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An alt-girl’s perspective on “The Tortured Poet’s Department”

I am not a Taylor Swift fan by any means, my preferred music fall more under alt and emo; So here is an alt-girl’s opinion on “The Tortured Poets Department”
Taylor Swift released her new album, “The Tortured Poet’s Department,” in April. Generated by Ariana Powell using Adobe Firefly on April 24.

Taylor Swift’s latest album “The Tortured Poets Department” — released on Thursday — encapsulates what it’s like being a woman in modern society and explores the feeling surrounding loving another and struggling to care for oneself.

I am not a Taylor Swift fan by any means, my preferred music fall more under alt and emo. So here is an alt-girl’s opinion on “The Tortured Poets Department,” ranked in the order of preference.

“Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?”

This is a depressed person’s bop and easily my favorite song on the album.

Swift laments what it’s like to be remade by an experience and how to not bend to the criticism of others.

“I wanna snarl and show you just how disturbed this has made me.”

Lifted up by anger and pain, she has learned that people should be afraid of her, in the best way. The melody takes a harder line compared to the other songs on the album, which makes the song even more stirring, which Swift explicitly acknowledges part way through the song.

This is one of the few songs that actually made it onto my personal playlist.

“I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”

This is another highly relatable song. Swift discusses what it’s like to be told to keep going and performing and achieving even as she struggles until she breaks.

“I cry a lot, but I am so productive, it’s an art.”

Many of those in younger generations who have made it through the COVID-19 shutdown have learned what this line means.

“‘Cause I’m miserable! And nobody even knows!”

The bouncy melody pairs with lines such as this and creates the feeling of what it’s like to continue functioning if you’re nonfunctional.

This is the second and only other song on the album that made it onto my playlist.

“My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys”

As Swift sings in a deeper register it emphasizes the meaning of the song of what it’s like to, in essence, be a porcelain doll broken by someone thought to be worthwhile.

However, the song adds a disturbingly playful tone as the lyrics discuss being broken like a toy. This is the perfect mix of anger, disappointment and misplaced love, and makes it what I’m guessing will be the album’s underdog.

It’s also clear the song was created post-”Barbie,” as it references Kens.

“Down Bad”

This song seems to reflect what Swift once said during an interview about what it felt like being criticized for dating too many men and then being criticized for not dating enough.

Quiet female rage seems to be woven throughout the song, emphasized by the expletives used throughout.

It illustrates the internal struggle experienced when trying to reconcile romantic feelings and deep-rooted pain. It’s almost like a follow-up to “You Belong With Me,” after the boy uses her and leaves her broken.

“I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)”

Once again, the idea of God and the American visage — this time of the old west — finds its way into another song on the album.

The song seems overly repetitive, but it sounds as if Swift herself is trying to convince herself that she can really fix her man.

The song ends with “Woah, maybe I can’t.”

This realization at the end is the most powerful part, as she finally realizes the limits to her romantic capabilities.

“But Daddy I Love Him”

This takes a slightly lighter tone compared to the songs that preceded it on the album.

Yet, it’s still rife with youthful anger and determination, specifically against organized religion and the views of those around Swift and how they tried to control her life.

This too seems like a follow-up to the song “Love Story,” especially during the bridge when the typical country twang infuses the melody and her voice.

“The Tortured Poets Department”

The album’s title song sounds like it belongs in a John Hughes movie.

However, it describes a love that would not exist in a Hughes movie, instead it describes what it’s like to be in a relationship when both you and the other person have mental health issues.

Though only two songs in, the title song is the most relatable, even if the melody is a little flat.

The song also obviously is a take on the film “The Dead Poet’s Society.”

“The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”

Swift seems to take back the power from the man or men she’s mentioned in the previous songs.

She recognizes the pain caused and the fact that the man truly was the smallest man who ever lived.

Finally giving life to all of the bad that happened and taking the power back sets up the album for the next song, a time of light.

“Guilty as Sin?”

