Tag Archives: musical elements

ALBUM REVIEW: Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ – A Personal Perspective

I listened to Taylor Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department, on Saturday while I was working out and walking. This is what I’ve been doing with countless other albums since the beginning of March. (I say “countless,” but that’s not true at all; I’ve actually been counting them in a spreadsheet.) I was kind of lukewarm on the proper album, but I enjoyed The Anthology (a surprise bonus album that was released along with TTPD*) a lot more.

*Reader’s Note: For the purposes of everything I’m about to write, when I refer to “TTPD”, I’m referring to all of the songs encompassed on both albums.

I’ve been reading a lot about TTPD, and I’ve been asked about my opinion on it more than logic might dictate, especially when you consider that I am not Taylor Swift’s target demographic. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m not her target demographic in a manner that’s different from my initial suspicions.

I once read an article about Swift wherein she mentioned that the majority of her focus is on the lyrics when writing a song. This makes a lot of sense; her songs are generally intensely personal and appeal to the type of people who are interested in breaking down the lyrics of the songs they enjoy, which is basically all Taylor Swift fans. This is why you’ll see so many posts from people, Swifties or otherwise, talking about how much they relate to individual tracks from TTPD.

I’ve always known this about myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a reason to express it until now: I’m not a lyrics guy. Considering the multitude of comedic songs (and personal songs) I’ve written over the years, lyrics typically don’t command my initial focus when I listen to a song for the first time.

I’m a music guy; I focus almost exclusively on the music in a song. If I’m paying attention to the words at all, it is because I’m interested in the melody. My favorite song on TTPD is “Cassandra”, and this is entirely because of the main piano riff and the way the vocals play off of that piano part during the verses. I didn’t even realize the song was about Greek mythology until someone else mentioned it in a post.

If I do focus on the lyrics to a song at all and end up enjoying them, that’s a bonus, but it’s not even remotely a priority. Even my favorite comedy songs are songs where I happen to enjoy the music, even if they aren’t as funny as other songs. For example, Bo Burnham’s “Welcome To The Internet” is arguably one of the funniest songs heard throughout his Netflix comedy special Inside, but I’d rather listen to “Content”, the opening number that merely summarizes what the special is meant to be, and is only a fraction as hilarious, and this is entirely because I think that song is catchier.

Because this is how I enjoy music (or why I sometimes don’t enjoy it) in totality, and because Taylor Swift is an artist who puts almost all of her emphasis on writing lyrics that are personal yet universal, I can appreciate the heck out of what she’s capable of while simultaneously understanding that our sensibilities are only going to parallel one another sometimes. Because a lot of the music on TTPD is bare and simplistic to allow the lyrics to have a platform where they can more effectively shine, there are fewer elements of those songs for me to personally really dig.

I think TTPD is a good album. But I’m not a person for whom it should exist, not because I’m not a Swiftie, and not because I’m a 40-year-old man, but because I’m a guy that hones in on different elements of music than where the intended audience casts their focus. And that’s okay, because it doesn’t matter how I feel about it; what matters is how YOU feel about it.

It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem; it’s me.

Scott Gesser’s music on Bandcamp: