Taylor Swift’s new album lacks uniqueness

By Elijah Nevlin

Taylor Swift published a new batch of pages from her private diary in the form of her newest album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” which she released on April 19. Riding the wave of the massively successful Eras Tour, Swift’s newest record saw more anticipation than any of her previous albums. Or at least, it was supposed to. 

From the day she announced the album in February, the hype train always seemed to be low on steam. Whether that could be attributed to the cautious optimism resulting from her lackluster previous album “Midnights,” the embarrassing album title or the equally embarrassing song titles, including “But Daddy I Love Him” and “Down Bad,” is up for debate. Critical Swift fans entered her newest era with trepidation.

When the clock struck midnight, fans flocked to streaming services to listen to Swift’s latest work and breathed a collective sigh of relief: the album was not entirely terrible. However, it’s not spectacular either. It feels like it just exists. 

The world would not lose anything if “The Tortured Poets Department” were not to exist; we gain nothing from its release. The songs dance between one genre and another while invoking little emotion and generating minimal thought. 

From the album’s opener “Fortnight,” a Post Malone collaboration, the album is devoid of identity. The quiet, lifeless song would probably be better without Malone’s voice. Swift’s distinct songwriting style that garnered her unthinkable levels of success is seemingly absent in an attempt to ape Lana Del Rey to an uncanny degree.

Swift has never necessarily been a happy artist in terms of lyrics, yet when revisiting some of her classic albums like “Speak Now” and “1989,” Swift’s special talent is clearly an ability to make misery fun. Fan favorites, such as “Out of the Woods,” “The Story of Us” and even her most recent hit “Cruel Summer,” are all lyrically negative. However, each one is loud and energetic, commanding a stadium of 70,000 people to sing and dance with enough energy to move mountains.

Where “The Tortured Poets Department” falls flattest is that the songs are simply not fun. Swift’s typical high energy, charisma-oozing vocal performances are largely gone in favor of songs that sound ready-made for department stores. These quiet songs never get louder and the misery never gets a release.

There are a few songs that sound like they were supposed to have energy. “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” feels like the audio equivalent of “Weekend at Bernie’s.” Off-sounding instrumental and cutting-edge lyrics from a true poet such as “I’m so depressed, I act like it’s my birthday every day,” help turn this song into one of Swift’s worst.

Other low points include the ugly Florence and the Machine collaboration “Florida!!!” and the absolutely hollow four minutes of “Down Bad.”

By Rashe Mishra

The album does have some highlights. The still questionably-named “But Daddy I Love Him” is fantastic. Every aforementioned complaint goes to the wayside with this song, whose energy and emotion, lyrics and country-tinged instrumentation are done perfectly. Swift factors humor, sorrow, sarcasm, anger and pure joy into just under six minutes, all while her vocals soar over the music.

The majority of the album exists between these two extremes. Some songs are pleasant to listen to, others not as much, but most of them make me forget I’m listening to music at all. In what I can only imagine was a calculated attempt from a marketing team to appeal to as many people as possible, Swift created an album that only appeals to the subconscious. Most of these songs are not worth discussion because they provide nothing to discuss. 

There is no unique sound to “The Tortured Poets Department.” There is no unique anything. As someone who got swept into “Swiftmania” over the past year and became a huge Swift fan myself, this album does nothing for me. I wouldn’t say I am disappointed because that would mean this album evoked an emotional response.

Taylor Swift is too big to fail, which also means she is apparently too big to make appealing music anymore or try new things. If Swift wasn’t already a product to be bought and sold, she certainly is now. Fans of consumerism will find great joy in “The Tortured Poets Department,” but fans of music will not.

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