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Decoding Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ Album: Lyric Parallels and Easter Eggs

Decoding Taylor Swift TTPD Album
Don Arnold/TAS24/Getty Images

Taylor Swift has fans (and Us Weekly staffers) busy with the release of 31 songs across two versions of her 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department.

Swift, 34, dropped TTPD on Friday, April 19, dropping the first 16 songs at midnight EST. Two hours later, she announced and released The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology, featuring 15 additional tracks.

“I’d written so much tortured poetry in the past 2 years and wanted to share it all with you.” she wrote in part via Instagram. “And now the story isn’t mine anymore… it’s all yours. 🤍”

On that note, keep reading for how Us breaks down all the theories that link The Tortured Poets Department songs to past Swift tracks and more:

‘Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)’
There are a few songs that Swift gave context to while debuting the album with iHeartRadio on Friday, and the lead single is one of them.

“Fortnight is a song that I think really exhibits a lot of the common themes that run throughout this album. One of which being fatalism, longing, pining away, lost dreams. I think it’s a very fatalistic album in that there are a lot of very dramatic lines about, you know, life or death,” Swift explained. “‘I love you, it’s ruining my life’ — these are very hyperbolic, dramatic things to say. But it’s that kind of album. It’s about a dramatic, artist, tragic kind of take on love and loss. ‘Fortnight’ — I’ve always imagined it took place in this American town where the American dream you thought would happen to you didn’t, right? You ended up not with the person that you loved and now you just have to live with that every day, wondering what would have been, maybe just seeing them out and that’s a very tragic concept, really. So I was just writing from that perspective.”

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There is a telling parallel between the opening track and Midnights’ “Hits Different,” which is also about the very dramatic fallout of a breakup.

“Is it you? Or have they come to take me away? / To take me away,” she sings in the 2022 song. In “Fortnight,” Swift says, “I was supposed to be sent away / But they forgot to come and get me.”

‘The Tortured Poets Department’

Decoding Taylor Swift TTPD Album
Don Arnold/TAS24/Getty Images

The title track is full of references to famous musicians and poets, including an unhinged mention of Charlie Puth that fuels theories that the song is one of the many about Swift’s ex Matty Healy. The 1975 frontman once praised Puth via X. The nod to typewriters, tattoos and chocolate — it’s The 1975 song “Chocolate,” cannabis chocolate or just a previouslyunknown love for Hershey bars — also links the track to Healy.

“You smokеd, then ate seven bars of chocolate / We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist,” she sings. “I scratch your head, you fall asleep / Like a tattooed golden retriever.”

Some fans have pointed out that the structure of the chorus matches up to the Fearless song “White Horse.” In “TTPD,” she sings, “I laughed in your face and said / ‘You’re not Dylan Thomas, I’m not Patti Smith / This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel, we’rе modern idiots’ and in “White Horse,” she declares, “This ain’t Hollywood / this is a small town I was a dreamer before you went and let me down / Now it’s too late for you and your white horse.”

Instead of a princess trying to find her prince, Swift is a bohemian poet trying to break free from her toxic, moody ex.

‘My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys’
“‘My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys is a song I wrote alone and it’s a metaphor from the perspective of a child’s toy being somebody’s favorite toy until they break you and then don’t want to play with you anymore,” Swift explained on iHeartRadio. “Which is how a lot of us our in relationships were we are so valued by a person in the beginning and then all of the sudden they break us or they devalue us in their mind and we’re still clinging on to, ‘No, no, no you should’ve seen them the first time they looked at me.’ … It’s kind of a song about denial, really, so you can live in this world where there’s still hope for this broken, toxic relationship.”

The song brings Us back to Swift’s “Hits Different” as the Midnights song and “‘My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys” both mention Barbie’s man, Ken. “I used to switch out these Kens, I’d just ghost,” she sings in “Hits Different.” In the new song, she states, “I felt more when we played pretend / Than with all the Kens.”

