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Cougar Critique: Welcome to the opening of “The Tortured Poets Department”

In an Instagram post about the release of “The Tortured Poets Department,” Taylor Swift said, “This period of the author’s life is now over, the chapter is closed and boarded up.” Graphic by: Isabella Fieros

Taylor Swift ushers in a new era with her new album

On April 19, Taylor Swift released her 11th studio album, “The Tortured Poets Department.” Swift announced the album on Feb. 4 at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards during her acceptance speech for the “Best Pop Vocal Album” award. Swift had originally announced the standard edition of her album, which included 16 songs and four bonus songs. Two hours after the albums release, Swift revealed “The Tortured Poets Department” to be a double album. “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology” includes 15 more tracks, for a total of 31 tracks.

Fortnight (feat. Post Malone): 6/10

“Fortnight” was an underwhelming song considering it was chosen as this album’s lead single and opening track. For a song that is meant to set the tone for the rest of the album, it is not one that gets you excited for the rest of it. The best part of the song is the bridge and how Post Malone’s vocals blend with Swift’s. He was a strong choice for a featured artist as he gives more life to the song.

The Tortured Poets Department: 7/10

The album starts to pick up the pace with the title track. Sonically, it’s a fun tune and has some catchy lyrics like “You’re not Dylan Thomas and I’m not Patti Smith/This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel, we’re modern idiots.” However, it also has some lyrics that make the song awkward, such as “You smoked then ate seven bars of chocolate,” “tattooed Golden Retriever” and an out of place Charlie Puth reference. 

My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys: 6/10

This song is definitely one of the most hypnotic songs on the album. Usually, that’s a compliment, but for this, it feels repetitive and bleeds into the song before and after it. The repetitiveness of the chorus is definitely the focus of the song with the skippy five line chorus. The song was three and a half minutes but it felt like five.

Down Bad: 8/10

“The Tortured Poets Department’’ is an album that, at first listen, is mediocre, but grows on you the more you listen to it. “Down Bad” is a good example of that. Its catchy tune and satisfying delivery of lines such as “For a moment I knew cosmic love” makes the song addicting. 

So Long, London: 10/10

Unsurprisingly, “So Long, London” is one of Swift’s strongest songs on the album. She is notorious for making the fifth trackon every album her most vulnerable and this holds true with “So Long, London.” Her references to marriage, such as “I died on the altar waiting for the proof,” and incorporation of the wedding bells hits deep. It’s not an angry song about a relationship ending, but instead one riddled with sadness at what should’ve been. The bells in the intro and the deep cut, descriptive lyrics make it one of her best track fives and potentially the best song on “The Tortured Poets Department.”

But Daddy I Love Him: 4/10

“But Daddy I Love Him” is a reference to the film “The Little Mermaid” where the main character Ariel was forbidden from loving a human prince. Taylor Swift seemingly compares her past experience with Matty Healy where Swift’s father wasn’t very thrilled that the two were together. It’s one of the most cliché songs on the album with a simple but really overbearing drum loop in the background and we personally didn’t enjoy the song very much.

Fresh Out the Slammer: 3/10

“Fresh Out The Slammer” is presumably about Swift leaving her old relationship with Joe Alwnn and finding refuge with Matty Healy. Calling her relationship with Joe Alwyn a “slammer” to further push the point home that she could never really be herself with him. This song is one of the more stale songs on the album. A repetitive flow and rhythm from Swift’s vocals and random western style intro makes it a really hard song to listen to. 

Swift has released four variants of the album: “The Manuscript,” “The Bolter,” “The Albatross” and “The Black Dog.” Graphic by: Isabella Fierros

Florida!!! (Feat. Florence + the Machine): 8/10

“Florida!!!” is the second of two collabs on “The Tortured Poets Department.” Swift and Florence Welch do a great job at blending both of their styles. It is a suspense-filled track that all culminates in the chorus with the burst of drums. The singers give the usually-sunny state a darker and mysterious vibe in this fun to sing-along-to song.

Guilty as Sin?: 7/10

This song is one of the better ones in part one of the album. It has a catchy instrumental and Swift’s flow isn’t as unbearable as some of her other songs. The narrative follows her and her alleged relationship with Matty Healy, but this time talking about the negative attention he gets from the media.

Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?: 6/10

This song explores Swift’s treatment and growth throughout her music career and how fame has affected her. It’s interesting to hear because it paints a story of her life and gives her perspective of different situations. Her performance of it on her Eras Tour makes you appreciate it more, but the song itself is certainly not on the usual level of greatness Swift usually delivers; instead this toes the line of mediocrity.

I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can): 5/10

Toxic relationships are the nexus of a lot of Taylor Swift music. This song is no stranger to that theme with a big emphasis on Swift believing she can be different and change a bad man to good lover. It’s a very melancholic song, bordering a style of lament. The narrative of the song carries it as the muted guitar and vocals are the only sonic features of the song aside from the bass when there’s only 20 seconds left in the song.

loml: 10/10

“Loml” is the best song on “The Tortured Poets Department.” Prior to its release, fans speculated about what the acronym stood for. Usually, the slang “loml” stands for love of my life, but Swift takes a different approach with this song. The song begins with “You said I’m the love of your life” before switching to “You’re the loss of my life.” Bait and switch lyricism is nothing new to Swift’s writing style. 

I Can Do It With a Broken Heart: 7/10

“I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” is probably the outlier among “The Tortured Poets Department.” Its upbeat sound deviates from the slower theme that a majority of the other tracks seem to follow. However, it does continue with the tortured, vulnerable lyrics the other songs do. It would be unsurprising for this song to join ‘’Fortnight” as one of the album’s singles.

The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived: 9/10

This is one of the best tracks off of the album. It was already an amazing song with such raw and powerful lyrics (and an awesome beat drop), but its incorporation into the Eras Tour has taken it to another level. Her live marching band on stage and leading a death march makes you understand just how angry she was when writing the song. The lyric, “You deserve prison but you won’t get time” radiates anger and makes you share Swift’s anger.

The Alchemy: 2/10

Arguably, this is the worst song on the album. Swift’s happy flow doesn’t make much sense and honestly doesn’t sound very good. The instrumental is very minimal with a few drums here and there but crescendos during the chorus with a large bass instead of only drums. The corny lyrics are what really did it for me. “When I touch down/Call the amateurs and cut them from the team/Ditch the clowns, get the crown” all allude to Travis Kelce, her current boyfriend (touch down = touchdown, amateurs cut from a football team, etc.) It just feels like lazy writing on Swift’s part and given her history, there is obviously an ability for her to do better.

Clara Bow: 7/10

The conclusion to part one of “The Tortured Poets Department” is an allegory/tale of caution surrounding the actress named Clara Bow who was a flapper/seductress during the silent film era of cinema. It’s a warning to all the trappings and the prices you pay when becoming famous. The instrumental is hypnotic (in a good way this time) with a calm guitar and mildly crescendos throughout the song with additions of drums to supplement the already solid finale. 

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About the Contributors
Isabella Fierros
Isabella Fierros, Online/Media Editor-in-Chief
Isabella Fierros is a junior at VHS in her third year at The Cougar Press. Her favorite singers are Taylor Swift and Harry Styles (it’s an obsession). She is also a big Los Angeles Dodgers fan and being a reporter for them is her dream job. 
Christian Montecino
Christian Montecino, Assistant Print Editor-in-Chief
Christian Montecino is a senior at VHS in his second year at The Cougar Press. He enjoys reading, playing tennis, watching football and music.
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