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The Old Taylor Swift Is Dead — This Time for Real

On the astonishingly revealing ‘The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology’, Taylor Swift makes it clear that even if you love her, you don’t really know her

Taylor Swift

Beth Garrabrant*

At the very moment Taylormania was hitting preposterous heights, threatening to turn the artist at its center into an untouchable icon, it turns out that the real Taylor Swift was spending her time between glittery three-hour concerts making some of her most fearless art. The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology is stuffed with the rawest, angriest, and most unguarded songs of Swift’s career – quite the opposite of the ingratiating, focus-grouped inoffensiveness that a skeptic might expect from an artist at her current level of visibility.

On the new episode of our weekly Rolling Stone Music Now podcast, Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield join host Brian Hiatt for a deep, track-by-track breakdown of the first half of Poets. (They’ll dig into the second half on another episode, coming soon.) The album has prompted wildly divergent reactions, but our episode concentrates on unpacking lyrical mysteries, musical influences, and more. Go here for the podcast provider of your choice, listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or just press play above.

The album’s title track drops all obfuscation, cracking her beloved Easter eggs wide open as she directly addresses her short but apparently wildly intense relationship with the 1975’s Matty Healy. With Joni Mitchell-worthy candor, Swift offers a startling self-assessment of what the two artists had in common: “We’re crazy,” she sings, stacking harmonies on that descriptor for emphasis. And then there’s “But Daddy I Love Him,” where Swift unleashes pure hellfire on the “fans” who sought to lecture her on the inappropriateness of the Healy relationship. “I’ll tell you something about my good name,” she all but snarls. “It’s mine alone to disgrace.” Also notable is the fearsome, sardonic “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me,” where she once again embodies the Dark Taylor of “Look What You Made Me Do,” multiplied by the monster on the hill of “Anti-Hero.”

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From Rolling Stone US