Your Guide To Taylor Swift’s New ‘Tortured Poets’ Playlists & Theories Before It’s Released

“I once believed love would be black and white.”
Image: Taylor Swift

If you know anything about Taylor Swift, know this: everything she does is for a reason.

The singer announced her 11th studio album The Tortured Poets Department at the 2024 Grammys, unveiling the name of the album, release date and album artwork for this new era.

While at first, the album name meant nothing to fans, a dig through the internet revealed that in fact it could be a thinly veiled dig at her ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn. More on that later.

She captioned her post about the album, “All’s fair in love and poetry”, perhaps a reminder that she’s not afraid to share the truth in pursuit of her art.

The carousel also included a hand-written paragraph, referring to her “muses acquired like bruises” and the “tick, tick tick of love bombs”, which is already setting us up for what many Swifties hope will be a lyrically and emotionally devastating break up album.

Will it come true? We will have to wait and see, but for now we will unravel all fans’ suspicions about the album’s name and what it means (along with the track listing).

What Is A ‘Tortured Poets Department’? Theories On Swift’s New Album Name Explained

When Swift announced The Tortured Poets Department, she said it was a “secret” she has been keeping from fans “for the last two years”.

That gives us a really good idea of the timeline of the album, which was likely written sometime between Midnights’ ‘You’re Losing Me’ on December 5, 2021, and now. (For fans not in the know, ‘You’re Losing Me’ is widely rumoured to be about the slow breakdown of her relationship with Alwyn and includes the line “And I wouldn’t marry me either, a pathological people pleaser, who only wanted you to see her.”) The pair didn’t announce their split until April 2023.

Thus, the songs will likely cover her public break up from Alwyn and (we hope) new shoots of romance with NFL player Travis Kelce.

After announcing the album name, an old ‘Actors-on-Actors’ interview between Paul Mescal and Joe Alwyn surfaced, where they admit to being in a WhatsApp chat with Andrew Scott called the ‘The Tortured Man Club”.

Fans believe that The Tortured Poets Department is too similar to ‘The Tortured Man Club’ not to be a subtle dig at Alwyn. Fans also guessed that the ‘poet’ part could also be a link to ‘Sweet Nothing’, a song thought to be about Swift’s romance with Alwyn.

She sings, “On the way home, I wrote a poem. You say, “What a mind.” This happens all the time.” Swift later liked a tweet that seemed to suggest it was about Paul McCartney and his marriage to Linda McCartney, but the song’s reference to Wicklow, Ireland, suggests the location where Alwyn filmed Conversations With Friends.

It’s also important to note that Swift uses colour as an allegory throughout her discography. It’s interesting to her fans that this album, suspected to be about Joe, is in black and white. In ‘Daylight’ on Lover, Swift refers to her romance with Alwyn as ‘golden’ not sad like ‘black and white’ or explosive ‘red’, but a happy golden.

“And I can still see it all (In my mind)
All of you, all of me (Intertwined)
I once believed love would be (Black and white)
But it’s golden (Golden)
And I can still see it all (In my head)
Back and forth from New York (Sneaking in your bed)
I once believed love would be (Burning red)
But it’s golden

Like daylight”

Image: Getty

Could the album’s cover art be a suggestion that the love turned from golden to black and white by the end? Another line in ‘You’re Losing Me’ plays with the difference between golden light and dark shade:

“Remember lookin’ at this room, we loved it ’cause of the light
Now, I just sit in the dark and wonder if it’s time”

It is also important to note the lack of possessive ‘s’ in the album’s title. It’s not The Tortured Poet’s Department, it’s The Tortured Poets Department. This changes the ownership of the name.

Essentially, Swift has created an imaginary department that she is the ‘Chairman’ of, which picks apart and fathoms the actions of ‘tortured poets’ (we’re assuming this is a euphemism for Alwyn). Rather than the possessive ‘s’, which would suggest that the department is run by the tortured poets themselves. It’s a specific, but important distinction.

