May 22, 2024

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Taylor Swift's new album, 'Tortured Poets Oath', could use an editor: review

Taylor Swift's new album, 'Tortured Poets Oath', could use an editor: review

this songStill, it's one of the album's best — a resounding collaboration with pop wizard Florence Welch, which blows in like a gust of fresh air and allows Swift to harness a more theatrical, dynamic aesthetic. “Guilty as sin?” Another beautiful entry, this is the rare Antonoff production that frames Swift's voice not in hard electronics but in a '90s soft rock vibe. In these tracks in particular, unmistakable Swiftian imagery emerges: “a messy kiss on the upper lip” of an imaginary lover, and 30-something friends “all smelling like weed or toddlers.”

It wouldn't be a Swift album without a frenetic, out-of-proportion revenge song, and there's one here called doozy “Who's afraid of me little one?” Who radiates discontent on a large, prosperous canvas. Given Swift's enormous cultural power, and the fact that she's deftly played with humor and sarcasm elsewhere in her catalog, it's surprising she didn't offer this (required) wink.

Many great artists are driven by feelings of belittlement, and have had to find new targets for their wrath once they became too successful to convincingly claim underdog status. Beyoncé, who had reached a similar moment in her career, chose to look outward. On her latest release, “Cowboy Carter,” she takes aim at the music industry’s remaining racist traditionalists and the idea of ​​genre as a means of confinement or restriction.

Swift's new project stays focused on her inner world. The villains in Tortured Poets Oath are a few lesser-known exes, and unexpectedly Sam “But my father loved him.” “Wine Mums” and “Sarah and Hannah at their Sunday best” who stick their tongues out at the narrator’s dating decisions. (Some might speculate that these are actually snapshots of her fans.) “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” may be the most satisfying breakup song Swift has written since “All Too Well,” but it's built on a power imbalance that's undeniably gone. Is the conflict between the smallest man and the largest woman in the world considered a fair battle?

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This is a complex question that Swift was perhaps more eager to resolve on “Midnights,” an uneven LP that nevertheless finds Swift asking deeper, more challenging questions about gender, power, and adult femininity than she does here. It is at the expense of Tortured Poets Oath that a certain fascination with fairy tales creeps into Swift's lyricism. It focuses almost uniquely on the redemption of romantic love; I tried to tally how many songs made longing references to wedding rings and ran out of fingers. Ultimately, this perspective makes the album feel a bit tight, lacking the depth and taut structure of her best work.

Swift has been promoting this poetry-themed album with hand-written lyrics, library-backed compositions, and even an outro written in verse. The obvious love of language and fascination with the ways in which words connect in rhyme is certainly evident throughout Swift's writing. But poetry is not a marketing strategy or even an aesthetic one, but rather a complete way of looking at the world and its language, turning them upside down in search of new meanings and possibilities. It's also an art form, which often goes against the ruling principle of Swift's current empire, less is more.