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Why Taylor Swift fans are convinced ‘Tortured Poets’ album is about Joe Alwyn split

“All’s fair in love and poetry...”
/ Source: TODAY

In true Swiftie fashion, theories surrounding Taylor Swift's upcoming album are swirling.

After accepting her 13th Grammy win Feb. 4, the 34-year-old took a moment to reveal her 11th studio album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” would come out in April.

Shortly after her speech, Swift shared to Instagram the cover art of the upcoming album, which featured a sultry, black-and-white photo of Swift laying on a bed.

“All’s fair in love and poetry...” she captioned the post. 

Within minutes of the announcement, fans took to social media to share theories about the album, ranging from the Easter eggs everyone missed, to the title — and how it might connect to her ex boyfriend, Joe Alwyn.

Reports that Swift and Alwyn, an actor, broke up started circulating in April 2023 after they first struck up a relationship in 2016.

Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn
Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn at the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 5, 2020.Christopher Polk / NBCU via Getty Images

Since then, Swift's entered into a highly publicized romance with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

The theorizing about the inspiration behind "The Tortured Poets Department" only intensified after Swift released the song titles on Feb. 5. The track list alone suggests the album may be about a breakup, with songs like, "I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)" and "I Can Do It With A Broken Heart."

Then, during Swift's Feb. 16 "Eras Tour" show in Melbourne, Australia, the singer surprised fans by unveiling a bonus track for the album titled "The Bolter" and spoke more about what the album means to her.

"'Tortured Poets' is an album that I think, more than any of my albums that I've ever made, I needed to make it," she said. "It was really a lifeline for me, just the things I was going through, the things I was writing about, it kind of reminded me why songwriting is something that like actually gets me through my life. I've never had an album where I needed songwriting more than I needed it on 'Tortured Poets.'"

Swift has previously said she won't confirm what — or who — her songs are about. Rather than address her personal life in interviews, Swift weaves details into songs.

“I don’t talk about my personal life in great detail. I write about it in my songs, and I feel like you can share enough about your life in your music to let people know what you’re going through,” Swift told Glamour in 2012.

Here's why fans think her upcoming 11th album will divulge details about her former relationship with Alwyn.

The 'Tortured Poets Department' timeline

When Swift announced "The Tortured Poets Department," she said the new album was a "secret" she had been keeping from fans for "the last two years."

Two years before the Grammys in February 2022, Swift and Alwyn were still reportedly together, and the "Conversations with Friends" made a rare comment about their notoriously private relationship in an interview that April, telling the Guardian what it was like co-writing songs together.

“It wasn’t like, ‘It’s 5 o’clock, it’s time to try and write a song together,’” he said. “It came about from messing around on a piano, and singing badly, then being overheard, and being, like, ‘Let’s see what happens if we get to the end of it together.’”

But the relationship might not have been all smooth sailing.

Connections to ‘You’re Losing Me’

In addition to "Tortured Poets," fans also suspected Swift sung about Alwyn in the "Midnights" vault track “You’re Losing Me,” which she released in May 2023. The song is a devastating look at the end of the relationship and came out just weeks after reports of their split.

But Swift's collaborator, Jack Antonoff, later revealed on his Instagram Story the song was written in December 2021, significantly before their breakup. This signaled to fans that the couple went through a rough patch before the release of "Midnights" and the song "Lavender Haze" in October 2022, a song about ignoring outside noise to protect the "real stuff," Swift sang.

“This was 10 months after you’re losing me, The entire timeline has changed,” one fan wrote beside pics of Swift and Alwyn on a walk in 2022.

With "You're Losing Me" having been written shortly before the window of time when "Tortured Poets" became a "secret" project, fans are doing the math: Swift's split with Alwyn may have inspired more than just one track.

Right after announcing the album's alternative cover and bonus track during her Feb. 16 concert, Swift performed "You're Losing Me" for the first time live, further connecting the two projects in fans' minds.

‘The Tortured Man Club’

One of the first connections to Alwyn fans made involves the new album's title.

Amid the announcement, X users resurfaced a December 2022 interview between Alwyn and Paul Mescal for Variety, in which the two revealed that they were part of a WhatsApp chat entitled the “The Tortured Man Club.” Actor Andrew Scott was the third member of the chat, they said.

“It hasn’t had much use recently,” Alwyn said at the time, to which Mescal replied, “No, I feel like we’re less tortured now.”

One X user cut the Variety interview with Swift’s announcement into a video, paired with the caption, “Joe Alwyn, your time is coming!”

The Revolutionary War

Some fans even brought a history lesson into the mix, noting that Swift is releasing the album the same day as the American Revolutionary War began in 1775.

The war reference might seem outlandish, but actually could align with released lyrics from the album, which have battle imagery. Further, Alwyn is from England; Swift grew up in West Reading, Pennsylvania.

“And so I enter into evidence / My tarnished coat of arms / My muses acquired like bruises / My talismans and charms / The tick, tick, tick of the love bombs / My veins of pitch black ink,” Swift wrote over the black and white album art.

Track 5

Alwyn was born in Kent and later raised in North London. As a result, he's considered to be the "London Boy" referenced in the track of the same name from Swift's seventh album, "Lover."

"You know I love a London boy / I enjoy walking Camden Market in the afternoon / He likes my American smile / Like a child when our eyes meet, darling, I fancy you," she sings in the upbeat track, with themes of falling in love with someone and the setting that raised them.

One of the tracks on "Tortured Poets" seemingly makes a similar reference, but with a very different tone. The fifth track of the upcoming album is "So Long, London."

It's not just the title that had fans reeling, but the track number as well. Track fives on Swift's albums are notorious for being some of the most devastating, emotional and vulnerable songs in Swift's discography. Some highlights include "Dear John," "All Too Well," "My Tears Ricochet" and "You're On Your Own, Kid."

Swift reportedly said on an Instagram Live in July 2019 that she puts songs that are "honest, emotional, vulnerable and personal" in the fifth spot intentionally.

'The Little Mermaid' theory

Diving back into the track list reveals another potential reference. The sixth track is titled "But Daddy I Love Him," which is also a quote from "The Little Mermaid," released in 1989 (wink, wink.)

In the scene, Ariel's father has discovered she went to the surface to save Prince Eric. As he rants against humans, she shouts, "Daddy, I love him," before he destroys her grotto and her collection of mortal treasures.

Diving through the Instagram archives, Swift's connection to the "Little Mermaid" runs deep. In January 2019, Swift posted a photo of herself dressed as Ariel, writing that her group "decided to dress up as our childhood heroes."

As a fan of the original film, Swift is likely to remember that in order to be with the man she loves, Ariel gives up her voice to Ursula, the sea witch. Her melodic vocals were stored in a seashell necklace — a symbol that briefly appeared in her 2022 music video for "Bejeweled," on "Midnights."

The central theme of “Bejeweled” is about a person feeling like they are being taken for granted and kept out of sight when they can “still make the whole place shimmer.”

What if I told you she's a mastermind?
What if I told you she's a mastermind? YouTube

In the music video, the seashell necklace opens to reveal a stopwatch counting down the seconds until "exile ends." ("Exile" notably is the name of a song from 2020's "Folklore" that Swift co-wrote with "William Bowery," a pseudonym for Alwyn.)

Putting this all together, fans predict "But Daddy I Love Him" will relate to Swift's efforts at "giving up her voice to be with the love of her life."