Acoustic Sounds

Taylor Swift

The Tortured Poets Department



Taylor Swift - The Tortured Poets Department

Label: Republic Records

Produced By: Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner

Engineered By: Laura Sisk, Oli Jacobs, others

Mixed By: Serban Ghenea

Mastered By: Randy Merrill at Sterling Sound, Edgewater

Lacquers Cut By: Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound, Nashville

By: Malachi Lui

April 26th, 2024



Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’: Perversely Fascinating, Subtly Disastrous

Failures at this level are rare. Enjoy them when they happen.

Social scientists will likely spend years analyzing Taylor Swift’s retained meteoric success, but the primary cause seems very simple: pure narcissism. Swift’s music is almost entirely about her, from her perspective only; in both her music and her public presence, those around her (lovers, friends, enemies) are secondary to her and how she feels, their proximity or distance meant to prove something favorable about her. In the age of main character syndrome, Swift’s portrayal of herself undoubtedly attracts this parasocial connection. She’s a “simple girl” who controls her own narrative, and just like her masses of fans, makes everything about her. She acts as an eternal underdog who can do no wrong, insisting that everyone else has wronged her.

Swift’s narcissism and its resulting public obsession has transformed into its own economy, one significant enough to have legitimate impact on actual, practical economies. Fans act like her products and performances are as essential as oxygen (a $45 empty slipcase for her vinyl variants sold out immediately), while international embassies hope that ensuring her speedy private jet travel will make their antiquated institutions relevant to “the kids.” Taylor Swift already came from an upper class upbringing, but has now become something else entirely: the first billionaire musician who got there without selling sneakers or alcohol.

At this point, she could easily take a rest, but she’s cranking out more product than ever. As such, her new album The Tortured Poets Department arrives merely 18 months after 2022’s Midnights, as the latest excuse for her continual media overexposure. It’s been absolutely impossible to get a break from her; since the 2020 pandemic releases folklore and evermore (and arguably 2019’s Lover), she hasn’t gone a calendar year without at least one new album or major back catalog re-recording. Of course, that’s only scratching the surface: there’s also the Eras Tour, the Eras Tour concert video (despite a theatrical release, it seems too lazy for the distinction of concert film), her relationship drama all over tabloids and Twitter, controversy about her private jet’s carbon emissions (and the lawsuit that only makes her look worse for it), and heightened questioning about her interactions or aggressions towards other pop stars. Get off the internet, turn on the TV, and she’s still there, getting drunk at the Super Bowl with her racial diversity friend Ice Spice.

Isn’t everyone exhausted by now?

Despite the small but growing minority of fans slowly rejecting her—scroll through r/SwiftlyNeutral for more of that—Taylor Swift is the last holdover of a dying monoculture, with no one to replace her. As social media splinters the music industry (and celebrity culture at large) into smaller pockets of intense fandom, Taylor Swift’s advantage is that she already attracted unified swaths of fans before they split off into smaller consumer demographics. Therefore, nearly everyone seems to be a Taylor Swift fan, or at least listener, to some extent. Her unseen level of fame lets her live in bubble of her own creation, doing whatever she wants and forcing everyone to accept every little detail of it. But of course, people will eventually get tired, especially when the music begins to suffer.

…Which brings us to The Tortured Poets Department, an especially narcissistic record completely detached from reality. Taylor Swift is already on thin ice; most artists who debuted in the mid 2000s are naturally fading from peak relevance, and while she still has unparalleled fame, TTPD’s rollout has been precarious. At this year’s Grammys, she announced the album during an acceptance speech for Midnights, adding “music’s biggest night” to the list of “Taylor Swift’s biggest nights.” Reinforced by a terrible album title (rich people have feelings too, but no billionaire can be “tortured,” and she’s not much of a “poet”) and embarrassing song names like “But Daddy I Love Him” and “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can),” The Tortured Poets Department is an unprecedented disaster, a grave miscalculation at a time when Swift can’t afford it. And that’s before you get into the four physical variants with different bonus tracks and the extra 15 songs tacked onto the already 65-minute digital album. Taylor fatigue has officially set in; it’s only downhill from here.

With folklore and evermore, Swift asserted, even confirmed herself as a Serious Artist worthy of close critical study; media outlets complied, if only because it provides a steady stream of agreeable content. Since then, however, Swift’s music has more than ever become a vehicle to explain her personal life. Actual musical substance now seems secondary to the relationship drama she’s always mined, which on TTPD comes to the fore. This album is painfully reliant on her personal life, almost requiring the tabloid context that her team rigorously engineers. Swift positions this as her Blood On The Tracks or Blue, not realizing that listeners don’t need to know about Dylan’s divorce or Joni Mitchell’s breakup with Graham Nash to appreciate those respective albums. Instead, Tortured Poets is word vomit over background wallpaper, lacking a centerpiece like “Idiot Wind” or anything as cutting as “Carey” or “The Last Time I Saw Richard.” If anything, Swift’s album is closer to Robin Thicke’s Paula (itself similar to Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear), where the R&B singer desperately tried to win back his wife, only to give her more reason to hasten the divorce.

There’s a line between critical analysis and parasocial conjecture, but The Tortured Poets Department makes it impossible to not speculate. Swift’s specificity leaves nothing in question about the lyrics’ who, what, where, or when, and it certainly sounds autobiographical. Really, it demands an autobiographical reading, because Swift comes across so unflattering when obviously writing about a particular recent relationship. This album is easily her most verbose work, spilling details as she halfheartedly emulates another, much better songwriter. In fact, this individual looms over the majority of TTPD, and if you interpret everything the way Swift wants you to, many songs are even about him.

Yes, The Tortured Poets Department is mostly about Matty Healy: genius provocateur, deserved egomaniac, insecure pseudointellectual, chronically online shitposter, friend to every Dimes Square podcast personality, magnetic frontman of The 1975, greatest songwriter of his generation… and ex-boyfriend of Taylor Swift. Healy, for all of his wordy pretentiousness, knows exactly when to build up his ego, then puncture it and cast doubt on his artistic and intellectual legitimacy. On The 1975’s five stylistically schizophrenic masterpieces, this works gloriously as he carefully observes himself and the world around him. And it is Matty Healy whose writing style Taylor Swift strives to match.

