meta-scriptFor The Record: How Taylor Swift's 'Speak Now' Changed Her Career — And Proved She'll Always Get The Last Word | GRAMMY.com
Taylor Swift performing in 2010
Taylor Swift performs at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony in 2010.

Photo: Jemal Countess/WireImage for Songwriter's Hall of Fame

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For The Record: How Taylor Swift's 'Speak Now' Changed Her Career — And Proved She'll Always Get The Last Word

The third Taylor Swift album to receive the 'Taylor's Version' treatment, 'Speak Now' isn't just a time capsule for the superstar — it was the turning point for her both personally and professionally.

GRAMMYs/Jul 6, 2023 - 10:44 pm

As Taylor Swift began work on her third album, she knew all eyes were on her. The singer had solidified her status as a bonafide country-pop superstar thanks to her sophomore LP, 2008's Fearless, which earned Swift her first four GRAMMYs, including Album Of The Year. Meanwhile, her personal life had become non-stop fodder for the tabloids; critics painted her as a boy-crazy maneater ready to chew up exes for the sake of hits.

While her first two records had largely centered on romantic daydreams and small-town adolescence, Swift's new level of fame meant her next set of music would involve more high-profile subjects. Like, say, the rapper who'd tried to humiliate her in front of the entire world at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Or the Hollywood starlet she was convinced had stolen her pop star boyfriend. Or the critic who had taken a particularly vicious swipe at her on his well-known industry blog. All of those moments pinwheeled around a common theme: speaking up, speaking out, speaking her truth. And the result became Speak Now.

"These songs are made up of words I didn't say when the moment was right in front of me," Swift wrote in the LP's liner notes. "These songs are open letters. Each is written with a specific person in mind, telling them what I meant to tell them in person."

Swift's Speak Now era officially began in August 2010, when she released "Mine" as the album's lead single. The rollout was expedited by two weeks after the song leaked on the internet, but even with an earlier-than-planned release, the star immediately proved she was pushing her songcraft past the high school hallways and teenage fairytales of her first two albums — a level of maturity that rang through Speak Now.

"Mine" told an altogether different kind of love story, one that confronted the daunting realities of adulthood head-on. Instead of the hopeless romantic fans had come to know on past hits like "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me," Swift positioned herself as the jaded protagonist at the tale's center, one whose walls are only broken down by this new, grown-up kind of love.

Becoming her fourth top five hit on the Billboard Hot 100, "Mine" also contained a particularly flawless turn of phrase in its chorus — "you made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter" — that remains, to this day, one of the best examples of Swift's razor-sharp talent for crafting the perfect lyric.

The rest of Speak Now — which Swift wrote entirely alone as a mic drop against critics — proved to have the same kind of brilliance. Swift had unleashed a new layer of her songwriting ability; not only did she dive deeper into the unveiled honesty of her diaristic style, but she also hinted at the whimsical storytelling that was to come on future albums, particularly 2020's folklore and evermore. But above all, Speak Now showed that Swift would never leave anything unspoken again.

Swift's evolution as a songwriter mirrored her growing success: Upon its October 2010 release, Speak Now sold an eye-popping 1,047,000 copies in its first week. The seven-digit sales figure nearly doubled Fearless' opening week tally of 592,300, and became the first album to achieve the million-copy first-week feat in more than two years. (The achievement also foreshadowed the records Swift would break with her subsequent releases, most recently her majorly record-breaking 10th album, Midnights.)

Nearly every track on Speak Now had fans and the press hunting for clues about who was on the receiving end of Swift's open letters. There's "Back to December," a break-up ballad written for Taylor Lautner, and "Better Than Revenge," a condescending clapback at Camilla Belle for "sabotaging" her romance with Joe Jonas. She even offered Kanye West a surprising amount of grace after their viral VMAs moment on the downtempo ballad "Innocent."

Arguably the most talked-about Speak Now subject was (and still is) John Mayer, who had two songs aimed squarely at him: pop-punk-fueled single "The Story of Us" and "Dear John," a devastating dressing down of their 12-year age gap. The latter even mimicked Mayer's trademark blues guitar as Swift wailed, "Dear John, I see it all now, it was wrong/ Don't you think 19's too young/ To be played by your dark, twisted games when I loved you so?/ I should've known."

Perhaps the most victorious moment from Taylor's Speak Now era, though, came from "Mean." The banjo-tinged tune served as a deliciously twangy clapback to critic Bob Lefsetz, who had publicly derided Swift's 2010 GRAMMYs performance with Stevie Nicks, just hours before she was awarded Album Of The Year for the first time.

Not only did "Mean" end up winning Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance at the 2012 GRAMMYs, but Swift also got the last word by performing the single during the ceremony. In the final chorus, Swift landed her knock-out punch — the music dropped out completely as she triumphantly declared, "But someday I'll be singin' this at the GRAMMYs/ And all you're ever gonna be is mean."

Nearly 13 years after Speak Now was first unveiled, Swift is now on the precipice of giving her beloved third album its highly anticipated Taylor's Version re-release — appropriately the third project after Fearless and Red to be re-recorded in her history-making quest to own her life's work.

