Entertainment And News

Who Each Of Taylor Swift’s Songs On ’The Tortured Poets Department’ Is About — According To Fans

Photo: Nightdancer, Billion Photos, Deyan Georgiev, Mathilde Langevin / CanvaPro; DFree / Shutterstock
Taylor Swift with an ink quill, a clock, and the number two.

When Swift took the stage at the 66th annual Grammys to accept her award for Best Pop Vocal Album — her 13th award — fans held their breath. Not from fear or excitement, but from pure anticipation because if Swift knows how to do one thing, it’s hyping up an announcement. 

Although fans thought her speech would finally announce the re-release of her infamous “reputation (Taylor’s Version)” album, after weeks of speculation, Swift surprised everyone by instead announcing a brand new album, “The Tortured Poets Department.” 

   

   

Whether it was her ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn’s infamous group chat name (“The Tortured Men”) or Swift’s “peace sign” during her announcement that set them off, Swifties immediately started investigating. And when Swift’s tracklist for “The Tortured Poets Department” was unexpectedly leaked by an unknown comment on a viral video, she didn’t delay in simply posting it herself. 

What is this album about? More importantly, who is this album about? 

RELATED: A Complete Breakdown Of Who Taylor Swift's Songs Are (Allegedly) About

Who the songs on Taylor Swift's album 'The Tortured Poets Department' are about, according to fan speculation: 

1. 'Fortnight' (feat. Post Malone) 

Allegedly about: ???

Everyone knows, fan or not, that Swift does absolutely nothing by accident. So when she quickly remembered to throw up two fingers at the Grammys fans went down a rabbit hole.

“I want to say ‘thank you’ to the fans,” she said, “with a secret that I’ve been keeping from you for the past two years.” 

What’s the significance of the “two?” Fans have a number of speculations, including Michaela Horan, who noticed a “pattern of twos” in Swift’s recent album releases. Two re-recorded albums (like “Fearless” and “Red”), then a brand new album (like “Midnights”), then two more re-records (“Speak Now” and “1989”), and so on. 

   

   

Others, like Swiftie @g8stby on TikTok, pointed to the lyrics Swift posted in her announcement of “The Tortured Poets Department” that seemed to form a backward “two.” 

Post Malone’s involvement in Swift’s album, specifically the first track, is still unknown. However, fans are still excited to see the pair collaborate after their sweet interaction a couple of years back, which Malone fondly remembered in a Howard Stern radio interview from November. 

   

   

While fans don’t have a great guess as to who this track title refers to, they are curious as to what the significance of “two” is because, of course, “fortnight” also means “two weeks.” 

2. 'The Tortured Poets Department'

Allegedly about: Potential album collaborators and/or Joe Alwyn

While fans are excited about Post Malone and Florence + the Machine, they can’t help but listen to a suspicious gut feeling that there’s more to come. How can an entire “tortured department” only encompass two solo artists and a band? 

Sabrina Carpenter, the opening artist for several Eras Tour shows, posted a “photo dump” to Instagram over a year ago that fans have since dug up to justify their suspicions. “Tortured artist,” Carpenter wrote in the caption. Eerily similar to Swift’s new album name. 

Of course, in addition to having a very long and poetic name, this track also has an already infamous meaning. Swift’s ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn revealed to Variety back in 2022 that his WhatsApp group chat name with actors Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott was “The Tortured Man Club.” Alwyn started the group chat whilst dating Swift, just around “two years” ago. Two strikes again!

If the title wasn’t enough to point to Alwyn, fans also pointed to the album’s release date — April 19 — as evidence that Swift’s planning to delve into their break-up.

   

   

“Last year the ‘great unfollowing’ of Joe Alwyn happened,” @eurosweetheart on TikTok said. “All of Taylor’s friends collectively unfollowed him on Instagram … after [her] dinner with Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. When did this dinner happen? April 19.” 

RELATED: It Doesn't Matter That Joe Alwyn Thinks Taylor Swift's New Album Name Is 'Shady'

3. 'My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys' 

Allegedly about: Joe Alwyn and/or a secret, private relationship? 

While Swiftie @tspodnetwork on TikTok shared that this third track immediately made her think of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” a "reputation” track rumored to be about Kanye West, she pulled from another "all-star" song to speculate. 

   

   

“In ‘Cruel Summer,’ she’s saying ‘Bad, bad boy / Shiny toy with a price / You know that I bought it,” she said. “Toys are people! He broke his favorite toy!”

