Paste on Taylor Swift’s TTPD: ‘This is your songwriter of the century? Open the schools.’

Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department has not landed well. This is maybe the first time in Swift’s history where it feels like a new album is being scoffed at, that the reaction almost across the board is a massive eye roll? Even from her fans, there’s a sense of “wait, maybe Taylor didn’t need to share this much.” What I keep coming back to is how unnecessary this was too – Midnights was well-received, even if some critics quietly noted that Taylor should get out of her Jack Antonoff-produced comfort zone. Still, it won the Album of the Year Grammy (another eyeroll) and there were several good songs on it, even I’ll admit that. It feels like she didn’t take the time in between Midnights and TTPD to really figure out what she wanted to say about Joe Alwyn and Matt Healy. It was supposed to come out as raw, hyper-emotional poetry but instead it’s come across as Taylor trauma-dumping on her fans about a really sh-tty guy (and her fans already knew the guy was a total sh-thead).

The American edition of Rolling Stone gave TTPD a rave review, and while they might mean it, as I read RS’s piece, I was struck by how dumbed-down the review was, as if the critic was trying to give 13-year-olds a history lesson on “who is Patti Smith?” RS Germany had an even more disconcerting take on TTPD – critic Ralf Niemczyk claimed that TTPD shows that Taylor is “the better Adele.” Y’all. Leave Adele out of it – she’s literally in a totally different league. Meanwhile, Paste Magazine’s review was so scathing, it’s served as some kind of seminal moment in the critical examination of Taylor Swift’s cultural impact. Whoever wrote this didn’t get a byline, apparently because that person doesn’t want to get doxxed by Swifties, because that’s where we are in this world. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:

Taylor’s TTPD announcement at the Grammys: Sylvia Plath did not stick her head in an oven for this! When Taylor Swift took the Grammy’s stage last month to claim her award for Best Pop Vocal Album for Midnights, she saw that spotlight as an opportunity to announce her 11th studio album: The Tortured Poets Department. The follow-up cut to audience members—Swift’s music industry peers, mind you—told us all that we would ever need to know, and the collective disinterest across the crowd echoed through our TVs.

On the use of “tortured”: In terms of popularity—certainly not always in terms of quality—no musician has been bigger this century than Swift, which makes it impossible to really buy into the “torture” of it all. This is not to say that Swift being the most famous person in the world makes her immune to having multi-dimensional feelings of heartbreak, mental illness or what-have-you. But, she has made the choice—as a 34-year-old adult—to take those complex, universal familiars and monetize them into a wardrobe she can wear for whatever portion of her Eras Tour setlist she opts to dedicate to the material. Torture is fashion to Taylor Swift, and she wears her milieu dully.

This is brutal: This album will surely get comparisons to Rupi Kaur’s poetry, either for its simplicity, empty language, commodification or all of the above. And, sure, there are parallels there, especially in how The Tortured Poets Department, too, is going to set the art of poetry back another decade—as Swift’s naive call-to-arms of her own milky-white sorrow rings in like some quintessential “I am going to take pictures of a typewriter on my desk and have a Pinterest mood-board of Courier New font” iPhone fodder. 2013 called and it wants it capricious, suburban girl-who-is-taking-a-gap-year wig back! Soaking our book reports in coffee or having our moms burn the edges with a kitchen lighter cannot come back into fashion; the cyclical notions of culture cannot make the space for such retreads.

Open the schools: The Tortured Poets Department does begin with a shred of hope that, just maybe, Swift knows what she’s talking about—as she sneaks in a cheeky “all of this to say,” textbook transitional phrasing for poets, on opening track “Fortnight.” But “Fortnight” unmasks itself quickly as a heady vat of pop nothingness, though it isn’t all Swift’s fault. “I was a functioning alcoholic, ‘til nobody noticed my new aesthetic,” she muses, attempting to bridge the gap between a behind-the-scenes life and on-stage performance—only for it to occur while propped up against the most dog-water, uninspired synth arrangement you could possibly imagine. Between producer Jack Antonoff’s atrocious backing instrumental and the Y2K-era, teen dramedy echo chamber of a vocal harmony provided by out-of-place guest performer Post Malone, “Fortnight” chokes on the vomit of its own opaqueness. “I took the miracle move-on drug, the effects were temporary,” Swift muses, and it sounds like satire. This is your songwriter of the century? Open the schools.

When Swift is at her best: Swift is at her best either when she is clawing upwards (Reputation) or faced with nowhere to go but into the studio and noodle with the bare-bones of her own sensibilities (folklore). You get something like The Tortured Poets Department when the artist making it no longer feels challenged, where she strikes out looking.

TTPD is mid: The mid-ness of The Tortured Poets Department will not be a net-loss for Swift. She will sell out arenas and get her streams until she elects to quit this business (a phrase decidedly not in her vocabulary, surely). She will sell more merch bundles than vinyl plants have the capacity to make, and rows of variant LP copies will haunt the record aisles of Target stores just as long as Midnights has—if not longer. Perhaps, in five or six years’ time, we will speak of this record just as we now do of Reputation. But right now, it is obvious that Swift no longer feels challenged to be good. The Tortured Poets Department is the mark of an artist now interested in seeing how much their empire can atone for the sins of mediocrity. Can Swift win another Album of the Year Grammy simply because she released a record during the eligibility period? The Tortured Poets Department reeks of “because I can,” not “because I should.”

