Down Bad

Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department Is For The Hardcore Swifties

Her new album is dividing the fandom while bringing OG fans together.

Taylor Swift's 'Tortured Poets' Is Dividing The Fandom & Here's Why
Taylor Swift / Screenshot via YouTube

Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department is tailor-made for the annoying Swifties — and yes, I’m one of them.

Arguably more than with any of her other works, fans like me are diving deep into Swift’s new double album, uncovering narrative threads (or rather, invisible strings) to her previous work, expanding the “lore” of her entire catalog, and unifying her most devoted fans. But in turn, this album also seems to be dividing the fandom as a whole.

As many people have noted across TikTok and X (formerly Twitter), Tortured Poets is splitting the fandom into OG hardcore Swifties, who are more invested in her lyrics and intentions behind the songs, and casual fans, who became fans through pop hits like “Cruel Summer” and the Eras Tour.

As people criticize Swift for releasing 31 songs at once, others are celebrating it and poking fun at the complaints. Some on social media are crying for more traditional “bops” (even though Tortured Poets contains “Down Bad” and “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”), while others are embracing the album’s unapologetically moody, messy, and nonlinear nature.

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Putting On Your Detective Hat

Despite the mixed reactions, Tortured Poets is bringing the more dedicated Swifties together as they celebrate and investigate the music.

Fans’ discoveries — such as speculation that The Anthology track “Peter” may have been written from the perspective of the little girl in Swift’s Folklore track “Seven,” and which poems Swift references on tracks like “The Albatross” — are bringing a renewed sense of community among those who are enjoying the album.

Those detective-level abilities are a byproduct of Swift herself, who has intentionally left Easter eggs throughout her career, from secret messages in her album booklets to hidden clues about her upcoming projects. As Tortured Poets faces criticism, it’s only natural that their shared passion brings her most dedicated fans even closer.

Keeping Up With The Lore

Taylor Swift performs on the Eras Tour on Feb. 16 in Melbourne, Australia.Graham Denholm/TAS24/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Notably, Swift wrote Tortured Poets for herself, telling the crowd at a February Eras Tour stop in Melbourne, Australia, that songwriting became a more important outlet for her than ever before.

“This new one, Tortured Poets, is an album that I think more than any of my albums that I’ve ever made — I needed to make it,” she said. “It was really a lifeline for me, just the things I was going through, the things I was writing about. It kind of reminded me of why songwriting is something that like actually gets me through my life.”

As a result, Swift filled the album not just with nods to her own personal life but also references to poetry, historical figures, and even football (she is dating a Super Bowl champion, after all). While the album’s topics of love, loss, anger, and grief are universal, Tortured Poets adds many stories and theories to the Swift “lore,” which may be off-putting to casual fans who don’t have time to learn about it all.

However, you could make a case that Swift’s new album — and all its literary references and scholarly details — is a good entry point for new fans who want to uncover her inspirations and relate to the music like the OG Swifties. Because no matter how annoying us hardcore fans may be with our never-ending theories and lyric deep dives, we’re also supplying all the material you need to fully relish in the emotional highs and lows of this Swiftian world.