Every Theory Swifties Have About ‘The Tortured Poets Department’

Did anyone tell you what an alchemist really is?
Image: Instagram

When Taylor Swift announced her brand new album The Tortured Poets Department at the Grammys, fans did not expect to get a track listing so soon.

Swift usually makes her fans go on a wild goose chase for her album’s track listing, recently making them solve 33 million puzzles to unveil the tracks of her 1989 (Taylor’s Version) re-recording.

So, Swift dropping the track listing of Tortured Poets so soon had fans wondering: what did she want them to know, and know right now?

Of course, Swift told fans in Midnights that she is a ‘Mastermind’; leaving little clues and playing with the fates to send the message she wants.

The message this time? Fans think that she is trying to communicate with them about what this new album covers before it’s even out.

She told fans in Melbourne that she felt this is an album she ‘needed’ to write, more than any other. She also mentioned in Tokyo that she wrote it over the last two years. Fans understand this timeline to be between when they know her relationship with Joe Alwyn started to run into problems from ‘You’re Losing Me’ (written in December 2021) and the end of the US leg of the Eras Tour, when she had started dating Travis Kelce.

Perhaps the message she feels she must share is about this simultaneously tumultuous and yet majorly successful time in her life?

Without further ado, here are all the little easter eggs and fan theories about Swift’s latest album, although do keep in mind that fan theories may not match up with what Swift actually has in store for us.

The Name Of The Album Could Be A Dig At Joe Alwyn

Image: Getty

While Swift’s album name likely refers to the lyrical genius fans can expect from her sung prose, it is also rumoured to refer to a group chat Joe Alwyn was in.

The chat was between Alwyn, Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott – called the ‘Tortured Man Club’. Could Swift be poking fun at this?

Fans have also noted that ‘tortured’ could be a reference to Alwyn and perhaps an symbol for the relationship itself, with Swift explaining during the Long Pond Sessions in November 2020 that she and Joe love sad music and write the saddest songs together.

It’s important to note that Swift set up the album reveal as a kind of criminal case to be solved, to be unravelled by herself, the ‘Chairman’ of the Tortured Poets Department, through music. On the reveal, she included the following lines, written on paper in a manila file:

“And so I enter into evidence

My tarnished coat of arms

My muses, acquired like bruises

My talismans and charms

The tick, tick, tick of love bombs

My veins of pitch black ink.

All’s fair in love and poetry.”


If we assume fans are correct that this is a breakup album, the ‘I enter into evidence’ places Swift as a kind of investigator, picking apart all the moments and signs to find out where the relationship went wrong.

Naturally – the “all’s fair in love and poetry” is a slight adjustment to the phrase “all’s fair in love and war”. It suggests that this ‘poetry’ fans are about to receive is interchangeable for ‘war’.

Interestingly, war imagery has been very common in her songs that fans assume to be about Joe Alwyn, such as: “fighting in only your army, front lines don’t you ignore me” in ‘You’re Losing Me’ and “your finger on my hairpin triggers, soldier down on that icy ground” in ‘The Great War’.

Basically, get your battle suits on Swifties, you’re about to enter into the danger zone.

The Colour Of Tortured Poets (White) Means Something

All of Taylor Swift’s album colours have meaning – from the joyous pink of Lover to the darkest black of Reputation. Fans think that the predominantly white greyscale we’re seeing with this album (she is using a white heart for it on Instagram), could be a reference to losing Joe as well.

For reference, in her music she’s always referred to love in different colours. In Red she talks about it being a firey, passionate red, or “dark grey all alone”. She continues this metaphor in ‘Daylight’ on Lover, which was written about Joe. She sings, “I used to think love would be black and white, but it’s golden.”

It’s also important to note that she stopped singing ‘invisible string’ at the Eras Tour shortly after the breakup news was announced. The lyrics to that song refer to a ‘single thread of gold’ that tied them together.

With the black-and-white greyscale of this album, could it be a metaphor for how their ‘golden love’ has since faded?

Significance Of Tortured Poets Album Release Date

Swift announced that Tortured Poets will be released on April 19, 2024. Interestingly, this is the date that Swift attended dinner with her brother, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds and they proceeded to unfollow Joe Alwyn. What did they find out? Fans can only hope she tells them in TPD.