Swift and Healy had a (publicly) brief fling last year, yet rarely has Swift’s music seemed so explicitly fixated on one person. There are songs about the pre- and post-Healy relationships (a quiet, years-long relationship with actor Joe Alwyn and her current romance with football player Travis Kelce), but they’re not as passionate and obsessive as the ones about Healy. He is the “tattooed golden retriever” on the title track, the one where “the jokes that he told across the bar were revolting and far too loud” on “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can).” The latter even has a direct allusion to The 1975’s “Roadkill:” Swift’s “the dopamine races through his brain on a six-lane Texas highway” recalls Healy’s “well I pissed myself on a Texan intersection.” The opening line of “Guilty As Sin?” is more effective than actually mentioning his name, as Swift sings, “Drowning in The Blue Nile/He sent me ‘Downtown Lights’/I hadn’t heard it in a while.” Healy is known to love The Blue Nile, and at one point brilliantly plagiarized “The Downtown Lights” for himself.

Admittedly, only the most rabid 1975 fans could notice many of these parallels. I would know, as I’ve seen the band twice and even camped out at 4:45 AM for one of their shows (and would do it again in a heartbeat). Without getting conspiratorial, the stories on Tortured Poets appear to span a decade: from Swift and Healy’s initial entanglement and subsequent dissociation during Healy’s addiction days (bonus track “Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus”), to Swift’s revived infatuation after the Alwyn relationship (“Fresh Out The Slammer,” with lyrics like “Now pretty baby I’m runnin’ back home to you/Fresh out the slammer, I know who my first call will be to”), the resulting public controversy (“But Daddy I Love Him”), the unceremonious ending (“loml” or “loss of my life”), and the immediate rebound (“The Alchemy,” full of terrible football references).

And throughout many of these songs, Swift gives a sense that she harbors discreet jealousy towards Healy’s writing skills. She won’t beat him at his game—she wins in basic word count but sorely loses in ideological density—but she adopts his characteristic quotation marks and big words (with extremely unnatural lyrics like “sanctimoniously performing soliloquies I’ll never see”) and uses the minimum required amount of ego-bursting self-deprecation. Unfortunately, the title track’s refrain, “You’re not Dylan Thomas/And I’m not Patti Smith/This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel, we’re modern idiots” is the closest she can get. It’s still nowhere near Healy’s lyrics on “Part Of The Band” or “The Sound.” Swift’s line proves nothing more than the steep decline in media literacy, as multiple outlets rushed to poorly explain the Dylan Thomas/Patti Smith line. (And c’mon Taylor, why not pick two bohemian creatives who lived in the same time period, how hard is it?!) Matty Healy’s occasional clunkiness is that of someone with too many thoughts to express (check out 2016’s gloriously messy “Loving Someone”), while Swift’s clunkiness is that of drunken first drafts passed off as a final product. “At dinner you take my ring off/My middle finger and put it on the one/People put wedding rings on,” goes yet another clumsy line from TTPD’s title track.

Such lyrical obsession over a superior but less popular songwriter puts Swift in an odd position; she’s got more fame, power, and money than Matty Healy (even if he’s doing quite well for himself), but she doesn’t say anything to damage her career. In fact, I’d argue that Swift’s maniacal focus on him only makes him look even better, because rarely do we see such a prominent public figure lose their mind this much over one person. TTPD isn’t as outwardly unhinged as Kanye’s still-unfinished divorce breakdown Donda 2, though these albums are a lot closer than most people would comfortably admit.

Taylor Swift is carefully media-coached and respected by basically everyone and their great-grandmother, while Matty Healy is an outspoken, contentious figure. She plays to sold-out sports stadiums worldwide, while The 1975 plays to packed arenas overseas but half-empty venues in most of America. However, there’s an even deeper clash between the two’s respective cultural orbits. Swift barely gives interviews and gets attention with her mere presence, while Healy gives loads of interviews, often revising statements in real-time and not shying from controversy. The latter got him in trouble early last year based on a hilarious, appallingly misunderstood appearance on The Adam Friedland Show, a post-left comedy podcast of white dudes taking the piss.

Swifties, believing that they’re “helping” Taylor herself, thought that Healy was actually a perverted racist and ruthlessly attacked him. On “loml,” she accuses Healy of ghosting her, but perhaps it’s the negative attention from Swift’s fans made him run for the hills (in that case, who could blame him?). Whatever the real story, Taylor Swift stayed completely silent over Healy’s revived podcast controversy, but now claims on the country-tinged “But Daddy I Loved Him” that she refused to “cater to all these vipers dressed in empath’s clothing” and, in a flashback, asserts, “I know he’s crazy but he’s the one I want.”

Considering the rest of The Tortured Poets Department, Swift doesn’t seem to realize how actively she displays repellant character defects with zero self-criticism. If she really cared about her relationship with Healy, couldn’t she have said or done something to curb her fans’ excessive behavior, which they think is in her benefit? Even cursory observation of Healy’s music and public remarks eliminates any possibility he would assimilate to her (mainstream, basic, generally apolitical) world, but she didn’t cross over to his, either—no podcast episode with socially confused, semi-ironically racist bohemian layabouts.

This goes back to the narcissism: if Swift wants Tortured Poets to so strongly rely on her publicly displayed personal life, the contradictions between her lyrical portrayal of this relationship (romantic, yearning, maybe entrancingly destructive) and her public behavior while it actually happened (letting him be villianized for weeks) make her seem completely deranged. The hyperfixation on the relationship or person isn’t the problem. Rather, it’s her fundamental inability to understand the compromises of healthy human interaction, all while she still paints herself as the victim in her own mess. If she wants listeners’ sympathy, she has to take responsibility for her role in these stories, because there’s no way that only the other side is wrong. There’s a difference between establishing one’s agency and pure blame shifting; Swift indulges in the latter but passes it off as the former, and it makes her look bad. And to her fans, she looks even crazier for writing so much about a man they viciously dislike.

