The hidden meaning behind tracks on Taylor Swift's new album as superstar blasts exes Joe Alwyn and Matty Healy

19 April 2024, 11:32 | Updated: 19 April 2024, 13:01

The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology has 31 tracks
The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology has 31 tracks. Picture: Instagram/TaylorSwift

By Flaminia Luck

Taylor Swift is a mastermind who has been dropping hints and writing double meanings into her songs since her first single dropped in 2006.

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Her hotly-anticipated new album The Tortued Poets Department has already predictably broken records and set the internet alight with theories about who, what and why the songs are written about.

The record is a certified treasure hunt for fans who enjoy spending hours finding easter eggs in amongst the lyrics, dissecting metaphors and drawing parallels with Swift's earlier work.

If you've been following Swift's Love Story for a while, you will recognise some familiar names.

So, let's unpack the theories behind some of the 31 tracks on The Tortued Poets Department.

Swift and Alwyn pictured at the Golden Globe Awards in 2020
Swift and Alwyn pictured at the Golden Globe Awards in 2020. Picture: Getty

So Long, London

This song sits at the coveted fifth place on the album - a slot typically reserved for the most meaningful and vulnerable song on each of Swift's albums. It joins much-loved numbers such as Dear John, my tears ricochet and All Too Well.

As the title suggests, fans believe this 4 minute and 22 second long anthem is a fond farewell to the city where she lived with her British ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn before their split last year.

This is the second time she has mentioned the capital with the first being 'London Boy' during happier times between the two on Lover.

'London Boy' uses a sample of the voice of British actor Idris Elba and references all her favourite places to go in the city.

Whereas, 'So Long, London' is a much noticably moodier and darker number with much more damning lyrics.

"I left all I knew, you left me at the house by the Hеath / I stopped CPR, after all it's no use

"Thе spirit was gone, we would never come to / And I'm pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free".

The Albatross

Before it came out, fans were quick to point out that albatrosses can fly for up to six years without landing - the same length as Swift and Alwyn's relationship.

Musically, The Albatross sounds similar to Ivy and willow from the album evermore - which Alwyn helped create.

However, the lyrics suggests something different with Swift writing herself again as the antagonist.

"She's the albatross / She is here to destroy you / Devils that you know

"Raise worse hell than a stranger / She's the death you chose / You're in terrible danger"

Swift and Healy seen leaving a studio in Manhattan in May 2023
Swift and Healy seen leaving a studio in Manhattan in May 2023. Picture: Getty

Down Bad

Fans are convinced this sad yet upbeat bop is about her short-lived romance with lead singer of The 1975, Matty Healy.

“For a moment I knew cosmic love” which realistically could not be about her six-year relationship with Alwyn.

Some lyrics could also allude to Healy’s controversial reputation and problematic remarks in the past, with: “I loved your hostile take-overs / Encounters closer and closer / All your indecent exposures.”

This is in stark contrast to Alwyn who was notably private and rarely made public comments or appearances.

The Tortured Poets Department

Swift did what she did best with this one and threw everyone off.

Originally, people believed The Tortured Poets Department was about Alwyn as it was revealed he was part of a groupchat with fellow actors, Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal.

Howvere, this one is definitely about Healy and here's the lyrical proof.

Swift sings about “a tattooed golden retriever,” - surely Matty - bu this line confirms it.

“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,”

Singer Lucy Dacus - of the band Boygenius - and Matty had a famous spat on Twitter and no longer speak.

The Bolter

Some fans have speculated that The Bolter is about a pub in London where Swift and Alwyn reportedly went on a date.

However, other have speculated that the song is about leaving a relationship and feeling liberated.

"But as she was leaving / it felt like breathing" she sings "She felt through the ice / Then came out alive".

Fans have noticed parallels with songs such as 'Getaway Car' and 'It's Time To Go' - which are thematically similar.

The lyrics "All her fucking lies, flashed before her eyes” could also be a play on the lyrics “You’ve ruined my life, by not being mine” from the song Gorgeous.

The Alchemy

The Alchemy could be a sweet love song dedicated to Swift's new beau footballer Travis Kelce.

Lyrics includes references to the sport such as: "So when I touch down / Call the amateurs and cut 'em from the team" as well as "Where's the trophy? He just comes, running over to me".

The pop star began a high-profile romance with Kansas City Chiefs star Kelce last year, with her rushing the field at the Super Bowl to kiss him after his third victory in five years.

