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Taylor Swifts New Album Isn't The Greatest Thing Ever. It's Not Even Her Greatest Ever. It's Just Fine, And There's Nothing Wrong With That.

Taylor Swift's latest musical endeavor, The Tortured Poets Department might have been better titled The Labored Prose Department. Again, we find Taylor in the throes of yet another sonic identity crisis, desperately clinging to the coattails of Jack Antonoff’s now-predictable synth-pop, which, much like a high school boyfriend, has overstayed his welcome. The album kicks off with a series of tracks that wrestle with being catchy and end up pinned under the weight of their own strained metaphors. 

Yes, Taylor, we get it, life is tough even when you're insanely, insanely rich.


Now if you come to Barstool Sports to get your news and musical suggestions (then God save your soul), then you would believe that The Tortured Poets Department is the greatest thing to ever happen to music. 

Hell, if you don't even read the blog and only follow our fearless leader you'd believe that.


In a bold move that screams "I'm not out of ideas," halfway through, Taylor pivoted to Aaron Dessner's production, which feels flavorless. Dessner tries to inject some depth with his trademark understated style, but it's like throwing a life jacket to someone drowning in their own verbosity. (Sidebar - the definition of verbose is using or expressed in more words than are needed.. Kind of like my blogs. But no, have you ever heard of a word that more aptly describes an artist before?) The second part of the album, dubbed "The Anthology," pretends to redeem the first, but instead continues the lyrical meandering with a touch more poetic flair. But in all fairness, it is definitely the better of the two. 

If you did happen to read Kelly Keegs' blogs, you'd have thought Taylor Swift had to have fallen off or something since she released Midnights two years ago. Because we were told then that it was her greatest work of all time. Just as we were told the albums before that FolkloreIEvermore were her best of all time. 

Within ten minutes of the album dropping on late Thursday night, Rolling Stone had a full-length review out, calling the album a 10/10. Social media quickly followed in declaring this a msterpiece. 

To me, it's far from a bad album. But it's equally as far from her greatest work. And as the title of my blog states. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

But there is something wrong with holding somebody in such unrealistically high esteem that they could shit in your mouth and you'd tell them it tastes like Dairy Queen, like fans do with Taylor now. They're not even prisoners of the moment in so much as they appear to be in some bizarre form of competition over who can prove to everybody else that they love Taylor the most. 

(Yes, I just typed that above sentence as a grown man who wore this shirt when I showed up to meet her backstage a while back. Don't careeee.)


Lyrically, Swift abandoned the tight storytelling and the crisp narratives that once enchanted millions for something that resembles poetic refrigerator magnets. In her quest for emotional complexity, she stumbles into comical simplicity. Songs meander and drag us through landscapes overflowing so bad with clichés they should come with a machete to hack through the hyperbole. For a project so loftily titled, one would hope for lines that don't sound like they were inspired by a late-night, wine-fueled Pinterest session. (Maybe this is why Swift resonates so loudly with the single 30-something-year-old female crowd?) 

But I will say, give me Antonoff's or Dessner's production under Swift's monotone vocals, and I'll take Dessner's every time now. Dessner attempted to salvage what he could with his trademark subtlety, but it's like to offering a band-aid to someone who's already bled out poetically. 

My sister is furious with me and exchanged more texts than she has in the past 5 years with me this weekend because I told her I thought this album was, as the kids say, "mid." She's telling me I'm a moron who can't appreciate the level of Swift's writing and that this isn't a stereotypical music album because, "it's poetry". When people argue you that you just don't enjoy something because you're not deep enough to understand it, then you know they're gasping for air. 

Guys, there's a lyric on this album that I'm sure you've already heard plenty about. And if you haven't yet this weekend, trust me you will this week when it becomes a talking point on all the shows. 

""My friends used to play a game where we would pick a decade we wished we could live in instead of this / I'd say the 1830s but without all the racists and getting married off for the highest bid," - "I Hate It Here"

She landed Florence fucking Welch for a collaboration on this album and completely wasted her on a track called "Florida". (Seriously?)

""I need to forget, so take me to Florida / I've got some regrets, I'll bury them in Florida / Tell me I'm despicable, say it's unforgivable / At least the dolls are beautiful, fuck me up, Florida," - "Florida"

BUT - for all its pretensions and missteps, The Tortured Poets Department is still a cut above the rest, proving that even Taylor Swift’s B-sides are better than 99% of the music flooding our playlists today. Popular music is in such a state of despair, that even Taylor's mediocre songs are still standouts in the ocean of dogshit that's coming out on a daily basis. 

Even when she stumbles she is still running laps around the competition.

Which is exactly what I said on twitter the other night while listening to it the first time through. I was crucified. 


Folklore was an INCREDIBLE album. 

But we already hear that style and those songs 4 years ago. Why are we going back to that well again? It's dry.

I was told by Kelly that all of my musical credibility, something I thought I had a decent amount of prior, was effectively gone. 

Kelly just doesn't like me because she's jealous that Taylor and her mom, know I exist. 

(Sidebar - remember the days where we could have differing opinions and when we heard them we didn't immediately write somebody off, cancel them, or totally discount what they had to say? When we weren't terrified to voice a differing opinion because of the way people react now? Those were good fucking times and it'd be great to get back to that. Where you could have a civil and respectful debate, and actually teach/learn something from a different perspective or point of view. I digress…)


I asked that if any of Taylor's songs actually stunk, like really bad like Sexxy Red bad, would any of her fans admit it? 

I honestly don't think so. They love the smell of her farts so much, that you can't even dare ask. 

Giphy Images.

To me, this album is like like a well-meaning but slightly awkward party guest. You know your buddy who's not the smoothest with the ladies, or the gents, his stories go on rambling and never really get there, and he gets more talkative as he gets more drinks in him? Well, as aggravating and tuned out you get towards him, guess who your very first pick for 2 am beer pong is going to be? That guy because he's dependable and still going strong into the wee hours of the morning. 

This isn’t Swift's magnum opus. And it doesn't need to be. It’s perfectly fine that this isn’t her greatest work. In fact, I'll go so far as saying that it’s refreshing to see an artist embrace imperfection on such a grand scale. Swift's willingness to explore and experiment (though not sonically), even if it leads to a few lyrical faceplants, is commendable. Here’s to hoping her next release scales back the tortured poetics and leans into the kind of raw, unfiltered creativity that can reforge her sound for the better. Tell Jack Antonoff to take a vacation Taylor and switch up the production. Give us some of your range. Belt out something with passion in the way you sing it, not just the lyrics. Push the boundaries! 

I'm full from the albums I need a decoder book, magnifying glass, and dictionary to listen to. Give us something catchy, that will also make our ears perk up.


p.s. - In all seriousness Kelly did the best job reviewing the new album, song by song, line by line, that I have found anywhere on the internet. You guys knocking her for how obsessed she is and the lengths she goes to to devour every bit of information involving her favorite subject should also be knocking Old Balls Thornton for being even more obsessed with the Patriots than Kelly is with Taylor. It's the same exact thing when you really think of it. Don't believe me? Pull up one of Jerry's Monday Morning recap blogs and from like week 7 or something and compare it to this.