While many fans have always considered “Cruel Summer” to be about Alwyn, others point to the secrecy embedded in its lyricism. The true inspiration behind the song is unknown to her fans. Is this track going to delve into the relationship from "Cruel Summer" and reignite the "Gaylor" fandom all over again? 

4. 'Down Bad' 

Allegedly about: ???

Although there’s no clear inspiration behind “Down Bad” from fans yet, some assume it’s about her own tendency to fall hard and fast.

5. 'So Long, London'

Allegedly about: Joe Alwyn and/or Matty Healy

The fifth track on this album, “So Long, London” has big shoes to fill. Fans pointed to songs like “Delicate,” “The Archer,” “my tears ricochet,” and “All Too Well” as laying the foundation for Swift’s “fifth track” tradition. Swift notoriously places songs that are especially emotional, vulnerable, and heart-wrenching in the fifth track spot. 

   

   

“Because you noticed this, I started putting the songs that were honest, emotional, vulnerable, and personal in track five,” Swift told fans. 

RELATED: Jay-Z Is Right — Beyoncé Is Continuously Snubbed While Taylor Swift Is Celebrated

Raised in North London, fans couldn't help but assume this track was about ex-boyfriend Alwyn with fans like Hannah Michelleon on TikTok staring in shock at Swift’s blatant “call-out.”

   

   

While some fans are confident this track is about Alwyn — especially given “London Boy” from “Lover” was essentially a time capsule of their relationship — others argued it points to another muse. 

“As much as I know that ‘So Long, London’ is probably about Joe,” one fan, @expiredglutenfreebread on TikTok, shared, “I really want at least one song that’s like, ‘Hey, I’m sorry about Matty [Healy]. I was [expletive] and he was there. My bad.’”

   

   

Lead singer of The 1975, Matty Healy, is no stranger to the public eye. After rumors sparked in May 2023 that he was dating Swift, her fans were quick to defend her despite his most controversial and questionable moments. Fans dubbed him a “serial victim to cancel culture” and a threat to Swift's happiness, but it’s clear the couple had their romantic moments. 

6. 'But Daddy I Love Him' 

Allegedly about: Harry Styles and/or Joe Alwyn

Michelle, known as @michelletok on TikTok, has an interesting theory about track six, pointing to the original “Little Mermaid” movie as evidence. 

   

   

Not only did Swift dress up as “The Little Mermaid” for a New Year's Eve party, but several of her songs point to the — wait for it — 1989 movie’s main storyline. Ariel, the main character, dims her own “sparkle” for a man that she truly believes she loves.

“If we look at Taylor’s other songs — like “Bejeweled” and “You’re Losing Me” — she seemingly gave up her shine for Joe, because she loved him,” Michelle speculated. “Imagine this song as her dad saying ‘I don’t think you’re happy’ and her saying, ‘But Daddy, I love him.’ She’s giving up her voice and sparkle to be with him.”

Other fans pointed to Harry Styles as a likely inspiration, pulling photos of him in a shirt with “But Daddy I love him” plastered on the front. While they never publicly spoke about their breakup in January 2013, many fans are still yearning for a glimpse into their star-studded romance from over a decade ago. 

   

   

7. 'Fresh Out the Slammer'

Allegedly about: Joe Alwyn

Many fans suggested the tracklist is in “chronological order” following Swift through her relationship with Alwyn and beyond. 

With this logic, track seven could be the beginning of the end. A song that captures her freedom on the Eras Tour amidst the “entrapment” of her long-term relationship that was quickly turning sour. 

   

   

Others point to Swift’s “...Ready For It?” lyrics as an alternate explanation to her past relationship with Alwyn. What was once written as “He can be my jailor” has turned into “Fresh Out the Slammer.” 

   

   

RELATED: All The Times Taylor Swift Sang About Joe Alwyn In Her Songs

8. 'Florida!!!' (feat. Florence + the Machine)

Allegedly about: Joe Alwyn and/or The Eras Tour

If you’re still following this tracklist in chronological order — from the beginning to end of Alwyn and Swift’s relationship — the analysis of “Florida!!!” seems relatively clear. If “Fresh Out The Slammer” is their break-up, this track is Swift’s excitement for The Eras Tour. Of course, there are many other theories like Tori Soli who jokingly suggested that “She’s just gone to Harry Potter World!” 

   

   

9. 'Guilty as Sin?' 

Allegedly about: Taylor Swift

Immediately upon the unveiling of the tracklist, fans noticed this song title had an eerily similar vibe to many of Swift's previous songs including “no body, no crime.” While some tried to pull specific lyrics, others argued it's truly just "about the vibes." However, some fans noticed another song with more concrete ties to "Guilty as Sin?" 

Back in June 2022, Swift released her song “Carolina,” which she contributed to the soundtrack of “Where The Crawdads Sing.” While the titles aren’t necessarily similar, fans revealed lyrical similarities whilst digging into the song: “Oh, Carolina knows / Why for years they’ve said / That I was guilty as sin.” 

In Swift’s “Carolina” release, she said the song was about a woman always living on the outside looking in. “Figuratively & literally,” Swift wrote. “The juxtaposition of her loneliness & independence. Her curiosity & fear all tangled up. Her persisting gentleness & the world’s betrayal of it.”

So, it’s possible this song is another one of Swift’s incredible storytelling feats. One that could be an exclusive glimpse at her identity whilst navigating Hollywood, relationships, and the music industry in general. 

10. 'Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?'

Allegedly about: Taylor Swift and/or the media

Who should be afraid of Swift herself? Well, only people who’ve made mistakes. As Swift said herself, “If guys don’t want me to write bad songs about them, then they shouldn’t do bad things.” 

Swift’s song “...Ready For It?” features the lyrics, “He can be my jailor / Burton to this Taylor / Every love I’ve known is a comparison to failure.”  

   

   

Not only are these lyrics a nod to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s infamous relationship — one of passion, scandal, controversy, and love — it’s also a reminder that the public eye is obsessed with the entanglements of celebrities. 

So, what does this reference have to do with this track? Well, many fans are associating its title with the film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" a play turned classic film, featuring both Burton and Taylor, that focused on the duality of reality and illusion.  

Is it a stretch to think that Swift is alluding to the hyperfocus of the media on her romantic endeavors while simultaneously attacking her work? 

RELATED: Taylor Swift Won't Hear You, But Your Daughters Will — We Need To Do Better

11. 'I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)'

Allegedly about: Matty Healy and/or Joe Alwyn

In Olivia Rodrigo’s words, “I am my father’s daughter / Maybe I can fix him?” If you feel like you are responsible for fixing your partner's flaws, it's a tell-tale sign a relationship is going to end. To be honest, we've all had an experience like this and surely Swift would agree.  

   

   

While some immediately assumed this is about Alwyn, others again pointed to Healy, calling out that the song title reminded them of the “title format” Healy’s band The 1975 uses. 

12. 'loml'

Allegedly about: Harry Styles and/or a long-distance relationship

While the track’s acronym typically means “love of my life,” some fans are wondering if Swift is referring to other lyrics she’s deliberately placed in previous songs. “Love or my life / Loser of my life / Love over my legacy,” are all Swift lyrics as @beginagainluvr pointed out. 

   

   

Others say the track title is a nod to her long-distance relationships with Alwyn, Healy, and others throughout her life combined with the use of acronyms in texting. 

Lastly, you can't look at this track title and not think of one more specific speculation: it’s a reference to Harry Styles. While Styles’ song “Love Of My Life,” released in 2022, might’ve been a nod to his Chesire hometown, it’s impossible to not recognize the parallels between the titles. 

Of course, in tandem with speculation about the “But Daddy I Love Him” track, it’s impossible for Styles' and Swift's fans to not get excited. 

13. 'I Can Do It With a Broken Heart'

Allegedly about: Taylor Swift and/or The Eras Tour

Some of us struggle to get out of bed, after a breakup. However, Swift was prepping and on the road for her infamous Eras Tour — ready to perform for hundreds of thousands of people — only a few months after her so-called “amicable” split with Alwyn back in April. 

   

   

“Somebody just posted this clip [from singing “Lover”, allegedly about Alwyn], a few months ago,” Mai, said on TikTok over her Eras Tour clip. “I immediately thought of doing The Eras Tour with a broken heart.” 

RELATED: Taylor Swift's Parents Divorced Quietly Years Ago — And It Deeply Affected Her & Her Music

14. 'The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived' 

Allegedly about: Joe Alwyn and/or Taylor’s haters

Following Swift’s announcement of “The Tortured Poets Department,” ex-boyfriend Alwyn is reportedly not feeling great, at least according to The Daily Mail’s insider source.

“It’s undeniable that the name of her upcoming album is in reference to Joe’s WhatsApp group chat. Taylor knocked him for the name of this when they were together," the source explained. “If it is a dis album, that is shady … Regardless of what she does, he will still not respond because he has removed himself from her narrative and is very glad he did.” 

