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31 Tortured Lyrics from Taylor Swift’s "The Tortured Poets Department"

Let’s explore Taylor Swift’s latest album–double album, rather–and torture ourselves through poetry in the form of song lyrics

Yes, 31 songs. Taylor Swift just dropped 31 songs. It’s a lot to take in, I know, which is why I took the liberty of helping you ease into this double album. How? By introducing you to each song through its tortured lyrics.

Before we begin, I have to make a disclaimer–the goal of this list is to highlight how relatable Taylor Swift’s lyrics are. If you consider yourself a new Swiftie or you just happen to be curious about the album, then trust me when I say that there is nothing to worry about. There won’t be any album comparisons or references to Taylor Swift’s life… for now.

1. Fortnight (feat. Post Malone) – “I love you; it’s ruining my life.” While it may be slightly surprising that the title track is not the first single, it only takes one listen to Fortnight to understand why it was chosen instead. The tortured lyrics above captures the album as a whole and prepares the listener for what lies ahead.

2. The Tortured Poets Department – “You’re not Dylan Thomas. I’m not Patti Smith. This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel. We’re modern idiots… we’re two idiots.” There’s a saying that life imitates art, and we sometimes purposefully imitate art when living our lives – in this case, mirroring people we look up to. Sadly, there are times when we realize that we’re not writers and poets like Dylan Thomas and Patti Smith; the environment we’re in is not like the Chelsea Hotel which housed such visionaries.

3. My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys – “He saw forever so he smashed it up.” I love the title of this track because really, when we were younger, the toys we end up breaking are the toys we play with the most. And when they broke, we cried because we thought that those toys would be with us forever. So, yes, it’s a different story when someone breaks something that promises forever.

4. Down Bad – “’Cause fuck it, I was in love. So fuck you if I can’t have us.” Ah, that moment when we just curse out loud when it dawns on us that we really can’t have the person we love. Then right after, we direct that curse towards that person we can’t have. Oh, what could have been…

5. So Long, London – “I’m just mad as hell ’cause I loved this place for so long, London – had a good run, a moment of warm sun, but I’m not the one. So long, London” It’s normal to associate people with places, which is why it’s so heartbreaking when we have to let go of both. Eventually, we tell ourselves to just make new memories in that same place with another person but of course, it’ll never be like it was the first time around.

6. But Daddy I Love Him – “Growing up precocious sometimes means not growing up at all.” There are moments in life that will make you look back and reflect. In retrospect, did growing up too fast do more good than bad? Did I waste my childhood years? How can I tell that I’m all grown up?

7. Fresh Out The Slammer – “But it’s gonna be alright. I did my time.” To give ourselves hope, we sometimes have to convince ourselves that things are going to turn out okay since we’ve put in the work, made some sacrifices, went through the fire and came out alive.

8. Florida!!! (feat. Florence + The Machine) – “Little did you know your home’s really only a town you’re just a guest in.” It’s a weird, inexplicable feeling when home suddenly doesn’t feel like home anymore. Will you stay until it feels like home again? Or do you move out and look for another place to call home?

9. Guilty as Sin? – “Am I allowed to cry?” One form of emotional torture is when you doubt and question certain feelings, making you question whether you’re allowed to feel such feelings. Self-inflicted guilt is torture because no one can talk you out of it but yourself.

10. Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me? – “Put narcotics into all of my songs, and that’s why you’re still singing along.” What’s heartbreaking about these lyrics is the fact that the truth can make someone run away. It’s the fact that you need to hide the pain, dull the senses, and add something addictive to make someone stay.

11. I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can) – “I can fix him, no, really, I can. Woah, maybe I can’t.” Whether you’re saying these lyrics to yourself or to someone else, it’s painful when you have to further convince yourself or another person that what you want to happen is possible… only for it to be coupled with doubt.

12. LOML – “It was legendary. It was momentary. It was unnecessary.” While the change from “love of my life” to “loss of my life” moved me to tears, it’s the succession of these lyrics that broke me. Have you ever wanted to remember and forget everything at the same time?

13. I Can Do It With a Broken Heart – “You know you’re good when you can even do it with a broken heart.” Can I get personal here? These lyrics reminded me of the time when I had a work presentation thirty minutes after someone broke up with me. How about you? When was a time you felt good because you did something with a broken heart?

14. The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived – “And I’ll forget you, but I’ll never forgive the smallest man who ever lived.” People always talk about forgiving and not forgetting, but what happens if it’s the other way around? Is it possible to forget the sum of the parts but single out one part forever – a part you’ll never forgive?

