It was, not surprisingly, a huge weekend for Taylor Swift. The Tortured Poets Department is breaking all kinds of records everywhere. The streaming numbers are massive, even by her standards, and her standards for streaming and consumption are already extraordinary. But also? As Billboard reports, 1.4 million copies were sold on the first day alone – this, in 2024, is bonkers. Especially considering she just broke her own record for album units from just six months ago with 1989 (Taylor’s Version). SIX MONTHS AGO. At this point, she is her own pop culture galaxy, her power is exhilarating and, maybe, a little terrifying. 


More on that in a minute, let’s talk briefly about the music video for “Fortnight” featuring Post Malone that dropped on Friday night. The big reveal with the video is that for The Tortured Poets Department she recruited two original members of the Dead Poets Society – a flex, no doubt. The video is gorgeous, especially that medieval black dress she’s wearing, I wish she’d add more pieces like that to her wardrobe because it totally works on her. Also very into seeing her and Postie play lovers, there was a sensitivity to these scenes and actually made me like the song more than I did the first time I heard it; still not really my favourite, but this does illuminate the purpose of a music video, to add dimension to the song and on that level, it really works. My appreciation for “Fortnight” has increased because of it. 



But you know what her ultimate flex is, for me at least, with this video? The director of photography… is … Rodrigo Prieto, FFS! Sarah first wrote about Rodrigo Prieto last year ahead of the release of Barbie and how he developed “unique colour palette” for the film. He also, by the way, was the DP on Killers of the Flower Moon. Getting Rodrigo Prieto to DP her music video is a sick power move by Taylor Swift. And also adds another layer of intrigue to her dinner with Greta Gerwig last year


The point is…she is operating on some Thanos sh-t right now. Which brings me back to what I said earlier about being terrifying. And for more on that, let’s talk about the album reviews. There have been some excellent reviews. There have also been a few not-so-great reviews. A common criticism that’s come out of many of the reviews, good or bad, has been how MUCH there is, the bloat of double album, and how Taylor could have edited down her output to make a stronger creative impact. I too said the same in my post on Friday

The best review I read was at Pitchfork, an exceptional piece by Olivia Horn. About the so-muchness of the double album, Olivia writes: 

“If Swift believes that output for its own sake is what she has to offer, she underestimates her gift. Listeners who believe that her every ounce of experience is inherently interesting—because she was the one to have it—misunderstand her as well. Taylor Swift doesn’t need a whole album to tell the story of a relationship; she only needs one song, sometimes even one line.”

Pitchfork’s rating for Tortured Poets is 6.6, pretty average. And Olivia was willing to put her name to it. I mention this because Paste Magazine intentionally withheld the name of the critic who wrote their review which can be described, generously, as … unimpressed. The publication explained that they did not want to expose their writer to all kinds of harassment and internet torture. Needless to say, it was also a savvy publicity tactic, because that in itself made headlines, probably driving more people to read the review. 


But then, on Taylor’s socials, after those Paste Magazine headlines started circulating, she was posting and responding to positive reviews of the album with her own song lyrics. 



The gloating… really? 

Taylor has always loved praise and the awards that follow. See also the Grammys. Miss Americana loves a trophy. And I get it. I love a trophy too. And credit and accolades, and recognition … but I’m not a universe unto myself. I don’t have all the Infinity Stones. What’s a bad review when you are literally the Emperor of the music industry? 

It’s funny, but it’s also kinda scary. Because at this point Taylor Swift has achieved success beyond measure. As Olivia Horn put it: 

“Swift, pumped up to mythical proportions by discursive oxygen, is bigger than her body of work…”

And when you get this big, what do you want next? Like what’s the goal here? With this gloating, and the timing of this gloating, just as one bad review gets a little bit of traction – though nowhere near the amount of traction she and her album have been getting, obviously. What is the objective, long term? That everyone unanimously loves it, that everyone considers it a masterpiece, that no one can dissent?

Is that what she needs?

Is that art? Or is it … domination? Let me know your thoughts over at The Squawk. (app link here)