The new edition of Speak Now will contain all 14 tracks on the original LP as well as sixth single "Ours" and fellow deluxe cut "Superman." (Though released in March to celebrate the start of The Eras Tour, "If This Was a Movie" was mysteriously left off the (Taylor's Version) tracklist.) It will also feature six vault tracks from the era, including collaborations with Paramore's Hayley Williams ("Castles Crumbling") and Fall Out Boy ("Electric Touch"), two acts Swift said "influenced me most powerfully as a lyricist" back when she was recording the album in 2010. 

As the lone LP in her now 10-album discography to be written solely by Swift's pen, Speak Now undoubtedly holds a special and solitary place in the superstar's heart. Looking back on the album after announcing the Taylor's Version release at her first Nashville Eras Tour stop, she made clear it has only become more meaningful over the last 13 years. 

"I first made Speak Now, completely self-written, between the ages of 18 and 20," she wrote in a social media post announcing the album. "The songs that came from this time in my life were marked by their brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions and wild wistfulness. I love this album because it tells a tale of growing up, flailing, flying and crashing…and living to speak about it."

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Taylor Swift Songbook Hero
(L-R) Taylor Swift in 2023, 2008 and 2012.

Photos (L-R): Buda Mendes/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management, Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Clear Channel

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Songbook: An Era-By-Era Breakdown Of Taylor Swift's Journey From Country Starlet To Pop Phenomenon

Before the arrival of Taylor Swift's 'The Tortured Poets Department,' take a deep dive into her discography and see how each album helped her become the genre-shifting superstar she is today.

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2024 - 08:40 pm

The world now knows Taylor Swift as a global pop superstar, but back in 2006, she was just a doe-eyed country prodigy. Since then, she's released 10 (and soon to be 11) studio albums, re-recorded four as "Taylor's Version," and cultivated one of the most feverish fan bases in music. Oh, and she's also won 14 GRAMMY Awards, including four for Album Of The Year — the most ever won by an artist.

Swift has become one of music's most notable shapeshifters by refusing to limit herself to one genre, moving between country, pop, folk and beyond. A once-in-a-lifetime generational storyteller, one could argue that she is music's modern-day maverick, constantly evolving both her music and the culture around her.

Every album era has seen Swift reinvent herself over and over, which has helped pave the way for artists to explore other musical avenues. In turn, Swift hasn't just become one of the biggest artists of all time — she's changed pop music altogether.

Ahead of Taylor Swift's newest era with The Tortured Poets Department, GRAMMY.com looks back on all of her albums (Taylor's Versions not included) and how each era shaped her remarkable career.

Taylor Swift: Finding Her Place In Music

In a genre dominated by men, the odds were already stacked against Swift when she first broke into country music as a teenage female artist. The thing that differentiated her from other writers — and still does to this day — is her songwriting. She didn't want to be just "another girl singer" and knew writing her own songs would be what set her apart. 

Written throughout her adolescence, Taylor Swift was recorded at the end of 2005 and finalized by the time Swift finished her freshman year of high school. Serving as a snapshot of Swift's life and teenhood, she avoided songwriting stereotypes typically found in country music. Instead, she wanted to capture the years of her life while they still represented what she was going through, writing about what she was observing and experiencing, from love and friendship to feeling like an outsider. 

As a songwriter, Taylor Swift set the tone for what would be expected of her future recordings — all songs were written by her, some solely and others with one or two co-writers. One writer in particular, Liz Rose, applauded Swift's songwriting capabilities, stating that she was more of an "editor" for the songs because Swift already had such a distinct vision. 

The album's lead single, "Tim McGraw," an acoustic country ballad inspired by Swift knowing her relationship was going to end, represents an intricate part of Swift's songwriting process; meticulously picking apart her emotions to better understand them. With its follow-up, "Our Song" — which spent six consecutive weeks on the top of Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart — she became the youngest person to solely write and sing a No. 1 country single; she also became the first female solo artist in country music to write or co-write every song on an album. 

Although Swift's eponymous debut is underappreciated now — even lacking its own set on Swift's Eras TourTaylor Swift's forthcoming rerecording is arguably the most anticipated by fans, who are eager to hear the songs with the singer's current and more refined vocals. Still, for fans who haven't properly explored Taylor Swift, it's easy to tie together Swift's earlier work to her current discography. 

On the track "A Place In This World," a song she wrote when she was just 13, Swift sings about not fitting in and trying to find her path. While her songwriting has developed and matured, feeling like an outsider and carving her own path is a theme she still writes about now, as seen on Midnights' "You're On Your Own, Kid." 

Even as a new country artist, critics claimed that she "mastered" the genre while subsequently ushering it to a new era — one that would soon see Swift dabble in country-pop. 

Fearless: Creating A Different Kind Of Fairytale

If Taylor Swift was the soundtrack to navigating the early stages of teenhood, Fearless is Swift's coming-of-age record. More than its predecessor, Fearless blurs the line between country and pop thanks to crossover hits like "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me," yet still keeps the confessional attributes known in country songwriting. 

Most of Fearless is Swift coming to terms with what she believed love to be. On the album's liner notes, Swift says Fearless is about "living in spite" of the things that scare you, like falling in love again despite being hurt before or walking away and letting go. The 2008 version of Taylor wanted to "believe in love stories and prince charmings and happily ever after," whereas in Swift's Fearless (Taylor's Version) liner notes, she looks back on the album as a diary where she was learning "tiny lessons" every time there was a "new crack in the facade of the fairytale ending she'd been shown in the movies." 