15. The Alchemy – “He jokes that it’s heroin but this time with an ‘E’.” It’s a double-edged sword when a “something” that gives us so much happiness and bliss turns into a “someone.” What happens when something we supposedly have control over turns into someone who has a mind of their own?

16. Clara Bow – “Beauty is a beast that roars down on all fours, demanding ‘more’.” Oscar Wilde once said that beauty is a form of genius. In fact, it’s higher than genius because it needs no explanation. In today’s time, however, it feels as if beauty needs all the explanation in the world.

17. The Black Dog – “I move through the world with the heartbroken.” It’s one thing to go through life with a broken heart alone; it’s another to do so knowing that there are people around you experiencing the same. However, yes, there will still be days where you feel all alone even when amongst the fellow brokenhearted.

18. imgonnagetyouback – “Told my friends I hate you, but I love you just the same.” Ah, a lie we tell our friends, even though we know it’s far from the truth. Hey, there’s a certain kind of peace that goes with keeping such love to yourself. However, isn’t it also torture when you can’t tell your friends about the love you have for someone?

19. The Albatross – “You were sleeping soundly when they dragged you from your bed, and I tried to warn you about them.” What if someone you love is suffering the consequences of not listening to a piece of advice you gave? What do you tell them? Do you say, “I told you so”? Will you still offer a helping hand?

20. Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus – “Could it be enough to just float in your orbit?” Oh, the desire to be in proximity of someone you love, even if your presence isn’t even acknowledged. Of course, we know it’s not enough, but we settle for it any way because it’s better than nothing at all.

21. How Did It End? – “I can’t pretend like I understand. How did it end?” It takes a lot of courage to admit we don’t understand or have forgotten something. Don’t we understand because we never thought it would end? Did we forget because it was too painful?

22. So High School – “Are you gonna marry, kiss, or kill me? It’s just a game, but really I’m betting on all three.” So high school, indeed. And betting on all three – not surprising. After all, when it comes to the game we call love, we really just want to be considered, be offered a chance to play.

23. I Hate It Here – “All you’ll ever be is my eternal consolation prize.” It’s a torturous feeling when you know that no matter what you try to do, that someone will always be a consolation prize to you. How do you tell that someone they’ll never be the grand prize?

24. thanK you aIMee – “But when I count the scars, there’s a moment of truth that there wouldn’t be this if there hadn’t been you.” Whenever we talk about the scars we have in life, we tend to give credit to the people and experiences that gave us those scars. “I won’t change a thing because I wouldn’t be the person I am today…” Familiar words, right?

25. I Look in People’s Windows – “A feather taken by the wind blowing, I’m afflicted by the not knowing.” There’s a reason why we have a saying that goes, “Better the devil you know.” If your mind is that feather and not knowing feels like the wind blowing, then imagine the many far places your mind will go. That’s quite the torture.

26. The Prophecy – “I guess a lesser woman would’ve lost hope; a greater woman wouldn’t beg, but I looked to the sky and said please.” The concept of the golden mean talks about being in the middle of two extremes. If losing hope and not begging are the two extremes, then to be in the middle means having to beg. Maybe picking an extreme doesn’t sound so bad.

27. Cassandra – “When it’s ‘Burn the bitch’, they’re shrieking. When the truth comes out, it’s quiet.” I can’t help but think of the metaphor of shooting the messenger with these lyrics. It’s so easy to ignore the message and just focus on who delivered the message. And can I just add how I love the several witch references in this album?

28. Peter – “But the woman who sits by the window has turned out the light.” There comes a point in life when we must wake up and stop waiting, hoping, and dreaming. There comes a point in life when we must step outside and start doing, creating, and living.

29. The Bolter – “But as she was leaving, it felt like breathing.” It’s sad that leaving can have such a negative connotation. People associate leaving with giving up, saying that quitting is an easy way out. But why does it always have to be difficult? There’s relief in leaving. There’s peace in letting go.

30. Robin – “And you have no idea buried down deep and out of your reach, the secret we all vowed to keep it, from you, in sweetness.” Ignorance is bliss, yes, but have you ever thought about the things purposefully kept from you, by the people in your life?

31. The Manuscript – “And at last she knew what the agony had been for… now and then I re-read the manuscript, but the story isn’t mine anymore.” When all is said and done, more often than not the best thing to do is to pay it forward. Because you see, a good story is the story that gets passed on. Needless to say, Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department is such a good story. You made it all the way to the end, after all. And you’ll pass it on too, right?

Lead photos from @taylorswift

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