It was assumed that Swift would turn to more poignant, personal poeticism on her eleventh studio albumEva Rinaldi via Flickr (Resized), CC BY-SA 2.0 (

On the fateful day of April 19th, I was woken by a 7am phone call informing me that the swiftie theories were correct. Taylor Swift had released a double album: THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT and its extended version, THE ANTHOLOGY. 31 songs, two hours. This concept is not new to seasoned fans; Swift pulled a similar stunt with her previous album, Midnights, and cryptic clues were peppered throughout the release week. Having been a Swiftie myself since the Red era, I was highly anticipating the new release and eagerly donned my headphones to listen for the first time. Perhaps my hopes were too high.

“The track could easily have been written by a fresh-out-of-high-school Swift”

Upon hearing the album’s opener and lead single, ‘Fortnight’, featuring Post Malone, I wasn’t exactly blown away. The meandering melody pushed the lyrics around as if they weren’t worth picking up and Malone’s vocals were unable to lift the song from its pit of lacklustre production. “Never mind,” I thought: “she’s never been good at choosing the best single for an album. Maybe the title track will be an improvement.” Unfortunately, more disappointment was to follow. From a song – and album – with “poet” in the title, it was not unreasonable to expect some notable lyrics from the renowned wordsmith. Yet the track could easily have been written by a fresh-out-of-high-school Swift – not bad but far from world-shattering.

This is a recurring criticism I have of this album. Swift undoubtedly has the capacity to write songs worthy of literary acclaim and has proved this countless times on earlier albums, with songs like ‘the lakes’ and ‘ivy’ leaving Swifties scrambling for a dictionary. Indeed, in a promotional video for this album, Swift abandoned her glitter gel pens, with which she envisions herself writing songs that “make you want to dance, sing and toss glitter around the room”. The assumption, then, was that Swift would turn to more poignant, personal poeticism in her eleventh studio album. Instead, we got lines like “tattooed golden retriever” and “the 1830s but without all the racists”. Forgive me if I’m not astounded.

“There’s a reason albums aren’t usually 31 songs long”

Perhaps I had only just properly woken up but it wasn’t until the fifth track, ‘So Long London’, that I felt Swift’s lyricism took the hand of Aaron Dessner’s production and truly excelled. After opening with angelic choral vocals, the song makes space for what resembles a racing heartbeat to accompany this crafted exposure of Swift’s heartbreak. From here, Swift seems to hit the ground running, with some of my personal favourites appearing in the mid-section of the album. Her character in ‘But Daddy I Love Him’ perfectly captures the naïve excitement of falling for someone for the first time. Quoting The Little Mermaid in the title and purposefully playing with the listener by proclaiming, “I’m having his baby/ No, I’m not, but you should see your faces”, this track was a welcome relief from the barrage of melancholic longing that preceded it.

Another highlight was the collaborative track ‘Florida!!!’ with Florence + the Machine. As someone who has recently absorbed Florence’s discography in its entirety, I found the track was elevated by her vocal prowess and poetic expertise. Hearing my two most-listened artists echoing one another on the same track made it an immediate favourite.


Mountain View

Ariana Grande's eternal sunshine

But the main issue with this album is its length. There’s a reason albums aren’t usually 31 songs long. Perhaps no producer was confident enough to criticise the music mogul because many of these songs seem entirely redundant, particularly near the end of the ANTHOLOGY version. Recycled sentiments, predictably Midnights-esque production and unrefined lyrics left me questioning whether Swift is just releasing every song she has ever composed. Indeed, I counted approximately twelve songs which could have been cut, leaving a perfectly reasonable album length behind. To quote my dad’s thoughts on the album: “It’s like the middle aisle in Lidl”. There are, of course, some excellent moments, ‘I Can Do It With A Broken Heart’ and ‘The Black Dog’ being two additional highlights. However, they are lost in the forgettable fray, with some songs veering towards being actively dislikeable (‘I Hate It Here’ leading the pack with its laughably poor lyrics).

Where she writes well, she writes brilliantly and I don’t doubt some of my favourites from Swift’s catalogue are buried somewhere in this album. But, if I were not already a Swiftie, I wouldn’t waste my time trying to find them. To quote the song which bridged this album and its predecessor: Taylor, “stop, you’re losing me”.