Swift and Kelce smooch following the Kansas City Chiefs win
Swift and Kelce smooch following the Kansas City Chiefs win. Picture: Alamy

thanK you aIMee

Swift flies incredibly close to the sun with this possibe dig to reality TV star and archnemesis Kim Kardashian - as the capitalised letters spell out the name Kim.

"I don't think you've changed much / And so I changed your name, and any real defining clues.

"And one day, your kid comes home singin' / A song that only us two is gonna know is about you."

The pair have had a legendary and famously unresolved feud thanks to the help of Kardashian's ex-husband Kanye West.

Months ago, Kim's daughter North West set the internet alight after posting a TikTok video lipsyncing to 'Shake It Off' - alongside Kim.

Kim Kardashian used to be a self-proclaimed fan of Taylow Swift prior to their feud
Kim Kardashian used to be a self-proclaimed fan of Taylow Swift prior to their feud. Picture: Getty

But Daddy I Love Him

The title appears to reference to a line in 'The Little Mermaid'.

It's what Ariel shouts at her domineering father, King Triton, while pleading to join Prince Eric, her human love: "Daddy, I love him!"

It could also refer to the Allie in The Notebook who says a similar line while defending her relationship with a boy from the other side of the tracks: "Yes, daddy, I love him."

The references appear to be an allegory about rejecting the need for approval, defying public expectation and choosing love over what society expects.

However, in a more cynical take, The Little Mermaid tells the story of a girl who loses her voice. Swift could be making reference to her own delusion and self-injury that miss-judged love can bring.

In The Little Mermaid, Ariel loses her singing voice
In The Little Mermaid, Ariel loses her singing voice. Picture: Alamy

Who's Afraid of Little Old Me?

No stranger to female rage, Swift has added to her ever-growing list of songs penned about her problems with fame and the double standards imposed on women in the public sphere.

"I was tame, I was gentle 'til the circus life made me mean / Don't you worry folks, we took out all her teeth"

It also could be a reference to the 1962 play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which tells the story of a troubled marriage of a middle-aged couple, George and Martha, who play emotional and psychological games with each other.

The name of the play is also a pun on the song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" from Disney's Three Little Pigs.

In Swift's 2024 take on the fairytale, she writes about how she has been portrayed as a villian who has crashed a party - much like the wolf in the story.

"So I lеap from the gallows and I levitate down your street / Crash the party like a record scratch as I scream / Who's afraid of little old me?"

Clara Bow

Clara Bow was an American actress who rose to stardom during the silent film era of the 1920s.

Bow's romantic life, which saw her linked to a number of high-profile men, was often a source of gossip and speculation for the public - much like Swift.

In the Reputation track 'Gorgeous', Swift sings, “Whisky on ice, Sunset and Vine / You’ve ruined my life, by not being mine.

That is the same corner where Bow’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star currently sparkles.

Swift has also previously taken inspiration from American IT-girls from the last century with the folklore track The Last Great American Dynasty written about the wealthy socialite and former owner of one of her homes Rebekah Harkness.

Silent fim star Clara Bow
Silent fim star Clara Bow. Picture: Getty Images


Swift has made references to Peter Pan previously in songs such as 'Cardigan' - "Trying to change the ending, Peter losing Wendy".

In this take on the story, Swift sings of a lost love who promises to come back to her once he has grown up, much like the character in JM Barrie's novel.

"And I won't confess that I waited, but I let the lamp burn / As the men masqueraded, I hoped you'd return

"With your feet on the ground, tell me all that you'd learned / Cause love's never lost when perspective is earned /

"And you said you'd come and get me, but you were twenty-five. And the shelf life of those fantasies has expired

"Lost to the "Lost Boys" chapter of your life / Forgive me, Peter, please know that I tried".

The Black Dog

The "black dog" is a term coined by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to refer to depression.

In English literature and folklore, a black dog served as a symbol of impending death.

In this tragically intimate number, Swift sings of her melancholia following a failed relationship and her fear she may never love in the same way again.

"I move through the world with a heart broken. My longings stay unspoken, and I may never open up the way I did for you."

Others have pondered the song is a reference to - you guessed it - another pub in London.

"In The Black Dog, when someone plays The Starting Line

And you jump up / but she's too young to know this song".

The Starting Line are a pop-punk band who were known throughout the 2000s.