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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Comparing Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ to Five Great Breakup Albums

Courtesy | Billboard
“Fortnight,” which Swift recorded with Post Malone, is one of two features on the 31 song album.

“The Tortured Poets Department”

According to Billboard, Taylor Swift’s latest release “The Tortured Poets Department” has hit multiple record-breaking moments. It is the only album on Spotify to hit over a billion streams in one week, become Spotify’s most-streamed album in a day and secure the most first-day streams for a pop album on Apple Music. 

“The Tortured Poets Department” is Swift’s 11th studio album and contains 16 songs, including the lead single “Fortnight” featuring Post Malone. Two hours after she released the album, Swift dropped an extended version of the album with 15 more songs titled, “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology.”

“The Tortured Poets Department” is primarily about the breakup of her six-year relationship with Joe Alwyn and her short-lived romance with Matty Healy — The 1975 frontman. The album also features a few songs about her current relationship with NFL player Travis Kelce.

The album is Swift’s first breakup album since her 2012 album “Red.” However, the vibe of the two albums could not be more different. This album sounds extremely similar to two previous albums “Folklore” and “Evermore” with its indie style and occasional soft pop. It was produced by Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff.

Like most breakup albums “The Tortured Poets Department” is full of heartache and tears. The question at hand is how does this breakup album fit into the breakup album world and more importantly how does it compare to the five great breakup albums listed below?

“Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac wrote its soft rock album “Rumours” amid relationship drama between its members, and according to Biography, has sold over 45 million copies since its release in 1977. According to Forbes, the album even recently appeared on five Billboard charts including the Billboard 200 and the Top Streaming Album despite releasing almost 50 years ago. While Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” has also found itself on multiple Billboard charts and has sold millions of copies thus far, there is the question of how it compares lyrically to Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.” Swift’s album may contain several beautiful lyrical tracks, but it cannot compare to the lasting effect Fleetwood Mac’s album has had and continues to have on the world with songs like “The Chain” and “Dreams.”

“The Visitors” by ABBA

Another critically acclaimed breakup album is “The Visitors” by ABBA released in 1981. On ABBA’s site, they discuss what led to the making of this heartbreaking pop album. It was a result of them “coming to terms with their marital splits and the prospect of life after ABBA.” Their tracks “Slipping Through My Fingers” and “One of Us” are arguably some of the most gut-wrenching songs out there. While this album might not compare in numbers to Swift’s, it certainly outdoes Swift’s album in terms of lyrical complexity. Several critics, including one from USA Today, agree that Swift “could benefit greatly from a more communal, creative approach” and appears to have “grown complacent.” Comparing lyricism, ABBA’s “The Visitors” is the better breakup album.

“Good Riddance” by Gracie Abrams

Gracie Abrams debut indie pop album “Good Riddance” is remarkably similar to Swift’s latest work, and that is because of Aaron Dessner. He produced both albums and clearly knows how to produce breakup albums that are full of soft and smooth sounding tones. Abrams is a devoted fan of Swift and opened for her at some of her shows on the Eras Tour. While Abrams is nowhere near Swift’s million copies sold, she certainly has seen some of the same success. According to Billboard, “Good Riddance” charted on the Billboard 200 same as Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department.” The two breakup albums pair nicely together, with Abrams packing a little bit more of a punch to the gut with the level of sadness with songs “Block Me Out” and “I Know It Won’t Work.”

“For Emma, Forever Ago” by Bon Iver

“For Emma, Forever Ago” started as a solo project and turned into a life-changing debut indie folk album for Bon Iver with its initial release in 2007. According to Far Out, James Vernon the singer-songwriter who created the band Bon Iver, wrote this album on his own when he “broke up with everybody” and isolated himself in a cabin outside of his hometown. The album allows the listener to settle into the melancholy and despair of a breakup. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the album was one of “the highest-praised albums of 2008.” It was also deemed “one of the best albums of the decade” by Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. With such raw vulnerability and success in both Bon Iver’s and Swift’s albums, it would be hard to compare the two on success alone.

“Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse’s second and final album “Back to Black” released in 2006 is one full of heartache. According to Rolling Stone, Winehouse wrote this R&B soul album about her on-again-off-again boyfriend turned husband Blake Fielder-Civil. The album saw much success due to the “authenticity of Winehouse’s guilt, grief and heartache.” Even long after her death, people adore Winehouse and how she was candid with her struggles through her music, specifically in her title track “Back to Black” and “Love Is a Losing Game.” Swift is known for being vulnerable and raw in her music much like Winehouse. Whether or not she will make such a lasting impact with this newest album is still up in the air.

There is no question that “The Tortured Poets Department” is seeing and will likely continue to see much success due to Swift’s devout fanbase. It may not be her best album to date due to the lack of lyrical complexity on many of the tracks, but it will surely find itself on breakup album playlists for many who can relate to the feeling of heartache and devastation.

Spotify Playlist – Great Breakup Albums Playlist

About the Contributor
Grace Sullivan
Grace Sullivan, Staff Writer
Grace Sullivan is a senior communication major. Grace is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
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