Moral nothingness: On The Tortured Poets Department, there is a striking level of moral nothingness. The stakes are practically non-existent, and the album sounds like it was made by someone who believes that they had no other choice but to finish it, as if Swift fundamentally believes that her creative measures are firmly embedded in the massive monopoly her name and brand currently hold on popular music.

[From Paste]

This is starting to remind me of another piece of Swift’s oeuvre, one which she would probably like to forget: Cats. Remember how Taylor was a cat in Cats, and remember how much fun critics had reviewing that bomb? Sometimes, when an artist makes a terrible piece of art, it brings out the best in reviewers and critics as they try to explain why the art is so God-awful. The thing is, even Swift-skeptics will probably find a few songs in TTPD that they like, but the overall feeling is one of apathy, partly driven by oversaturation. Taylor is going to do what she wants and right now, she wants to do too much. That’s her right. Just as it’s our right to say “meh.”

Photos courtesy of Backgrid. Covers courtesy of Swift.

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104 Responses to “Paste on Taylor Swift’s TTPD: ‘This is your songwriter of the century? Open the schools.’”

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  1. Wilma says:

    I know absolutely nothing about this album, but the reviewer should leave Rumi out of this. They clearly subscribe to the yoga-yuppies distorted version of this amazing poet.

    • KS says:

      They should also leave Sylvia Plath out of it, as at least one of her children is still alive and has repeatedly talked about how hurtful she finds these flippant remarks about her mother’s suicide.

      • MaisieMom says:

        I found it hard to get past that. I mean, the review basically uses it for humor.

    • CatMum says:

      not Rumi! Rupi Kaur.

    • Joy Liluri says:

      Hard agree.

      That’s the only part that shocked me. I was like “how DARE you!”

    • Waitwhat says:

      The author is talking about Rupi Kaur, not Rumi! She’s a contemporary poet, fairly controversial because she found a niche in young women on instagram. Pretty similar audience to TS actually.

  2. Mimi says:

    “Mid” is definitely the word for this album. I tried to listen to it in its entirety and found myself skipping through about 5 songs (that all sounded the same) and then giving up.

    • Fancyhat says:

      Overall the album has been well-received with great reviews. Yes you can cherry pick a bad review here or there but why? The anger Taylor continues to get for existing remains weird.

      • Chloe says:

        Nobody is attacking her for just existing. We are literally talking about her album which she made for public consumption.

      • sevenblue says:

        The guy who wrote RS review is apparently a stan? And currently writing a book about Taylor. How does that pass the smell test? If any artist who is known as the best songwriter of our generation published this album, it wouldn’t get “100” reviews it got. Just like how Midnights won the album of the year, the artist name is the bigger and better than the work. How does this album deserve full point? Come on now.

      • Dee(2) says:

        I mean if you are going to accept the good reviews you have to acknowledge the bad, and this album has gotten bad/middling reviews from a few well respected publications including, The New York Times, NME, the Washington Post, Atlantic, and now Paste. And while this one is pretty vicious, it’s very interesting to me that her fans cannot take any criticism of her. Saying this wasn’t your strongest writing, or this lyric did not express what you intended to express with it so you probably shouldn’t have included it is the mildest criticism that a songwriter could possibly get. From what I’m seeing reported here even her fans are saying much of the same, why is it so difficult to accept that this wasn’t her strongest work? No one is saying you can’t enjoy it they’re saying as it’s judged off its merits for songwriting and music production it’s not the best.

    • ariel says:

      I wanted to like it- i actually really enjoy Midnights- especially Vigilante – its fun.
      But i like her more fun, upbeat pop and rock music.

      This record is kind of a slog.

      I kept starting a song then skipping it.
      I finally printed the lyrics for a bunch of songs because i want to know what she’s saying, but the sound is not doing anything for me.

      That said- if there was such a thing as a reasonably priced ticket to the eras tour – i would totally go.
      But tickets in my city for the fall dates run between $2k-6k when i looked.

      And i’m old and just had to pay for hearing aids, so, i will not be attending.

      I like so much of who she is- but this album is not for me.

      And, of course, that’s fine. It is music- everyone gets to feel any way they want about it.

  3. sevenblue says:

    “she has made the choice—as a 34-year-old adult—to take those complex, universal familiars and monetize them into a wardrobe she can wear for whatever portion of her Eras Tour setlist she opts to dedicate to the material. Torture is fashion to Taylor Swift”

    That is the bullseye! When you include poetry in your album title, seriously or ironically, you put your work to be evaluated with higher standards. Reading the comments about how she is the best songwriter of our generation and seeing her collecting awards for that don’t help either.

    I wasn’t sure why she released this obviously unfinished work. Then, I saw swifties and 1975’s fans (Matty) analyzing the lyrics and her music video. Taylor and Matty have referenced each other for years and years apparently in their work. So, when she was isolating with her long term boyfriend during covid, she was writing love songs about Matty in folklore with the premise of made-up stories. The more twisted aspect of it, Joe was helping her with that album. So, when she finally got the guy (because he decided to grow up), he couldn’t take the heat and ghosted her. This album isn’t for us or herself. This is for Matty. She wants him to respond, to see how much she loves & hates him and do something about it.

    • Sandra says:

      This is as excellent interpretation, looking over the album and the gossip time span involved, this sounds spot on.

  4. Aimee says:

    I have not listened to this album nor am I a Swiftie but I do think it’s good to get this kind of criticism. It may remind her that she is not infallible and maybe she’ll be better for it.