Much of Fearless also sees Swift being reflective and nostalgic about adolescence, like in "Never Grow Up" and "Fifteen." Still wistful and romantic, the album explores Swift's hopes for love, as heard in the album's lead single "Love Story," which was one instance where she was "dramatizing" observations instead of actually experiencing them herself. 

Unlike the slow-burn of Taylor Swift, Fearless went straight to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed there for eight consecutive weeks. It won Swift's first Album Of The Year GRAMMY in 2010, at the time making her the youngest person to win the accolade at age 20. To date, it has sold 7.2 million copies in America alone. It might not be the romantic tale Swift dreamed of growing up, but her sophomore album signalled that bigger things were to come.

Speak Now: Proving Her Songwriting Prowess

Everything that happened after the success of Fearless pushed Swift from country music's best-kept secret to a mainstream star. But this meant that she faced more publicity and criticism, from naysayers who nitpicked her songwriting and vocals to the infamous Kanye West incident at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

For the first time since becoming an artist, she was forced to reckon with the concept of celebrity and how turning into one — whether she wanted it or not — informed her own writing and perception of herself. No longer was she the girl writing songs like "Fifteen" in her bedroom — now she was working through becoming a highly publicized figure. Speak Now is the answer to those growing pains. 

Along with having more eyes on her, Swift also felt pressured to maintain her persona as a perfect young female role model amid a time when her peers like Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato were attempting to rebrand to be more mature and sexier. During her NYU commencement speech in 2022, she reflected on this era of her life as one of intense fear that she could make a mistake and face lasting consequences, so the songs were masked in metaphors rather than directly addressing adult themes in her music. But that also resulted in some of her most poignant lyrics to date.

Read More: For The Record: How Taylor Swift's 'Speak Now' Changed Her Career — And Proved She'll Always Get The Last Word

Writing the entire album herself, Swift used Speak Now to prove her songwriting prowess to those who questioned her capabilities. Much like her previous two albums, Swift included songs that were both inspired by her own life and being a fly on the wall. The album's title track pulled from the saying, "Speak now or forever hold your peace," inspired by a friend's ex-boyfriend getting engaged; meanwhile, "Mean" was everything Swift wanted to say to a critic who was continuously harsh about her vocals.

Retrospective and reflective, Speak Now is an album about the speeches she could've, would've and should've said. From addressing the aforementioned VMA incident in the forgiving "Innocent" to a toxic relationship in "Dear John," Speak Now also hinted that her rose-colored glasses were cracked, but Swift (and her songwriting) was only becoming stronger because of it.

Red: Coming Into Her Own

Highly regarded as Swift's magnum opus, Red sees the singer shed the fairytale dresses and the girl-next-door persona to craft a body of work that has now been deemed as her first "adult" record. On Red, Swift focused on emotions evoked from a hot-and-cold relationship, one that forced her to experience "intense love, intense frustration, jealousy and confusion" — all feelings that she'd describe as "red." 

Unlike most of her previous writing that had been inspired by happy endings and fairytales, Red explores the lingering pain and loss that can embed itself within despite trying your hardest to let go. In her liner notes, she references Pablo Neruda's poem "Tonight I Can Write," stating that "Love is so short, forgetting is so long" is the overarching theme for the album. She plays with time — speeding it up in "Starlight," dabbling in the past in "All Too Well," and reframing it in "State of Grace" — to better understand her experiences. 

After releasing country-pop records, Red toed the line between genres more than ever before. Swift leaned further into the full pop territory by working with esteemed producers Max Martin and Shellback for the dubstep-leaning track "I Knew You Were Trouble," the punchy lead single "We Are Never Getting Back Together," and the bouncy anthem "22." But even when the pop power players weren't involved, her country stylings still leaned more pop across the album, as further evidenced with the racing deep cut "Holy Ground" and the echoing title track. 

The slight change of direction became polarizing for critics and fans alike. Following the more country-influenced Speak Now, some critics and fans found the pop songs on Red were too pop and the lyrics were too repetitive, possibly indicating that she might be selling out. If that wasn't enough, Red became an era where Swift's personal life went from speculation to tabloid fodder, with misogynistic headlines and diluting her work to just "writing about her exes." It's an era that would eventually inspire many tracks on Red's successor, 1989, like "Blank Space" and "Shake It Off."

Commercially, Red debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold 1.2 million copies in its first week, becoming the fastest-selling country album and making Swift the first female artist to have three consecutive albums spend six or more weeks at the top of the chart. The impact of Red extended beyond its own success, too. Often mentioned as a record that inspired a generation of artists from Troye Sivan to Conan Gray, Swift's confessional, soul-bearing authenticity set a new standard for straightforward pop music. 

1989: Reinventing Into A Pop Genius

The night Red lost the GRAMMY for Album Of The Year in 2014, Swift decided that her next album would be a full-on pop record. After years of identifying as a country artist and flirting with pop, Swift departed her roots to reinvent herself, no matter what her then-label or critics had to say. And in true Swiftian fashion, turning into a pop artist didn't just prove her genre-shapeshifting capabilities — it further solidified her as an artist who is at her best when she freely creates to her desires and refuses to adhere to anyone.

1989 was lauded by critics for its infectious synth-pop that was reminiscent of the 1980s, yet still had a contemporary sound. Swift opted to lean more into radio-friendly hits, which resulted in songs like "Style," "Wildest Dreams," "Blank Space," and "Shake It Off," all of which became singles. And where some might trade a hit or two at the expense of their artistic integrity, Swift didn't falter — instead, her lyrics were just as heartfelt and intimate as they were on prior albums.