Not that there’s anyone to tell her that, of course. Taylor Swift has cultivated an environment similar to Christianity, except it’s more like everyone worshipping Jesus and treating him like their everyday bestie. Fans have no shame cutting off their friends whose opinions on Swift don’t align, like this Swiftie quoted in The Cut: “[My friend] couldn’t fathom the impact Taylor Swift has on my life, and I couldn’t ignore her lack of understanding and support. Taylor Swift has remained a constant source of comfort and understanding, while my friend has become a distant memory.” Swift fills her social and professional circles with blind disciples like Jack Antonoff, who says that questioning her songwriting “is like challenging someone’s faith in God. You just don’t go there.” Taylor Nation, a fan outreach branch of her management and PR team, boasted about the recent streaming accomplishments of “Shakespeare herself.”

Marketing hype and outright delusion might as well be the same thing now, because even the Shakespeare-ambivalent would be offended by that comparison. Most of The Tortured Poets Department’s lyrics are pure garbage. There’s the title track’s “You smoked then ate seven bars of chocolate/We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist.” How stoned would you have to be to think that the guy who sang, “Let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on” should be more relevant? There’s the absurd, poorly articulated part of bonus track “I Hate It Here:” “My friends/Used to play a game where/We would pick a decade/We wish 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.” Weren’t those the defining characteristics of the 1830s? Then what’s the desirable part? Other lyrics sound as if written in a middle school poetry elective, like “I would’ve died for your sins/Instead I just died inside/And you deserve prison/But you won’t get time” (“The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”). Or “You know how to ball/I know Aristotle” (bonus track “So High School,” which compared to the rest of the project is a heavenly breath of fresh air). And some lines are just dull, and don’t sound convincing coming from Taylor Swift. “Now I’m down bad crying at the gym” (“Down Bad”), says the woman who recently locked everyone outside of a gym and must have a miserable life when she steps into the steam room at Equinox.

Not everything is awful, but Tortured Poets is still the most insignificant Taylor Swift record in a three-year string of them. Past the first two songs and some of the bonus tracks, there’s a dearth of memorable melodies or actual hooks; everything blends into 65 minutes of predictable, homogenous mush. Relative to this, the rote and redundant Midnights sounds fresh and innovative—at least that record had “Karma” and “Vigilante Shit.” TTPD’s sonic palette, courtesy of returning producers Jack Antonoff and The National's Aaron Dessner, blends folklore and evermore’s organic instrumentation with Midnights’ muted electronics, but still becomes wallpaper. The more suffocating of Antonoff’s contributions sound as if he made them whilst asleep using a DAW template left over from Lorde’s “Supercut,” while the better moments sound like C-tier Lana Del Rey scraps. Dessner’s productions are less consistently insufferable, but nonetheless quickly get boring.

There are a few songs that aren’t so mind-numbingly static, but even those have jarring transitions (“Florida!!!”) or glacial buildups with no emotional impact (“Who’s Afraid Of Little Old Me?”). “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart,” the core album’s only upbeat synthpop track, randomly lapses into a chorus that sounds like a Carly Rae Jepsen song. Actual featured artists—Post Malone on opener and lead single “Fortnight” and Florence Welch on “Florida!!!”—barely provide any meaningful textural contrast (though Welch succeeds a bit better). Overall, there’s no musicality, just backgrounds for Swift’s rambling. Knowing that it’d be equally effective as an audiobook adds to The Tortured Poets Department’s failure as an album of music. (The digital “bonus disc,” known as The Anthology, isn’t as glaringly bad as the proper album, but it’s awfully boring. By the time you get halfway through it, you’re already burnt out.)

The Tortured Poets Department will inevitably sell millions of copies, but that doesn’t matter; Taylor Swift could release her own Metal Machine Music with overdubbed farts and it’d still go multiplatinum. In the long run, however, this will tremendously backfire on her. The last thing the world needed this soon was more new Taylor Swift music, and regardless of the mass-media outlets who’ve given it glowing reviews, it already looks like a Be Here Now-type situation where critics are terrified of looking out of touch. But it’s Swift who’s miserably out of touch, and once the mass delusion of her excellence cracks a bit more—likely in a couple months from now, when everyone realizes how bland and tediously bloated Tortured Poets is—her reputation will crash like never before. Don’t be surprised if she never again reaches her 2023 heights. More than anything else, this album clarifies that what she needs right now isn’t a new relationship with a football player. Instead, she might do better with therapy, rehab, and SLAA meetings.

The Vinyl Edition

As expected, The Tortured Poets Department comes with four main vinyl variants, each with their own artwork, vinyl colors, and different bonus tracks (the CD variants use the same strategy). The idea is that everyone spends nearly $200 to get all the extra songs, except the full bonus disc will eventually get its own vinyl release at some point or another. It’s easy money for work that’s already done.

Randy Merrill mastered the digital releases at Sterling Sound in Edgewater, NJ, while Ryan Smith at Sterling’s Nashville facility mastered the vinyl edition (some variants cut solely by him, others cut in collaboration with Joe Nino-Hernes). Pressing duties were split between Optimal in Germany and Vantiva in Mexico. I got the standard weight “ghosted” white vinyl (standard cover, with “The Manuscript” as the bonus track) pressed at Optimal. The pressing has some very minor surface noise, though both discs were reasonably flat and centered.

Despite a printed vinyl mastering credit and how it implies a separately prepared vinyl master, the LP still sounds compressed. That’s clearly a result of mixing engineer Serban Ghenea drenching the individual mix elements with tons of compression, as well as his method of delivering his mixes with a limiter already printed on. Therefore, the album can only sound so dynamic, though Merrill’s 48kHz/24bit digital master is far from slammed and Ghenea’s mix sounds good for what it is. Still, the vinyl sounds more claustrophobic than the digital master, rendering the production more congealed as Swift’s vocals are noticeably pushed forward.

While it doesn’t sound like a $40-50 record should, the packaging is indeed very nice. All variants have printed inner sleeves and a direct-to-board gatefold jacket with a full-size 24-page booklet glued in. The booklet weighs down the jacket structure (a tip-on jacket would hold up better), but it still feels luxurious to flip through. In addition to lyrics and photos, there’s an “introductory poem” by Stevie Nicks. It’s either a simple case of women supporting other women, or just another microaggression towards Matty Healy. Regardless, Taylor Swift will never write anything nearly as great as “Silver Springs.”