Finally, we must note that Swift has spoken openly about the fact that Joe Alwyn loved to write sad songs with her.

“Joe and I really love sad songs,” she said during the Folklore Long Pond sessions. “We’ve always bonded over music. … We write the saddest. We just really love sad songs.”

Does it get more ‘tortured poet’ than that, really?

What Is The Album Track Listing On The Tortured Poets Department?

Swift released the album tracks for The Tortured Poets Department on February 6. The tracks include:

Side A:

  1. Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)
  2. The Tortured Poets Department
  3. My Boy Only Breaks His Favourite Toys
  4. Down Bad

Side B:

  • So Long, London
  • But Daddy I Love Him
  • Fresh Out The Slammer
  • Florida!!! (feat Florence + The Machine)

Side C:

  • Guilty As Sin?
  • Who’s Afraid Of Little Of Old Me?
  • I Can Fix Him (No I Really Can)
  • Loml

Side D:

  1. I Can Do It With A Broken Heart
  2. The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived
  3. The Alchemy
  4. Clara Bow
  5. Bonus Track: The Manuscript

Fans are of course reacting to the track list dropping:

Will Taylor Swift’s Tortured Poets Department Will Cover The 5 Stages Of Grief?

In the lead up to the release of The Tortured Poets Department Taylor Swift has worked with Apple Music to curate five playlists of her music that correspond to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

The five playlists are titled as follows:

  • Denial: “I love you, it’s ruining my life songs”

Swift describes these songs in an opener as being “about getting so caught up in the idea of something that you have a hard time seeing the red flags, possibly resulting in moments of denial and maybe a little bit of delusion. Results may vary.”

This playlist includes songs like ‘Betty’, ‘Cruel Summer’, ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘Lavender Haze’.

  • Anger: “You don’t get to tell me about sad songs”

“I wrote them while feeling anger,” Swift said of this stage in a prologue. “Over the years, I’ve learned that anger can manifest itself in a lot of different ways, but the healthiest way that it manifests itself in my life is when I can write a song about it, and then oftentimes, that helps me get past it.”

This playlist includes songs like ‘Bad Blood’, ‘I Bet You Think About Me’, ‘Dear John’ and ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’

  • Bargaining: “Am I allowed to cry? songs”

Swift says this stage is a about when “you’re trying to make deals with yourself or someone that you care about, you’re trying to make things better, you’re oftentimes feeling really desperate, because oftentimes we have a gut intuition that tells us things are not going to go the way that we hope, which makes us more desperate, which makes us bargain more.”

This playlist includes songs like ‘Say Don’t Go?’ and ‘This Is Me Trying’

  • Depression: “Old habits die screaming songs”

“The feelings of depression that often lace their way through my songs,” Swift says of this stage. “In times like these, I’ll write a song because I feel lonely or hopeless. And writing a song feels like the only way to process that intensity of an emotion. And while these things are really, really hard to go through, I often feel like when I’m either listening to songs or writing songs that deal with this intensity of loss and hopelessness, usually that’s in the phase where I’m close to getting past that feeling.”

This includes songs like ‘Forever Winter’, ‘Champagne Problems’ and ‘Dear Reader’

  • Acceptance: “I can do it with a broken heart”

“Here we finally find acceptance and can start moving forward from loss or heartbreak,” Swift says of this final stage. “These songs represent making room for more good in your life, making that choice because a lot of the time when we lose things, we gain things too.”

This includes songs like ‘I Forgot That You Existed’, ‘You’re On Your Own Kid’ and ‘This Love’.

See the full list at the end of this article.

When Is The Tortured Poets Department Released?

Swift has announced that The Tortured Poets Department will be released on April 19, 2023.

Will The Tortured Poets Department Be Released On Vinyl?