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‘Down Bad’
Swift has a wild explanation for another track fans believe to be penned about Healy: “The metaphor in ‘Down Bad’ is that I was comparing the idea of being love bombed where someone was like, you know, rocks your world and dazzles you and then just kind of abandons you as an alien abduction where you were abducted by aliens — this girl was abducted by aliens – but she wanted to stay with them and then when they like drop her off in her hometown, she’s like, ‘No, where are you going? I liked it there. It was weird but it was cool. Come back.’”

The lyric “How dare you think it’s romantic leaving me safe and stranded” has fans shook with the parallel to a line in 1989 bonus track “New Romantics” from a decade prior: “Please leave me stranded, it’s so romantic.”

‘So Long, London’
Swift’s former partner Joe Alwyn enters the chat with “So Long, London” and track five links to several other songs said to be about the British actor, who she dated for nearly six years, most notably “You’re Losing Me.

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“I can’t find a pulse, my heart won’t start anymore / For you cause you’re losing me,” Swift sings in the Midnights bonus track, written in 2021 and released in 2022. In “So Long, London,” she’s officially done, singing, “I stopped CPR after all, it’s no use.”

At another point in the 2024 song, Swift sings, “ And I’m just getting the color back in my face / I’m just mad as hell ‘cause I loved this place.” In “You’re Losing Me,” Swift noted that her “face was gray, but you wouldn’t admit that we were sick.” (It’s also not a surprise Swift is “mad as hell” that Alwyn ruined the U.K. for her as she once wrote a song about how much she loves the place in Lover’s “London Boy.”)

Another song on Midnights: 3am Edition titled “Glitch” gets an update on TTPD. “Five seconds later, I’m fastening myself with a stitch,” she sings in the 2022 song. In 2024, Swift declares, “Stitch undone.”

‘But Daddy I Love Him’
Swift fires back at critics of her relationship with controversial Healy in this track, which could be argued is a new version of 2008’s “Love Story,” also about two star-crossed lovers who don’t have the support of their inner circle around them.

‘“Stay away from her,’ the saboteurs / Protested too much / Lord knows the words we never heard / Just screeching tires of true love,” the pre-chorus in “But Daddy I Love Him” read. In the chorus, she continues: “And now I’m runnin’ with my dress unbuttoned / Screamin’, ‘But Daddy, I love him.’”

In Love Story, she sings, “That you were Romeo, you were throwing pebbles / And my daddy said, “Stay away from Juliet” / And I was crying on the staircase / Begging you, “Please don’t go.’”

Even before the song was out, fans were linking the track to The Little Mermaid as Ariel pleads to her dad to understand about her desire to be a human and live with Prince Eric.

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‘Fresh Out the Slammer’
Fans are torn over whether ‘Fresh Out the Slammer’ is about Healy or Alwyn, but there is a devastating link between lyrics about rings that make Alwyn more likely. After declaring in 2019 that she’d marry him with Lover’s “paper rings,” Swift is now singing about “imaginary rings” in “‘Fresh Out the Slammer.”

‘Florida!!! (feat. Florence + The Machine)’
While Swifties have been trying to link this song and the fact that Tampa, Florida was the first concert stop for Swift after her and Alwyn’s split was announced in April 2023, she explained that her interest in the state has more to do with the “Florida man” concept.

“I think I was coming up with this idea of, ‘What happens if your life doesn’t fit or your choices you’ve made catch up to you and you’re surrounded by these harsh consequences and judgment and circumstances did not lead you to where you thought you would be and you just want to escape from everything you’ve ever known – is there a place you can go?” she said. “I always watch Dateline and people, you know, have these crimes that they commit and they immediately escape town (and) go to Florida, try to reinvent themselves and have this new identity, blend in. And I think when you go through heartbreak, there’s part of you that thinks, ‘I want a new name, I want a new life. I don’t want anyone to know where I’ve been or know me at all.’”

In “Florida!!!,” Swift sings, “Little did you know your home’s really only / A town you’re just a guest in,” which is a far cry from her declaration in “London Boy” (again, about Alwyn): “Home is where the heart is / You know I love a London boy.”