Romantic fantasies are some of the most alluring and sensual dreams you can have, something Swift recognizes in the song.

She also describes these experiences’ dark sides such as how they mess with a person’s mind.

At this point on the album, I’ve started getting bored as the songs have started melding together, but this is a quietly relatable song that keeps me drawn in.


“Ioml” is fringed with the concept of death and Heaven and Hell and how a forgone love leads to these three things.

Swift recounts being led along to the idea of marriage and a forever love and then being hoodwinked through lies and promises.

I think everyone has gone through something similar to this, so hopefully everyone finds a relatable lyric that makes them feel better.

“Clara Bow”

The album should’ve ended with “The Alchemy,” not “Clara Bow,” but that doesn’t mean it should be discounted.

In the song, Swift imagines a future where she’s replaced by another, younger singer. She also references the actor Clara Bow.

This song would’ve been better placed after “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” which ends with the line “Try and come for my job.”

“Fortnight” (feat. Post Malone)

The song’s opening explains what it’s like to feel alone and damaged in a world that doesn’t care, as well as what it’s like to still care for the person responsible for the pain.

While the questionable choice to collaborate with Post Malone gives me pause, the song’s gentle and sad melody with poignant electronic beats drives home the feeling of hating and loving someone.

Personally, I lost interest after the song’s opening.


“So Long, London”

“My white-knuckle dying grip holding tight to your quiet resentment.”

This line, while not the hook, describes the song to the T.

Similar to the other songs on the album, “So Long, London” takes an even deeper dive into the negative emotional impacts of being around and connected to someone toxic.

“Two graves, one gun, you’ll find someone.”

And this is heart-wrenching, considering Swift at one time or another has felt this way. No one should feel this way.

“Fresh Out The Slammer”

“But it’s gonna be alright, I did my time.”

“Fresh Out The Slammer” follows the mentality surrounding not knowing when it’s best to cut and run.

The song seems like a song of regret, specifically that of her choice to still run back to the same person no matter how damaging he was to her.

Over the course of multiple songs, Swift emphasizes being American, or being the American dream. This is emphasized in this song from the beginning as a twang flings the song open.

The song feels like a summer day overshadowed by the clouds, as partially referenced by the song. Like the perfect American day.

“Florida!!!” (feat. Florence + The Machine)

It seems as though Swift has jumped on the hate wagon surrounding Florida and the people who take residence there.

Florence + The Machine’s musical style both compares and contrasts with Swift’s own style.

It creates a mix of sensuality and anger that creates an abstract song.

Once again, it seems like Swift is critiquing America and what it stands for.

“The Alchemy”

After several songs recounting rage, pain and sadness, “The Alchemy” is refreshing in the sense it represents Swift’s comeback from everything.

And there are not-so-subtle hints toward her relationship with Travis Kelce, such as using terminology such as “touchdown,” “team” and “winning streak.”

This shows that Swift is finally in a place in her life where she can rely on the alchemy between her and someone she cares about.

Swift released “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology” on Friday, it includes an additional 14 songs.


Compared to the previous Swift albums and songs I’ve listened to, “The Tortured Poets Department” is very different and highly emotional. Starting to get up to the same alt, emo lyricism of my kinds of bands such as My Chemical Romance.

However, I still can’t stand the soft pop, slightly rhythm and blues, with electronic hints, melodies and musicality.

Swift is a great musician, however, the songs, after a time, ran into each other and almost blurred together, the lyrics being the only thing that sets them apart.

Ariana Powell can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Ariana Powell
Ariana Powell, Editor-in-Chief
Ariana Powell is in her fourth year at Chico State as a media arts (criticism) and journalism (news) double-major. Now in her fourth semester on The Orion and having assumed the editor-in-chief position, she is prepared to continue helping upcoming journalists and endeavors to continue building her repertoire of multimedia and writing skills. In her free time, she enjoys writing, watching and analyzing films, reading and spending time with her loved ones.

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