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Decoding Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department: Unveiling the Hidden Meanings and References in the Album Lyrics and the People She Mentions


“An anthology of new works that reflect events, opinions and sentiments from a fleeting and fatalistic moment in time.”

In her own words, Taylor Swift’s latest album The Tortured Poets Department is a product of her personal life – which is often played out in the most public way.

Fans have already spent hours poring over her raft of new lyrics in the 31 new songs.

Two hours after its release, the singer announced The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology, which includes 15 additional new songs.

From Kim Kardashian to Travis Kelce, here we take a look at who the lyrics might be about.

Break-up with Joe Alywn

Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn.
Pic:Blitz Pictures/Shutterstock
Image:
Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn. Pic: Blitz Pictures/Shutterstock

Fans had been expecting a breakdown of the singer’s six-year relationship with actor Joe Alwyn – and they weren’t disappointed.

Even in the album title, there appears to be a reference – Alwyn and Normal People actor Paul Mescal revealed in 2022 they had a WhatsApp group chat with Fleabag actor Andrew Scott called The Tortured Man Club. Four months later news of Swift and Alwyn’s split emerged.

The song appearing at number five in the new tracklist – often the slot reserved for the most meaningful song on each of her albums – is So Long, London, and is thought to offer new insights into her split with the British actor.

In the lyrics, Swift hints at wedding plans, singing: “You swore that you loved me but where were the clues, I died on the altar waiting for the proof”, as well as being upset at having to leave London which she said she “loved”.

She also makes a reference to “the house in the Heath” she left behind. The singer was often seen in Hampstead Heath with Alwyn when they dated, as he lived in north London.

“And I’m pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free,” she sings. “Me locking myself away in my house for a lot of years – I’ll never get that time back.”

Swift was performing her Eras tour when it was reported that she and Alwyn had split – and the first show she played was in Florida, which is the title of one of her new songs, featuring Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine.

“The hurricane with my name when it came, I got drunk and I dare it to wash me away,” she sings.

In another song, Fresh Out The Slammer, Swift discusses feeling isolated in a relationship. “Another summer taking cover, rolling thunder, he don’t understand me.

“Splintered back in winter, silent dinners, bitter he was with her in dreams.”

Romance with Matty Healy

Image:
Matt Healy. Pic: PA

Meanwhile, fans have interpreted the lyrics to the first song on the album titled Fortnight, featuring US star Post Malone, to be about British singer Matty Healy, whom she was rumoured to be dating briefly last year after her split from Alwyn.

Swift sings: “Sometimes I wonder if you’re gonna screw this up with me, but you told Lucy you’d kill yourself if I ever leave and I had said that to Jack about you so I felt seen, everyone we know understands why it’s meant to be.”

But who are Lucy and Jack – the friends the lovers are confiding in?

Fans have suggested Lucy could be Lucy Dacus, a singer in the band Boygenius, who is friends with Healy.

Meanwhile, Swift’s close friend Jack Antonoff was a producer on the song.

While Swift doesn’t namecheck Healy, a number of other songs appear to reference him, including Guilty As Sin where she sings about having “fatal fantasies” for someone from her past while in a relationship.

Fans are also suggesting the song The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived appears to allude to Healy “ghosting” her.

“You tried to buy some pills, from a friend of mine, they just ghosted you, now you know what it feels like.”

New relationship with Travis Kelce

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) kisses Taylor Swift after the NFL Super Bowl 58 football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas. The Chiefs won 25-22. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Image:
Travis Kelce kisses Taylor Swift after the Super Bowl final. Pic: John Locher / AP

“I’m making a comeback to where I belong”, she sings in her 15th track, The Alchemy.

This song certainly seems to be a nod to her blossoming romance with Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce.

The song references American football terms including “touch down”, “the team”, “warm the benches” and “winning streak”.

Swift began dating the athlete last year and her attendance at the Super Bowl made headlines around the world, including that kiss with Kelce after the Chiefs’ victory. The couple recently attended the Coachella music festival together.

Pic: Jennifer Johnson/Shutterstock for Neon Carnival
Image:
Pic: Jennifer Johnson/Shutterstock for Neon Carnival

“Shirts off, and your friends lift you up over their heads,” she sings.

“Beer sticking to the floor, cheers chanted, cause they said there was no chance, trying to be the greatest in the league, where’s the trophy, he just comes running over to me.”

Kelce, who has recently landed a role as host of the game show Are You Smarter Than A Celebrity?, said he listened to parts of the album and said it’s “unbelievable”.

Read more:
Boyfriend hails ‘unbelievable’ album

Feud with Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian, with former husband Kanye West, in 2015. Pic: Rex/Startraks/Shutterstock
Image:
Kim Kardashian, with former husband Kanye West, in 2015. Pic: Rex/Startraks/Shutterstock

In one of the additional new songs, thanK you aIMee, fans have been decoding what they believe is a reference to Kim Kardashian. The letters capitalised in the title spell Kim.

Kardashian’s ex-husband Kanye West infamously stormed the stage at the 2009 VMAs as Swift accepted her award for best video by a female artist, a stunt he later claimed in a lyric “made that b**** famous“.

Amid the row, Kardashian posted a video online of what appeared to be West on the phone with the singer, where Swift appeared to consent to the vulgar lines.

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