Good news for people who are collecting Taylor Swift albums on vinyl. The Tortured Poets Department will be released on vinyl, alongside bonus track ‘The Manuscript’ and is available for purchase on her website here.

Who Did Taylor Swift Work With On ‘Tortured Poets Department’?

The Tortured Poets Deparment has two featuring artists, Post Malone and Florence + The Machine. The first features on ‘Fortnight’ while the latter features on ‘Florida!!!’

It’s believed that Swift’s right hand man and expert producer Jack Antonoff will be involved, and there’s potential that she’s also worked with The National’s Aaron Dessner, although this is yet to be confirmed.

Swift did give Jack a shout out when she won Album of the Year for ‘Midnights’ at the Grammys.

“I get to work with one of my best friends, who is not only one of my best friends but is also a once in a generation producer, that’s Jack Antonoff. I’m so lucky,” she said.

Swift was on stage alongside her sound engineers Laura Cisk and Serban Ghenea, as well as Lana Del Rey, who she collaborated with on ‘Snow On The Beach’. Del Rey has also worked extensively with Antonoff and the trio are close friends.

When Did The Last Taylor Swift Album Come Out?

While The Tortured Poets Department is Swift’s 11th studio album, her 10th album Midnights was released on October 21, 2022. In between these two new albums, she has re-released two albums from her past alongside their Vault tracks: Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) and 1989 (Taylor’s Version).

The Tortured Poets Department Playlists In Full

I Love You, It’s Ruining My Life

  • Lavender Haze
  • Snow On The Beach (feat. More Lana Del Rey)
  • Sweet Nothing
  • Glitch
  • betty
  • willow
  • Cruel Summer
  • Lover
  • Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince
  • False God
  • Style
  • Wildest Dreams
  • Treacherous
  • Untouchable
  • That’s When (feat. Keith Urban)
  • Ours
  • Superman
  • Bejewelled

You Don’ Get To Tell Me About Sad

  • Vigilante Shit
  • High Infidelity
  • Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve
  • exile (feat. Bon Iver)
  • illicit affairs
  • mad woman
  • tolerate it
  • Bad Blood
  • Is It Over Now?
  • I Knew You Were Trouble
  • We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
  • The Last Time (feat. Gary Lightbody)
  • The Moment I Knew
  • Babe
  • I Bet You Think About Me (feat. Chris Stapleton)
  • Dear John
  • Better Than Revenge
  • Tell Me Why
  • You’re Not Sorry
  • Forever & Always
  • Mr. Perfectly Fine

Am I Allowed To Cry?

  • The Great War
  • this is me trying
  • peace
  • The Archer
  • Cornelia Street
  • Death By A Thousand Cuts
  • Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. The Chicks)
  • Afterglow
  • I Wish You Would
  • Say Don’t Go
  • Come Back….Be Here
  • Better Man
  • The Story Of Us
  • Haunted
  • Come In With The Rain
  • The Other Side Of The Door
  • If This Was A Movie
  • Renegade (feat. Taylor Swift)

Old Habits Die Screaming

  • Bigger Than The Whole Sky
  • Dear Reader
  • Maroon
  • You’re Losing Me
  • my tears richochet
  • epiphany
  • hoax
  • champagne problems
  • coney island (feat. The National)
  • right where you left me
  • Nothing New (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)
  • All Too Well
  • Forever Winter
  • We Were Happy
  • Last Kiss
  • Castles Crumbling (feat. Hayley Williams)
  • Carolina
  • White Horse

I Can Do It With A Broken Heart

  • You’re On Your Own Kid
  • Midnight Rain
  • Labyrinth
  • the 1
  • august
  • invisible string
  • happiness
  • long story short
  • closure
  • evermore
  • it’s time to go
  • I Forgot That You Existed
  • Daylight
  • This Love
  • Clean
  • Now That We Don’t Talk
  • Begin Again
  • Innocent
  • Breathe (feat. Colbie Caillat)

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