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Why 'The Tortured Poets Department' is Already a Statement

Everything Taylor Swift does is a declaration, which is why when she stepped onto stage to receive her 13th Grammy and announced her new album 'The Tortured Poets Department' her fans were beside themselves. This is because it’s not just a new album, rather a new era. All of her albums are eras and all of her eras have something everybody can resonate with. If there’s someone who understands, Taylor Swift is your girl. 


After announcing it at the Grammys, she posted the cover on her Instagram and wrote: “all’s fair in love and poetry”. This will be her eleventh album, not counting the re-recordings, and it promises to be an album for the broken-hearted, a mix of “Little women” with “Dead Poets Society” kind of heartache.


In order to understand her revolutionary influence we need to break down her career through the eras. 


Taylor Swift


Her debut was her namesake, ‘Taylor Swift’. Many might question the self-importance associated with a young woman launching her career under her own name as the brand, but why shouldn't a woman take pride in her abilities? She was sixteen with her guitar, her neatly styled blonde curls, floral sundresses, and iconic cowboy boots. She was the poster child of the ‘Girl Next Door’ and she sang about young love, friendships, and insecurities. This is her most country album, with songs like “Tim McGraw”, “Should’ve Said No”, “Teardrops On My Guitar”, and “Our Song”.




Next comes her ‘Fearless’ era. This one is classified as country pop and it reveals a more mature side without letting go of the dream. Though it’s titled ‘Fearless’, the album didn't fall short of talking about fear as an important part of teenagehood and how overcoming it is possible. Fearless was released in 2008, with Taylor’s Version in 2021. Some of the most iconic songs are “Fearless”, “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me”.


Taylor’s Version


Before we continue, you might be wondering what ‘Taylor’s Version’ is.  ‘Taylor’s Version’ refers to the re-recorded versions of Swift’s earlier albums. After a dispute over ownership rights to her master recordings, Swift decided to re-record her previous albums to regain control over her music. The re-recorded albums, labelled as ‘Taylor’s Version’, aim to give Swift ownership and control over her original songs. 


Speak Now


The ‘Speak Now’ era is the most magical one, with the artistic and creative direction to show for it. The songs are inspired by Swift’s transition from adolescence to adulthood. It has songs about great love but also about greater heartbreaks, and it explores her past relationships. The best known of this era are ‘Back To December’, ‘Mean’, ‘The Story Of Us’ and ‘Dear John’. This album came out in 2010 with the Taylor’s Version in 2023.




Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’ is the era when Taylor leaves her country stage behind and begins to experiment with new sounds- the start of a revolution. The original album was released in 2012 and her Taylor’s version in 2021. When talking about her re-recording she defined this era as a ‘person with a broken heart’. Her songs reflect emotions of happiness, loneliness, devastation, and the torture of memories from the past. Some of the most iconic songs are ‘22’, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’, ‘I Know You Were Trouble’. ‘‘All Too Well’ has a 10 minute rendition in Taylor’s Version. This era was marked by a retro vibe, with high-waisted pants and skirts, and always a red lip. 




‘1989’ officially characterised her as a pop artist, as the album was strongly inspired by 80s pop. She mentioned influences such as Madonna, Phil Collins, Annie Lenox and Peter Gabriel. The name of the album is the year of her birth because she wanted to symbolise an artistic rebirth. During this period, there was a notable presence on social media and at events of her circle of friends, which comprised celebrities like Cara Delevigne, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailee Steinfeld, and Gigi Hadid. The album, featuring tracks such as 'Shake it Off', 'Bad Blood', 'Out of the Woods', and 'Blank Space', was initially launched in 2014 and subsequently re-released as Taylor's Version in 2023.




Her ‘Reputation’ era is one of her most popular, as it’s the beginning of her empowerment, a woman redefined. This album was her way of showing that she no longer cared about what was said about her, or what her reputation would be. Rather fitting, no? After a phase where her entire private life ended up in the newspapers, surrounded by criticism and rumours, Taylor withdrew from public life and we stopped seeing her for a while. It was during this time that she conceived this album, where she technically declares ‘The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now, oh why? Because she’s dead’. It came out in 2017 and we’re still waiting for her Taylor’s Version. Some of the iconic songs of this era are ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, ‘Getaway Car’, ‘End Game’ and ‘...Ready For It’. The foundation of Reputation is black, along with images of snakes, accompanied by lace and sequins. 




Then comes her Lover era, and let’s just say that Reputation was Oppenheimer as Lover was Barbie. After her ‘dark’ phase, she brought us an album that was ‘a love letter to love’, with pastel colours, especially pink; very light and breezy. Of course, there were many songs about romantic love, but there were also songs about self-love and platonic love. It was released in 2019 and sadly, the Coronavirus pandemic posed problems for the tour. Some of the iconic songs in this album are ‘The Man’, ‘You Need To Calm Down’, ‘The Archer’ and ‘Cruel Summer’.


Folklore & Evermore


During quarantine, Taylor wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and that’s how we got Folklore in 2020. In this era, she sets aside pop a bit to delve into electro-acoustic and indie folk styles. The songs of Folklore, which tell small stories, are influenced by her time in quarantine and reflect themes such as escapism, nostalgia, romanticism, loneliness and introspection, with her songs Cardigan, Exile (feat. Bon Iver), Mirrorball, August, and Betty. It turns out she didn’t just write enough during the pandemic for one album, but for two. That's why, in the same year, with a five-month gap, she released Evermore. This explains why Folklore and Evermore, technically, form interconnected eras, being released almost simultaneously. Taylor explained that despite transitioning eras with each album, she wanted to further explore the theme of 'the folk forest'. This is why Evermore serves as a continuation of the previous album, albeit with even more profound narratives, featuring tracks like 'Willow', 'No Body, No Crime (feat. HAIM)', 'Champagne Problems', and 'Coney Island (feat. The National)'.




So, we come to Taylor's latest era (excluding her re-recordings). "Midnights" was released in October 2022. Explaining the album's concept, she stated on Instagram that the songs encapsulate the experiences that keep her awake past midnight: 'A journey through terrors and sweet dreams'. Some of the standout tracks from "Midnights" include 'Midnight Rain', 'Anti-hero', 'Karma', and 'You’re on Your Own Kid'.


Shaping the Music Industry


Given that everything she does is impactful, she has reshaped music history by transforming The Eras Tour into the largest tour ever, encompassing 146 shows and grossing an average of $12 million each night. This tour has become the driving force behind the economies of the cities she visits.


Moreover, as every action of hers carries weight, there's little doubt that she will set new records when millions of Swifties worldwide unite to listen to "The Tortured Poets Department", which promises to be just as triumphant as her previous works.


Edited by Avanie Hiranandani

Picture credits: Republic Records



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