EntertainmentTaylor Swift's 'The Tortured Poets Department': Genius or Too Highbrow?

Taylor Swift's 'The Tortured Poets Department': Genius or Too Highbrow?

Is the new album by Taylor Swift really that bad?
Is the new album by Taylor Swift really that bad?
Images source: © Instagram | Instagram - Taylor Swift
10:24 AM EDT, April 25, 2024

On Friday, April 19, Taylor Swift embarked on a new chapter with the premiere of her album "The Tortured Poets Department." Social media became a battleground as a wave of disdain targeted the singer. But is the latest album truly as disappointing as its critics suggest?

Taylor Swift is an icon whose impact extends beyond her music, making her a household name even among those who don’t follow her work closely. Her nearly two-decade-long career is marked by record-breaking hits and multiple Grammy awards, affirming her status as a musical legend akin to an Oscar winner in the film industry.

As of early December 2023, Taylor Swift stands as the world's leading female vocalist, a claim bolstered by "Time" magazine naming her Person of the Year. Her international tour, spanning nearly two years, sold out immediately, and a film of her tour performances has dominated the box office. The buzz around her most recent album, "The Tortured Poets Department", has ignited debates and discussions across the internet. Why has this album polarized audiences so deeply?

"The Tortured Poets Department" by Taylor Swift stirs online controversy

As a Taylor Swift fan who maintains a balanced perspective, I find the constant criticism she faces, often simply because of her gender and success, deeply frustrating. The anticipation for "The Tortured Poets Department" was immense among fans, with speculation about its lyrical depth and production quality running high. The expectation was that the album would emotionally resonate, especially with tracks like "So long, London", reflecting on her relationship with Joe Alwyn.

Yet, before the album had been streaming for an hour, critics rushed to declare it her worst, basing their harsh judgments on snippets or single lines, such as one from the title track that metaphorically references Matty Healy of The 1975.

Is Taylor Swift’s songwriting too intellectual?

Critics like Matt Stevens and Shivani Gonzalez of the "New York Times" argue that the album's complexity alienates listeners. This sentiment echoes across social media; some accuse Swift of being overly intellectual. Unfamiliar words prompt me to expand my vocabulary, a curiosity seemingly lacking in her detractors.

While "The Tortured Poets Department" may not be Swift's greatest work, dismissing it as uninteresting or insubstantial is unjust. Tracks such as "The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived", "Guilty As Sin?", "Clara Bow", "I Hate It Here", "Peter", and "The Prophecy" showcase Swift's evocative lyricism. This album feels like her most authentic expression yet, as if she's sharing her diary with the world.

The unfair comparisons to other female artists

I am particularly irked by the relentless comparison of Swift to other female musicians. Accusations of her trying to emulate Lana Del Rey, a close friend and collaborator, surface frequently but are baseless. Why should being inspired by friends or contemporaries diminish her artistry?

When Beyoncé explored country music, the world eagerly awaited, free of prejudgment. Yet, when Swift hinted at blending genres in "The Tortured Poets Department," skepticism and critique predated its release. This disparity in reception often seems rooted in a bias against Swift.

Choosing not to engage with music one doesn't enjoy should be a simple practice, yet disliking Taylor Swift appears to be an identity marker for some. This is puzzling. Shouldn't we just let people savor the music they love without disparaging their tastes?

Let's focus on what matters: enjoying the music that speaks to us rather than expending energy on critique that serves no constructive purpose. After all, life is too short to debate over musical preferences and tastes.

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