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Taylor Swift has done it again with The Tortured Poets Department, surprising her fans with another double release. The singer dropped the promised 16-song album at midnight on Friday, then proceeded to reveal 15 more tracks at 2 a.m., for an anthology of 31 songs in total. All that while being on a billion-dollar global tour that has boosted national GDPs and helped cities come out of pandemic economic slumps.

To delight the diehards and enlighten the newbies, an all-star team of Swifties presents a nonexhaustive guide to the Easter eggs hidden inside the 31 tracks and the lead up to the album release. And you can read Globe music critic Brad Wheeler’s review here.

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Matty Healy of the 1975 performs at the 2019 Governors Ball Festival at Randall's Island on June 1, 2019, in New York City.Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Matty Healy: Most of the album seems to be about him

The biggest surprise is that most of the songs (on the original track list, at least) seem to be about not ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn as expected, but Matty Healy, the front man of the 1975. Swift briefly dated Healy in early 2023, a time when he faced public criticism for comments that were called racist and insensitive.

– Laura Godfrey

The Tortured Poets Department (title track):

  • The lyrics allude to the subject smoking, using typewriters and having tattoos, all of which suggest it was written about Healy. (Alwyn doesn’t have any visible tattoos.) – LG
  • The bridge mentions “Lucy,” which might refer to Boygenius band member Lucy Dacus (who has collaborated with both Swift and Healy in the past) and “Jack,” which likely refers to Jack Antonoff, Swift’s friend and long-time producer. (Antonoff produced this song, and many others on the album.) – LG
  • The line “you smoked and then ate seven bars of chocolate” could be a reference to Chocolate, the breakout track of Healy’s band the 1975, in which “chocolate” is slang for cannabis. – Domini Clark

But Daddy I Love Him

  • Swifties thought this would be a breakup song, but it appears to be a message directed at fans themselves. Theories are swirling that this song is about the public scrutiny that Swift faces and the people who feel they’re entitled to pass judgment over her relationships and decisions.
  • Swifties are speculating that this song was sparked by her time with Healy. That fling did not go over well with her fans.
  • Notable lyrics: “I just learned these people only raise you to cage you / Sarahs and Hannahs in their Sunday best / Clutching their pearls, sighing, ‘What a mess.’”

– Stefanie Marotta

My Boy Only Breaks His Favourite Toys

  • For those of us that remember the movie Toy Story, this song is reminiscent of toy cowboy Woody being cast aside for the newer, shinier toy, astronaut Buzz Lightyear.
  • Swift sings about a boy first seeing her as a beautiful, exciting new toy, but eventually growing bored of her after playing with her too much, scuffing her up in the process.
  • Notable lyrics include: “I’m queen of sandcastles he destroys / Cause it fit too right / Puzzle pieces in the dead of night / Should’ve know it was a matter of time / My boy only breaks his favourite toys.” – SM

The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived

  • This is another likely Matty Healy diss track, thanks to some not-so-subtle clues.
  • Swift sings about her ex-lover’s “Jehovah’s Witness suit,” a two-piece outfit that essentially fits Healy’s signature look. She also alludes to drug use (Healy has talked openly about his addictions) and wonders whether “rusting my sparkling summer was the goal” (her relationship with Healy ended in late spring/early summer 2023, not long into her Eras megatour). – DC
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Joe Alwyn arrives at the Oscars on Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.Jordan Strauss/The Associated Press

The ‘public assassination’ of Joe Alwyn:

Swift met actor Joe Alwyn in 2016, and reports suggest they started dating shortly after. Throughout their six-year relationship – the longest she’s had – Swift split her time living in London, England, and Nashville, Tenn. Alwyn co-wrote several of Swift’s songs, they attended award shows together and they were apparently even discussing marriage at one point. The couple decided to amicably split in 2023, and fans have been waiting to get a sense of how the breakup affected her.

Tim Kiladze was shocked Swift didn’t bother to use Easter eggs when writing about Alwyn. “It’s just a public assassination,” he said. Danielle Webb agrees: “Joe is the main character here.”

So Long, London

  • “I stopped CPR, after all it’s no use”: This lyric appears to reference Swift’s song You’re Losing Me, which she released shortly after it was made public that she and Alwyn had broken up. That song also features imagery about her heart stopping: “Stop, you’re losing me / I can’t find a pulse, my heart won’t start any more.”
  • Notable lyrics include:

“Every day old love affair, every breath feels like rarest air / When you’re not sure if he wants to be there”

“You swore that you loved me but where were the clues? I died on the altar waiting for the proof”

“So long, London / Had a good run / A moment of warm sun / But I’m not the one” – LG

Fresh Out The Slammer

  • This track appears to be about both Alwyn and Healy, and the fairly quick transition between the two relationships.
  • Swift likens her long-term relationship with Alwyn as akin to being in prison, at least toward the end, talking about being, “Handcuffed to the spell I was under” and, “Years of labour, locks and ceilings / In the shade of how he was feeling.”
  • She has her sights set on Healy – who she was rumoured to have a past fling with – as her rebound. “I’m runnin’ back home to you / Fresh out the slammer / I know who my first call will be to.” – DC
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Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) and Taylor Swift celebrate after the NFL Super Bowl 58 football game against the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 11 in Las Vegas.David Becker/The Associated Press

Travis Kelce gets two honourable mentions

Travis Kelce, the NFL tight end who plays for the Kansas City Chiefs, is Swift’s current partner. They started dating in 2023 and have since supported each other’s careers by attending concerts and NFL matches respectively.

