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As Taylor Swift accepted the Grammy Award in February for best pop vocal album for “Midnights,” she informed the audience that she had been keeping a secret for two years: She had recorded a new album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” and it would be released on April 19.

When Swift said “two years,” she held up two fingers, which under normal circumstances is a regular human hand signal. However, Swift’s die-hard fans know her all too well … and when the lead-up to the record included more references to the number two, they suspected something was up.

And they were correct — Swift dropped the 16-song record on midnight Eastern time on Friday, and then two hours later at 2 a.m., announced a surprise: It was actually a double album titled “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology,” with 15 additional songs. (We can only imagine how much Swift was laughing at the people who thought they got the best of her when the first half leaked on Thursday.)

It was a fitting addition for a project that repeatedly reminds listeners that they don’t really know the pop megastar at all behind the scenes — and she has gone through quite a journey dealing with the complexities of fame. Here are the main things to know about the album.

Yes, a major theme is heartbreak

Based on the title, you could guess there would be lots of angst on the record, in addition to some of the track listings alone: “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can),” as well as “So Long, London” — the latter of which is the fifth track, which all Swifties know is a spot that she saves for her most personal songs. Before the release, Swift created a series of playlists for Apple Music that categorized songs from her discography by the five stages of grief.

Swift does deliver lyric after lyric about devastating heartbreak: “You swore that you loved me, but where were the clues? / I died on the altar waiting for the proof,” she sings on “So Long, London.” And on “LOML,” usually internet-speak for “love of my life,” she changes the words to “loss of my life.”

She drops (a few) hints about the subjects of her songs

Swift rocketed to stardom as a teen country singer when she hid clues in the liner notes about the real-life boyfriends and crushes in her lyrics. That practice stopped when she became a global superstar — but as usual, fans are already hard at work dissecting who, exactly, Swift is singing about on these tracks. (“I’d written so much tortured poetry in the past 2 years and wanted to share it all with you,” Swift posted on social media Friday.)

The obvious assumption before the album’s release was that many songs would be about British actor Joe Alwyn, whom Swift dated for six years before they announced their breakup in April 2023. But upon hearing the lyrics, fans instead caught more apparent references to Matty Healy, lead singer of British band The 1975, to whom Swift was romantically linked for a couple of months last year. (People magazine, for example, noted that on “Guilty as Sin?” she name-drops the Blue Nile, Healy’s favorite band.)

Swift, who has given very few details about the timeline of “Tortured Poets,” said that she started recording it after she finished “Midnights” (presumably in late 2021 or early 2022) and continued through the Eras Tour that launched last spring. So it’s unclear whether the timing would have worked for her to include her relationship with Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce — but there are some sports-themed lines in “The Alchemy.”

Swift is not thrilled about the opinions on her relationships

While Swift and Healy were spotted together multiple times and he showed up at a few of her concerts, they never confirmed they were an item. Still, many people were upset that Swift was associated with the controversial singer, given that he has been criticized for offensive comments over the years, such as laughing and agreeing on a podcast when a host made racist comments about the rapper Ice Spice. Some fans launched a campaign called #SpeakUpNow that asked Swift to address and condemn his behavior.

Swift has not talked about Healy publicly, but on Friday morning, listeners were already drawing the line between the public outcry and her lyrics on “But Daddy I Love Him.” Swift had some harsh words for strangers who judge her: “God save the most judgmental creeps who say they want what’s best for me / Sanctimoniously performing soliloquies I’ll never see, thinking it can change the beat of my heart when he touches me.”

“I’ll tell you something about my good name,” she sings, “It’s mine along with all the disgrace.”

Swift is still processing her complicated feelings about fame

While there are plenty of perks of being one of the most famous and richest celebrities on the planet, it can also kind of ruin your life. Swift has delved into this theme before and continues on “Tortured Poets.”

“You wouldn’t last an hour in the asylum where they raised me,” she taunts on “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?,” later adding, “I was tame, I was gentle til the circus life made me mean.”

Another track, “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” seems to be about how she performed even through heartbreak during her record-shattering Eras Tour: “Breaking down, I hit the floor, all the pieces of me shatterеd as the crowd was chanting ‘More!’” Meanwhile, the final song on the first half of the album, “Clara Bow,” references the early 20th century silent film actress whose personal life was heavily scrutinized by the tabloids.

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She buries hatchets but keeps maps of where she puts them

That’s Swift’s way (on 2017 song “End Game”) of saying she holds grudges — something that still holds true today. She absolutely skewers an unnamed ex on “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” (I would have died for your sins, instead I just died inside / And you deserve prison, but you won’t get time”).

The second half of the album is filled with songs titled with proper names: “Cassandra,” “Robin,” “Peter,” “Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus.” But one is called “Thank You Aimee,” stylized as “thanK you aIMee” … which fans immediately recognized spells out “Kim,” also known as a longtime Swift nemesis known as Kim Kardashian. The song is peppered with expletives directed at Aimee, leaving no confusion about how she feels about a certain someone.

However, in a brief statement on Instagram, Swift wanted to let listeners know that she doesn’t plan on looking backward for much longer, describing “Tortured Poets” as “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. There is nothing to avenge, no scores to settle once wounds have healed,” Swift continued. “And upon further reflection, a good number of them turned out to be self-inflicted. 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.”





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