20 Apr 2024

Taylor Swift surprises with second 'Tortured Poets Department' album

1:31 pm on 20 April 2024

By Lisa Richwine and Marie-Louise Gumuchian, Reuters

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift arrives for the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on February 4, 2024. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP)

Taylor Swift at the Grammy Awards in February, where she announced her new album. Photo: AFP/Robyn Beck

Taylor Swift surprised fans with her new record The Tortured Poets Department on Friday, revealing it was a double album featuring songs about heartbreak and a period described as "the saddest story" of the singer's life.

Swift's 11th studio album, featuring 16 tracks, was released at midnight Eastern Daylight Time (4pm Friday New Zealand time). Two hours later she revealed a second installment with 15 more songs.

"I'd written so much tortured poetry in the past 2 years and wanted to share it all with you," Swift wrote on Instagram.

Poets came 18 months after 2022's Midnights.

Spotify said Poets broke the record for the platform's most-streamed album in a single day this year, achieving the feat in less than 12 hours.

Swift, 34, has been setting music industry milestones and boosting local economies with The Eras Tour, which resumes in Paris in May.

Time magazine named Swift its 2023 Person of the Year, citing her musical accomplishments and influence on everything from pop culture to voter registration.

A description of Poets on Instagram said it was "an anthology of new works that reflect events, opinions and sentiments from a fleeting and fatalistic moment in time - one that was both sensational and sorrowful in equal measure."

"This period of the author's life is now over, the chapter closed and boarded up," it added.

"There is nothing to avenge, no scores to settle once wounds have healed. And upon further reflection, a good number of them turned out to be self-inflicted."

The post also suggested that Swift used the writing process to heal.

"This writer is of the firm belief that our tears become holy in the form of ink on a page. Once we have spoken our saddest story, we can be free of it," it said.

The Instagram post did not say which events Swift was referring to. Fans have speculated she was writing about her relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn. The pair split in April 2023 after six years of dating.

Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn in the 2022 film Stars at Noon

Taylor Swift dated Joe Alwyn, pictured in the 2022 film Stars at Noon, for six years. Photo: Curiosa Films

A representative for Alwyn could not immediately be reached for comment.

Swift is among several of music's top female artists releasing albums in what is being called "Pop Girl Spring." Beyonce's Cowboy Carter debuted in March. Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish have releases scheduled for May.

Reviews of Poets were mostly positive, with Rolling Stone calling the music "wildly ambitious and gloriously chaotic".

Billboard said the album was "extreme in its emotions and uninterested in traditional hits; not everyone will love it, but the ones who get it will adore it fiercely".

Other critics were not as impressed. Britain's NME described it as "surprisingly flat and, at times, cringeworthy".

'The most honest'

Fans dissected each tidbit of the new album, even noting that avowed cat lover Swift chose to release it on National Cat Lady Day.

Anne Most, a Swift fan who lives in Los Angeles, said Poets felt like a crossover between the pop album Midnights and the folk record Folklore.

US singer Taylor Swift performs on stage during a concert as part of her Eras World Tour in Sydney on February 23, 2024. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP)

Taylor Swift on stage during the Eras Tour in Sydney. Photo: AFP / David Gray

"Lyrically it's the most honest Taylor's ever been, and it makes your heart hurt for what she went through," Most said, adding, "Has anyone checked on Joe?"

Many Swifties, as her fans are called, said they stayed up late into the night to stream the songs. "I'm only a couple of songs in and I'm obsessed. Thank you Taylor," a fan who identified herself as Nikki wrote on Swift's X account.

Others headed to record stores to buy CD or vinyl versions.

Mike Batt, 59, co-owner of Silver Platters record store in Seattle, said he had a rush of customers seeking Poets when he opened in the morning.

"The thing with Taylor is it's not just a flash in the pan type of thing," Batt said. "She has reinvented herself from the country artist that she started out, to the singer songwriter that she is today, and more of a pop artist than a country artist."

"And everything about it, from her embracing her fans and making them feel special, it's reciprocated," Batt added.

This story was originally published by Reuters.

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