Taylor Swift: How The Tortured Poet's Department Album Song Captures Modern Dating Frustrations – Ent

  • By Noor Nanji and Annabelle Rackham
  • Culture reporter

Image caption, The Tortured Poet category released on Friday has 31 songs

For two female journalists in their 30s — who also happen to be massive Swifts — there's a lot about Taylor Swift's new album that rings true.

The ones who stuck with us, from breakup to comfort-eating. We've all been there, and so have pop's biggest superstars.

Swift is no stranger to writing about personal issues. And he's by no means the first musician to sing about heartbreak, pain and sorrow.

Perhaps more than any other song on her new album, So Long, London packs a real sucking punch.


“I'm sick of you giving me all that youth for free.” she laments, on a track widely thought of as her former partner Joe Alwyn

This seems to be a pivotal moment on the album. A moment so raw, that you stop in your tracks.

It doesn't matter that Swift is a world-famous musician, with A-list friends and a huge billion-dollar fortune. Underneath it all, she's a 34-year-old woman who understands all too well the concerns of running out of time to find “The One,” settle down and start a family.

image source, Rebecca Reid

Image caption, Rebecca Reid says Taylor Swift has carried her “through good times and bad times”.

Rebecca Reid, a Swifty in her early 30s, told BBC News that it felt like The Tortured Poets Department could have been written with her in mind.

“With So Long, London, but honestly, in almost every single song, there's a lot about the idea that you've given someone your youth and you can't get it back,” he said.

“And that's definitely a sentiment that I really resonate with.”

In another song, Take Down Bad, Swift sings: “Now I'm bad, crying in the gym.”

Again, these are songs that strike a chord with many. Who hasn't experienced the depression of a breakup, which leaves you in tears as you try to go about your daily routine?

Other songs find her too depressed to get out of bed, while in Manuscript, Swift writes about comfort-eating children's cereal (which cereal, we surprised ourselves).

image source, Saira Thwaites

Image caption, Saira Thwaites grew up with Taylor Swift

For Saira Thwaites, who is almost 30 and a committed Swiftie, the more she listens to the tracks, the more she can relate to them.

“His stories are very specific, and they really add to the numbness and emptiness of a breakup,” she says.

“Broken, I hit the floor / All my pieces crumbled as the crowd chanted 'more',” She sings deceptively upbeat, I can do this with a broken heart.

'Swift Still Feels Dating Frustration'

“(The song) is about letting everyone know that you're fine and being creative and when you're not really giving yourself space to heal or grieve, you need that,” Reed said.

“Again, that's something I can really resonate with because I went through my break-up first period of single parenting, and going on TV and radio and writing books and telling everyone how great I was and how happy I was when I was, actually. , processing one of the worst traumas of my life.”

Helen Brown, a music critic for The Independent, said “a whole generation of women” found Swift's music the soundtrack to their lives.

“Singing about the elusive lure of rings and swings, Swift highlights the challenges facing a generation that is getting married and having children an average of five years later than in the 1990s,” he told BBC News.

“It's equally reassuring and disturbing to think that even without the financial challenges that most people her age face, Swift still experiences the dating frustrations of her peers.

“Like them he was overwhelmed by the options and described being haunted as he asked himself whether he expected too much or too little from himself and his partners.”

image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards

When it comes to telling the story of modern dating, Swift has never shied away from writing about her exes.

Many are reading her latest album as a dig specifically at Alvin and 1975's Matty Healy and touching on her current beau, NFL superstar Travis Kelce.

His intentions are revealed in the sleeve notes for the album, in which he states: “This poet's face has a smile. For this is the worst man I write.”

Swift and Alwyn, an actor, split in April 2023. When he later announced the arrival of a new album, fans immediately began to speculate that it would deal with the fall.

His choice of album title echoed a WhatsApp group chat held by Alvin and Normal People star Paul Mescal, called The Tortured Man Club, fueling speculation.

In So Long, London, she sang, hinting at marriage plans: “You swore you loved me, but where was the clue, I died at the altar waiting for the proof.”

She also revealed she was gutted to leave London, where she lived with Alwyn – adding that she “loved” the city.

Another track, But Daddy I Love Him, is believed to address the rhetoric surrounding Swift's reported-but-never-confirmed romance with 1975 lead singer Healy last year.

Some fans felt disappointed by the relationship, saying that Healy – who has faced accusations of abuse and racism during her career (all of which she denies) – was an inappropriate choice of partner.

In her song, Swift hits back, declaring: “I'd rather burn my whole life than hear one more second of all this worry and moaning / I'll tell you something about my good name, mine alone to dishonor.”

image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Taylor Swift is now in a relationship with American football star Travis Kelce

But is insulting your exes in public the right thing to do? Brown says it's a “complex issue”.

“Swift doesn't name names in these songs and her real history has always been shrouded in fiction. She's a storyteller, coming from a country music tradition that has a long history of female stars calling out bad behavior from men,” she says.

“I will add that while Swift may swipe at her exes, she always holds herself to account. As she seems to be addressing on this record, both exes are also songwriters, they've got the right to reply in their own work, and I suspect they're both between love and song. All seems fair.”

The BBC reached out to both Eleven – who did not respond – and Healy, who was not available for comment.

So where does all of that leave Swift's current very public relationship with Kells?

'Love Treats Taylor Like A Child'

Nona Uppal, another devoted Swifty, told the BBC that while much of The Tortured Poet's Department is about despair and heartbreak, it also nods to the joy Swift feels in a new relationship, something many people can identify with.

Image caption, Nona Uppal is a writer and self-proclaimed Swifty

He points to the song So High School, which he explains is about Kells because it's “about butterflies and what kids would do when watching movies with your friends”.

“I think it captures a whole spectrum of human emotions where love treats Taylor like a child. And that's what love is to her,” she says.

“And I just love the level of vulnerability that captures, because I think that's something I relate to pretty heavily.”

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