like I didn’t hear much.

Critic: “The Alchemy” with the lyrics “Trying to be the greatest in the league/ Where’s the trophy?/ He just comes running over to me.”

  • Which featured guest is better — Post Malone on “Fortnight” or Florence Welch on “Florida!!!”?

Swiftie: I thought they were both really good.

Critic: Malone’s sandpaper voice doesn’t add much but Welch’s unmistakable siren seduces you like Florida sunshine.

  • What did you think of her shout out to pop star Charlie Puth in the title song saying he deserves to be bigger?

Swiftie: That caught me in shock. I’m not a big fan of his. He’s a good artist.

Morning Briefing Newsletter envelope icon
Get a rundown of the latest local and regional news every Mon-Fri morning.

Critic: That will boost his ego and probably his streaming numbers.

  • In the closing track “Clara Bow,” named after the silent movie star who become one of Hollywood’s first women sex symbols, Swift name checks Stevie Nicks and herself. What did you think of Taylor singing her own name?

Swiftie: I heard her name, and I was like “What?”

Critic: She became pals with Nicks after they duetted on the Grammys in 2010 when Swift had some pitch problems. Nicks contributes liner notes — actually a poem — to the album package. As for her self-referential verse at the end of the final song on the first second, well, you decide:

“You look like Taylor Swift/ In this light/ We’re loving it/ You’ve got edge/ She never did.”

After our conversation, Alivia planned to listen to the album again while finishing her math and science homework. On her Friday to-do list is a trip to Target to buy the clear vinyl version of “The Tortured Poets Department.” But that was before she heard about the second half of the double album.

Loading...