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I Love You, Taylor Swift shares her disturbed mind with Travis Kelce, ” Don’t Disappear”

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As a 21st-century pop omnipresence, Swift remains mercilessly prolific and unwilling to edit for length, which makes this extended version of her new album, “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology,” feel miserable and bottomless. The big surprise is how much of that misery is intentional. In concussive contrast to the good times she’s been having in the public eye — highest grossing concert tour in the history of the species; highest grossing concert film to match; on-field kisses with her boyfriend after he won the Super Bowl — Swift’s new ballads are sour theater, fixated on memories of being wronged and stranded, sodden with lyrics that feel clunky, convoluted, samey, purple and hacky. There are song titles that burn hot like distress flares (“I Hate it Here”), and lines that feel waxy with Freudian slippage (“I know I’m just repeating myself”), and a profusion of soft-edged, slow-moving melodies — produced by Swift, Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner and Patrik Berger — that do her lyrics few favors. As she unloads every last item from her grievance vault, it’s hard for sentient listeners to not want to reciprocate.

That said, is this the album that finally grants us societal permission to say that Swift is not a great lyricist? She can be, sometimes, but greatness isn’t a part-time job, and the thinning thinness of her words can make big emotions feel hollow. Plus, the objects of affection that populate these midtempo reminiscences all sound like real creeps. “At dinner, you take my ring off my middle finger and put it on the one people put wedding rings on,” sings the most celebrated songwriter of her generation on her album’s title track, “and that’s the closest I’ve come to my heart exploding.” Oh man. In “The Manuscript,” she sings in the third person, describing a flame who once “said that if the sex was half as good as the conversation was, soon they’d be pushing strollers.” During “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can),” she gloms onto some imaginary bad boy, describing how “his hand, so calloused from his pistol, softly traces hearts on my face” — which must be pretty close to what you get when you ask ChatGPT to compose a Lana Del Rey hook. Attempting to further signal her maturity, Swift deploys profanity with awkward relentlessness across too many of these songs, sounding like a child test-driving her illicit new vocabulary in hopes of convincing the greater populace that she is, in fact, 34 years old.

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