Swift also pulls from Reputation’s “Don’t Blame Me” with the drug metaphors. “Lord, save me, my drug is my baby / I’ll be usin’ for the rest of my life,” she first sang in 2017. In 2024, Swift calls Florida “one hell of a drug,” asking the sunshine state to “come f–k me up.”

Decoding Taylor Swift TTPD Album
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‘Guilty as Sin?’

Swift sings about emotional affairs in ‘Guilty as Sin?,” which begins with a nod to one of Healy’s band’s songs “The Downtown Lights.” Swift’s song seems to have parallels to Lover’s “False God” with more religious imagery. “What if I roll the stone away? / They’re gonna crucify me anyway / What if the way you hold me is actually what’s holy?” she sings. “If long-suffering propriety is what they want from me / They don’t know how you’ve haunted me so stunningly / I choose you and me religiously.”

She also mentions the “vault,” which Swifites associate with bonus tracks on her rereleases and uses the term “guilty as sin” in the song Carolina, released in 2022 for the movie Where the Crawdads Sing. “Oh, Carolina knows / Why for years they’ve said / That I was guilty as sin / And sleep in a liar’s bed,” she sings.

‘Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?’
Swift takes on critics in this track, which is reminiscent of Folklore’s “Mad Woman.”

“You caged me and then you called me crazy / I am what I am ’cause you trained me / So who’s afraid of me?” she sings in the new song. In the 2020 song, she asked another question, “Every time you call me crazy / I get more crazy / What about that?”

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‘I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)’
A decade after Swift said in 1989′s “Blank Space” that she can “make the bad guys good for a weekend,” she returned to the concept on TTPD in another track deemed to be about Healy.

“They shake their heads sayin’, ‘God, help her’ / When I tell ’em he’s my man / But your good Lord doesn’t need to lift a finger / I can fix him, no, really, I can / And only I can,” she sings.

This song has nearly as many callbacks as “So Long, London.” In addition to sounding like a reminding fans of the grownup version of “White Horse” musically, Swift appears to take a direct shot at one of her love songs about Alwyn. In Folklore‘s “Peace” (2020), she sings, “You paint dre on the wall” and in “loml,” she declares, “When your impressionist paintings of heaven turned out to be fakes.”

The lyric “I thought I was better safe than starry-eyed / I felt a glow like this, never before and never since” also triggers callbacks to several songs with “glow” imagery, including Evermore’s “Ivy” — “Your touch brought forth an incandescent glow” – and Lover’s “This Love” — “This love is glowing in the dark.”

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Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn Jackson Lee/GC Images

‘I Can Do It With a Broken Heart’
Swift reflects on the success of her Eras Tour coming at the same time as her split from Alwyn in this track, which reminds Us of Midnight’s “You’re On Your Own Kid.”

“’Cause I’m a real tough kid / I can handle my s–t / They said, ‘Babe, you gotta fake it ’til you make it’ and I did,” she sings. “Lights, camera, bitch, smile.” In “YOYOK,” she sings, “You’re on your own, kid / You always have been.”

‘The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived’
Another one that appears to have direct references to Healy, Swift sings that “it wasn’t sexy once it wasn’t forbidden,” Swift has written about cheating before in songs like “Illicit Affairs” and tackled forbidden romances for other reasons (like family or fame backlash) in the aforementioned “But Daddy I Love Him” and “Love Story.”

“And in plain sight you hid / But you are what you did / And I’ll forget you, but I’ll never forgive / The smallest man who ever lived,” she concludes the song. The forget and not forgive line takes Us back to the Eras Tour when fans scream Kendrick Lamar’s “Bad Blood” line, “You forgive, you forget, but you never let it go,” to her each night.

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‘The Alchemy’
The first song on the album (and maybe ever) seemingly about Swift’s current boyfriend, Travis Kelce, is full of football references. She also uses similar language to a song she penned about Alwyn called “Call it What You Want.”

“I brought a knife to a gunfight / They took the crown, but it’s alright,” she sings at the top of the Reputation song. She later adds, “All the drama queens taking swings / All the jokers dressin’ up as kings.”