Furthermore (and it is a long shot), fans have also uncovered that April 19 is considered the date the American Revolution began. Fans wonder if this could be a reference to Swift ending her relationship with Joe (and the string of British men she’s dated). She even has a song on the album “So Long, London”, and Kelce is the first American she’s dated since Connor Kennedy back in 2012.

The Tortured Poets Department Track List Fan Theories

With the general album theories out of the way, let’s dive into what fans think each song could be about.

1. Fortnight (Feat. Post Malone)

This is the first opening song that Swift has included a featuring artist on in any of her 11 studio albums. This is a marked thing as she has always been very specific about track orders.

Fortnight is in tandem with Post Malone, a male voice, and some fans have theorized it could be a back-and-forth conversation as often happens in the weeks leading up to and during the breakup of a long relationship.

Some fans have also noted that ‘fortnight’ is commonly used in the UK but is less commonly used in the US, they tend to say ‘two weeks’ or ‘biweekly’. So, it is interesting for Swift to use the British version here given Alwyn’s background.

2. The Tortured Poets Department

A title track! Swifties we have an album title track! As aforementioned, many fans believe the name of this song could be to do with Alwyn’s group chat the ‘Tortured Man Club’.

Who is the poet? We can’t say, but Alwyn was listed under the pseudonym William Bowery on many sad and poetic songs including ‘exile’, ‘evermore’, ‘champagne problems’ and ‘Sweet Nothing’.

3. My Boy Only Breaks His Favourite Toys

Taylor Swift
This reminds some fans of the ‘Cruel Summer’ bridge. (Credit: Getty )

Swifties on the internet are going nuts about this track title. Their minds went straight to the line in Cruel Summer, “Bad boy, shiny toy, with a price, you know that I bought it.”

This song, assumed to be about the fledgling moments in Swift and Alwyn’s relationship and the anxiety of not knowing where she stood until it was official, could be a specific reference.

Especially if fans assume that the boy is Alwyn, and she is the ‘toy’, flipping the script of Cruel Summer, where it was the other way around.

4. Down Bad

If you don’t know what this means, then you’re probably a millennial or older. ‘Down Bad’ is a slang term common amongst Gen Z and is very intriguingly described on Urban Dictionary.

It is expressed as, “When you are so desperate for something that you lose all rational thought.”

“Being down bad is act of sacrificing your morals and reputation to try and interact with someone romantically,’ it adds.

Could Swift be suggesting that she was so overwhelmed by wanting the relationship to work that she lost sight of everything else? Most girls will tell her, she’s not alone in that.

Some fans on the internet have also suggested that this song could reference her short tryst with 1975 front man Matty Healy, given the heat she received for his behaviour.

5. So Long, London

A Taylor Swift track five is always her most emotional, vulnerable song on the album. For it to be called ‘So Long, London’ is a stake to the heart of all Alwyn supporters.

She wrote a song for Alwyn in Lover called ‘London Boy’, where she names all the areas of London she visited with him and how much she fell in love with his culture.

Is this Swift unyoking herself from Alwyn, but also the British men she’d dated before Alwyn (including Calvin Harris, Harry Styles and Tom Hiddleston)?

6. But Daddy I Love Him

Any The Little Mermaid fan will tell you that this line is exactly what Ariel tells King Triton when he forbids her from being with Prince Eric. Interestingly, The Little Mermaid came out the year Swift was born (1989).

Could Swift be suggesting that people close to her – maybe even her father, Scott Swift – had a problem with who she was dating?

Some fans noticed that Harry Styles was captured wearing a shirt that read ‘But Daddy I Love Him’, although they are not sure if this is just a coincidence.

Finally, fans have also noted that the story of The Little Mermaid follows a young woman who is forced to give up her voice in order to live on land and be with her man. Some fans have questioned if this might be a critique of how she stayed out of the public spotlight to honour her relationship with Joe.

Image: The Little Mermaid

7. Fresh Out the Slammer

What is a slammer? A prison… this song is giving ‘freedom’.

‘Fresh Out the Slammer’ calls us back to a line from ‘…Ready For It?’, “He can be my jailer, Burton to this Taylor”, suggesting that Swift was happy to be in Alwyn’s metaphorical ‘love prison’ in the relationship.

However, now she’s singing that she’s ‘fresh’ out of jail – could it be about finally being unattached after six years? It’s also interesting to note that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who Swift is singing about in the Rep line, were a very famous couple who struggled with excessive media attention throughout their relationship.

