The Tortured Poets Department’s Best Lyrics: ‘So Long, London,’ ‘LOML’

The torture is over for fans who waited weeks and months for Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” to arrive. But the truly faithful still have some work ahead, in trying to decode what or who is the subject of each of the 16 songs (plus four bonus tracks). Even without immediately solving all those mysteries, though, the album is filled with lines that are bold and striking (and sometimes funny).

Here is our guide to the most quotable lyrics from every song on the standard edition of “The Tortured Poets Department,” plus some of the bonus tracks.

FORTNIGHT

The single, with lyrics co-written and co-sung by Post Malone, is one of the least lyrically provocative songs on the album. It describes two lovers who were together for only a short time and are now friends, along with their families… but the narrator hasn’t completely reconciled herself to the friend zone.

Ask about the weather
Now you’re in my backyard
Turned into good neighbors
Your wife waters flowers
I want to kill her

THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT

A fairly blissful love song — destined not to last, in the overall arc of the album. Speaking of things that people don’t get over, Charlie Puth may never get over this shout-out.

You smoked then ate seven bars of chocolate
We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist
I scratch your head, you fall asleep
Like a tattooed golden retriever

The singer brightens at being considered marriage material, even if it’s only hinted at in a toying way.

At dinner you take my ring off my middle finger and put it on the one people put wedding rings on
And it’s the closest I’ve come to my heart exploding

The first of the album’s many F-bombs appears, albeit in a sweet way in this first instance.

Who’s gonna hold you like me?
Nofuckinbody

MY BOY ONLY BREAKS HIS FAVORITE TOYS

The first of the true breakup songs has the singer feeling like Weird Barbie.

I felt more when we played pretend
Then with all the Kens
Cause he took me out of my box
Stole my tortured heart
Left all these broken parts
Told me I’m better off
But I’m not

DOWN BAD

The F-bombs start coming a lot more fast and furious in one of the more despondent breakup ballads.

Crying at the gym
Everything comes out teenage petulance
Fuck it if I can’t have him

SO LONG, LONDON

Anyone who’s spent years in an ultimately failed relationship, maybe especially women, will have a line to relate to here.

I’m pissed off you let me give you all that youth for free

The singer references an altar where she was never joined… and rues having to break up with a city as well as a bloke.

You swore that you loved me but where were the clues?
I died on the altar waiting for the proof
You sacrificed us to the gods of your bluest days
And I’m just getting color back into my face
I’m just mad as hell ‘cause I loved this place
For so long, London
Had a good run

BUT DADDY I LOVE HIM

One of the album’s most comical and upbeat songs has her quoting the title line lifted from “The Little Mermaid,” and faking her folks out with some good/bad news.

Now I’m running with my dress unbuttoned
Screaming “But daddy I love him”
I’m having his baby
No, I’m not, but you should see your faces

Things get more serious as the narrator spits fire at anyone who clutches pearls and judges her for hooking up with a bad boy.

I’d rather burn my whole life down
Then listen to one more second to this bitching and moaning
I’ll tell you something about my good name
It’s mine alone to disgrace
I don’t cater to all these vipers dressed in empath’s clothing

Another serious keeper, along those same lines:

God save the most judgmental creeps who say they want what’s best for me
Sanctimoniously performing soliloquies I’ll never see

FRESH OUT THE SLAMMER

The title phrase is comical, but Swift’s description of a long prison sentence, i.e. years spent with a fickle jailer, sounds dead-serious.

Handcuffed to the spell I was under
For just one hour of sunshine
Years of labor, locks and ceilings
In the shade of how he was feeling
But it’s gonna be alright
I did my time

She sings about ignoring good advice from those who wanted her to go for parole a lot earlier:

My friends tried but I wouldn’t hear it
Watched me daily disappearing
For just one glimpse of his smile

FLORIDA!!!

Not a love song, but a song about escaping bad or boring circumstances by relocating (metaphorically or otherwise). Here comes the album’s single funniest line…

My friends all smell like weed or little babies

…which is soon followed by the album’s second funniest line, shared as a twin lead vocal with Florence from Florence + the Machine:

Fuck me up, Florida

GUILTY AS SIN?

It’s not clear if Swift deliberately means to reference her own song “Mine” here, but the sensual fantasy that she’s bringing to life works either way:

What if he’s written ‘Mine” on my upper thigh only in my mind?

Religious imagery comes to the fore as she looks for redemption in perceived sin.

What if I roll the stone away?
They’re gonna crucify me anyway
What if the way you hold me
Is actually what’s holy

WHO’S AFRAID OF LITTLE OLD ME

In one of the few non-love songs on the album, Swift harks back to songs where she riffed on the bad image people have had of her, from “Blank Space” to “Mad Woman.”