In “The Alchemy,” Swift returns to the circus and royal imagery: “So when I touch down / Call the amateurs and cut ’em from the team / Ditch the clowns, get the crown.”

‘Clara Bow’
Us did a full breakdown of Swift’s similarities to the OG “it girl” from the Silent Screen era before this track was even released. What stands out post-listen is the parallels between Red’s “Nothing New,” in which she sings about the fears that her music would become irrelevant if her fans moved on. (Bow, for her part, had to make the tough transition from silent films to talkies.)

“The crown is stained, but you’re the real queen / Flesh and blood amongst war machines / You’re the new God we’re worshipping / Promise to be dazzling,” she sings in “Clara Bow” (possibly making a reference to her drama with Big Machine Records.) Swift also continues to be self-deprecating (something she did a lot of Midnights) at the end of the track: “You look like Taylor Swift / In this light, we’re lovin’ it / You’ve got edge, she never did / The future’s bright, dazzling.”

‘The Black Dog’
It’s likely Swift is singing about Alwyn with signs that the reference to “some bar called The Black Dog” pointing to a real pub in England. The lyric, “Six weeks of breaking clean air / I still miss the smoke,” immediately brought Us to “Daylight” off of Lover. “Clearing the air, I breathed in the smoke,” she sings on the 2019 song. There’s also some remedies of 1989’s “Clean,” in which she sings: “Rain came pouring down / When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe / And by morning Gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean.”

Instead of drawing parallels to her own music on this one, fans think Swift’s lyrics pull from a 1975 song called “Fallingforyou.” In addition to the (odd) similar styling, Swift sings, “Whether I’m gonna be your wife or / Gonna smash up your bike, I haven’t decided yet,” while Healy croons: “All we need’s my bike and your enormous house.” (There is additional speculation that Swift’s Aston Martin reference in the song —“I’m an Aston Martin that you steered straight into the ditch / Then ran and hid” — is a nod to her rumored romance with F1 driver Fernando Alonso in spring 2023.)

Matty Healy Loved Typewriters Before Taylor Swift Dropped TTPD
Matty Healy, Taylor Swift. Getty Images (2)

‘The Albatross’
“The Albatross” feels like it could be straight off Swift’s 2020 album Evermore. “Cross your thoughtless heart / Only liquor anoints you / She’s the albatross / She is here to destroy you,” she sings, before making a reference to the devil, which she’s previously done on several songs, including “Cruel Summer” off of Lover and “Peace” and “Invisible String” off Folklore. “Devils that you know / Raise worse hell than a stranger / She’s the death you chose / You’re in terrible danger.”

‘Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus’
Fans are struggling to figure out if any of these names present real people. All signs point to no, but Swift’s fictional love triangle across three Folklore songs did end up serving as a way to learn the name of one of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds with the reveal of Betty back in 2020. There is a parallel lyric between “So if I sell my apartment / And you have some kids with an internet starlet / Will that make your memory fade from this scarlet maroon?” from the 2024 song to Midnight’s “Maroon,” in which she sings, “The rust that grew bеtween telephones / The lips I used to call home / So scarlet, it was maroon.”

‘How Did It End?’
At track 21, Swift isn’t done, but asking the question about the end of relationship. Swift compares romance to a game — “Lost the game of chance, what are the chances?” she sings in “How Did It End?” — which could be a line to “State of Grace” off Red: “Love is a ruthless game / Unless you play it good and right.”

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Gotham/GC Images

‘So High School’
Swift is pretty clearly singing about Kelce again on this track — “You know how to ball, I know Aristotle” says it all. From the song, we learned the tight end is a fan of the American Pie movies and the video game Grand Theft Auto. While not a callback to another song, she also references a video of Kelce playing “Marry, Kiss or Kill” with her, Ariana Grande and Katy Perry back in 2016. (He opted to “kiss” her, for the record.) The song is complete with what fans think is a nod to their origin story of Kelce seeking her out via a friendship bracelet at a concert. “You knew what you wanted and, boy, you got her,” she sings.

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‘I Hate It Here’
Swift drops the most poetry references in this song, with fans tying the song to her Folklore bonus track “The Lakes.”