    • Chloe says:

      It hurts her to the core because she was retweeting positive reviews on her twitter last night. This to drive more engagement to those reviews and as we know: more engagement = more money and visibility. It’s like a reward for writing positively about her and i am sorry, but it reeks of insecurity

      • VoominVava says:

        Why would anyone repost bad reviews about themselves? Come on. LOL

      • Chloe says:

        Voominvava: talk about missing the point lol. What credible artist reposts reviews of their albums at all? did the obvious clientelism go over your head? “Write positively about me and i’ll give you a shout out” It reeks of insecurity

      • VoominVava says:

        I got your point. Don’t agree. 🙂

    • Lau says:

      She won’t be better for it and the only thing that will come out of this article is that the swifties are going to be terrible to the person who wrote it. They have zero chill and they don’t know how to behave or take constructive criticism.

      • Becks1 says:

        It says a lot that the person who wrote this doesn’t want their name attached to it because of fear of retaliation from swifties. Like….do people really think thats normal, that people are afraid of her fan base because they are so unhinged?

      • Lau says:

        It’s not normal at all but since she’s never done anything to tell them to calm down she’s normalized their unhinged behaviour.

      • Becks1 says:

        @Lau completely agree.

      • Caits says:

        All I can think is “Karens”. Taylor is the Chief/Queen Karen .
        Her and her drones have weaponized white femininity to the max. Any criticism of her is viewed as and attack .
        People reviewers are even tone policing themselves when it comes to Taylor Swift

  5. K says:

    Salient points all. I will say I too am an adult woman who still has that 17 year old self alive and well in my head. Dark academia…yes please. Victorian aesthetic oh yeah. But I feel like overall this effort would have been better in a year or so and yes please…mix up your producers. However…the visuals swept me away.

    • MaisieMom says:

      The thing about aging is, that 17 year old comes back from time, uninvited, usually reminding you of something you’d long forgotten. And then you process it, whether it’s painful or joyful or something in between. I know people think Taylor still acts like a teenager, but I know that things that happened when you were a teen can stay with you for decades, even when you try to put them away for good.

      That said, I agree with you. She could have waited and let it settle. I hope her next album will be more balanced and distilled.

  6. ShoppeGirlMN says:

    This is my sentiment exactly. We didn’t need or want this album. No one was waiting with bated breath for her take on Healy.

    I don’t understand why there isn’t more to her life than boys. And Florida. She’s in her 30s seen the world. She has experienced more than just dating and Kim K doing her wrong.

    I’m not listening to the radio for the next year so I don’t have to hear these songs.

    • Chloe says:

      In my opinion Healy didn’t even deserve an album dedicated to him because she only dated him for a few months.

      • sevenblue says:

        @Chloe, if you look at swifties posts, apparently they first dated a decade ago. Since then, they are referencing each other in their songs. Swifties decoded a lot of her early work together with this album. It wasn’t just a few months, they were writing songs to each other for years, even when they were dating other people. She refers to him as her twin.

      • VoominVava says:

        You can still have your heart broken in a few months. Especially if there was already a past there. As someone who falls hard and fast, I relate. Just saying.

      • Kebbie says:

        That’s standard for her. Harry Styles, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Tom Hiddleston were brief flings too.

    • Scorpio says:

      Her fans, and I am one along with my teenage daughter,wanted another album. Do we want an album on a specific topic? Nope. She can write great sings about anything. If you haven’t done so, go back to folklore and evermore ( my favorite albums) and listen to them. They are largely not about her life.

      Is this one of her best albums, nope. A bit self indulgent and pretty unhinged. ( caveat that will say I enjoyed the unhinged songs the most) Yup. Did she need a producer who wasn’t a friend ? Probably.

      But, if you don’t think that she will learn from this and evolve, you haven’t been following her career at all.

    • Yep says:

      I watched a really old interview of hers – it was the one with Scholastic where she answers questions from the floor from little kids – and she’s basically been obsessed with writing since she was a kid. It was a great interview.

      She seems to have these experiences so she can expand on them in her head. I think most of the songs have vastly exaggerated emotions; they’re not really about that guy or that relationship; those relationships only sparked her compulsive writing. She is literally always composing, recording into her phone, etc., with her daily experiences. Whether or not you think her songwriting is good, she’s a compulsive writer and singing and performing is incidental.

      Also she’s very marketing savvy – she wants to stay on top commercially – and so frames these albums so people will be encouraged to speculate who this or that song was about.

      On her music, I like some of her songs but her voice has no soul for me. (I’ve trained in singing.)

  7. Ameerah M says:

    BRAVO to this critic! This critique is about TTPD specifically but can be applied to her entire career.

  8. Flamingo says:

    I hope she takes a nice long vacation in between albums. I am drowning in Taylor Swift content. I get why she remade her old albums. But she drops a new album every six months, it feels like.

    That said, I do enjoy Fortnite as a song.

    But please Taylor, take a few years off now to give us a rest. Go hang out with Travis and have a nice time.

    • lucy says:

      I don’t listen to her music but it’s impossible to escape her in the media everywhere, so I very much agree. Take some time off, and stop oversaturating everything. She just did a huge tour, now is the perfect time to disappear a bit.
      She probably also needs an editor, someone to tell her she doesn’t have to release every single song she comes up with. I know a painter who is like that, she’s done some solo shows and puts up every single thing she’s done, and…not all of them are winners. It’s ok to be selective, to work on things for a while, to choose the strongest pieces to put on display.

