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The Power of Taylor Swift: From Hits to Hype, Exploring The Tortured Poets Department ✍️

Written by: Jadon King

Taylor Swift released her latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, this past Friday and turned the entire internet into a Swifties vs. The World dumpster fire. The album received a 6.6 on Pitchfork with its expansion The Anthology getting a 6.0, leading to memes about how Peppa Pig’s Peppa’s Adventures: The Album received a higher score than the expansion. Some Swifties have left the fandom following the album’s release while others claim to have listened exclusively to The Tortured Poets Department (TTPD) on loop for the past week; the album’s lyrics were simultaneously praised and torn to shreds. The album feels like a monumental moment in Swift’s career but the question is why? What about this album makes it a pop culture moment we can’t take our eyes off of? Is it the post-Eras Tour hype or the fixation on her high-profile relationships, past and present? Do people just really love/hate Taylor Swift that much? The short answer is all of the above. In this week’s blog, instead of reviewing the album, we’re looking at its impact and how we got so fixated on everything Taylor does. 🔍

A large reason why Taylor is so prevalent is due to changing trends in socio-economic trends in America. In her article “Taylor Swift Isn’t the Economic Force. It’s Her Fans”, Misty Heggeness examines the stats behind Taylor’s fanbase. While the stereotypical Swiftie is a white Millennial woman, breaking down Swift’s American demographics reveals that of the 53% of Americans that identify as Swifties (that’s over 137 million people by the way!!), the ratio of percentages of race/age/gender reflect those of the US population. So if we all generally like Taylor the same amount, why is she experiencing a new boost in popularity? Heggeness notes that the bulk of Swift’s fanbase, white females, are experiencing new financial freedom that allows them to buy luxury items such as limited edition vinyls and Eras Tour tickets. Women of this demographic are much more likely to live alone than they used to previously, as well as being less likely to marry and have children. This newfound freedom among her fans doesn’t necessarily mean she’s become more popular but that her fans have more money to spend. 💸

Don’t let this distract you from the legitimacy of Taylor’s career and the power she has over it. It’s been projected that the Eras Tour will gross a total of $4.1 billion, with Swift controlling 85% of the revenue from the tour. Music industry analyst Alice Enders notes that the tour’s post-pandemic timing couldn’t have been better. “We are in an experience economy where people crave going out and participating in social events,” She says. “It’s no surprise that people are flocking to this Eras Tour experience in what is increasingly an otherwise digital environment we live in”. In other words, more Taylor Swift TikToks = more Swifties. 📲

The attention Swift gets is also due to the fact that she just writes hits. After nearly twenty years in the music industry, Taylor’s stats are dizzying. Here’s the link to the full Time article about Taylor’s insane career, but here are some of the highlights from Billboard:

  • Swift is the only female artist to land three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 in a calendar year (twice)

  • She has the most Top 5 hits on the Hot 100 of any female artist (second only to Drake overall)

  • She set and then broke her own record for the most No. 1 albums by a female artist (thirteen total!)

  • Swift has the most cumulative weeks spent at No. 1 of all female artists (the third overall behind the Beatles and Elvis)

  • Plus, she became the first artist to occupy all top 10 spots in the Hot 100 in a single week.

Given the depth and popularity of Swift’s catalog, of course the Eras Tour did so well! Swifties from all Eras flocked to the tour, each person spending an average of $1,279 on going to the Eras Tour between tickets, travel/lodging, outfits, merch, and food/drink. Even though the average Eras Tour show was 3.5 hours long, there was never a dull moment; her catalog is simply too big and contains too many hits to disappoint. 🎧

Yet, The Tortured Poets Department has drawn some serious fire, but this should come as no surprise. Swift has always drawn mixed reviews upon initial release, and TTPD is no exception. Dazed called the album Taylor’s “most boring and forgettable album” while Rolling Stone UK called it an “instant classic”. But a quick look at X/Twitter reveals that Swifties are obsessed. They are fighting to get the album to a billion streams within its first week, something previously unseen in the streaming era. The fact that the TTPD: The Anthology is a double album with 31 songs is certainly one of the reasons the goal of a billion streams in a week is feasible. This has led to arguments about the data-dump strategy becoming so prevalent in the music industry; some argue Swift’s streaming success is, in part, a phantom created by the large tracklist and a dedicated group of fans that stream the album until the numbers are conflated beyond any realistic number. Regardless, Taylor’s fanbase is one of the most loyal fanbases in music today and Swifties will make sure that Taylor will continue to be a history-maker. 📝

So, regardless if this album has you “Down Bad” or screaming “I Hate It Here”, there’s no denying the buzz surrounding The Tortured Poets Department and its impact. Taylor Swift's influence on the economy, music industry, and society will be studied for years. Her 11th studio album reaffirms not only the staying power of pop music but also Taylor's enduring presence in the cultural landscape. What did you think of The Tortured Poets Department? What’s your favorite song? Let us know by commenting on our Instagram Post! 🤍

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