Taylor Swift begins new era with lyrical parallels

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Fans of Taylor Swift finally understand why the artist had been teasing the number two as having high importance: the surprise double album release comes in at two hours and two minutes.

Kayla Denke | Staff Writer 

Taylor Swift released her eleventh album, “The Tortured Poets Department” (TTPD) at midnight on April 19. Unbeknownst to listeners, the original 16-song release was referred to as “The Manuscript.”

Two hours later, Swift released a second album, called “The Anthology,” which expanded the original album by 15 bonus tracks. For Swifties, this double release was the long-awaited breakup album from her previous six-year-long relationship with actor Joe Alwyn.

The first song in “TTPD” is “Fortnight” featuring Post Malone. Immediately, Swift’s opening verse set the tone with her lyrics. “I was a functioning alcoholic / ‘Til nobody noticed my new aesthetic,” Swift sang.

“Midnights,” the synth pop album released in Oct. 2022, is believed to be the “aesthetic” that the popstar is referring to. However, prior to “Midnights,” Swift’s eighth and ninth albums, “folklore” and “evermore,” also introduced new aesthetics, shifting her away from her pop sound back to her country roots in a folk repackage.

As the newest addition to her discography, “TTPD” pivots the billionaire once again to a new ‘era’ of music in her career, with many farewell motifs and parallels leading listeners back to Swift’s earlier music. “Bygones will be bygone eras fadin’ into gray,” Swift sings in track 18, “imgonnagetyouback.”

The fifth song on the album – which is historically Swift’s most emotionally charged song on any of her albums – is called “So Long, London.” In a similar fashion to “Death By A Thousand Cuts” or “Call It What You Want,” the intro to the song echoes in a way that many have likened to church bells.

“London” in this case is likely in reference to Alwyn. With each nod to her past, Swift seems to depart further from the relationship.

In the third track, “Down Bad,” Swift sings “How dare you think it’s romantic / Leaving me safe and stranded,” directly countering her lyrics from “New Romantics” during her “1989” album: “Please leave me stranded / It’s so romantic.”

With every allusion to herself, Swift separates herself from her time with the actor.

Easter eggs have always been an exciting component of Swift’s music and its production. Many Swifties are tuned into her favorite numbers, lyrical repetition, costume choices and the double entendres of her musicality.

Track 24, “thanK you aIMee,” acts as an ode to Kim Kardashian – whose name is capitalized in the song title.

Meanwhile, the artist nods to pop culture pieces from her birth year, like the 1989 Disney film “The Little Mermaid.” Track six, “But Daddy I Love Him,” is an iconic line from the princess movie and Swift equally returned the iconicism with her surprise line, “I’m having his baby,” quickly followed by “No, I’m not, but you should see your faces.”

Swift released the music video for the opening single of “TTPD” on April 19 at 8 p.m. EST. Swift’s first outfit in the “Fortnight” music video acted as another Easter egg for Swifties, who took to social media to point out that the dress and jewelry was similar to Swift’s Feb. 9 Grammy ensemble, which was when she announced the album.

Similarly, Swift cast Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles in the video as psych ward scientists studying the singer. Upon closer inspection, viewers can see that Charles’ lab coat names him as Dr. Overstreet, a nod to his character in another 1989 film “The Dead Poet Society,” which he and Hawke starred in.

The song “Clara Bow,” drops not just Clara Bow’s name, but also Stevie Nicks. Both women were pop symbols of their times, in the 1920s and 1970s respectively, and Swift even drops her own name in it alongside them, acknowledging her overwhelming stardom in this century.

In a more illusive fashion, the singer-songwriter uses geography and the number two as additional insight from her breakup with Alwyn.

A fortnight is a two-week period in time, perfectly matching the length of time between her “The Eras Tour” shows in Florida and Texas, which also make a number of appearances in her lyrics.

Fans have speculated that the reason she mentions the two states indicates when the news broke about her breakup. While unconfirmed, the title of track eight, “Florida!!!” featuring Florence + The Machine, utilizes a cadence that spells the state name again.

One of the more jarring elements of “TTPD” is the ongoing reference to religion. Having identified as a lifelong Christian, Swift’s religious beliefs came under fire after accusations of witchcraft arose from the 2020 song “willow.”

Now, Swift’s song “Guilty As Sin?” contains lyrics like “What if I roll the stone away? / They’re gonna crucify me anyway.” Many fans are starting to step away due to these lyrics because they looked up to her because of her faith, but now she is assumingly atheist or mocking God.

The detachment from her previous works is jarring and at some points overwhelming to new listeners or passive fans, but “The Anthology” of 31 songs is bold and serves as a glimpse into the pop culture conundrum that is Taylor Swift.