Taylor Swift Lyrics: Who’s Mentioned on ‘Tortured Poets Department?


When Taylor Swift released “The Tortured Poets Department,” on Friday at midnight, her fan base quickly got to work decoding the album, looking for layers of meaning and insight into Ms. Swift’s life. Of course, that includes the pop singer’s romantic history.

Like many of her past works, the songs on this album — which features over a dozen additional tracks as part of an extended album called “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology” — are laden with names and references, many of which appear to be to real people from Ms. Swift’s universe and the literary canon. At least two poets, Dylan Thomas and Patti Smith, are mentioned.

Here’s a look at some of those characters.

Plenty of lines from “Tortured Poets” have fans guessing that certain songs — including “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived,” “The Black Dog” and “Down Bad” — may be about Matty Healy, the frontman for the 1975 who was spotted out and about with Taylor on several occasions last spring. One clue Swifties are latching on to: On the “The Black Dog,” Ms. Swift refers to the band the Starting Line. Mr. Healy covered one of the band’s songs while he was touring last spring. And then there is the much-discussed reference to a person Ms. Swift describes as a “tattooed golden retriever” on the album’s title track. Mr. Healy seems to fit the bill, according to her fans.

Ms. Swift’s fans have been floating the notion that the many sports references in the track “The Alchemy” allude to the football player Travis Kelce, the singer’s current boyfriend. “So when I / Touch down, call the amateurs and cut ’em from the team / Ditch the clowns, get the crown, baby, I’m the one to beat,” she sings in the chorus. “Where’s the trophy? / He just comes running over to me,” she adds in the bridge. But there is some debate, with some fans noting that her use of the term “blokes” would seem to imply the song is not about an American. (A winking line about “heroin but this time with an E” has some guessing the song is about Mr. Healy, who has previously spoken about his drug use.)

Ms. Swift and the actor Joe Alwyn broke up last year after a lengthy relationship. In the lead-up to the release of “Tortured Poets,” many fans believed this new album would process the end of that relationship. (Mr. Alwyn said in a 2022 interview that he was in a group text chat with the actors Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott called “The Tortured Man Club.” Some fans believe Ms. Swift was nodding to this name with her latest album title.) There is some speculation that Track 5, “So Long, London,” is about Mr. Alwyn, who is British.

A longtime collaborator of Ms. Swift’s, Jack Antonoff, who is credited as a producer on many of the new album’s songs, appears to get a lyrical shout out on the album’s title track.

The musician Lucy Dacus also appears on that same track. (In addition to her work as a solo artist, Ms. Dacus is a member of the supergroup boygenius, who surprised fans with a performance during a stop on Ms. Swift’s Eras tour last year.) “Sometimes, I wonder if you’re gonna screw this up with me / But you told Lucy you’d kill yourself if I ever leave / And I had said that to Jack about you, so I felt seen,” Ms. Swift sings.

Ms. Swift often leaves clues for fans by capitalizing seemingly random letters in words which, when strung together, spell a different word. In the case of this album, the song “thanK you aIMee,” seems to reveal the name Kim. (Ms. Swift and Kim Kardashian have a long and unfriendly history.)

In Greek mythology, Cassandra is given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, but is cursed such that no one will ever believe her. On a song with the same name as the goddess, Ms. Swift sings, “So they killed Cassandra first / ’Cause she feared the worst / And tried to tell the town / So they filled my cell with snakes, I regret to say / Do you believe me now?” Snake emojis have also played a key role in the feud between Ms. Swift and Ms. Kardashian.

The singer-songwriter Charlie Puth gets a name drop on the title track: “You smoked then ate seven bars of chocolate / We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist.” Mr. Puth, through a representative, declined to comment.

The song “Peter” appears to refer to the storybook character Peter Pan. “You said you were gonna grow up / Then said you were gonna come find me,” Ms. Swift sings. She has made similar allusions in the past, including a line about “Peter losing Wendy” on her song “cardigan” in 2020.

The American singer, songwriter, poet and author Patti Smith gets a name check on the title track in a line about New York’s iconic Chelsea Hotel, where she once lived. Ms. Smith has been hailed as the “punk poet laureate.”

The Welsh poet, known for works like “Do not go gentle into that good night,” is also mentioned along with Ms. Smith. ‘You’re not Dylan Thomas / I’m not Patti Smith / This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel / We’re modern idiots,” Ms. Swift sings. Thomas, who was also a resident at the Chelsea, is famous for his work as a neo-Romantic poet. (Ms. Swift has an older song, from her album “1989,” titled “New Romantics.”)

Clara Bow, an actress from the silent film era known as the first “it girl,” has an entire song dedicated to her on “Tortured Poets.” In 1927, Bow starred in a film titled “It” and became a national sex symbol before leaving the industry. Fans have pointed out that Ms. Swift’s thinly drawn eyebrows in a video teasing a new music video to accompany the song “Fortnight” bear a striking similarity to Ms. Bow’s.

Stevie Nicks is named on the song “Clara Bow.” Ms. Nicks has said that Ms. Swift’s song “You’re on Your Own Kid” reminds her of Christine McVie, her Fleetwood Mac bandmate who died in 2022. “You look like Stevie Nicks / In ’75, the hair and lips,” Ms. Swift sings in the song. (Ms. Nicks also wrote an original poem that accompanies special vinyl edition of “Tortured Poets.”)

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