Taylor Swift Fans Are Changing Their Attitude Towards The Singer With The Tortured Poets Department


Taylor Swift‘s bombshell release of The Tortured Poets Department has given fans much to digest over the weekend — and while the sentiment was initially one like the rabid Taylor Mania we saw earlier this year, it looks like the tide is turning.

I feel I must preface this article with what some might call a confession (for me, it’s just a fact): I am not a Swiftie.

Sure, I enjoy an occasional Taylor Swift bop, and I will always belt out “Love Story” during a karaoke night, but that’s about as far as my enjoyment of Swift goes. I’m a casual listener, but I can’t really get past the whole billionaire thing, and everything else I know about her I have learned against my will — mostly through my job as a writer in these Swift-obsessed times, and the fact that I am a young woman who uses TikTok.

It may come as no surprise that, despite this, my feed almost always gifts me theory videos and lyric breakdowns about the latest Taylor Swift releases. Maybe this is because TikTok knows I’m a young woman in Australia and therefore, statistically, probably a Swiftie. Or maybe it’s because I often watch videos of Taylor using my own account as part of my job, and therefore TikTok thinks I’m interested.

The inundation of Taylor Swift videos I’ve had to endure did, mercifully, decline since she completed the Australian leg of her tour — until The Tortured Poets Department (TTPD) dropped. Now, yet again, I am reluctantly becoming an expert in another bit of Taylor lore that I don’t care about. However, this time things feel distinctly different.

Gone are the videos of emotional fans tearfully explaining the genius behind heart-wrenching lyrics that changed their lives, drawing conspiratorial lines between countless lists of easter eggs, or Millennials posting their thesis on how maligned they feel their favourite girlboss is because she’s a rich white woman, etc.

While those still exist, for the first time in my life more than half the videos worming their way into my feed are… critical of Taylor Swift.

That’s not to say the videos are mean or hateful — the vast majority of them are by fans — but there’s a level of healthy appraisal that I, as an outsider, have never witnessed in the wider Swiftie fandom. And given the nature of stan culture in general, it feels like a Big Deal.

Some of the comments I’ve seen about The Tortured Poets Department. Image: TikTok.

The majority of the videos filtering into my TikTok feed about Taylor Swift are questioning her lyrics — instead of the usual fanfare around her genius.

I genuinely thought the line “My friends used to play a game where we would pick a decade we wished we could live in instead of this/ I’d say the 1830s, but without all the racists and getting married off for the highest bid” was a parody, a joke even.

I mean, I get that some of the greatest British literature came out around then but we all know that time was distinctly characterised by slavery, so it’s kind of impossible for any of its aesthetics, structures or works of art to exist without racism.

However, it turns out this is a real lyric from TTPD, in the song “I Hate It Here”.

I’ve also seen complaints about the lyrics: “We smoked and then ate several bars of chocolate / We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist.”

Some also claimed the album all sounds the same to them, or that the songs are hard to distinguish from one another. Others noted the use of relatable Gen Z slang like the two song titles mentioned above, and felt the whole thing was a little too “How do you do, fellow kids”.

Crucially, though, these are not comments I’m seeing from those who already dislike Taylor. They’re from fans who believe in Taylor’s talent, who are rooting for her — but who feel this album specifically doesn’t have the crafted or polished nature they’re used to, and they’re disappointed.

“Listen, I love Taylor Swift but a lot of those songs should have had more time in the draft folder,” a comment with more than 15,000 likes said in a discussion about Swift’s lyrics.

“I love her so much but it’s SO BAD,” said a different fan. Another said they “wanted to like this album” but “it’s giving me nothing.”

I’ve seen Swift be accused of publishing her unedited diary entries, or even of accidentally writing satire. Others have labelled the album inoffensive, but not a banger like her usual stuff.

Comments on a parody of the album lamented that the video had “more flow” and “creativity” than The Tortured Poets Department.

Now, I can’t determine how reflective of the fandom these widespread criticisms are — the nature of algorithms and filter bubbles make that pretty much impossible — but they are appearing in my feed at a higher volume than usual, and with more boldness.

There’s still plenty of love for TTPD, and perhaps majority of fans adore it — but those who are criticising Taylor Swift aren’t being as torn to shreds as I’ve come to expect and there’s a surprising amount of genuine discourse. That is interesting to me.

Instead of a homogenous mass of videos all proclaiming the same thing, the girlies are disagreeing with one another about Swift’s latest drop. They’re giving feedback. They’re being honest about their thoughts. They are refusing to praise Swift just because they like her, and (some) are being open to feedback from people who ordinarily would be dismissed just because they don’t.

And this, if anything, is an indicator to me as a non-fan that the tide around Taylor Swift is changing. That while she does have an incredibly loyal fan base, that she is not above criticism and expectations.

Given the reputation (hehe) Swifties have for refusing to interrogate any of her products, it’s truly an interesting — perhaps even refreshing — development. And for once, I’m not mad about the Taylor Swift videos infiltrating my feed, because I’m actually interested in what they have to say.