And of course, we can’t overlook Swift’s own “summary poem” at the end of the booklet. An excerpt:

“And so I was out of the oven

And into the microwave

Out of the slammer and into a tidal wave

How gallant to save the empress

from her gilded tower

Swinging a sword he could barely lift

But loneliness struck at that fateful hour

Low hanging fruit on his wine stained lips

He never even scratched the surface

of me.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the “tortured poetry” of “Shakespeare herself!” Good fucking grief, I want my money back. Time to wear my The 1975 t-shirt and listen to “The Downtown Lights” about 300 times to clear out the stink of this record… because at the end of the day, The Tortured Poets Department is one of the most exhausting records I’ve ever listened to.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: 602458933314

Pressing Plant: Optimal Media


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 140 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: Digital Master

Presentation: Multi LP


  • 2024-04-27 12:33:35 AM

    Silk Dome Mid wrote:

    I somehow know nothing of Ms. Swift's music, just her public persona, but I love the review. When I saw that this was to be a double album with a ton of variants I thought "she's cashing in, her time must be nearly up".

  • 2024-04-27 12:46:39 AM

    Steven N Thomas wrote:

    Finally someone willing to confirm that the Empress has no clothes. The songs ARE all about Taylor and they sound all the same. No one needs to purchase this album.

  • 2024-04-27 01:49:09 AM

    Anton wrote:

    Many moons ago, a music review magazine or Hi Fi magazine gave their classical music reviewer an early Peter Gabriel album to review. He gave it a zero. His criticism was that there was no overreaching story, no coherence from song to song, no clever modification or restatement of motifs, and its format was incomprehensible. He was annoyed by Mr. Gabriel’s apparent lack of vocal training, saying that Peter would probably get booed off the stage at Teatro Alla Scala.

    Was he right? Maybe. Or, maybe he wasn’t the right person for the job.

    I couldn’t name a Taylor Swift song, don’t have any of records, but, horses for courses.

    • 2024-04-27 04:30:41 AM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      it's worth saying that there are two taylor albums i really like: '1989' (original) and 'folklore'. she's capable of making a great record. this just isn't one of them.

    • 2024-04-27 04:30:54 AM

      Chris Harr wrote:

      "Or, maybe he wasn’t the right person for the job." Couldn't have said it better. I'm lukewarm on Taylor Swift. Folklore has some decent songs and there are some cuts on Reputation which are a fun listen through a great hifi. Her earlier work is far too country or teenage pop for my tastes and I'd be lying if I said I had a full familiarity with her catalog.

      Nothing I've heard from The 1979 is compelling or even catchy musically. I have no opinion of their frontman.

      I listened to The Tortured Poets Department last night. It's fine. She has a nice voice, and the production quality is good. It's listenable, even if it's not something I'd run out to buy.

      My only takeaway from this review is young Mr. Lui is a big fan of Taylor's ex.

      • 2024-04-27 04:39:19 AM

        Malachi Lui wrote:

        i'd say quite a few of you (here and on instagram) are misinterpreting my review. yes, i'm a massive fan of the 1975. HOWEVER, taylor could've still made a great record even attacking matty healy and i would've acknowledged as such. for instance, do fans of graham nash let their appreciation for his work cloud their opinion of joni mitchell's 'blue'? doubtful, because it's a great record that stands on its own merits. taylor's new record simply doesn't do that. i'm not engaging in defensive stan behavior with this review. if anything, the swift/healy thing is a spectacle that's hilarious to watch, especially when factoring in all the context collapse about dimes square and the like.

        • 2024-04-27 05:20:37 AM

          Chris Harr wrote:

          I understand you have excellent knowledge of music and recordings. As I commented on Instagram, even though I disagree with your approach to this specific review, I look forward to reading your next one. At least it was an interesting read.

          • 2024-04-29 03:23:08 PM

            Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

            I disagree with your criticism of ML's review. He stuck to precisely why the album blows tuna chunks and it's really hard to agree with the examples he put forth of utter tripe. Matt Healy is the focus of this album as well. If you can't see specifically where he leveled towards to the album, much wasn't read. The rest of it does matter, as Taylor appears to have lifted much of her style from him. I have never listened to a full Taylor song. I am still clean and pure. lol.

            • 2024-04-30 11:21:01 PM

              Anton wrote:

              "Taylor appears to have lifted much of her style from him," but, "I have never listened to a full Taylor song."

              I do agree about this: "'s really hard to agree with the examples he put forth of utter tripe."


  • 2024-04-27 03:02:18 AM

    Nels Ferre wrote:

    Paul McCartney is to the best of my knowledge the first billionaire musician. There’s no disputing Taylor Swift’s meteoric rise in popularity though.

    • 2024-04-27 03:10:26 AM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      the 'first billionaire musician' credit is disputed, but taylor swift certainly got there much earlier in her career than mccartney.

    • 2024-04-28 02:12:09 PM

      Tomato Sandwich wrote:

      Adjusted for inflation it's probably Paul.

  • 2024-04-27 05:07:53 AM

    Andrew Curtis wrote:

    Matty Healy dodged a bullet. She may have a touch of BPD as well as narcissism

  • 2024-04-27 05:40:08 AM

    Lemon Curry wrote:

    Oh Malachi, you missed this one.

    Was Joni Mitchell or Kate Bush or John Lennon narcissistic writing about themselves?

    This is door number 1 that a listener must pass thru, that she is writing about HER feelings regarding HER relationships, and that it's valid. And that these are very female feelings. Feelings that are frankly politically incorrect - this woman is no feminist. She is defined by her relationships. Swift connects with so many because of this honesty - they feel exactly the same. From a man's perspective this can all seem so whiny and almost pathetic - just get over it, girl! And that, until this album, is exactly how I felt about it. Please Taylor, get back on the Folklore/Evermore track. Midnights was such a compromise, I hated it.(of course it won a grammy, so someone in this equation is WAY off the mark!). But she pulled the 180 and went deep within herself instead. One reviewer said it well, it's like Swift connected a tube to her brain, and this album is what poured out. Now, why is a middle-aged guy like me attracted to this girl-talk diary of an album? Because the craft is superb, and the feelings are real. Once past that door, the album opens up and reveals itself - the melodies, the twists and turns, the lushness of it. The depths of a woman's sadness, writ as symphony. It's a nightmare, it's irresistable.

