Taylor Swift: Review of the tortured poets department – slantmagazine

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Taylor Swift: Review of the tortured poets department – slantmagazine

I completed my undergraduate studies at a university known for its literary reputation, where tortured writers were not relegated to a single department, but rather made up about a fifth of the entire student body. Having edited one of the student magazines there, I share Taylor Swift’s love-hate relationship with would-be poets who define themselves by affected personality quirks and a refusal to complete a second draft.

What’s the strangest thing? The Department of Tortured Poets, then, is that Swift spends less time delving into what makes people like this tick than imitating and then succumbing to their affectations. It’s the singer-songwriter’s first album since her turn toward full-fledged pop that would have been improved by an editor or, more precisely, by collaborators with the means to challenge certain ideas that don’t work just not.

From the first impression, The Department of Tortured Poets maintains a consistent melancholic vibe without sacrificing pop hooks: “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys,” “I Can Do It with a Broken Heart” and “So High School” all sound like viable radio hits. With Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner sharing production duties, the double album’s aesthetic sets the difference between 2020s cottagecore Folklore And Always and 2022 is less consistent Midnights, relying primarily on minimalist arrangements foregrounding rhythm sections and barely-there instrumental accompaniment. Once again, it’s an atmosphere more than anything.

The album’s relative minimalism, however, undermines some of Swift’s greatest strengths. The robust melodies of the remarkable pieces of Speak Now And 1989 are absent here, and there isn’t a single bridge on these 31 songs that could support any proverbial weight. Without these structural flourishes – and, to introduce a key point in the discourse surrounding this album which has already taken bizarre turns, it is above all Swift’s mastery of song structure that asserts her talent as a songwriter generational – there is almost nothing to be done. distinguish one song from another.

This homogeneity of sound puts the heavy lifting squarely on Swift’s lyrics. A similar approach worked brilliantly Folklore And Always, on which Swift expanded her narrative voice beyond an insular main character syndrome. But The Department of Tortured Poets is something of a regression in this regard. There are some fantastic individual lines and stanzas throughout – and some showcases for Swift’s utterly wild sense of humor – but they’re too often jammed into songs that aren’t otherwise up to par. its recent standards.

For example, “Who’s afraid of little old me?” ” finds Swift at her most heartbreaking: “Is it any wonder I broke?/Let’s hear one more joke/So we could all laugh until I cry” – but the song’s impact is neutralized by its rewriting. The truth is, no one, not even Swift, can get away with a line like “I’m still drunk on my own tears/Isn’t that what they all said?/That I’ll sue you if you walk on my lawn.” The album’s lyric sheet contains far too many lines that, taken alone, sound like tortured, purple prose.

To her credit, Swift elevates some of this writing with her performances: the way she modulates her phrasing or volume to emphasize the way she’s changed words into common idioms: “Old habits die.” yelling”, she sings on “The Black Dog” – is one of her most effective tropes. And isolating individual lines isn’t always the fairest way to approach lyrics that sound more like prose-poetry: “I Hate It Here” has already sparked significant ire on social media for lines that read as problematic when taken out of the middle of an entire text. stanza that clearly recognizes them as such: “My friends were playing a game in which/We chose a decade/We wished we could live instead of this one/I’d say the 1830s but without all the racists.” »

Yet on repeated listens, it’s both the great lyrics and the awful lyrics that call attention to themselves. Antonoff and Dessner provide so few other points of interest that the songs blend together until a particularly sharp or overwrought line grabs attention. In the meantime, The Department of Tortured Poets plays like a pop album that sounds pretty good but is certainly long. At their best, Swift’s albums demand and reward analysis – not the type of exegesis that shuts down thought and gets bogged down in which songs are “about” which of her ex-boyfriends – because There is real dramatic tension in the way she uses music. details of his anything but ordinary life in stories that find a wide resonance.

The narrators on The Department of Tortured Poets content to serve as both speaker and listener in their own conversations, while Antonoff and Dessner refuse to intervene or interrupt. Whether a particular listener will find an entry point then depends entirely on how much interest they will find in Swift’s unfiltered, unedited versions of those same few stories, told and retold many times over. While there is a sizable audience that is fully invested in exactly that, what The Department of Tortured Poets Leaves for Someone Else is an album that is more of a tone poem than a collection that stands up to scrutiny.

Score:

Label: Republic Release date: April 19, 2024 Buy: Amazon

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