After exploring pop-leaning sonics she first found with Red, Swift worked with Martin and Shellback again on most of 1989. This reinvention brought new (and very important) collaborators as well. Swift's now-frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff credits her as the first person to take a chance on him as a producer with "I Wish You Would" and "Out Of The Woods"; both tracks exemplified how future Antonoff-produced songs would sound on albums like reputation, Lover and Midnights.

At the time, 1989 became Swift's best-selling album to date. It sold nearly 1.3 million copies within release week in the U.S., debuting atop the Billboard 200 and reigning for 11 non-consecutive weeks. The album also earned Swift several awards — including her second Album Of The Year GRAMMY, which made her the first female artist to ever win the award twice. 

Following the release of 1989, Swift became a cultural juggernaut, and the album has had an omnipresence in music since. Swift didn't just normalize blending genres, but proved that you can create a sound that is uniquely yours by doing so. In turn, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and more pop stars have refused to conform or stick to what they've done prior. 

reputation: Killing The Old Taylor

For years, Swift was on a strict two-year cycle — she'd release an album one year, tour the next, and then release a new album the following year. But following the heightened scrutiny and highly publicized tabloid drama that followed the end of the 1989 era, Swift completely disappeared for a year. She stayed away from public appearances, didn't do any press, and missed the album schedule fans became accustomed to. It wasn't until summer 2017 when she returned from her media (and social media) blackout to unveil the fitting title for her new album: reputation.

Born as a response to the naysayers and name-callers, reputation follows Swift shedding her public image — which includes the pressure to be perfect, the drama, and the criticism — by declaring, "There will be no further explanation. There will just be reputation." Leaning on the same tongue-in-cheek songwriting techniques she used while penning "Blank Space," Swift wrote from the mindset of how the public perceived her.

When Swift released the lead single "Look What You Made Me Do," a song she initially wrote as a poem about not trusting specific people, many assumed the album would center on vengeance and drama. Although Swift said that the album has its vindictive moments — even declaring that the "old Taylor" is dead on the bridge of "Look What You Made Me Do" — it's a vulnerable record for her. Swift described reputation as a bait-and-switch; at their core, the songs are about finding love in the darkest moments. 

Swift still remained in the pop lane with reputation, largely leaning on Antonoff and the Martin/Shellback team. The sound almost mirrored the scrutiny Swift faced in the years prior — booming electropop beats, maximalist production and pulsing synthesizers dominate, particularly on "End Game," "I Did Something Bad," and "Ready For It…?" But the "old Taylor" isn't entirely gone on songs like "Call It What You Want," "So It Goes…" and "New Year's Day," where she lets her guard down to write earnest love odes.

Even after Swift spent some time away from the spotlight, the public didn't immediately gravitate toward her return. And even despite matching the 1.2 million first-week sales of her previous releases, some concluded that the album was her first commercial failure when compared to 1989. With time, though, it became clear that the response to reputation became muddled with the public's overall perception of her at the time — some even claimed that Swift was ahead of her time with the album's overall sound.

For her 2023 TIME Person of the Year profile, Swift described reputation as a "goth-punk moment of female rage at being gaslit by an entire social structure." For years, she felt the pressure to be "America's Sweetheart" and to never step out of line. Writing reputation became a lifeline following the events that catalyzed it  — a way to shed the so-called snakeskin and make peace with however the public wanted to view her. 

Lover: Stepping Into The Daylight

After finding love amongst chaos with reputation, Swift was learning to deal with the anxiety and fear of losing her partner — became a major theme of another aptly titled album, Lover. Both sonically and visually, Lover was a complete change from reputation. After touring reputation, Swift found that her fans saw her as "a flesh-and-blood human being," inspiring her to be "brave enough to be vulnerable" because her fans were along with her. Stepping away from the dark and antagonistic themes around reputation encouraged Swift to step into the light and be playful with her work on Lover.

Swift also found a new sense of creativity within this new mindset, one where she aimed to still embed playful themes in her songwriting but with less snark than that of "Blank Space" and "Look What You Made Me Do." Leaning into Lover being a "love letter to love," Swift explored every aspect of it. Tracks like "Paper Rings" and "London Boy" exude a whimsical energy, even if they center on more serious themes like marriage and commitment. Other songs, including "Death By A Thousand Cuts" and "Cornelia Street," are Swift at her most vulnerable, reflecting on a love lost and grappling with the extreme worry that comes when you could potentially lose someone. 

Looking at Lover retrospectively, it's an album that almost symbolizes a bookend in her discography. She was playful yet poignant, picking apart her past lyrics and feelings and looking at them with the perspective of someone who was once on top of the world, hit rock bottom, and survived in spite of it. This evolution is mentioned throughout Lover, particularly in a direct callback to 2012's Red, "Daylight," which sees her describe her love as "golden" rather than "burning red." 

Lover also marked the first time Swift divulged into politics and societal issues, like campaigning against Donald Trump, releasing the Pride-infused "You Need To Calm Down," and feeling disillusioned by the political climate with "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince." Swift's documentary Miss Americana explores this change further, discussing how she regrets not being vocal about politics and issues prior, in addition to opening up about her body image issues and mental health struggles.

Lover became Swift's sixth No. 1 album in America, making her the first female artist to achieve the feat. But Lover was more than any accolades could reflect — it was Swift's transitional album in many ways, notably marking the first album that she owned entirely herself following leaving Big Machine Records for Republic Records in 2018.

folklore: Looking Beyond Her Personal Stories

After the pandemic started and Swift cancelled her Lover Fest, she spent the early stages of quarantine reading and watching a myriad of films. Without exactly setting out to create an album, she began dreaming of fictional stories and characters with various narrative arcs, allowing her imagination to run free. The result became folklore, 2020's surprise archetypal quarantine album.

Crafting a world with characters like the folklore love triangle between those in "betty" and "august," as well as Rebekah Harkness from "the last great american dynasty" (who once lived in Swift's Rhode Island mansion), was Swift's way of venturing outside her typical autobiographical style of writing. She'd see visceral images in her mind — from battleships to tree swings to mirrored disco balls — and turned them into stories, sometimes weaving in her own personal narrative throughout, or taking on a narrator role and speaking from the perspective of someone she had never met. 

She worked remotely with two producers — again working with her right-hand man Jack Antonoff, and first-time collaborator Aaron Dessner from The National. Some songs, like "peace," were recorded in just one take, capturing the essence and fragility in the song's story, whereas the lyrics for the sun-drenched "august" were penned on the spot as Swift was in her makeshift home studio in Los Angeles.

Another aspect that separated folklore from her previous work was the obvious decision not to create hits made for radio play, so much so that Dessner claimed that she made an anti-pop record at a time when radio wanted clear "bops." Sonically, it ventured into genres Swift hadn't explored much outside of a few folkier tracks on Lover. Rather than relying on mostly electronic elements, Swift, Antonoff and Dessner weaved in soft pianos, ethereal strings, and plucky guitars.

folklore's impact on the zeitgeist at a time where everyone was stuck at home helped shape people's quarantine experience. Fans rejoiced at having songs to comfort them during difficult times, and artists like Maya Hawke, Gracie Abrams, and Sabrina Carpenter credit folklore for inspiring them to create and be even more emotionally honest in their songwriting. After its release, folklore became the best-selling album of 2020 after selling 1.2 million records. At the 2021 GRAMMYs, folklore took home Album Of The Year, making her the fourth artist in history to win three times in the Category. 

evermore: Embracing Experimentation

It was exciting enough for Swifties to experience one surprise album drop from Swift, an artist who typically has an entire album campaign calculated. So when evermore was released just six months after folklore, fans were in shock. 

Like its (literally) folklorian sister, evermore was a surprise release at the end of 2020, marking the first time Swift didn't have distinct "eras" between albums. She felt like there was something "different" with folklore, stating in a social media post that making it was less like she was "departing" and more like she was "returning" to the next stage of her discography. In turn, the album served as a similar escape for Swift as folklore did.

Bridging together the same wistful and nostalgic themes as heard on its predecessor, evermore sees Swift venture even further into escapism. She explores more stories and characters, some based in fiction like "dorothea," and some real, like "marjorie," written in dedication to Swift's grandmother. 

Evermore follows folklore's inclusion of natural imagery and motifs, like landscapes, skies, ivy, and celestial elements. In contrast to the fairytale motifs and happy endings of Fearless, evermore saw Swift become fixated on "unhappy" endings — stories of failed marriages ("happiness"), lifeless relationships ("tolerate it"), and one-time flings ("'tis the damn season"). 

Sonically, evermore is a slight departure from its sister record; where folklore relies on more alt-leaning and indie-tinged sounds, evermore takes the sonics from all of Swift's past records — from pop to country to indie rock — and features all of them on one album. Country songs like "cowboy like me" and "no body, no crime" reaches back to Swift's earlier work in narrative building, seamlessly crafting a three-party story with ease. "Closure" is a "skittering" track that has the same energy as tracks like Lover's "I Forgot That You Existed," whereas the ballad "champagne problems" is thematically reminiscent of Swift's Speak Now track "Back To December" where she takes responsibility for her lover's heartache. 

Working mostly with Dessner on evermore, Swift was emboldened to continue creating and opted to embrace whatever came naturally to them rather than limiting themselves to a sound. Swift felt a "quiet conclusion" after finishing up evermore, describing that it was more about grappling with endings of all "sizes and shapes," and the record represented a chapter closing. Even so, its poetic lyricism and mystical storytelling cleverly foreshadowed what was to come with subsequent albums, particularly The Tortured Poets Department.

Midnights: Encapsulating Her Artistic Magic

After coming out of the folklorian woods following folklore and evermore, fans and critics alike were intrigued to see what direction Swift would take on her next studio album. On Midnights, Swift leaves behind indie folk sounds and returns to the pop production of 1989 and Lover.

Her most conceptual album to date, Midnights charts 13 sleepless nights and explores five themes, from self-hatred and revenge to "what if" fantasies, falling in love, and falling apart. They are the things that keep her up at night, like the self-critiquing in "Anti-Hero," her rise to fame in "You're on Your Own, Kid," and the anxiety of falling in love again in "Labyrinth." Similarly to Swift's cheeky songwriting style that sees her create caricatures of herself in songs like "Blank Space" and "Look What You Made Me Do," she doubles down on claims she's "calculated" on "Mastermind," a song about devising a plan for her and her lover. 