The Alchemy

  • The lyrics include football references:

“So when I touch down call the amateurs and cut ‘em from the team / Ditch the clowns, get the crown, baby, I’m the one to be”

“Shirts off, and your friends lift you up, over their heads / Beer stickin’ 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” – LG

So High School

  • The lyrics make it obvious but the image of stadium lights that appear with the track on Spotify confirms this song is also about Kelce.
  • Some people have questioned whether Kelce may not be a good fit for Swift intellectually, but it seems the singer is well aware of their differences: “You know how to ball, I know Aristotle,” she croons. – DC

Some not-so-covert references to Swift’s beef with Kim Kardashian

In 2016, rapper Kanye West (now known as Ye) released his song Famous, which includes a derogatory line about Swift. In response, Swift released a statement saying she did not know about the lyrics in advance or appreciate them. In a move to support her then-husband, Kardashian posted three minutes of a 25-minute phone call between Swift and West on Snapchat. The post included snake emojis.

thanK you aIMee (from the “Anthology” extended album):

  • The biggest hint this track is about Kardashian? The capitalized letters in the title spell out her first name.
  • Swift’s notable lyrics here include: “I wrote a thousand songs that you find uncool / I built a legacy which you can’t undo / But when I count the scars, there’s a moment of truth that there wouldn’t be this, if there hadn’t been you” – LG


  • In Greek mythology Cassandra was a priestess cursed to tell prophecies that no one believed. Through her lyrics Swift tells a similar tale: “So, they killed Cassandra first ‘cause she feared the worst / And tried to tell the town / So, they filled my cell with snakes, I regret to say / Do you believe me now?
  • The references to snakes bring up Kardashian’s Snapchat post accusing Swift of telling lies.
  • “The family, the pure greed, the Christian chorus line / They all said nothing / Blood’s thick but nothing like a payroll” also seems Kardashian-coded. The family, of course, made it rich from their reality show – and matriarch Kris Kardashian actually started her own church. Given Ye’s recent troubles (the racism, antisemitism, et cetera), perhaps Swift feels a little gloating is in order. – DC
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Actress Clara Bow. Bow was nominated by the American Film Institute as one of the 50 greatest American film legends of the 20th century, on Jan. 12, 1999.The Associated Press

Swift’s nod to Clara Bow

Clara Bow was an American silent film (and later “talkies”) actress in the 1920s and early 1930s. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in L.A., at the corner of Vine Street and Sunset Boulevard. In Swift’s song Gorgeous from her Reputation album, she sings “Whisky on ice, Sunset and Vine, you ruined my life by not being mine.”

Swift’s new song Clara Bow, which caps off the original track list, is an allegory about how fame chews you up and spits you out, similar to the themes in her earlier songs The Lucky One and Nothing New. At the end of the piece, a new ingenue takes Swift’s place, and the song ends with that person being told: “You look like Taylor Swift in this light, we’re loving it / You’ve got edge, she never did / The future’s bright, dazzling.” – LG

Easter eggs in the promotional week running up to the release

The Los Angeles Spotify Popup:

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Taylor Swift fans gather around a pop-up celebrating Taylor Swift'salbum "The Tortured Poets Department," at the Grove in Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 17, 2024.Richard Vogel/The Associated Press

How do you create a buzz for a fandom that thrives on secret references, coded hints and artistic theories? Swift’s answer was a pop-up display in Los Angeles, filled with clues as to what the album could include.

One the main recurring symbols people noticed related to the number two, including a hand making the victory or two symbol (✌️,) along with stationary clocks stuck at 2. Swift was also spotted throwing the hand sign on a few recent occasions. There was also a second timetable shown in a short animated video posted on the eve of the album’s release. We now know this was alluding to TTPD being a secret double album. – DC

The curated Apple Music playlists:

In the run up to TTPD, Swift curated five playlists of her past songs on Apple Music, corresponding to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Then, six days before the album’s release, Apple Music updated its X bio to: “A word a day til the @taylorswift13 album drops.”

On each day specific letters appeared capitalized in her lyrics. When unjumbled, they spelled out a total of six words: WE HEREBY CONDUCT THIS POST MORTEM.

And not to get gruesome but related to the idea of a post-mortem is rigor mortis, which typically sets in – you guessed it – two hours after a person dies. So it was another clue about the second album, which was released two hours after the first. – DC

The animated video and five-second teaser:

An animated promo video that appeared on Swift’s Instagram begins with a clock set to 2, adding to the series of ✌️ Easter eggs.

The 14 tally marks at the bottom of the calendar hint that the music video set to release on Friday, April 19 at 8 p.m. ET will probably be for the song Fortnight, feat. Post Malone, because there are 14 days in a fortnight.

Swift also posted a five-second clip on social media channels teasing the coming video. It shows flashes of scenes in black and white; a typewriter displaying the lyrics, “I love you it’s ruining my life”; a scene with Swift in a black Victorian-style dress, sitting at a typewriter and facing Malone on the other side of the room, who is also sitting at a typewriter; and pink plumes of smoke coming from Swift’s typewriter and blue smoke coming from Malone’s. In another scene, Swift is dressed in white and it looks like she’s getting horror-movie-esque electroconvulsive therapy. – LG

Laura Godfrey is special to The Globe and Mail

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