      • RMS says:

        You nailed it! I listened to it twice on Friday and was snoozing. My sister and my nieces are BIG fans and even they thought this wasn’t a good album. Editors are highly underrated – in literature (Ayn Rand could have used somebody brave enough stand up to her to help cut whole sections of Atlas Shrugged is the first of about 1,000 examples I have collected), in art and now, in music. Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

  9. Jasmin says:

    What I found most interesting is the confirmation that she did in fact have a fling with Matty back in 2014/2015. During the Eras tour when Matty was in attendance, she famously mouthed “This is for you, you know who you are. I love you” before performing her 2020 song, Cardigan. Everyone was stunned that she was doing the most. But now, it’s clear that song was really about him. Cardigan is about a woman (Betty) detailing her soulmate (James) returning to her and how she was certain this would happen. There’s a Peter Pan reference in there that is recycled on this album in the song “Peter”, where Taylor details how Matty had flown away with his Lost Boys (his band, The 1975) years ago but promised Taylor he’d be back once he grew up. (“Said you were gonna grow up then you were gonna come and find me”).

    Across the album, Taylor is angry at Joe for stealing her youth, as she puts it – a hilarious notion considering she was 27 when they met and he is 2 years younger than her; furious at Matty for deceiving her and leaving her, claiming she would’ve burnt everything down for him; furious at her fans for driving Matty away with their “sanctimonious soliloquies”, which was just them letting her know he is a racist. And also furious at herself for falling for his “get love quick scheme”.

    And I’m sorry but I can’t feel sympathetic for a 34 year old who continues to infantilize herself and cheats on her longtime on and off boyfriend because he’s too depressed to marry her.
    She comes across as very petulant.

    • sevenblue says:

      She also shared how she was getting off thinking Matty while she was with Joe, but it didn’t count as cheating because it was only in her head. The only name I know for this is emotional cheating and I doubt Joe has never felt that there was something wrong in their relationship.

    • Ameerah M says:

      Yes to all of this. And note how everything is everyone else’s fault with her. She still is completely unwilling to own her own choices. A 34 year-old woman who still acts like she’s in high school.

    • Kebbie says:

      All of this. She’s really despicable. I hope Joe is doing well.

  10. Deens says:

    I moved to the US this summer and have full Swift-fatigue. She’s everywhere whereas I was able to filter her out in Europe. Thankfully my kids are not that interested in her music but I was thinking even before hearing about the new album that she has oversaturated the airwaves and pop culture, and hopefully she will go away for a few years. How wrong I was—another year (at least) of Swift songs on the radio on constant repeat 😩

    • Sass says:

      @Deens try to find a locally owned/operated indie station near you. They aren’t everywhere but my city has one:

      They play an extremely eclectic selection and it’s always my first preset choice in the car.

  11. Inge says:

    She’s always meh to me, apart from when I’m annoyed at her victim blaming lyrics, or how I’m STILL waiting for this sick beat to start, but don’t count her out for best album, they always seem to award her white mediocrity.

    • Mirage says:

      Completely agree!
      It’s a case of the emperor new clothes.
      Anyone who grew up listening to classical, jazz or world music (so with ears trained with complex music genres) knows that musically, her music is very…binary and bland.
      I am personally appalled with the lyrics overall. Yes they are often relatable if you’re going through a heartbreak. But the complete absence of poetry in the way they are written completely baffles me.
      And it’s only now that people are seeing through the absurdity of her success in light of her limited artistic abilities!

    • Enny says:

      lol @ waiting for “this sick beat” to start 😂

  12. MaisieMom says:

    I haven’t listened to the album, just heard snippets of a few songs. It seems like a lot of the critique is valid. Taylor kind of wrote this album for herself, because she needed to. She pretty much said so. So, it’s not surprising that the result is not well-edited.

    That said, I don’t like the critic’s rather glib reference to Sylvia Plath’s suicide. It suggests that the poet actually did “put her head in the oven” (that’s not how it went) and that she wanted to die and martyr herself (she didn’t, she was depressed).

  13. Jais says:

    Yeah, that was a harsh take. There were some truths in it for sure but it also felt snarky just to be snarky. A lot of things can be true. Taylor just came off a very successful tour and football season so she was riding high. Then she puts out an album that some people feel meh about. So it’s probably not her best work. There’s some valid criticism that hopefully she can use to propel and grow her art. But there is also that feeling that some people are really happy she put out a meh album. Like after her successful fall, it was time for her to be taken down a peg. Some of the critiques are downright gleeful and that’s off-putting. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like her best work. It’s just weird how people seem really happy about that. I’m rooting for her music to grow and for her to surround herself with some new and challenging collaborations.

    • StarWonderful says:

      I don’t know Taylor’s music (except for a song or two) or am invested in her or her work in any way, but this critic was very harsh and a coward for omitting his/her/their name on the article. Actually, this type of critic — snarky and cruel — appears to get off on his own words. Talk about a lack of self-editing! One can legitimately criticize an artist’s work, but the gleeful cruelty behind such writing always turns me off.

    • Jais says:

      Eh, I get why this person didn’t put their name due to swifties backlash. It had some valid criticism in it but the snarky tone turned me off. There were other critiques of the album that just held more merit imo than this one. This one felt weird.

    • JulesB says:

      It feels like we can’t have a ‘normal’ conversation when it comes to Taylor Swift. There are two extremes – she is a lyrical, genius songwriter who is the best of the modern era or a no talent hack who is just good at marketing herself. I don’t think either is true. I like some of her music, not a stan or Swiftie, but I suspected the critics were going to be polarized about this album given her place in the cultural landscape. Even if the album was perfection (it’s not), critics and other fandoms were going to be particularly harsh in their critique of the album. It seems like most review are glowing or panning it, which doesn’t leave room for meaningful discourse. I listened to the album this weekend and they are definitely some gems, but also some misses. I think if she edited it down to a standard album vs a double it could have done better critically – quality over quantity.