    Door #2 is the rendering of the music, the choices Antonoff and the mastering engineer made. And here, the vinyl fails, exactly as you say, for the reasons you gave. She is too forward, all the atmosphere is recessed. I drew a Mexican print, and it's fairly noisy throughout. I can't argue with your SQ score. But the hi-res digital stream I've listened to on Amazon Music is superb. Listened to on headphones, for this IS a headphone album. Everything that made so much sense here, that atmosphere, is all missing on the vinyl. What a miss.

    It's my opinion this is a masterwork, a pure extract, rendered perfectly, of what's inside that noodle of hers. Clara Bow, the last common track of the variants, is brilliant. She steps back and sees herself as just the next in a long line of "It" girls, doomed to fall as youth drains away. The irony, for me, is if she keeps up this brutal honesty, she won't age at all. She's a treasure, this one.

    • 2024-04-27 07:25:00 PM

      Silk Dome Mid wrote:

      Come on. Of course Kate Bush and John Lennon wrote about their own feelings, but they both also covered an enormous range of other subjects. They're not good examples of monomaniacal narcissism.

      • 2024-04-27 08:00:11 PM

        Lemon Curry wrote:

        Come on indeed. If you're at "monomaniacal narcissism", you can stay there. The last comment I would make to anyone reading these comments: read the actual lyrics of Joni Mitchell's "Blue" album. I would suggest whatever category you want to assign to either woman, it applies to both. I mean, stop whining about Graham, girl.

        • 2024-04-27 09:34:30 PM

          Silk Dome Mid wrote:

          I didn't say anything about Joni. You wrote what you wrote. Stop whining.

          • 2024-04-28 09:56:38 AM

            Lemon Curry wrote:

            If you read my reply, you'll notice the Joni Mitchell part was not addressed to you. Are you bringing information or insults? If the latter is necessary, at least be somewhat correct. But let's look at Lennon next if we must. He practically defined the space of autobiographical writing in rock music. Oh, Yoko? Yoko and me, that's reality? Look at me? Aisumasen was reissued on RSD! The original monomaniacal narcissist, to use the label introduced here. I'm not asking you to like Swift's record. I simply replied to the reviewer that I felt he missed something that I found. After passing door #1. You won't find whining in any comment I've ever made on this great forum. You can like or dislike what you want. But let's trade facts, not insults.

            • 2024-04-28 10:18:04 PM

              Silk Dome Mid wrote:

              You said "The last comment I would make to anyone reading these comments...". Am I not one of those people? Is there some reason I would not be permitted to respond? As for insulting you, that was not my intention. Disagreeing is not an insult, I and was just noting the patronizing tone of your comment.

    • 2024-04-29 12:34:02 AM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      "clara bow" is probably the best song on the album—it's at least the most genuinely self-aware—but it feels like too little, too late. sonically it just blends in with the rest of the album too much, even though it stands out lyrically.

      i really appreciate your comment as a whole, even if i disagree. very thoughtful analysis, which i think we could use more of in our comments sections overall.

    • 2024-04-29 03:30:25 PM

      Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

      The lyrics alone that ML provided here are really hackneyed and retarded. If you like the music, great. And no, Joni Mitchell's Blue was not narcissism in the least. She was a bit more oblique about her delivery and intent. Broader, not the very public clashes Swift gets into with Healy, Kim K, or any other person that ever crossed her. The list is large and the childish intent is inescapable. Shame on you for elevating it to Mitchell or Lennon.

  • 2024-04-27 09:25:19 AM

    PeterPani wrote:

    Fun fact: I was not interested at all to listen to her new album. But after Malachis detailed analysis I got curious and streamed it on my IPod. After giving the songs several listening sessions I conclude the rating of 4 for the music is right. Songs must contain of inner urgency, good music and good lyrics. And a voice! All missing here. I guess, reason for Swifts popularity is simply that - apart from Lana Del Ray and Miley - there is no essential female singer around for years now. Per accident I stumbled across Streisand’s Walls (2018). A singer with inner urge and hearth. Walls is unbelievable kitschy and naive. But it reaches the hearth (if you are not a Trumpist). TTPD leaves me untouched.

    • 2024-05-03 11:09:40 PM

      Jonathan wrote:

      Hey, now. I agree with much of your missive but... I'd definitely put Fiona Apple at least up there with Lana & Miley, if not elevated a tad above. Not terribly prolific, about an album every six or seven years, but that's part of her charm.

  • 2024-04-27 10:51:39 AM

    Zaphod wrote:

    It is interesting that some may say that we talk about certain celebrities too much, yet by talking about it is just doing what we are complaining about. You should have just not said anything.

  • 2024-04-27 03:41:25 PM

    James Pritchett wrote:

    All that ink and time...for this?! A simple, quick pan would suffice. Spend some review time for more interesting fare please ..

    • 2024-04-27 06:46:36 PM

      PeterPani wrote:

      Taylor Swift is according to sale numbers the most relevant singer of our present. A highly commercial record was put out. I appreciate that Malachi takes on the challenge. A big record like this deserves a deep and detailed review. I never liked the often gone easy way by audiophile reviewers to neglect highly commercial records.

      • 2024-04-27 07:13:00 PM

        Mark Ward wrote:

        I wholeheartedly agree with you, PeterPani.

  • 2024-04-27 05:09:01 PM

    bwb wrote:

    I can't name a Taylor Swift song and have no idea who Matty Healy is, so probably not your intended audience, but I got maybe 1/3 of the way through this review and dozed off. Over 3,500 words devoted to an album you think sucks musically and doesn't sound all that great either?

    • 2024-04-28 06:30:23 PM

      Anton wrote:

      Matt Healy has apparently replaced Kanye in the pantheon of boy geniuses.

    • 2024-04-29 03:33:02 PM

      Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

      Don't ever complain about shit you didn't read being too long. STFU.