   

   

Regardless of what Alwyn has to say,  how can you really defend yourself against being the “The Smallest Man” alive?

15. 'The Alchemy' 

Allegedly about: The existence, progression, and loss of love or Joe Alwyn, again

Before digging into speculation, “alchemy” can be defined as a medieval scientific method for turning metals into gold. While the metals changed to a gold color following the practice, it was later proved false when people realized it was only the color — and not the matter — that had actually changed to gold. 

If you’re a Swiftie, the mention of “gold” is ringing alarm bells in your head and that’s exactly what happened with fan @thethriftyswiftie on TikTok.

   

   

“Before 1989, all references to gold [in lyrics] were ‘fairytale-esque’ rather than about a lifestyle,” she said. “The golden one / The golden age — things like that. Then in '1989,' there are no references to gold, and 'reputation' is when gold becomes love for Taylor.” 

Was Swift the victim of alchemy? According to @thethrifyswiftie, “I have to think that this song is about that same progression of gold through Taylor’s life, but perhaps it will be the idea that there is still gold out there somewhere. There is still such a thing as golden love.” 

16. 'Clara Bow' 

Allegedly about: Taylor Swift's public perception

Silent film and motion picture actress Clara Bow seems to be the inspiration behind track 16. Despite Bow growing up in the 1920s and Swift at the later end of the century, the two women’s lives share some astounding parallels. Zachary, known as @theswiftologist on TikTok, picked apart Bow’s life and noticed several unique struggles, moments, and experiences that seemed familiar. 

   

   

“She was a glamorous, stylish icon,” he said in his TikTok. “She was, what some considered to be, the first ‘IT girl.’ You can imagine why that would be interesting to Taylor Swift who has certainly had her times as ‘the IT girl’.” 

However, Bow’s label as the first “IT girl” was far from the only mark she made in the industry. “From her style to lifestyle, Bow was an icon; however, her humility and charm created the most intrigue,” according to the National Portrait Gallery

“Despite her very public and tempestuous social life, Bow prided herself on living her truth — never hiding details of her past or present,” the outlet continued. “With her unconventional yet robust sexuality, honesty, autonomy, and confidence, Bow not only fit [her infamous] character, but defined her.” 

In addition to being a pop culture and industry icon, Bow faced a great deal of backlash and criticism for false allegations of “intimate” relations with the USC football team. According to a Los Angeles Times archival article, Bow frequently had USC players “invited to parties” and once even arranged a date with a player. Tons of people, including the USC football coach, were angry with Bow and blamed her for the "distraction" and later "injuries" of players on the team. 

Amidst her newest relationship with Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, Swift’s reference to Bow seems incredibly timely, despite saying she wrote these songs years ago.

Since her announcement, fans can't help but dive deeper into Bow's life. In doing so, many have noticed several more "Easter Eggs" from Swift, including the clock necklace from her Grammys outfit and a poem called "When Battling Bill of the Bowery Fell for Clara Bow" that includes Alwyn's co-writing pseudonym, William Bowery. 

17. Bonus Track: 'The Manuscript' 

Allegedly about: A movie

Again, there's truly no such thing as "a coincidence" with Swift. Fans like Monica Abrahan pointed to her album announcement, her website’s supposed “crash,” and the title of this last bonus track as evidence that something larger is brewing. 

   

   

“What if this is a nod to her film?” she questioned. Others in her comments continued to speculate, one saying, “Maybe, the ‘Tortured Poets Department” is a movie and the album is actually its soundtrack?” 

Outside of the mastermind herself, nobody can — or probably ever will — know the true intentions behind each track.

While fans speculate that Swift’s new album is going to “torture” us all — taking fans through the singer’s most recent break-up — the truth is nobody really knows. 

Of course, people will criticize her for taking artistic inspiration from her life, her relationships, her struggles, and her goals. But, that won’t stop her. It's the driving force behind her personality, her music, and her career at large. She’s an unstoppable force in the music industry. So, while her announcement speech and recent success have sparked negative discourse, Swifties aren’t listening. 

They’re prepping to dissect “TTPD,” investigate the “reputation (Taylor’s Version)” release date, and passionately swoon over inevitable Super Bowl photos with Travis Kelce, who’s more than excited to see her “shake up the world” with this drop. 

RELATED: Travis Kelce Bought Taylor Swift Matching Custom Diamond Friendship Bracelets With Their New Couple Name

Zayda Slabbekoorn is a news and entertainment writer at YourTango focusing on pop culture analysis and human interest stories.