  14. NikkiK says:

    She’s always been mediocre. There, I said it. If she wasn’t tall, thin, white, blonde, from a wealthy family, etc etc etc – we wouldn’t be having this conversation today. The woman is also stuck in perpetual adolescence. Where’s the growth? Where’s the maturity? And for all the talk about Matt, I feel bad for Joe Alwyn – whose worst sin was apparently not wanting to marry Taylor and I can understand why.

    Pro Tip: Women like Taylor need to understand that they have agency. You’re not a victim of the patriarchy and you weren’t done wrong because you chose to stay in a relationship with someone who didn’t want the same things you wanted.

    • Ameerah M says:

      THIS. ALL of it.

    • Becks1 says:

      Ha, I said something similar a few months ago and was attacked. Something I saw on X close to a year ago stuck with me – she’s mediocre but she’s popular because of that, not in spite of it. You can sing along to her songs because she doesn’t have the best voice. You can pretend you’re on stage at the Eras tour because she’s not a dancer at all. You can write lyrics that are similar to a lot of hers because….the majority are mediocre.

      Do I think she is the worst songwriter ever? No. And she clearly appeals to millions which is fine, good for them that they enjoy her music.

      But if she’s winning all the AOTYs (and the very idea that this could beat Cowboy Carter seems like a crime but its not impossible) and she’s being marketed as the greatest songwriter of her generation – than yeah, the mediocrity discussion needs to happen.

      • Cee says:

        If this beats CC… then that’s it, the Grammys need to be finished. There is no comparison between CC and TTPD, and I say this as a Swiftie from her Debut Era.
        I’m actually getting angry on behalf of Beyonce LOL

      • Dee(2) says:

        I think this is an excellent summation. She’s a self-insert for a lot of people which is why they react so vociferously about any criticism of her. From teens to people in middle age, gay, straight whatever she represents that person that was crapped on by people bullying her and underestimating and was able to have all this validating success ( I disagree on how much that backstory matches reality). So they feel like it’s a personal attack when even the mildest and honestly legitimate criticism comes through ( over reliance in certain songwriting tropes, uncomfortable lack of intersectionality in feminism, unfortunate and sometimes oblivious microaggressive racial issues, etc.)

      • Anonymous says:

        Are you saying she’s the real life version of the Mary Sue trope? Because yes.

      • Nic919 says:

        I agree with this 100%. There is nothing intimidating about Taylor Swift in terms of her talent, so she’s relatable and girls in particular can project their lives in her endless break up songs. She’s commercially a huge success and capitalism loves someone who makes them a lot of money.

      • MaisieMom says:

        I really doubt this is going to beat Cowboy Carter. I’d be shocked. CC is a new genre for Beyonce, and she’s never won AotY. It’s also just a really good album. Taylor wouldn’t win it for a second year in a row, not after having already broken a record and certainly not for an album that even a lot of her fans think is far from her best work.

  15. Grant says:

    I’m not a Taylor Swift hater by any means. I love the fact that she’s a woman and she’s basically running pop music. She also earned a lot of respect from me with the way she unnerved so many right-wingers simply by existing during the last football season. I have long felt that her performance and vocal abilities were mid (to put it kindly) but I respect her uncanny ability to write songs that are clever and that resonate with the public. I’ve heard a lot of people say that this album sounds like a Lana del Rey knock-off and I kind of agree. The problem is that Lana has this wonderful “Disney Princess on Acid” quality to her voice and music that Taylor just … doesn’t, so to me a lot of TTPD sounds like Taylor is chasing trends instead of setting them the way she should be given her following. The album is just kind of unhinged to me. Some people say this is a break-up album, but — and this may be a controversial opinion — I think Ariana Grande released a much better, much more cohesive album reflecting on the demise of a relationship (for better or for worse) in a more nuanced and sophisticated way with Eternal Sunshine. I mean, Taylor basically blaming her fans for her break-up with Matt Healy was … a choice.

    • sevenblue says:

      The sad part is, Lana gave one bad performance on SNL, so even now grammy voters don’t take her seriously, still mentioning that performance as why they don’t care to listen to her music. Taylor gave many awful performances too, even on grammy with Stevie Nicks. But, no one held that against her for years. If she didn’t have powerful, rich men behind her, that performance would ruin her career, especially her award winning chances just like Lana. She was given many many chances to get a better performer, singer, dancer. Even now decade later, she is just okay.

      • Grant says:

        Agree with all of your points. I never want to be a contrarian and hate on things that a lot of other people like — but I’ve always been quizzical about the absolute massive level of fame that Taylor has. I get someone like Beyonce’s fame — she’s an awesome vocalist, dancer, and general entertainer. To me, Taylor’s strength amongst her peers is her relatability and her songwriting. But many of her live performances have been quite dreadful IMO. But she’s relatable, so I guess I do understand. And she does have some bops. 1989 was what really got me into Taylor, and the double whammy of Evermore and Willow is an absolute high point in Tay’s discography IMO.

        FWIW — my partner is a massive Lana stan. I was familiar with stuff from her first album and loved Born to Die but I wasn’t necessarily a stan. But I went with him and saw Lana when she came to Austin a few years ago and she was really great. She put on a fun show, she was cute with the audience, and she sounded great.

      • Becks1 says:

        That Stevie Nicks performance was so painful.

