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“THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY” Review: Taylor Swift’s sonnets soar on her 11th album

Ryan Agnello

Artist: Taylor Swift

Genre: Alternative Pop

Rating: 5/5

“All’s fair in love and poetry.”

After what seemed like an excruciatingly long wait (75 days, to be exact), Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated 11th album, “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” dropped on Friday, April 19, shortly followed by the secret double album “THE ANTHOLOGY” at 2 am. 

Upon first listen, “Tortured Poets” and “The Anthology” are a far cry from the dark academia the cover artworks suggested, instead leaning into sepia-toned synth-pop, with wild west influences and strings worked in throughout. It’s Swift at her most tortured, manic, gleeful, angsty, sharp lyricism yet. 

After 2022’s “Midnights” which saw Swift lean fully into synth-pop with longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, Swift is back with both Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, the mastermind (no pun intended) behind “Folklore” and “Evermore.” The majority of Antonoff’s songs are in the “Tortured Poets” section, whilst the majority of Dessner’s contributions lie in “The Anthology.”

Dessner’s songs like “So Long, London,” “How Did It End?” and “loml” ground the album in deep-rooted heartbreak, while the Dessner/Antonoff co-produced “But Daddy I Love Him” raises it to its’ most chaotic, blind declarations of love yet. On the spectrum between those two extremes lie bargaining (“I Can Fix Him [No Really I Can]”), escapism (“Florida!!!” featuring the ethereal Florence Welch and “I Hate It Here”), and pure anger and spite (“Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?”, “thanK you aIMee” and “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” all bring the rage and heat on this record). 

It’s a wide, wide spectrum of emotions, with different sonic landscapes. “Tortured Poets” and “The Anthology” are an absolute feast for life-long Swift fans and literary fanatics alike, though the title track is poking fun at the “tortured man” stereotype perpetuated by Swift’s ex-lover. While fans will surely scramble to assemble a timeline and timestamps of what happened which day last summer, Swift herself has moved on, saying on X, “this period of the author’s life is now over, the chapter closed and boarded up.”

The work stands for itself. While “Midnights” is a glittery, grunge, nighttime romp through desolate city streets, “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY” can take place on Victorian-Era seaside cliffs, the hazy sunset of Los Angeles, dirt roads in the country, or the cobblestone streets of Manhattan. In its core themes of heartbreak and desolation, the record spreads it wings and goes wherever it needs to go. 

It’s this mix of emotions that makes “Tortured Poets” and “The Anthology” work so well. It wouldn’t be good if it only had the first few “Midnights”-reminiscent tracks (“Fortnight” and “Down Bad”), or the piano ballads (“So Long, London” is easily a top-five standout, though). The sultriness of “Guilty as Sin?” and “So High School” balances out perfectly with the tinges of naivety throughout “Clara Bow,” whilst “Fresh Out The Slammer” and “But Daddy I Love Him” seizes the gleefulness of a doomed “situationship.”

Dessner’s string arrangements that made appearances on “folklore” and “evermore” are back in full force on this album, as well as Antonoff pulling out the synths that made “august” the perfect hazy, late summer tune. In going back to some of the formulas that made the 2020 albums and “Midnights” work so well, Swift turned them on their heads, and created some of her best work yet. It’s the quintessential “Swiftian” sound, which meets at the intersection between synth pop and folk-country.

Each listener is to their own, but in my eyes (well, ears) this is among Swift’s best work yet. Yes, I say this quite often, but it’s legitimately insane she keeps surpassing herself record after record. It’s been nearly four years since we got a well-balanced album between two producers on a Swift record, and this one doesn’t disappoint. 

It’s the sonic variety and sadness of “Red,” the attitude of “reputation,” and the storytelling of “evermore,” yet it encapsulates an energy that surges past all of those albums. It’s a mature kind of heartbreak that pairs too well with the child-like desperation for the next best thing in the wake of loss. 

Maybe it’s the writer in me or the sheer relatability of the album or the fact that it’s one of the most ambitious and “Swiftian” productions yet, but “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” is an all-time Taylor Swift album. While it might not fit into the “Eras” chapter of Swift’s discography, it’s the perfect Kate Chopin-esque novella in Swift’s library of past works. 

One can only imagine where Swift’s work will take her next, but I have faith in the Chairman of the Tortured Poets Department.

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About the Contributors
Gabriella Madden
Gabriella Madden, Web Director
Gabriella Madden is the Web Director for the 2023-2024 school year, as well as a third year 3+1 Film, Television, and Media Arts major and Journalism and Marketing double minor. She will be receiving her masters of journalism in 2025, and previously served as the Entertainment Industry beat reporter in the 2022-2023 school year. She is from Braintree, Massachusetts, and has interned and written for outlets and organizations such as Flaunt Magazine, MyFitnessPal, and The Rolling Tape.
Ryan Agnello
Ryan Agnello, Entertainment Director
Ryan Agnello is a third-year Film, Television, and Media Arts major and Marketing minor from Fanwood, New Jersey. He is a part of the Quinnipiac School of Communications’ 3+1 accelerated dual degree program and is expected to receive his master’s in Cinematic Production Management in 2025. He currently serves as Entertainment Director. He has previously been an Associate Producer for Quinnipiac Tonight.

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