Is Taylor Swift's 'Tortured Poets Department' album title about Joe Alwyn? Here's what it could mean

5 February 2024, 15:54 | Updated: 5 February 2024, 16:05

Taylor Swift makes Grammy history as female musicians sweep top gongs

By Katie Louise Smith

What does The Tortured Poets Department mean? Taylor Swift's new album title has sparked a theory amongst fans – and it's all to do with Joe Alwyn and Paul Mescal.

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Was Taylor Swift's new album, The Tortured Poets Department, inspired by Joe Alwyn and Paul Mescal's group chat? Let's investigate...

Well, she's done it again. While all the Swifties were anxiously waiting to see if Taylor would finally announce Reputation (Taylor's Version), she shocked everyone at the 2024 Grammys by announcing that she's actually about to drop her eleventh studio album instead. A brand new Taylor Swift album?! Say less!

The Tortured Poets Department will be released on April 19th, and fans are already dissecting all the easter eggs surrounding it. The biggest of which is the title...

While Taylor has usually preferred to keep her album titles at a 1 or 2 word minimum, The Tortured Poets Department is her longest yet. It also appears to include a possible reference to Taylor's ex-boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. At least, that's what the fans have theorised.

The Tortured Poets Department meaning: Is it connected to Joe Alwyn?

Taylor Swift fans draw comparisons between Taylor's new album title and Joe Alwyn's group chat name
Taylor Swift fans draw comparisons between Taylor's new album title and Joe Alwyn's group chat name. Picture: Amy Sussman/Getty Images, Republic Records, Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

As soon as the album title was revealed during Taylor's Best Pop Vocal Album acceptance speech, Swifties immediately clocked the similarities to the name of the WhatsApp group chat between Joe Alwyn, Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott.

Back in 2022, Joe and Paul were paired up together on Variety's Actors on Actors where they discussed their work and their connection through Normal People and Conversations With Friends, both of which were TV shows based on novels by Sally Rooney. During that chat, they revealed they were in a group chat called 'The Tortured Man Club', a tongue-in-cheek nod to the characters they play onscreen.

The use of the word 'tortured' alongside the club/department similarities has sent the theory-loving Swifties into overdrive.

"I knew that Taylor Swift’s new album name sounded a little too familiar..." one fan wrote. Another wrote: "Tortured man club group chat lighting up I fear."

One viral tweet just simply added: "Oh, no".

What does The Tortured Poets Department mean?

While the name sounds strikingly similar to that group chat, it might just be a coincidence. Or least, not an obvious direct reference.

The Tortured Poets Department could call back to themes that Taylor wrote about on Folklore. 'The Lakes', specifically.

In the bonus track, which details a past trip that Taylor and Joe took to the Lake District, Taylor takes inspiration from the community of famous poets and artists who moved to the lakes.

"Since I was probably about 20, [I've] written about this cottage backup plan that I have," Taylor explained in Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions. "I've been writing about it forever."

"So 'the lakes' is really talking about relating to people who, hundreds of years ago, had the same exit plan, and did it," she continued, elaborating on how she took inspiration from those poets in order to 'escape'.

Of course, we'll have to wait for April 19th to see if The Tortured Poets Department echoes some of those Folklore themes.

the lakes (folklore: the long pond studio sessions | Disney+)

While announcing The Tortured Poets Department, Taylor also revealed that she had been working on the album for the past two years. (Yes, in between the Eras Tour and the re-records, Taylor managed to find time to create a brand new body of work!)

That two-year detail has also become a huge talking point in the fandom. Late last year, Jack Antonoff revealed that Taylor's emotionally devastating track 'You're Losing Me' was actually written way back in 2021, when she was still in a relationship with Joe Alwyn. (Fans previously thought she had written it after they had broken up in 2023.)

As a result, Swifties are now speculating that the album might include a fair amount of songs about the breakdown of her relationship with Joe.

Again, we'll have to wait until April 19th to find out!

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