Have You Heard About … Taylor Swift’s New Album

April 30, 2024

Mahsa Di Placito is host of one of our favourite pop-culture podcasts, Have You Heard About…, and we’ve signed her on to write a column for Vita Daily! In her column, she’ll break down notable moments in culture and why they matter. For a detailed analysis of the big business of Taylor Swift, catch up on the podcast here and follow along on Instagram.

The Tortured Poet’s Department is a Slow Burn that Delivers

Up until a few years ago, I felt very lukewarm about Taylor Swift. I didn’t mind her music, but certainly wasn’t a Swiftie, nor did I spend all that much time thinking about the space she took up in the cultural landscape. I’m in my fourties, have 3 kids, and can’t relate to Taylor’s girl-boss anthems or heartbreak ballads. Sure, I could sing along (badly) to most of her hits, knew the gist of her romantic entanglements and well documented feuds, and understood that ‘All Too Well’ was largely considered the cherry on top of her rich discography. But, I knew all this simply by cultural osmosis, such is the force that is Taylor. Then Covid happened and when most artists laid low, Swift produced the brilliant ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ albums, along with the Disney+ documentary ‘The Long Pond Studio Sessions,’ where she deciphers her own work. All this coupled with rewriting the rules of music ownership by re-recording her past albums has launched Swift into the stratosphere of super stardom we rarely see; after all, she’s a master at crafting the lore of her own mythology.

While I’ve grown to appreciate Swift’s prolific lyricism and uncanny ability to nail a precise feeling through a couple of words set to a synth-pop melody, I’d like to think I can still take an unbiased view of her work. So, much like many others, I listened to all 16 tracks of TTPD in full as soon as it was released on April 19th. Luckily I’m on Pacific Time, so was able to catch up on some of The Anthology, the surprise second drop of TTPD with an additional 15 songs when it was announced just two hours later. Devoted fans of Taylors would have expected this. After all, she’s notorious for leaving coded Easter eggs and cryptic messages for her fans to decipher as a form of fandom shorthand. 31 songs! Okay, digesting this was going to take a minute.

I wasn’t surprised at the plethora of mixed reviews in the days following the album’s release. After all, we live in the click economy and writing about Taylor is a surefire way to get you eyeballs. I was, however, disappointed. There is certainly a place for critical reviews and it’s an art to be able to make sense of an album and sum it up for the masses. But I’m not sure how effectively this can be done in just 24 hours, especially not with an album as dense and prose-heavy as TTPD. Paste magazine notoriously retracted the name of the writer who attached 3.6 stars to their negative review to avoid any potential doxxing from overprotective fans. In contrast, RollingStone branded the album as an instant classic, calling it ‘gloriously chaotic.’ Variety, Billboard, NPR, Slate, and Pitchfork all followed suit proclaiming Taylor had either ‘done it again,’ or that the album was simply too long and needed an editor with songs that felt repetitive, bleeding into one another. Perhaps these critics forgot about the ‘B’ side of any cassette tape. Songs that weren’t meant for airplay and not necessarily radio friendly, but personal to the artist and fans. To be fair, 31 songs is a lot to absorb and that is my point; it takes time to process any album, let alone one as substantial as TTPD.

So, I decided to make it the unofficial soundtrack to my life over the past week and counting. I had it on in the background while I cleaned my kids playroom for the millionth time, took it on long walks, and played the album front to back on a recent road trip. I didn’t skip any songs, seriously considered the lyrics like I was a Taylor Swift scholar, and deliberated whether ‘thanK you aIMee’ was really about Kim Kardashian. I found sly humour in Taylor goading her parents for a reaction to carrying the baby of a man they don’t approve of (rumoured to be Matty Healy)  when she gleefully belts out ’no I’m not, but you should see your faces,’ in ‘But Daddy I Love Him.’ We’ll probably never know what exactly lead to the demise of Taylor and Joe’s Alwyn’s six year relationship, but in the significant track 5 ‘So Long, London’, she sings ‘I’m pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free,’ and we come as close as we’ll ever get to decoding how she feels. My personal favourite is ‘Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?’, which you can’t convince me isn’t a nod to the 1966 film ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,’ exploring the demise of a failing marriage. She warns ‘so I’ll leap from the gallows and I levitate down your street’ so vividly you can feel it. Then there are the songs you only appreciate after a few playbacks. ‘Robin,’ ’Florida!!!’ ‘and ‘Down Bad’ grow on me with every listen. To say nothing of the self-referential consideration on ‘Clara Bow,’ or the humorous comparison of current partner, Kansas City Chief player Travis Kelce knowing ‘how to ball,’ and hilariously rhyming that with ‘Aristotle.’ Then there is the somber reflection of ‘The Manuscript,’ and Taylor re-examining a former relationship with an older man through a more mature lens of lived experience. She wonders aloud if what he said about everything being above board was true since she was wise above her years, yet concludes ‘she wasn’t sure.’

Nearly two weeks after TTPD was released, I’ve found there are very few songs that are skips. On the contrary, the album feels like a rich tapestry that seamlessly weaves depictions of loss, grief, self reflection, and growth. And while some critics panned the album, it’s clearly resonating with fans. As of this writing, the top 14 songs on Billboard’s top 100 are from TTPD. Like much of Swift’s work, this album isn’t meant to be a quick study, but rather, a slow burn that delivers on the promise of adding to her lore. Years from now, you may find yourself skipping over your current favourite tracks for new favourites. Case in point, some of Taylor’s best work never makes it as a single. ’Cruel Summer’ went to #1 on the Billboard charts four years after it was initially released on her ‘Lover’ album, fuelled by the larger-than-life Eras tour and TikTok fan videos.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting Taylor is above criticism. There is much that can be debated about her narrow depiction of ‘girlhood’ and white feminism, the carbon footprint of her private jet use, the many variations of albums and merch helping her secure billionaire status, and even her dismissal to acknowledge the outrageous resale prices of her Eras tour. Both Ed Sheeran and Billie Eilish enforced Ticketmaster resale policies, and surely an artist of Taylor’s stature could do more to ensure face-value tickets land in the hands of fans and not bots used to mark them up ten-fold!? I’m far more interested in reading think pieces on her cultural impact than a lazy, 24 hour turnaround review of TTPD that sums it up as ‘too long.’ —Mahsa Di Placito


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


get social


get more out of


Want the best, curated headlines and trends on the fly?

get more out of vita

Sign up for one, or sign up for all!