Although the album is a departure from the two pandemic sister albums, the overall creation process didn't differ too much. In addition to working alongside Antonoff (and bringing Dessner in for the bonus-track-filled 3am Edition), Swift's worldbuilding is still the throughline that connects Midnights and Swift's recent albums, whether she's dreaming of a Parisian escape in "Paris" or using war imagery as a metaphor for the struggle of love in "The Great War."

Read More: 5 Takeaways From Taylor Swift's New Album 'Midnights'

Following the success with folklore and evermore, Swift's intrigue was at a then-all-time high upon the release of Midnights. Along with breaking several streaming records — including becoming the first album to exceed 700 million global streams in a week — it was Swift's 11th No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200, and was the highest-selling album of 2022 (and, remarkably, the second best-selling of 2023).

To say that Swift's celebrity has become otherworldly since the release of Midnights would be an understatement. Celebrating her genre-defying and varied discography through The Eras Tour has resulted in old songs having a resurgence, new inside jokes and Easter eggs within the fandom, and a plethora of new listeners being exposed to Swift's work. 

As a result, there has arguably never been more excitement for a Taylor Swift album than for The Tortured Poets Department — especially because the announcement came on the heels of her lucky 13th GRAMMY win in February. Midnights helped further solidify Swift's larger-than-life status at the finale of the 2024 GRAMMYs, too, as she became the only artist in history to win Album Of The Year four times. 

The Tortured Poets Department: Check back on April 19!

All Things Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift performing in Kansas City in 2023
Taylor Swift performs on night one of the Eras Tour in Kansas City, Missouri in July 2023.

Photo: John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

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Taylor Swift, The 'Tortured Poet': 6 Times She's Used Poetry In Her Work

As Taylor Swift prepares for her next era with 'The Tortured Poets Department,' take a look at some of the ways the pop superstar has displayed her love for poetry in her songwriting, tours and more.

GRAMMYs/Apr 15, 2024 - 07:22 pm

With an ability to write songs that are as timeless as they are universal, Taylor Swift has often been described as the most impressive songwriter of her generation. The pop star's authentic lyrics and knack for storytelling has had fans invested from the start of her career, picking apart each line to better understand them. What is largely overlooked, though, are the poetic tools Swift channels to better understand herself.

From turning short stanzas into songs to categorizing tracks as "quill" or "fountain pen," Swift deftly incorporates her love of poetry and writing into her work. And now, she's conceptualizing an entire album around it.

Swift's aptly titled eleventh album, The Tortured Poets Department, sees the singer/songwriter as the Chairman of the Department who, upon announcing the album, declared "All's fair in love and poetry." Following the release of Midnights, she began working on the record and has since said it was a "lifeline" album — and that she never had a project where she needed songwriting more.

Before The Tortured Poets Department arrives on April 19, GRAMMY.com explores how Swift has incorporated poetry into her career and used it to level her songwriting.

Honoring Poets In Her Work

Much like how her fans find comfort in her work, Swift uses poetry as a main source of comfort and inspiration. Swift begins her album prologue for 2012's Red by quoting the poem "Tonight I Write the Saddest Lines" by Neruda, one she's said has always captivated her. 

The line reads, "Love is so short, forgetting is so long." It sets the theme for the entire Red album, with Swift stating that she relates to the line in her "saddest moments" when she "needed to know someone else had felt the exact same way." It clearly made an impression on her: during the release of Red (Taylor's Version) almost a decade later, she'd quote the line again at the beginning of "All Too Well: The Short Film."

When speaking with NPR about the poem, Swift said that her favorite writers — whether they be poets or authors — have "musical hooks" in their work and have the ability to write about things in a universal, relatable and simple way. "The Lakes," a deluxe track featured on folklore, directly references The Lake Poets, who called the idyllic Lake District in England home. Specifically, the track gives a nod to Romantic poet William Wordsworth: "Take me to the lakes where all the poets went to die/ I don't belong, and my beloved, neither do you [...]/ I've come too far to watch some name-dropping sleaze/ Tell me what are my words worth." 

Compartmentalizing Her Songwriting

During her acceptance speech for NSAI's Songwriter-Artist of the Decade Award in 2022, Swift mentioned the "dorky" way she compartmentalizes songwriting into three categories: "quill," "fountain pen" and "glitter gel." Fun, upbeat songs that don't take themselves too seriously fall under the "glitter gel" category; "fountain pen" lyrics reference modern storylines with a "poetic twist." 

"Quill" lyrics, however, are the ones that weave Swift's poeticism directly into her songs. During the speech, she describes writing them using antiquated words, almost as if she was "inspired to write it after reading Charlotte Brontë or after watching a movie where everyone is wearing poet shirts and corsets." Particularly, she notes evermore's "ivy" as a "quill" track, reciting the lyrics, "How's one to know/ I'd meet you where the spirit meets the bones/ In a faith forgotten land."

Using Poems To Communicate During A Media Blackout

Following the hysteria post-1989 that catalyzed 2017's reputation, Swift leaned into the album's ethos — "There will be no further explanation, there will just be reputation" — Swift avoided most, if not all, interviews during the press campaign. Instead, she opted to use poetry as a form of communication. 

In place of an interview, she submitted a poem to British Vogue to accompany her cover shoot. The poem "The Trick to Holding On" was seemingly written at the tail end of that aforementioned media scrutiny, seeing Swift exploring themes around healing and acceptance, writing, "Let go of the ones who hurt you/ Let go of the ones you outgrow" and "Suddenly you'll know/ The trick to holding on/ Was all that letting go."