      • 2024-04-29 10:13:08 PM

        bwb wrote:

        A very mature response. The "STFU" was a nice touch... Your parents must be very proud of you.

        • 2024-05-01 04:28:28 AM

          Silk Dome Mid wrote:

          What's wrong with being called Super Terrific Fun Uplifting?

  • 2024-04-27 06:15:50 PM

    Tomato Sandwich wrote:

    The funny thing is she's not forcing you to participate in any of her successes or failures. You choose.

  • 2024-04-27 06:46:37 PM

    bwb wrote:

    If she's run out of ideas for the I've been wronged, tortured soul shtick maybe she'll do what others have done, like Dylan, and Mitchell, and Rod Stewart and start milking the Great American Songbook. Can't wait !

  • 2024-04-27 07:10:04 PM

    Mark Ward wrote:

    So... now will you tell us what you really think.....?

    In all seriousness, this has to be one of the most entertaining reads I've had of late, veritably Swiftian (Jonathan, not Taylor) in places. There were turns of phrase where I was gasping in astonishment and, yes, delight that you had gone there - and, to judge from the examples you cited, you fully justified your opinions. I was aghast at the sheer ineptitude of Taylor's lyrical word salad masquerading as profundity (or even competence). Middle school nonsense.

    I love that you were willing to approach the album within the context of the whole Swift phenomenon, and I found your analysis more than persuasive. I find the Swiftie uber fans every bit as alarming as their political counterparts. I do also suspect she is fast approaching the moment of a fall from grace, something every popular artist has had to endure - but this one will be major. How she deals with it will be interesting, to say the least.

    I am also now going to check out The 1975!

    BTW I hope you secured your copy of Snow Born Sorrow from the UK RSD. It took me a while - had real trouble with some of the websites loading - but I finally got it. Very much looking forward to listening.

    • 2024-04-27 08:20:45 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      I agree Mark. I thought Malachi's perspective and his writing was as usual entertaining and astute. But then I admit to being hopelessly prejudiced.

      • 2024-04-27 09:38:37 PM

        Come on wrote:

        It is. And you are ;-)

        I guess the problem is, deconstructing someone (TS), to which the ones pray and all others are disinterested at best or never expected anything else than something overhyped and artificial on all levels we’re used from pop business, is somehow superabundant, at least at a place like this here where a majority isn’t in the first camp. I think no elder writer would have seen the need to deconstruct TS, as everything‘s so obvious anyway, but I understand that if one’s of the generation of the usual prayers, this need may arise. And for a different audience, the “provocation” of the deconstruction would probably have been more successful. IMO the article is nice and good as you say. It’s just like deconstructing Yoko Ono…that’s not necessary for most any audience except for hard core fans (if she has such).

        Below one of Malachis last articles, the following idolizing comment was written by a fan or closer person to compensate some more critical ones (I know, you’re jealous ;-) ). As soon as something this isn’t necessary anymore, even if he was criticized, he made it.

        “Malachi, you casted a ridiculously wide net and delivered a compelling piece. I read it like a mystery novel, with new secrets revealed in each new paragraph. You've become a fountain of knowledge, and a great writer with a strong voice…“

        • 2024-04-30 12:39:32 PM

          Lemon Curry wrote:

          I wrote that comment, of course, every word is true. It's also true I took issue with this review.

          I simply assert that TS isn't a monomaniacal narcissist because she writes about her own life. And this point seems to be the beginning and end of many of the comments here. In my listening, I allowed the idea that it was legit, and with that the power of the thing came across in spades. I really don't know who she dated when, except for Kelce, of course, as the Super Bowl gets some attention. But it isn't necessary to know ANY of those details to "get it". Malachi has grown in leaps and bounds as a writer, and I was eager to read his review, as always. That I disagreed triggered a respectfull response that I wanted to share with him, particularly because I started from the same place as he did.

          "From Liverpool, to Tokyo", and all places in-between, the writing device is legit. And once you allow that, there are riches within. They are dark, this is a very dark album. But I was knocked out once I allowed it just happen, and just listen.

    • 2024-04-29 12:40:48 AM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      i didn't want to get explicitly political in my review, but the rabid swifties are indeed alarmingly similar to modern political extremists. i often say that if taylor swift ran for president and lost, there'd be a stronger backlash than january 6th!

      i've also seen arguments online that the frequent lack of maturity in her lyrics is stunting the emotional development of her younger fans. not sure i'm willing to go that far, but i really think the taylor phenomenon must be academically studied from a psychology (personal and social) perspective. there are a lot of less obvious factors that have led her to this point.

      and yes, i was able to get that RSD 'snow borne sorrow' at list price from a discogs seller in germany; the UK sites were a complete mess at 8pm GMT that day. half of them didn't even function. glad you were able to get yours too!

      • 2024-04-29 01:07:49 AM

        Anton wrote:

        But you're not being misogynistic. Just chauvinistic?

        It's a bit funny. There are obviously some non-musical issues at play here.

        I think for April, she accounts about a quarter of all LPs that were purchased. Those people need to be psychologically studied, I tells ya!

        I get the conflating of a person with the music. It can happen.

        But: If you are "not sure you are willing to go that far," you're already gone pretty far, man.

        • 2024-04-29 03:35:23 AM

          Silk Dome Mid wrote:

          I'm sure those psychological studies are in the works. Meanwhile, we'll just have to be satisfied with the college courses focusing on Ms. Swift at these schools: The University of California, Berkeley The University of Florida The University of Delaware Brigham Young University Bowling Green State University The University of Miami The University of South Florida ...and probably more.

    • 2024-04-29 06:42:49 PM

      Todd wrote:

      It’s a pretty fun read. I will say that it’s in bad taste to criticize one of her friendships as inauthentic. How do you know it’s only to bump her “racial diversity”? Cmon

      • 2024-04-29 08:14:03 PM

        Malachi Lui wrote:

        in many spheres of both swift fans and haters, ice spice is known as the 'racial diversity friend' because taylor swift is not often seen around people who aren't white. and the whole ice spice thing was done to spite matty healy anyway (see the whole TAFS controversy)... it's actually impressive how taylor swift is so petty about everything

        • 2024-04-29 08:53:01 PM

          Todd wrote:

          I am definitely not going down a rabbit hole to verify Taylor’s friends. I’m just saying that you have no idea who her real friends are. Do you really want to peddle in soft racism in a vinyl review forum. That’s for the boomers.