“I’m lonely, but I’m good / I’m bitter, but I swear I’m fine / I’ll save all my romanticism for my inner life and I’ll get lost on purpose,” she sings on “I Hate It Here.” On “The Lakes,” which is also about escaping, she includes a nod to English Romantic poet William Wordsworth via the line: “I’ve come too far to watch some name-dropping sleaze tell me what are my words worth.”

‘thanK you alMee’
The KIM of it all made this track one of the most-talked about following the double album drop. Us has plenty of deep dives into Swift vs. Kim Kardashian (and Kanye West) here and here. This diss track sort of serves as an older (and slightly more aggressive) version of Swift’s song “Mean.” From “All you are is mean” in 2010 to “F–k you, Aimee” in 2024, Swift has never been afraid to take on her bullies in song form.

Kim Kardashian Is Upset By Taylor Swift TTPD
JC Olivera/WireImage; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

‘I Look in People’s Windows’
On the 10th or so listen, “‘I Look in People’s Windows” starts to sound a bit like “Death By a Thousand” Cuts on Lover. “I look in people’s windows / Transfixed by rose golden glows / They have their friends over to drink nice wine,” she sings. The tempo is similar to, “I dress to kill my time, I take the long way home / I ask the traffic lights if it’ll be alright / They say, ‘I don’t know.’”

‘The Prophecy’

Swift makes another biblical mention in this track — singing “I got cursed like Eve got bitten” — and a reference to dreams, something Swift has done for years in songs like “Wildest Dreams,” “Paper Rings” and “…Ready for It?”

“Cards on thе table / Mine play out like fools in a fablе / Oh, it was sinking in (Sinking in, oh) / Slow is the quicksand / Poison blood from the wound of the pricked hand / Oh, still I dream of him,” she sings on “The Prophecy.”

After the obvious shot at Kardashian a few songs prior, Swift may be taking on Kimye again in “Cassandra,” but she also draws a parallel to Reputation‘s “I Did Something Bad.” (The song could also be about Scooter Braun.)

“When it’s ‘Burn the bitch’” they’re shrieking / When the truth comes out, it’s quiet,” Swift sings in “Cassandra” years after declaring, “They’re burning all the witches, even if you aren’t one” in 2017. (Cassandra is also the witch-like soothsayer of Greco-Roman myth.)

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Swift calls on the Peter Pan reference that she first made in Folklore’s “Cardigan” — “Tried to change the ending, Peter losing Wendy” — in the new song with a heartbreaking twist to signal the end of the relationship for good:. “Forgive me Peter, please know I that I tried.” (Healy has also used the character to describe himself in the past.)

‘The Bolter’
“The Bolter” gives “Getaway Car” — and Us knows “nothing good starts in a getaway car” as the Reputation track puts it.

“Started with a kiss / ‘Oh, we must stop meeting like this’ / But it always ends up with a town car speeding,” she sings in the 2024 track.

Decoding Taylor Swift TTPD Album
Don Arnold/TAS24/Getty Images

This might be a stretch, but hearing that the relationship in the song “ended with the slam of a door,” offered a quick return to Swift’s debut album. “Our song is the slamming screen door / Sneakin’ out late, tapping on your window,” she sings. Other fans suggest “The Bolter” serves as a companion to “It’s Time to Go” from Evermore.

Swift sings about childhood with animal imagery on “Robin.” The song may be a continuation of “Never Grow Up” from 2010’s Speak Now, which is also about maintaining innocence. The lyrics “you have no room for regret” (“Robin”) and “you got nothing to regret” (“Never Grow Up”) fuel this theory. Swift’s collaborator Aaron Dessner has a son named Robin, which could serve as the inspiration for the track name.

‘The Manuscript’
The final song on the 31-track double album has been linked to Swift’s ex John Mayer due to the references on a large age gap — and dating boys “your own age” after it didn’t work out. The song is about reflecting on the romance and has lyric parallels to two other songs — “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” and “The Story of Us” — that are rumored to be about Mayer whom Swift dated when she was 19 and he was 32.

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