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Taylor Swift shows no mercy


Who is torturing whom here? I’m so sorry. It’s not the freshest highlight from Swift’s mammoth new double album, but mind you, after listening to 19 of the 31 tracks on Friday morning through headphones, my phone froze, as if it Just like voluntarily. By the third act of this two-hour hostage situation, I was hoping the overall mood might improve, but the desperation was evident when I found the charger and heard the lyrics, “My friends used to play A game where we would choose a decade we wish we could live in…I’d say the 1830s, but without the racists.

A ubiquitous presence in 21st-century pop music, Swift remains ruthlessly prolific and unwilling to edit for length, which makes this extended version of her new album, “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology,” feel tragic and deep No bottom. It’s surprising how much of this pain is intentional. In stark contrast to her time in the public eye—the highest-grossing concert tour in human history; the highest-grossing concert movie; Swift’s new ballad is a sour drama that focuses on the wronged and troubled Memory, the lyrics are full of clumsy, complicated, samey, purple and vulgar feelings. There are song titles as fiery as distress flares (“I Hate Here”) and lyrics as waxy as Freudian slips (“I know I’m just repeating myself”), and plenty of mellow, slow The – catchy melody – written by Swift, Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner and Patrick Berger – does little to help her lyrics. As she unloads the last item from her vault of grievances, it’s hard for the sentient listener not to want to reciprocate.

That said, does this album finally give us, as a society, permission to say that Swift isn’t a great lyricist? Sometimes, she can do it, but greatness is not a part-time job, and the thinness of her words can make the emotion of greatness feel hollow. Plus, the emotionally charged subjects of these mid-tempo flashbacks all sound like they’re genuinely creepy. “At dinner, you take my ring off my middle finger and put it on people who wear wedding rings,” the most famous songwriter of her generation sings on her album’s title track, “that’s the closest I get to myself. A place for wedding rings. OMG. In “Manuscript,” she sings in the third person, describing a flame who once “said if sex was half as good as talking, soon they’d be pushing a pram.” . During “I Can Fix Him (No, I Really Can),” she charms some imaginary bad boy, describing how “his hands, calloused from his pistol, gently moved on me ‘s face painted with a heart shape’ – this must be pretty close to what you see when you ask ChatGPT to write a Lana Del Rey hook. To further show her maturity, Swift uses embarrassing, relentless profanity in many of these songs, sounding like a child testing out her illegal new vocabulary in hopes of convincing more people to believe her Actually 34 years old.

Her music has no problem treading the precipice of introspection— Well, why would I want to live in slavery if I wasn’t All of this goes into the slavery part? Hey, why didn’t I puke when that guy played his embarrassing boxing game? — but Swift almost always retreats into the shallow, dulling her ideas with reflexive platitudes. Lightning in a bottle. Wrinkles appear in time. Ships were abandoned or sunk. It’s best to make a plan. My heart is cold, cold. The script was flipped. Poison is picked. To spice things up, she likes to tweak certain words in rote figures of speech or graft them onto more dramatic phrases until a full line starts to resemble cathartic teenage poetry. “They say what doesn’t kill you, will make you aware of,she sings on “Cassandra,” a piano ballad that sways vaguely in the direction of Tori Amos. (Please hang in there.) “Old habits fade away scream,” she sang excitedly in “Black Dog.”On “Loml,” she feels “than optimistic,” but ultimately makes “our dream realm sad Devoured by fire.In “How Did It End,” she flips the old playground marriage ditty so that she’s “sitting in a tree, about to die.

enough. These deeply embarrassing combinations of words are meant to serve an even more embarrassing narrative: the childish idea that the most famous singer alive should be pitied for feeling sad and aggrieved living alone on the top of her mountain of money. We should all do our best to forget the manipulative loser posturing that Swift refuses to give up on every album, especially when there’s something truly tragic gleaned from all of these songs, and almost all of Swift’s previous songs. When it feels like it—Swift traded adulthood for superstar status.

From the age of 17 she was no longer an unknown, and much of her horizons seemed to stop there in terms of her art. This helps explain why at least three songs on this double album take place on a playground; and why another is set at a high school party (the sexiest lyrics of her career sound like an AI-generated Lana cult : “You know how to play, I know Aristotle…touch me when your brother plays Grand Theft Auto”). This is perhaps why her songs rely so heavily on fictional concepts of destiny, prophecy, and destiny. She didn’t live a normal life. She doesn’t make normal choices. Everything in her creative and professional world happens at epic heights that are incomprehensible and impossible to descend. Where are the deeply sad songs about all of this?

And, who cares what I want? you are a middle aged manyou mean, This music doesn’t suit you. The first part is true. But I think pop music is for everyone. You’re here, I’m here, I’m writing, you’re reading, and together we are in a life of listening, hoping that the most widely circulated music in our lifetimes might be more imaginative and less self-obsessed. We’re long overdue for a Swift album that’s even remotely curious about the world she rules.


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