The meaning behind the name of Taylor Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department

Taylor Swift will release a brand new album of original material this week.

The Tortured Poets Department is the pop titan’s 11th studio album and appears to have been inspired, in part, by the five stages of grief. Ahead of the release, Swift shared five new playlists that arrange her songs into those stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

“These songs represent making room for more good in your life,” she says in a brief audio message that accompanied the final playlist, acceptance. “Making that choice. Because a lot of time when we lose things, we gain things too.”

Much has been made of the title of the record, which is considerably longer than Swift albums such as Red, Fearless, Speak Now, 1989 or Midnights.

Just minutes after Swift announced the project, while accepting a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album (for 2022’s Midnights), fans scrambled to decipher the meaning behind the name.

Many believe it might be a reference to the WhatsApp group apparently shared between her ex-boyfriend, British actor Joe Alwayn, with Irish stars Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott.

Swift and Alwyn split around April last year (Getty)
Swift and Alwyn split around April last year (Getty)

That group, Alwyn revealed in 2022, was started by Scott, while Mescal – who had recently split with his girlfriend, musician Phoebe Bridgers – called it The Tortured Man Club.

“He’s just on it every day,” Mescal said of Scott. “He’s just on it by himself.’

“Just messaging himself good mornings,” Alwyn jokingly added.

He and Swift began dating around 2016, and are believed to have separated in April 2023. She is currently dating Kansas City Chiefs tight-end Travis Kelce; the couple were spotted enjoying Coachella Festival together last weekend.

Many of the songs on Swift’s 2019 album Lover, as well as on Midnights, are believed to have been inspired by her relationship with Alwyn.

Artwork for Taylor Swift’s album ‘Midnights’ (AP)
Artwork for Taylor Swift’s album ‘Midnights’ (AP)

The “Cruel Summer” artist herself has not divulged the meaning behind the album title. However, she has long discussed her love of poetry, with her own confessional style of lyrics compared to famous American writers such as Sylvia Plath.

Upon the release of her re-recorded album Red, she wrote in the liner notes: “There’s an old poem by Neruda that I’ve always been captivated by, and one of the lines in it has stuck with me ever since the first time I read it. It says ‘love is so short, forgetting is so long’.

“It’s a line I’ve related to in my saddest moments, when I needed to know someone else had felt that exact same way. And when we’re trying to move on the moments we always go back to aren’t the mundane ones.

“They are the moments you saw sparks that weren’t really there, felt stars aligning without having any proof, saw your future before it happened, and then saw it slip away without any warning. These are moments of newfound hope, extreme joy, intense passion, wishful thinking, and in some cases, the unthinkable letdown. And in my mind, every one of these memories looks the same to me. I see all of these moments in bright, burning red.”

Taylor Swift is releasing her new album this week (Getty Images for TAS Rights Mana)
Taylor Swift is releasing her new album this week (Getty Images for TAS Rights Mana)

On the day she announced The Tortured Poets Department, she shared a note, or poem, with fans:

“And so I enter into evidence

My tarnished coat of arms

My muses, acquired like bruises,

My talismans and charms

The tick tick tick of love bombs

My veins of pitch black ink

All’s fair in love and poetry,


The Chairman of the Tortured Poets Department”

The tracklist for The Tortured Poets Department is as follows:

Side A

“Fortnight” (featuring Post Malone)

“The Tortured Poets Department”

“My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys”

“Down Bad”

Side B

“So Long, London”

“But Daddy I Love Him”

“Fresh Out the Slammer”

“Florida!!!” (featuring Florence + the Machine)

Side C

“Guilty as Sin?”

“Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?”

“I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)”


Side D

“I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”

“The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”

“The Alchemy”

“Clara Bow”

Bonus Track: “The Manuscript”

The Tortured Poets Department is released on Friday 19 April. The bio on her Instagram account currently states: “All’s fair in love and poetry.”