Taylor Swift takes aim at critics with new track

This album might be concerned with heartbreak, but it’s also about Swift’s fight to follow her own desires, regardless of what others might think – and on The Tortured Poets Department, those desires are more overtly sexual than ever before.

Writing about falling in and out of love is nothing new for Swift, but what is different on this album is the erotic charge that runs through it. Swift has alluded to sex in songs before (“I can see us twisted in bedsheets”), but has held back from allowing herself to be completely sexual on record.

Yet from the album cover – in which Swift writhes around on a bed in underwear – to the lustful lyrics scattered throughout (Swift even sings the word “sex” for the first time on The Manuscript), things have gone up a notch on this album. On Guilty as Sin?, there’s even a potential reference to masturbation, as she sings: “These fatal fantasies/ Giving way to laboured breath takin’ all of me / We’ve already done it in my head.”

Much like her decision to stop steering clear of politics (she endorsed Democratic candidates in 2018 – leading to a backlash), this feels like her scrubbing out another line in the sand. Swift’s relationship with Healy has – apparently – given her licence to write about desire in a way she’s never done before, no doubt helped by the confidence she now has in her own decisions, and her refusal to live up to anyone else’s expectations.

And for those fans disappointed that her relationship with Joe Alwyn received less airtime than expected on the record – though the breakdown is chronicled movingly on So Long, London (“I stoppеd CPR, after all, it’s no use”) – they (and indeed, Alwyn himself) should perhaps take heart from Swift’s sleeve notes, in which she writes: “It’s the worst men that I write best.”

Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department is out now.

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