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Taylor Swift’s ‘Bargaining’ Playlist: Harry Styles and Joe Alwyn, This One’s for You

Taylor Swift s Bargaining Playlist Harry Styles and Joe Alwyn This One s for You
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UPDATE, 4/19/24 at 4:04 p.m. ET:

When Taylor Swift released her The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology on Friday, April 19, her Apple Music playlist got a bit of a makeover.

“The Albatross” is now the first song played followed by “The Prophecy,” “Guilty as Sin?” and “The Tortured Poets Department.” It seemed like Swift was in the phase of moving on when adding these tracks.

Original story continues below:

Taylor Swift is nothing if not relatable — especially when it comes to not wanting to let go of romance that has turned sour.

In anticipation of her upcoming 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, Swift, 34, released a series of playlists that coincide with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The bargaining playlist, titled “Am I Allowed to Cry?”, reflects songs the pop star crafted when negotiating how to salvage a relationship.

“This playlist takes you through the songs that I have written when I was in the bargaining stage,” Swift shared in a special Apple Music message earlier this month. “Times when, you know, you’re trying to make deals with yourself or someone that you care about you’re trying to make things better, you’re oftentimes feeling really desperate, because oftentimes we have a, sort of, gut intuition that that things are not going to go the way we hoped. Which makes us more desperate! Which makes us bargain more.”

The playlist ironically kicks off with “The Great War” from Swift’s 2022 record, Midnights, a song previously thought to be about partners who survived a rough patch in their relationship only to come out stronger. While much of the track portrays the lovers as soldiers fighting against each other, the outro seemingly highlights a white flag waved.

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“The worst was over / My hand was the one you reached for  All throughout the Great War,” Swift sings. “Always remember / We’re burned for better / I vowed I would always be yours / ‘Cause we survived the Great War.”

Many fans speculated that the lyrics described a particularly difficult time in her nearly six-year romance with Joe Alwyn. Adding it to the bargaining playlist, however, may signal that Swift was only lying to herself when writing that the pair were closer after the disconnect. (The exes called it quits in April 2023.)

Other songs on “Am I Allowed to Cry?” allegedly written about Alwyn also reflect turbulent times for the former couple. Lover’s “Afterglow” sees Swift blaming herself for putting her partner in “jail” after blowing things “out of proportion,” claiming she was the one who “burned us down.” Although the instrumental feels soft and romantic, Swift is begging for her lover to stay.

“Tell me that you’re still mine / Tell me that we’ll be just fine / Even when I lose my mind,” the bridge reads. “Tell me that it’s not my fault / Tell me that I’m all you want / Even when I break your heart.”

Taylor Swift s Bargaining Playlist Harry Styles and Joe Alwyn This One s for You
David Krieger/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

The other tracks off Lover, like “Cornelia Street” and “The Archer,” highlight an anxiety within Swift. “Cornelia Street” calls Swift’s partner, seemingly Alwyn, a “card shark playing games” who she thought was leading her on, while “The Archer” displays Swift’s doubt that anyone would “stay” beside her in such a highly publicized life.

Folklore’s “Peace” discusses a similar theme, where Swift asks if it would “be enough” if she could never give her paramour peace. While speaking to Paul McCartney for a Rolling Stone profile in November 2020, Swift shared how her experience with Alwyn helped shape the song.

“I think that in knowing him and being in the relationship I am in now, I have definitely made decisions that have made my life feel more like a real life and less like just a storyline to be commented on in tabloids,” Swift explained. “Whether that’s deciding where to live, who to hang out with, when to not take a picture — the idea of privacy feels so strange to try to explain, but it’s really just trying to find bits of normalcy. That’s what that song ‘Peace’ is talking about. Like, would it be enough if I could never fully achieve the normalcy that we both crave?”

Not every track on Swift’s bargaining playlist is about Alwyn. Many are about her more brief relationships over the years, including Harry Styles. Styles, 30, was seemingly the inspiration behind 1989’s “I Wish You Would,” which details Swift fantasizing about an ex showing up at her door to confess they still love her.

“Say Don’t Go,” a vault track off 1989 (Taylor’s Version) rewinds the same relationship to right before the split where Swift can feel her partner starting to slip away.

“Now I’m pacin’ on shaky ground /  / Strike a match, then you blow it out / Oh no, oh no, it’s not fair / ‘Cause you kiss me and it stops time / And I’m yours, but you’re not mine,” Swift sings. “ Oh no, oh no, you’re not there / I’m standin’ on the sidewalk alone / I wait for you to drive by / I’m tryna see the cards that you won’t show / I’m about to fold unless you / Say don’t go.”

Taylor Swift s Bargaining Playlist Harry Styles and Joe Alwyn This One s for You
Jackson Lee/GC Images

Much of 1989 is allegedly written about Styles, whom Swift dated on and off from 2012 to 2013.

Joe Jonas and Jake Gyllenhaal also seemingly make appearances on the playlist with “Haunted” and “Better Man,” respectively, which look back at relationships Swift wishes played out differently. Speak Now’s “The Story of Us,” rumored to be about the fling she had with John Mayer when she was 19 years old, tells the story of being in the same place as a former lover and desperately hoping they’ll show they still care.

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Non-autobiographical tracks also show up on “Am I Allowed to Cry,” like Folklore’s “This Is Me Trying,” a song about someone struggling with addiction. “Death by a Thousand Cuts” is a breakup bop inspired by the 2019 film, Someone Great.

Fearless’ “Come in With the Rain” and “The Other Side of the Door” play on similar themes as “I Wish You Would,” where Swift is hoping her ex will come back to her and admit they made a mistake. She begins to move out of the bargaining stage by the second to last song, “If This Was a Movie,” where she realizes that life doesn’t always play out how she wants it. “If this was a movie, you’d be here right now,” she says.

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“Renegade,” the last song on the playlist, doesn’t appear on any of Swift’s albums. Instead, it’s a collaboration with producer Aaron Dessner, who has worked on Folklore, Evermore, Midnights and the upcoming TTPD.

Written in July 2021, some fans have speculated that “Renegade” serves as a last nail in the coffin for Swift’s romance with Alwyn, where she stops being concerned about his feelings — and starts getting angry.

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“Is it insensitive for me to say / Get your s–t together so I can love you? / Is it really your anxiety that stops you from giving me everything?” she questions in the chorus. “Or do you just not want to?”

The final chapter of Swift and Alwyn’s romance — and subsequent split — is likely to appear as a hot topic on The Tortured Poets Department, which Swift referred to as a “lifeline” during one of her Eras Tour shows earlier this year. Her relationship with boyfriend Travis Kelce, who she began dating earlier this summer, might also serve as inspiration for the 16-track record.

The Tortured Poets Department hits shelves on Friday, April 19.

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