          • 2024-04-29 09:14:42 PM

            Malachi Lui wrote:

            none of us have any real idea, and i for one am not pretending to. but let's just say that the timeline and presentation of her interactions with ice spice are a bit... questionable.

            • 2024-04-30 07:48:32 PM

              Anton wrote:

              Well argued. I know someone else who argues that way.

              "Taylor Swift keep token ethnic friends? Well, I didn't say that, but there are many who are saying that. Many. That's what I'm hearing."

              That is some demeaning stuff, Malachi.

            • 2024-04-30 10:02:03 PM

              Todd wrote:

              I guess I’m saying it’s not up to you to question. Your generation is better than that.

        • 2024-05-01 11:14:35 PM

          James R. Garvin wrote:

          Well, if we are talking about who Swift is seen with as an element to a review, explicitly stated or otherwise, I'm now really looking forward to read the next Kanye review.

  • 2024-04-27 08:56:27 PM

    Paul Robertson wrote:

    Thanks for the review. I always appreciate getting actual sonic perspective for such huge commercial releases, which unfortunately for all of us is rare.

    And thank you for highlighting “The Vinyl Edition”. I hung in with you for a while but honestly I’m just not interested enough in pop culture, the true meaning of lyrics, or slamming artists. It’s fine really and I certainly don’t take serious offence to it. It’s just boring to me. It was nice to be able to bail , and hit up your views on how the vinyl and digital releases of this album actually sound.

    Given your appreciation for the 1975, I’ll have to check them out properly. I honestly was quite taken in by their song “Somebody Else” years ago and at the time streamed the whole album. It was disappointing to me at the time, but perhaps I didn’t get it then and fresh approach again now is warranted.

  • 2024-04-27 09:46:57 PM

    Jim LaBrie wrote:

    I am completely-oblivious to Ms. Swift's work. If I were in a car and one of her songs came on the radio, I wouldn't know it. What I do know (or think I know) is that she has tremendous influence over her voluminous fans, whom she strongly encourages to vote, and she supports Democratic candidates. She will probably reduce the chances of a known felon from becoming President of the U.S. - for this, I am extremely grateful. Go, Taylor, Go.

    • 2024-04-27 10:18:34 PM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      there's some slight value to that, though i think a lot of the fans she influences most won't be old enough to vote this year.

      • 2024-04-28 06:18:41 AM

        Mark wrote:

        Au contraire. I am amazed to see that at least 90% of her fans are of a voting age. I think TS's music is beige wallpaper but if she helps prevent an individual with regal ambitions from getting into the White House then long live beige!

  • 2024-04-28 02:57:25 PM

    chet wrote:

    Who is Taylor Swift?

  • 2024-04-28 03:26:34 PM

    David Terry wrote:

    You are fun to read because you are a bit unbridled in your youthfulness. But is anyone over there, like your editor, aware that there's a poorly veiled misogyny in your writing about women artists? You could tone that down a bit and still make your points fun to read.

    • 2024-04-28 03:41:53 PM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      no such misogyny; if a man put out a record like this, i'd still say the same thing.

  • 2024-04-28 07:41:22 PM

    Dan wrote:

    It's a pretty boring record. Very short on melodies and hooks. I haven't had the interest to listen to the lyrics because there are no melodies that grab me! If you don't have good material, why not wait until the tour is over to work on the new music!?

  • 2024-04-29 12:11:41 AM

    13th Duke of Wymbourne wrote:

    Malachi, you're just jealous that she hasn't written a song about you:)

    • 2024-04-29 12:30:10 AM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      haha, no man truly wants a taylor swift song written about them

      • 2024-04-29 12:54:39 AM

        13th Duke of Wymbourne wrote:

        Warhol predicted that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes and that has pretty much come true. Maybe the new benchmark will be when Taylor Swift has written a song about her relationship with you ... just give it time.

  • 2024-04-29 10:26:27 PM

    Dennis Poggenburg wrote:

    Wow, that is a lot of digital “ink” spilled in order to make the point that Malachi thinks the album is somewhere between “meh” and (Spinal Tap reference coming) “shit sandwich.” I’m not sure what’s accomplished by that.

    I think it’s fair to guess that most of TA’s readership is NOT Ms Swift’s demographic, and I know for a fact that the reason I’ve been such of fan of TA and Mr. Fremer’s other work is that I’m looking to be turned on to great music with great sound. I think a LOT of time and effort has been expended to produce a review that generates nothing of value, other than creating an echo chamber for people who seem really worked up over her on a variety of levels. Yuck.

    On the flip-side, my twenty-something daughter worships TS, the same way I do the Beatles. Is her opinion “wrong”? Of course not. I’ve heard a lot of TS for almost 20 years now and she’s not my bag. But I LOVE how much joy she brings to my daughter’s life. I LOVE how important all this music is and will be for her, for the rest of her life.

    But all this vitriol? Complaints about her subject matter? Overexposure? Change the channel, skip the article, filter your social media, etc etc.

    Meanwhile, I’ll keep tuning into the Tracking Angle so that I might find that next great album, or be warned away from a shitty reissue. That’s why I treasure this website.

  • 2024-04-29 10:26:30 PM

    Dennis Poggenburg wrote:

    Wow, that is a lot of digital “ink” spilled in order to make the point that Malachi thinks the album is somewhere between “meh” and (Spinal Tap reference coming) “shit sandwich.” I’m not sure what’s accomplished by that.

    I think it’s fair to guess that most of TA’s readership is NOT Ms Swift’s demographic, and I know for a fact that the reason I’ve been such of fan of TA and Mr. Fremer’s other work is that I’m looking to be turned on to great music with great sound. I think a LOT of time and effort has been expended to produce a review that generates nothing of value, other than creating an echo chamber for people who seem really worked up over her on a variety of levels. Yuck.