      • VoominVava says:

        Lana was just nominated for Grammy album of the year.

      • sevenblue says:

        @Grant, same, I am not a hater. I criticize and analyze things especially when the media presents a narrative. Of course I see Taylor is talented. She created folklore and evermore at the end of the day. However, it is a bad faith argument not to see why she got so big, what made her a staying power. If she was just a girl singing and writing songs about heartbreak, she wouldn’t make it this far. There was a machine behind her, supporting her. When she gave that bad performance, her label executive said she isn’t an American Idol contestant, it is too much to ask to sing perfect from her. No one does that for their talent. She did good with the opportunities she got. But, there were always more talented people than her who would make even better art than her, if they didn’t get chewed out by the industry after even one failure.

      • Anonymous says:

        Also not a hater; I like some of her stuff (I don’t know titles or albums etc. well enough to specify but I will say most I think are from Red, Rep, and Lover) and even added this whole new album to my Spotify liked list before listening. But as soon as I was done I removed it bc it’s not good. There are other artists I would rather hear.

      • Emcee3 says:

        I remember back when she was scooping up VOCALIST of the Year at the annual country music awards, folks were giving that the biggest side-eye. Besting veterans w/ much better pipes made people quietly question that choice b/c there was so much online evidence that she was clearly underdeveloped in that category.

        Linda Holmes of NPR Pop Culture dared to post “Anyone notice Taylor Swift can’t sing live?” as her career was ascending & she was scooping all the CMC / CMA prizes. And when Linda resurrected that post after her disastrous Grammy performance & eviscerating Scott Borchetta’s mewling response, I watched the NPR comment section go down in flames once the Swifties invaded the website. Holmes was in an a cappella choir in college & has a law degree which she used to assemble the video evidence that she wasn’t deserving of that award. Entertainer of the Year? Perhaps. Songwriter of the Year? Maybe. But vocalist? No.

  16. Shawna says:

    “the stakes are practically non-existent” – didn’t the liner notes basically say that? that it’s a done chapter in the person’s life? So yeah, definitely, that’s not going to tug at the heartstrings. Too clinical.

    When it was announced, it seemed like she was using “tortured poet” ironically and self-consciously. But I guess not, in the actual album? Boring.

    • Eurydice says:

      To me, this is the most interesting part of the review. The pain of young love is perennial, universal and kind of generic- there will always be new and younger fans that can relate to that. But TS and her fans are getting older and there will be different kinds of pain to be faced, pain that will be based on adult challenges and the accumulation of a life’s decisions. That’s much more individual and would reveal who Taylor is right now – this would be high stakes – would her fans continue to relate?

      • Shawna says:

        As her fans get older, maybe she should try trusting them a bit more (if she really can get past teenager emotions/drama) and see if they appreciate her representing more mature situations and problems.

  17. Amy Bee says:

    I know she wanted to strike while the iron was hot but maybe she should have just taken a break instead of rushing out a new album.

  18. Amy says:

    I am loving the album. The genius of Taylor has always been a window into the emotional life of girls whose heartbreaks and insecurities often get pushed aside. I do feel the “these songs sound alike” vibe, for sure. But my 11 year old girl loves it. And prior to thealbum drop she had expressed Taylor fatigue but now jumps into the car saying “can we listen to TTPD”? I love things that get my girl excited.

    • VoominVava says:

      It took me a few listens, as I was overwhelmed because there are so many songs but I also really like a lot of it. Like your daughter, I find myself wanting to listen more and put it on in the car 🙂

      I wish some reviewers would give it a week before they do a review. It would change – for better or worse – their opinions and allow some real reflection on the songs.
      I’m one of the people who really like Jack Antonoff’s style as a producer so you won’t get me complaining about the pop synth feeling of a lot of the songs. I’m a long time Depeche Mode, Erasure, New Order fan and he reminds me of Vince Clarke 80’s era. I like his style much better than the second half of the Aaron Dressner produced album.

      • Becks1 says:

        So this is something I’ve seen a lot of people say – if you listen to it multiple times you’ll start to like it and get it.

        but……..I don’t want to listen to it multiple times in order to like it. I liked folklore the first time I listened to it (I’m not a total TS hater, lol, I like folklore a lot). I freaking loved Cowboy Carter the first time I listened to it. I’ve never needed multiple listenings of an Adele album to like/love it.

        It’s one thing to say that you may get more nuance on future listenings or different songs may resonate with you, but if I have to listen to an album several times to finally start to just like it and change my opinion and allow for “real reflection” on the songs – nah. I can find a dozen better albums that don’t require that.

      • VoominVava says:

        It’s different for everyone. It took me 2 years to get into Folklore because of my headspace. I like discovering new things every listen. It’s exciting for me. I don’t want to blindly like or hate something just because of who did it either.

  19. LM says:

    It’s not my favourite TS album, but I find the title track super catchy and know there is another favourite to be discover once I get the time to listen to all 31 songs.

    The reaction to this album here is super “tall poppy syndrome”. “TS is incredibly successful so it’s time to tear her down!”
    I applaud a successful woman and refuse to limit an artist to a schedule of accepted musical output. If she processes her emotions quickly and musically, then of course it makes sense to release albums and make millions in the process. Why the hell not?

    • VoominVava says:

      I agree! As a songwriter myself, it’s amazing how therapeutic it is to write a song about your heartbreak or anger etc. I wrote about a few exes, believe me and once I wrote about it every time I sang the song, it didn’t affect me anymore. Good riddance.

