Taylor Swift Puts Narcotics Into All of Her Songs on ‘The Tortured Poets Department’

In the opening verse of The Tortured Poets Department, her 11th studio album, Taylor Swift sings that she was a functioning alcoholic until nobody noticed her new aesthetic. 

They do now. 

In the album, a sprawling 31 tracks (that’s her signature 13 backward), Swift is the most unmasked (and turned on) she’s ever been. She’s done impressing the “wine moms” (even if the blood of fermented fruit is her drug of choice). Sung in a low register, the first 16 songs of TPD are primarily dark, twinkling synthy pop tunes, primarily written with long-term collaborator Jack Antonoff, with help from Aaron Dessner of The National. Dessner, whose Swift collabs are more of the folk music, indie variety, primarily encompass the latter half of The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology, a surprise bonus album dropped shortly after listeners finished streaming the original album at midnight (shout out to everyone else who got a notification from Spotify that they were in the first ten percent of streams). 

TPD racked up 891 million streams in its first week in the United States, setting a new record that surpasses the previous high of 746 million streams, achieved by Drake’s 25-track Scorpion in 2018. 

On the title track, “The Tortured Poets Department,” Swift sings about a love interest who “smoked and ate seven bars of chocolate.” Despite acknowledging that this person isn’t Dylan Thomas, and she isn’t Patti Smith (“This ain’t the Chelsea hotel, we’re modern idiots”), Swift is unabashedly captivated, which is why it’s so heartbreaking when deeper into the anthology side of the album, she’s realizing that this person needed her but needed drugs more.  

If the tabloids are to be believed, the “tattooed golden retriever” in question is the problematic charismatic Matty Healy of The 1975, who’s openly discussed seeking treatment for a heroin addiction. On “The Alchemy,” she finds a new lover who is into heroin, but this time, with an “e,” (heroine). It’s easy to simply say that she’s singing about drugs on TPD because she was linked to Healy in 2023 when it was primarily written, but looking to tabloid reports on her dating history to explain songwriting decisions is so tired. And, plus, while their recent “situationship” is captivating TikTok, the pair have at least known each other and supported one another’s work for a decade. 

So why is Swift getting so real and singing about the munchies and balancing love and addiction now? Is it that cannabis, set to be declassified, isn’t as shocking as it was when she was first involved with bad boys? No. 

It’s actually not the first time she’s covered substance use disorders; 2020’s “This Is Me Trying,” as discussed in Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, is about exactly that. Just no one noticed her new aesthetic! And now she’s totally out of fucks, even if she’s dropping the f-bomb more regularly than ever before. It’s not just drugs. TPD is not just love song after love song about an ex, as many reviews would have you believe. There’s line after line dissecting religion. She’s critical of her seemingly picture-perfect family, perhaps most shockingly, and even her fans. 

She’s levitating down the street in “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” like some vampire defanged to perform in the circus (The internet wants to know: Is she beefing with Olivia Rodrigo? What about the diss track allegedly about Kim Kardashian? You fools, if anything, she’s drumming up drama for Reputation: Taylor’s Version!). She’s very horny on “Guilty As Sin?” which continues the album’s investigation into sex and religion. She’s watching American Pie on the garage rock “So High School.” Post Malone contributes smokey vocals on “Fortnight,” and in the video, we get to see what Swift looks like with face tats. The whole thing is honestly a stoner’s delight. And it’s definitely an album for people in their 30s. On “Florida!!!” featuring Florence Welch, which is basically about escaping to the state to dispose of bodies, those that have been on top of you, Swift is observing that her friends “all smell like weed or little babies,” and on the gorgeous “Robin” she’s begging a lover to take her higher and higher while cackling “you look ridiculous,” like she’s Alabama from True Romance in the scene where she kills James Gandolfini with the help of hair spray. “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart” is pop perfection, and Swift singing about crying a lot while remaining productive is as on-brand as it gets. This song will definitely be performed at the remaining 2024 Eras tour dates. 

Plus, we get to hear Swift sing the word “daddy” again. The stuff about the exes is largely interesting for Easter Eggs-obsessed fans (The Tortured Poets Department came out on April 19, the day before 4/20, but also the date that, in 1775, the Revolutionary War began as America declared its intentions to leave Britain, and both Healy and her ex of six years who apparently wanted to de-jewel her, are British). The track “So Long London” brings Miss Americana back home. What’s next, the critics and fans want to know. After seeing a video on IG of her singing along to Garth Brooks’s iconic “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” at a football game, I’m personally crossing my fingers that, as the country genre has become surprisingly cool in recent years, thanks to stars like Kacey Musgraves, who often sings about cannabis, as well, of course, as Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter and Swift collaborator Lana Del Rey’s forthcoming country album, Lasso, that Tay Tay will go back to her Tim McGraw lovin’ roots, and we’ll eventually get another country album. 13/10 stars for The Tortured Poets Department

The post Taylor Swift Puts Narcotics Into All of Her Songs on ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ first appeared on High Times.


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