I was tame
I was gentle till the circus life made me mean
Don’t you worry folks, we took out all her teeth
Who’s afraid of little old me?
Well, you should be

Moving on from the circus, she proudly paints herself as the town witch:

I want to snarl and show you just how disturbed this has made me
You wouldn’t last an hour in the asylum where they raised me
So all you kids can sneak into my house, with all the cobwebs
I’m always drunk on my own tears
Is that what they all said?
That I’ll sue you if you step onto my lawn
That I’m fearsome and I’m wretched and I’m wrong
Put narcotics into all of my songs
And that’s why you’re still singing along

I CAN FIX HIM (NO, REALLY I CAN)

Swift references a lover known for his inappropriate humor. Sound like anyone in her past life we know?

The jokes that he told across the bar were revolting and far too loud
They shake their heads saying, “God help her” when I tell ‘em he’s my man
But your good Lord doesn’t need to lift a finger
I can fix him (no really I can)
And only I can

Her argument about being able to rehabilitate a guy falls apart with one nearly tossed-off final line:

Woah maybe I can’t

LOML

Before she gets into a relationship that has more recently devastated her, she looks back to a previous one, in which she feels she sacrificed deep romance or passion for stability.

I thought I was better safe than starry-eyed

With this newer guy, she cleverly mixes language usually reserved to describe mutually getting drunk with language about the promise of marriage and family.

You shit-talked me under the table talking rings and talking cradles

And then come accusations of cowardice and casual ghosting:

Oh what a valiant roar
What a bland goodbye
The coward claimed he was a lion
I’m combing through the braids of lies
“I’ll never leave”
“Never mind”

I CAN DO IT WITH A BROKEN HEART

The most upbeat track on the album is about smiling through tears — presumably meaning the giant smile that was the Eras Tour, during which, it’s clear, she was nursing a broken heart for at least part of the early going.

I’m so depressed I act like it’s my birthday
Every day

She finds a reason to be cocky as well as depressed in the song’s big finish.

You know you’re good when you can do it
With a broken heart
And I’m good
Cause I’m miserable
And nobody even knows!
Try and come for my job

THE SMALLEST MAN WHO EVER LIVED

The details get remarkably specific in the song that may count as her most dramatic cut-down of an ex ever.

You tried to buy some pills from a friend of friends of mine
They just ghosted you
Now you know what it feels like

She hints that the ex’s behavior sabotaged good feelings of what should have been a peak moment… again, possibly referencing the early Eras Tour.

And I don’t even want you back, I just want to know
If rusting my sparkling summer was the goal

Looking for motives of a hit-and-run lover, she can only imagine ulterior ones.

Were you writing a book?
Were you a sleeper cell spy?
In 50 years will all this be declassified?
And you’ll confess why you did it
And I’ll say “good riddance”
Cause it wasn’t sexy once it wasn’t forbidden

The fusillade continues:

You crashed my party and your rental car
You said normal girls were “boring”
But you were gone by the morning
You are what you did
And I’ll forget you
But I’ll never forgive
The smallest man who ever lived

THE ALCHEMY

Back to love songs, she makes a curious reference to possible past drug use, in setting up a common play on words.

He jokes that it’s heroin but this time with an “E”

But then come sports team metaphors… if not written more recently than a lot of the rest of the album, then possibly coincidentally prophetic.

Shirts off and your friends lift you up over their heads
Beer sticking to the floor
Cheers chanted cause they said
There was no chance
Trying to be the greatest in the league
Where’s the trophy?
He just comes running over to me

CLARA BOW

The entire lyrics to this song are set off in quotes, coming from the points of view of people who look up to starlets but demand they be non-stop dazzling. Swift references silent screen star Clara Bow in the first verse and Stevie Nicks in the second before finally getting around to name-checking a third superstar.

“You look like Taylor Swift
In this light
We’re loving it
You’ve got edge
She never did”

BONUS TRACK: THE BLACK DOG

Thanks to shared location tracking that never got turned off, the narrator gets evidence her recent ex has just entered a bar called the Black Dog, where, apparently, they would have memories of hearing songs by the 2000s pop-punk band the Starting Line.

And I hope it’s shitty in the Black Dog
When someone plays The Starting Line
And you jump up, but she’s too young
To know this song that was intertwined
In the tragic fabric of our dreaming
Cause tail between your legs
You’re leaving

BONUS TRACK: THE MANUSCRIPT

The singer quotes a sweet-talker who was equally good with promissory bedroom talk and baby talk.

He said that if the sex was half as good as the conversation was
Soon they’d be pushing strollers
But soon it was over

An age difference is brought up, as it’s clear this song is describing a relationship that happened in youth, in the narrator’s case. She’s still trying to figure out how inappropriate the disparity was.

Then she dated boys who were her own age
With dartboards on the backs of their doors
She thought about how he said
Since she was so wise beyond her years
Everything had been above board
She wasn’t sure

[colabot1]

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