      She is in a completely different phase of her life right now, but she wrote a bunch of songs! That’s her job! I understand her wanting to put them out ASAP and move on. There’d be no reason to release them later and she doesn’t obviously want to keep them hidden. You do you, girl. Just because some expert (or usually non expert) says an album needs “2 happy songs for every sad one and only 12 songs max” doesn’t mean you have to. I appreciate that she does what she wants with her art. I do believe she’s earned that right after so long in the industry and what she went through with her last label.

    • Lemons says:

      She’s incredibly successful as a marginally-talented artist producing mid-records. I would hope that fans can make that distinction that Taylor is not remarkable as a songwriter, singer, or artist…that they can recognize other hugely popular artists are more deserving of the accolades handed to her (Beyonce), and that it is PAST time to critically analyze her success and what it says about us as a society. What are we rewarding here?

      Beyonce has recorded hundreds (if not more) songs and curated the very best to be put on both Renaissance albums…She may have even more that will be put on a new album in the future…but she is making sure that her body of work is top notch….There is no opportunity for her to record something as quickly as possible and then release something so mediocre as some sort of therapeutic outlet…She would be SKEWERED!

      So it’s time for Taylor to receive some sort of critical treatment.

      • LM says:

        @Lemons: I don’t understand the need to engage with Taylor more critically because Beyonce (per your analysis) does not receive her dues. Taylor isn’t taking anything away from Beyonce and Cowboy Carter’s reception has been stellar. Both can exist in this universe, there’s plenty of space. And just because Beyonce is talented and produces different records with a different goal doesn’t make Taylor less of a singer-songwriter. They just do different things.

    • Get Real says:

      It’s not tall poppy syndrome. She just spewed out a(nother) 💩 album and people noticed this time

  20. Amanda says:

    Meanwhile, my forty year old self – and all my forty something friends AND our tween daughters – have been jamming to it all weekend, dissecting it, sharing our faves, annoying husbands, haha. To each their own.

    • VoominVava says:

      Haha! My partner is humouring me thankfully, but he is a Slipknot fan so not so much a Taylor Swift fan LOL. I love being able to bounce the songs off of him though .. it helps me discover other things I hadn’t noticed the first listen. And I’m a 50 year old woman this year.. so obviously TS is not just a ‘tween’ artist. 🙂

  21. Lurker25 says:

    She needs to do an Anne Hathaway and go away, reflect, and come back quieter.

    What’s that you say? Hathaway now can’t stop talking about the Hathahate?
    We’re going to be hearing about Kim Kardashian hurting her feesfees until we can mute info through our implanted neurallink

  22. Cee says:

    I’ve been atacked on twitter by saying I didn’t like it at first listen and will perhaps not listen to it again for a few days. I’m actually not in the mood, that’s how exhausting the first listento was for me. If this wins AOTY then all credibility attached to it will disappear.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Lolol I read that review yesterday and on the whole it had me cackling. I listened to the entire album on Friday and that’s two ish hours I’ll never get back. It all sounds the same. The only time it got my attention when the lyrics were so terrible that was what stood out.

    Like the NYT said, she needs an editor.

  24. GrnieWnie says:

    I honestly always found Taylor Swift so boring. Her music is boring. Occasionally catchy, sure, but boring. Her clothes are boring. Her dumb Easter eggs are boring. The overanalysis of what she writes is boring…because what she writes doesn’t have that much depth. It isn’t freaking poetry.

    Over time, I developed more respect for her as a woman in the music industry and I do think she makes interesting points in her music occasionally.

    But it isn’t that smart, man. It isn’t that deep. These stupid Easter eggs…learn how to identify a literary device, kids. That’s how an actual poet constructs meaning.

    She’s had bangs for like a decade. BORING.

    • Startup Spouse says:

      I love everything about your comment. It’s SO true.

      But seriously, what is UP with those bangs?

  25. Get Real says:

    She’s the definition of mid and always has been. The rest of the world is just catching up.
    Her and JLo need to take some time off. A LOT of time off.

  26. Sam says:

    Yes, I admit I’m a Swiftie but I can also respect that not everyone will like this album. What I find interesting about the articles on this website are how negative they almost always are. We get it — the writer of this article is NOT a fan of Taylor. But why not present both the negative AND the positive? This is actually one of my most favorite albums Taylor has ever written. It’s honest and relatable. If you’re not admitting that you hold grudges (because you clearly do) then you are lying to yourself. We all go through things that leave us holding grudges and I’m sure we’ve ALL dated a Matty Healy type figure in our lives. Let Taylor live her life and write about what she wants to write about. For those of you who are skipping tracks, you really need to listen to lyrics and know the history and how it connects with the other albums. A casual fan won’t really get it, and that’s fine. She has her mainstream pop bangers and she has some emotionally raw stuff. This is the latter. Let her be and respect that she can write a song better than you can…even if you don’t like it.

    • Amanda says:

      As a non-Swiftie, but someone who really enjoys this new album, I completely agree. This site loves to hate TS for some reason.

    • Dee(2) says:

      So I can’t speak to social media but the criticism I have seen in other publications isn’t about the subject matter of the songs, of course people hold grudges, or have fell for someone unsuitable, or for caught up in the idea of something more than the reality of it. They’re saying the execution of these ideas and feelings aren’t as nuanced and well defined as they could be. That the metaphors are weak and the allusions are trite. This is pretty reasonable criticism of writing to me, whether you may personally agree or not. And I have to be honest because you see the same thing in every article about her on this site, fans immediately dismissing any criticism as internalized misogyny or being ” haters” at what point can you critique the output that some one releases for popular consumption without being accused of either?