As part of the album launch, Swift released accompanying magazines with two different poems titled "If You're Anything Like Me" and "Why She Disappeared," both written by her. In "If You're Anything Like Me," Swift picks apart her own flaws and failings while touching on the aftermath of the scrutiny she experienced ("Each new enemy turns to steel/ They become the bars that confine you/ In your own little golden prison cell"). It ends with Swift recognizing her growth and finding peace: "If you're anything like me, I'm sorry/ But Darling, it's going to be okay."

Reciting Poetry On Tour

On her two most recent tours, Swift has integrated poetry into parts of her sets. Before Swift performed "Getaway Car" during the reputation stadium tour, she recited her poem "Why She Disappeared." Much like "If You're Anything Like Me," the poem explores her tarnished reputation and uses illeism to show the distance she feels from those events. In the poem, she says, "Without your past/ You could never have arrived so wondrously and brutally/ By design or some violent, exquisite happenstance/...here," distinguishing her past self from her present self.

As Swift took a journey through her discography on her Eras Tour, she began the folklore set — the one that fans might describe as her most poetic — with a spoken word version of her song "seven." Alluding to her past and current eras, Swift begins the poem with the line, "If you wish to romanticize the woman I became" followed by interpolating a lyric from 1989's "Wildest Dreams," saying, "Then say you'll remember me/ Standing in a nice dress/ Staring at the sunset." She asks audiences to "begin at the beginning" by picturing her in the trees and continues to recite the first verse and chorus.

Referencing Literature

When Vogue asked Swift what subject she would teach if she was a teacher, it wasn't a surprise that she said English. Her love of literature — both modern and classic — is apparent in her lyrics. Sometimes she compares herself to literary characters, like Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby in the song "happiness," in which she sings, "I hope she'll be a beautiful fool," a direct quote from the novel. Instead of using it in its original context, which was meant to be a blessing, Swift makes it more devastating. 

Other times, she uses specific motifs as a way to express her frustrations, like using Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and its themes of "adultery" and sin in Fearless' "Love Story" ("You were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter") and in 1989 "New Romantics" ("Show off our different scarlet letters").

The concept of fate that Swift explores in "invisible string" was mentioned by English author Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre. The novel's "I have a strange feeling with regard to you: as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly knotted to a similar string in you" line is mirrored by Swift's lyrics, "All along there was some/ Invisible string/ Tying you to me."

In a conversation with Paul McCartney for Rolling Stone, Swift said that she read "much more" than she ever did during folklore. Specifically mentioning Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, a story of an unnamed woman who marries a man who she believes is still in love with his wife. Swift found inspiration in the novel's use of flowery and "prettier" words and turned them into song names and lyrics, like "epiphany" and "elegies." Her evermore track "no body, no crime" even alludes to the same death the fictional character faces in Rebecca and "tolerate it" explores the story of a neglected wife and a loveless husband.

Since Swift loves using songwriting and storytelling as a form of escape, it makes sense that she'd also use whimsical children's fairy tales as inspiration. Alice in Wonderland might be the most obvious reference she's used for 1989's "Wonderland," using allusions to falling down a rabbit hole and Cheshire cat grins as a way to explain the frantic and fragile relationship she was experiencing. In "cardigan," Swift puts herself in the shoes of Wendy in Peter Pan to explain her frustrations with the immature and gallless Peter ("I knew you/ Tried to change the ending/ Peter losing Wendy").

Incorporating Poetry Into Songs

Many of Swift's songs began as poems. In conversation with Scholastic in 2014, Swift spoke with students about the books she loved growing up, discussing how journaling helped simplify her feelings which would eventually lead her to discovering her love of poetry. She mentions that "This Love" from 1989 was initially a quick and spontaneous poem she wrote in her journal which read "This love is good/ This love is bad/ This love is alive back from the dead/ These hands had to let it go free and/ This love came back to me." Shortly after, a melody came to mind and she developed the poem into a song.

On Lover, fans found that the penultimate track "It's Nice To Have A Friend" reminded them of a poem. Speaking to Billboard upon the album's release, Swift said the song is more of a poem filled with metaphors with double meanings. "It's Nice To Have A Friend" follows a typical poetic beat — specifically an iambic trimeter — where Swift emphasizes certain syllables to create six syllables per line. 

On her 2022 album, Midnights, Swift directly mentions writing poetry on the love song "Sweet Nothing," penning the lyric, "On the way home/ I wrote a poem/ You say, 'What a mind'/ This happens all the time." Although the themes of pressure and media scrutiny of the reputation poems still appear in her later work, this poetic-sounding track speaks more to a simple gratitude than anything else. 

In late 2023, Swift liked a tweet connecting the lyric to a quote from Paul McCartney about his late wife Linda McCartney, which reads, "I would come back from a run with a poem to share and having listened, Linda would say 'what a mind.'" Whether it's about Paul and Linda or Swift's personal life, poetry helps uncover new ways to inspire her.

As the next chapter in Swift's musical universe begins with the arrival of The Tortured Poet Department, it's clear her love for storytelling is ever-evolving — just like her love for poetry.

All Things Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift performs during "The Eras Tour"

Photo: Ashok Kumar/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

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Get Ready For Taylor Swift's ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ Album Release: Everything You Need To Know

As we count down to Taylor Swift's 11th studio album release on April 19, feast on all the morsels GRAMMY.com has gathered about the Queen of Pop's upcoming "tortured poet" era.