    On the flip-side, my twenty-something daughter worships TS, the same way I do the Beatles. Is her opinion “wrong”? Of course not. I’ve heard a lot of TS for almost 20 years now and she’s not my bag. But I LOVE how much joy she brings to my daughter’s life. I LOVE how important all this music is and will be for her, for the rest of her life.

    But all this vitriol? Complaints about her subject matter? Overexposure? Change the channel, skip the article, filter your social media, etc etc.

    Meanwhile, I’ll keep tuning into the Tracking Angle so that I might find that next great album, or be warned away from a shitty reissue. That’s why I treasure this website.

  • 2024-04-29 10:26:42 PM

    Dennis Poggenburg wrote:

    Wow, that is a lot of digital “ink” spilled in order to make the point that Malachi thinks the album is somewhere between “meh” and (Spinal Tap reference coming) “shit sandwich.” I’m not sure what’s accomplished by that.

    I think it’s fair to guess that most of TA’s readership is NOT Ms Swift’s demographic, and I know for a fact that the reason I’ve been such of fan of TA and Mr. Fremer’s other work is that I’m looking to be turned on to great music with great sound. I think a LOT of time and effort has been expended to produce a review that generates nothing of value, other than creating an echo chamber for people who seem really worked up over her on a variety of levels. Yuck.

    On the flip-side, my twenty-something daughter worships TS, the same way I do the Beatles. Is her opinion “wrong”? Of course not. I’ve heard a lot of TS for almost 20 years now and she’s not my bag. But I LOVE how much joy she brings to my daughter’s life. I LOVE how important all this music is and will be for her, for the rest of her life.

    But all this vitriol? Complaints about her subject matter? Overexposure? Change the channel, skip the article, filter your social media, etc etc.

    Meanwhile, I’ll keep tuning into the Tracking Angle so that I might find that next great album, or be warned away from a shitty reissue. That’s why I treasure this website.

    • 2024-04-29 10:42:26 PM

      Dennis Poggenburg wrote:

      Sorry that got posted three times!

      • 2024-04-29 11:44:41 PM

        Silk Dome Mid wrote:

        Yeah, THAT is a lot of digital ink! I always try to remember that TA comments load rather slowly.

    • 2024-04-29 11:52:34 PM

      Come on wrote:

      After reading your post, which definitely has valid points, a thought occurred to me that I hadn't had before:

      conspicuously reviewing mainly with on average rather bad to mediocre results, somehow gives you the feeling, such articles are more a self-fulfillment of the writer and his nature as a critic than about a benefit priority for the readership. On the other hand I’m a friend of criticism at the right place and I share the music related opinion about TS. The article for sure additionally wins a „most comments“ trophy, which is not a bad thing for a site.

  • 2024-04-30 01:49:55 AM

    Oscar wrote:

    About Vantiva... as someone living in Mexico I was puzzled when I read that they're in the record printing business here (!). I used to know them as a bankrupted broadband and cable modem manufacturer. They emerged from bankruptcy in 2023, changing their name in the process and adding vinyl pressing as part of their services in Mexico and Europe. I guess all you need to know is that the record printing business falls under the "Supply Chain Solutions" division. Clearly offering 88 color varieties (the 2024 color catalogue on-line if you need to see it) and offering "omni-channel distribution" is more important than sound quality, although they say they do take care of it, I think it's secondary.

  • 2024-05-02 03:06:21 AM

    MrCoolJazz wrote:

    Jesus! This was one of the most ironic shit reviews I have ever read. Ironic because you accuse Swift of being narcissistic in her latest pop shit record, yet you write a narcissistic, bloated, boastful, attacking review. What are you, 16? Do you want to see how many big words you can put in a paragraph? Give it a fucking rest. Say you don't like the pop shit and move on. I came to this site to read thoughtful reviews about music, not blowhard attacks on recording artists, because it doesn't cause your little weenie to get hard. Grow the fuck up. I could give a shit about TS and her music, but she's successful and has a shitload of fans. I have to give her props for that. I would rather listen to jazz. Michael, where are you? Let's get a real review here to get to the business of reviewing music and not this narcissistic, immature dribble.

    • 2024-05-03 09:10:54 PM

      Silk Dome Mid wrote:

      That's funny, you talk more like a teenage GWAR fan than someone who loves cool jazz.

      • 2024-05-06 02:58:02 AM

        MrCoolJazz wrote:

        You mean 'write' or 'type' because it's obvious that you don't know how I talk. Sorry I hurt your feelings, 'Silk Dome'.

      • 2024-05-06 02:58:12 AM

        MrCoolJazz wrote:

        You mean 'write' or 'type' because it's obvious that you don't know how I talk. Sorry I hurt your feelings, 'Silk Dome'.

        • 2024-05-06 09:09:31 PM

          Silk Dome Mid wrote:

          Pardon me, I didn't mean "talk", I meant "rage type". I'm sure you speak like the Rhodes Scholar you are. The sarcastic crack about hurting my feelings is humorous, though.

          • 2024-05-11 07:29:22 PM

            MrCoolJazz wrote:

            "Rage type"? First time I heard that. I like it! But that was not rage. I'm very capable of rage, and that was definitely not it. You are welcome about the sarcastic crack. I thought it was rather funny myself!

  • 2024-05-02 11:42:10 AM

    Robin Wyatt wrote:

    I read the lengthy review and all the comments. Forgetting all the in depth analysis, all fan posturing, or haters criticism, Malachi point “I was bored half way though”- my thoughts entirely.

  • 2024-05-11 02:48:16 PM

    OTOT wrote:

    Funny review, though a bit overlong.

    Musicians tend to be a self-centered bunch - doesn't matter if they are pop superstars or local types that never make it out of their insular hometown scenes.

    Personally I think both TS and The 1975 are disposable pap for the masses and don't see the appeal of either. Worse stuff out there? Sure, but I would never listen to either willingly on my own time.

  • 2024-05-22 07:54:57 PM

    Mike Vordo wrote:

    All you guys need to listen to a really woman, guitar player, writer, singer, and performer, who is everything TS is not. Samantha Fish is the absolute best female entertainer out today. Listen to her, or better still, go to one of her shows. Simply amazing.