      • Sam says:

        I’m talking about this website specifically….not about the articles criticizing the writing. Of course everyone will have their own take on the writing. But this site is particularly mean spirited in any article they write about her. I’m just saying that people shouldn’t pretend they’re above her and her experiences.

        And also, I prefer how she writes. I can relate and understand it as a normal human that doesn’t have expertise in poetry.

  27. Eowyn says:

    Open the schools and yeah, reading, viewing, listening to actual art is essential. Does anyone do observational work anymore? So many things to write about!

  28. Susie Q says:

    I’m a casual Taylor listener: I listen to her songs on the radio, read the discourse, saw The Eras movie in the theater with a girlfriend.

    I also have Sirius XM, so heard the album played all weekend while I was in and out of the car. And I have to ask… where did the good writing go? All I heard was heavy handed football metaphors (Touch me while your bros play Grand Theft Auto? REALLY???) and lots about dating a drug addict (stoned and ate chocolate, tried to buy pills from a friend of a friend) and a backsliding to her teenaged days with the random capitalization (we would have known it was about Kim without it. And why no words for Kanye?)

    And just before I wrote this the Taylor Channel played ‘Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve’ and WOW the difference was clear. A much better, more devastating takedown of John Mayer than anything she said about Matty Healy. Poor Joe (or, Lucky Joe) to get so little of Taylor’s time on this album. Is that devastating, or not?

    • VoominVava says:

      ‘Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve’ is one of her best songs. Incredible. The lyrics are so clever and devastating at the same time.

  29. Imara219 says:

    I can’t speak to the entire album since I only processed one song, but I noticed a lot of her die-hard fans are calling this album mediocre but following it up with a “but that’s ok because not every album has to be good” type commentary. For me, that’s telling. Another big discussion point is, “Taylor didn’t make this album for everyone. She made it for her die-hard fans, and it’s about emotions.” That’s a fair point if the intention was to just “trauma dump,” as you all said, onto an album and gift-wrap it for the purest fans. If that’s the case, the other comparisons to song-writing greats like Joni Mitchell should not be on the table. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t produce a mid album and be considered a great songwriter.

  30. Jessica says:

    Idk, I know people are allowed their own negative opinions, but it really feels with Taylor, they’re negative because it’s TAYLOR, not because the album merits a shitty review. But I also know my opinion doesn’t count because I’m a Taylor fan. It’s interesting to see how divided people are about this album- seems like older fans like it and younger fans don’t? It’s not a radio album, and I think that’s what is throwing people off. I felt she was the most real in her lyrics on this album.

    • sevenblue says:

      Pffs, she is the most awarded, the best seller artist right now. Her work needs to be held up to a high standard. You don’t get to be named the songwriter of our generation and publish this sh*t and expect applause:

      “You smoked then ate seven bars of chocolate
      We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist
      I scratch your head, you fall asleep
      Like a tattooed Golden Retriever”

  31. Jayna says:

    I disagree with quite a few of @sevenblue’s opinions posted on here, LOL, respectfully, though. We just have differing opinions. This is a cathartic album for her that she wrote in real-time and needed to come out sooner rather than later, because the emotional impact down the road is much less. So I’m fine with the unevenness of the album. But @sevenblue is spot on about one thing. This album wasn’t written for the fans. First and foremost, this album was written TO and FOR MATTIE. I remember getting that feeling when listening to it and hearing the intimacy of her aching love and heartbreak for him.

    She even referenced the hurt of knowing Mattie wasn’t affected by seeing her with another guy (Kelce). Her mind and heart were still with Mattie upon first getting with Kelce. To Taylor, it was another nail in her heart that maybe it was never real on Mattie’s end.

    They are further on now. Maybe they are really in love. Or was it just that Kelce really wanted her and that’s what she needed and still needs right now? I’ve always had my doubts that they will last. We’ll see.

  32. AC says:

    To me I think Taylor is one of the best songwriters, she’s also able to play her own instruments, and she really had a very successful tour – although vocally she’s just OK, but overall she’s talented. But some of her hardcore fans are so hurt when one even gives them constructive criticism, that they have to shift the blame or their hate to other fandoms-like Adele, Beyoncé, Olivia, Ariana (or even Peppa Pig who has a higher score than TTPD) etc. And they wonder why the other fandoms dislike Swifties the most.
    Taylor’s not perfect none of us are, and not everything she’s going to do will always be on top. But maybe instead of being arrogant, listen to some of the criticism and take it as a learning experience to enhance for the next album instead of taking it out on other talented female singers 🙄.

  33. Minerva says:

    I feel like everything about this woman needs to be taken at surface level rather than made into a dissertation. Ceci n’est past un pipe. She’s an image she’s projecting and nothing more. Assigning deeper meaning to her words is what ends up twisting the internet’ knickers and saying she’s glorifying the racist 1830s past when on the very surface level she calls it out for being great except for the racists, the being sold off to the highest marriage bid etc. Stop giving her meaning she clearly lacks.

  34. Diamond Rottweiler says:

    I was out at the retrograde & casual misogyny of the Plath “joke.” I can name a dozen well known male writers who’ve committed suicide in a variety of spectacularly awful (& heartbreaking) ways, but the punchline is always Plath. Maybe this writer should read about what actually happened and why. It’s a decidedly not funny story. Swift deserves criticism as any artist does, but that was a big tell for me in this piece. Can’t believe it made it past editors. Or maybe I can. Sigh.