8. Florida!!! (Feat. Florence & The Machine)

We don’t know too much about this song on the tracklist, except that Florida was the location of her first concert after Swift and Alywn’s break up was announced at Easter.

9. Guilty as Sin?

Swifties online have been commenting that ‘guilty as sin’ means to be ‘completely or very guilty’, however with a question mark at the end, perhaps Swift was not certain of whether the person was completely guilty or not.

They have also pointed out that Guilty As Sin is actually a movie about a female lawyer who suspects that her client, a man accused of killing his wife, is not innocent like he says. The laywer chooses to investigate him, which fans think could also call back to Swift’s line “I enter into evidence” and the general crime case vibe of Tortured Poets.

10. Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?

Fans are assuming that ‘little old me’ is referring to Swift. Generally, the ‘little old’ description is used to refer to oneself in a sense of false modesty or self-deprecation.

Essentially, we all know that she’s the internationally influential ‘Taylor Swift’ who can make or break someone, and the ‘little old’ is a red herring.

11. I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)

The phrase ‘I can fix him’ has gone viral on the internet, describing women with problematic boyfriends who they stay with, rather than dump, to try to fix their issues.

Some fans theorised this may link to a song she released in July 2021 in tandem with Big Red Machine called ‘Renegade’, where the woman begs her partner to “get your sh*t together, so I can love you.”

It could be a stretch, but the song does explore mental health and a partner who is struggling with their sadness, with lines like, “let all your damage damage me, carry your baggage up my street.”

12. loml

LOML is a Gen Z abbreviation for ‘love of my life’. Fans wonder if this could be a callback to a surprise song she sung during the Eras Tour after the break up called ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’.

The lyric goes, “Wondering if I dodged the bullet or just lost the love of my life.”

In videos of the performance, Swift seems visibly moved to tears, her voice breaking as she sings the lyric ‘love of my life’. Perhaps she reflected back on it afterwards, or perhaps it is about something else. But either way, it’s sure to devastate us.

13. I Can Do It With A Broken Heart

Fans believe that this song might be about Swift performing the Eras Tour, which is filled with love songs for Joe, while she was nursing a broken heart.

Since the track list was released, some Swifties have released videos of Swift silently shedding a tear during ‘Lover’ at the start of the tour.

14. The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived

We know too much about this song as yet, but fans have wondered if it’s a new take on the lyric, “there goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen” from ‘The Last Great American Dynasty’.

15. The Alchemy

Potentially one of the most heartbreaking songs on Tortured Poets, alchemy is a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy which aimed to turn base metals into gold. Given all the references between Joe Alwyn and the colour gold, could it be that she was the alchemist trying to turn him into gold?

16. Clara Bow

While this track meant nothing to Swifties at first glance, a quick Google had them seeing strange similarities between Bow and Swift. Clara Bow was an American silent film actress in the roaring twenties, and the first ‘It Girl’.

She courted controversy for dating a string of men, and eventually ended up suffering psychiatric illness and breaking down. This is somewhat similar to Swift, who was publicly shamed for dating men in her 20s and ended up taking time away between 1989 and Reputation.

Clara Bow’s Hollywood star of fame is also on the corner of Sunset and Vine in Los Angeles, the same corner that she mentions in ‘Gorgeous’, “Whisky on ice, Sunset and Vine, you’ve ruined my life by not being mine.”

Interestingly, on the back cover of Tortured Poets is writing that says “I love you, it’s ruining my life”, a complete (and brutal) twist on the original lyrics from ‘Gorgeous’.

Finally, Clara Bow was one of the few silent film actresses to make the transition to the ‘talkies’, finding her voice. Some fans have said that this is reminiscent of Swift reclaiming her lost albums and also coming out of relative hiding following the end of her relationship with Alwyn.

The outfit Taylor Swift wore to the 2024 Grammys to announce the album nearly perfectly mirrored one worn by Clara Bow.

17. The Manuscript – Manuscript Edition

Not too much is known about this song, but the word manuscript was interesting to fans. While it used to be any work typed out using a typewriter or written out on paper, a manuscript these days usually refers to an unpublished work or a work in progress. Whether this will be a song of self-reflection, or an opportunity for Swift to release some music she wrote but never has published, we do not know.

17. The Bolter – Bolter Edition

Recently announced as a new edition of the album, we also don’t know too much about a bolter, except that to bolt means to run away quickly. In common slang it often refers to someone exiting a relationship at breakneck speed.

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