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 03:19 pm

The dawn of Taylor Swift's "tortured poet" era is upon us. The reigning Queen of Pop is set to release her highly anticipated 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, on Friday, April 19. 

Ever since she announced the new album during the 2024 GRAMMYs — while accepting her lucky 13th GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Vocal Album for Midnights —- Swifties have been meticulously analyzing every detail of her existence for clues about the release of The Tortured Poets Department.

Fortunately, Swift has been serving a lot of information to snack on. After revealing the cover art in an Instagram post before accepting her record breaking fourth win for Album Of The Year, she didn't stop the feast. From the full track list to a five-stage breakup playlist — and, of course, all the bonus tracks and special editions — here's all the breadcrumbs GRAMMY.com collected in preparation for The Tortured Poets Department

All The Art Is Black And White

The cover art for The Tortured Poets Department displays a black-and-white inset photo of Swift in repose on a stack of white pillows, with the album's title in uppercase white letters above her. The photography accompanying the album, including back covers and special editions, captures Swift in reflective solitude: standing before a body of water wearing an oversized white button-up, and in a pensive self-embrace against a stark black backdrop.

The photography for the album was shot by Swift's photographer since 2020, Beth Garrabrant, who also shot the covers of Swift's folklore, evermore, Fearless (Taylor's Version), Red (Taylor's Version), Midnights, Speak Now (Taylor's Version), 1989 (Taylor's Version). She's known for using a medium-format film photography that evokes an emotional closeness to her subjects — especially fitting for an album titled The Tortured Poets Department.

The Album Features Two Notable Collaborations

On GRAMMY night, alongside the album announcement, Swift posted the complete track list on her Instagram. The post included a photo of the album's back cover, showing a close-up of Swift with her hand on her forehead, overlaid with the text "I love you, it's ruining my life" in all-caps. 

The 16-track release has been split into four sides and also features collaborations with Post Malone on Side A opener "Fortnight" as well as Florence + The Machine on Side B's "Florida!!!" 

Check out the full track list:

**Side A**
“Fortnight” (feat. Post Malone)
“The Tortured Poets Department”
“My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys”
“Down Bad”

**Side B**
“So Long, London”
“But Daddy I Love Him”
“Fresh Out the Slammer”
“Florida!!!” (feat. Florence + the Machine)

**Side C**
“Guilty As Sin?”
“Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?”
“I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)”
“loml”

**Side D**
“I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”
“The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”
“The Alchemy”
“Clara Bow”


Bonus Tracks:

“The Manuscript”

“The Black Dog”

"The Albatross"

The Album Title Hints At Another Ex 

Mere moments after Swift dropped The Tortured Poets Department album name, the internet was ablaze with viral speculation that the title is derived from a play on ex Joe Alwyn's group chat, "The Tortured Man Club" with Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott. 

Alwyn and Mescal revealed their "club name" during an interview with Variety in December 2022 and it didn't take long for fans to connect the dots. Upon unearthing the tie-in, Swifties rushed to share memes and comment on the original interview across various social channels.

There Are Three Bonus Tracks (So Far)

Swift has revealed at least three bonus tracks for different editions of the album, each marked with its own "file name." The initial track list release, referred to as "The Manuscript," includes a bonus track sharing this name.  

On Feb. 23, Swift posted a slideshow on Instagram to promote a special edition named "The Albatross." It featured the bonus tracks and revealed the back cover, which presented a track list alongside a contemplative close-up of Swift overlaid with the question, "Am I allowed to cry?" 

Then, on March 3, she introduced the bonus track “The Black Dog” through a similar post that showcased new cover art, with the album's reverse side portraying Swift and the haunting text, "Old habits die screaming." 

Lyrics Have Already Been Shared

Unlike her previous album campaigns, Swift hasn't unveiled any music ahead of The Tortured Poets Department’s release — but she has dropped plenty of hints at the subject matter to come. Handwritten lyrics first appeared in the album announcement post, in a stack of papers inside a folder tabbed with a monogram of the album's name.

"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 love bombs/ My veins of pitch black ink," is written above the sign-off, "All's fair in love and poetry… Sincerely, The Chairman of The Tortured Poets Department."

Then, in an Instagram story posted on April 8 — the date of the total solar eclipse — Swift shared an image of a typewriter loaded with a sheet of paper stamped with the words, "Crowd goes wild at her fingertips/ Half moonshine, Full eclipse." 

Swift Created Five Playlists To Mirror The Stages Of A Breakup

Gearing up for the release, Swift dropped a 5-part playlist series on Apple Music on April 5 featuring previously released work arranged in playlists that reflect the five stages of grief. The playlist for "Denial: I Love You, It’s Ruining My Life Songs," features hits including Midnight's "Lavender Haze," and Lover's "Cruel Summer" and "False God." 

The other playlists run through the emotional gamut with titles like "Anger: You Don’t Get to Tell Me About Sad Songs," the midpoint "Bargaining: Am I Allowed to Cry? Songs," "Depression: Old Habits Die Screaming Songs," and finally "Acceptance: I Can Do It With a Broken Heart Songs." Each one takes listeners on a Taylor Swift escapade through love won and lost, representing what many believe to be a musical voyage through Swift's stages of grief following the end of her relationship with ex Joe Alwyn. 

Each playlist also includes a description from Swift. For "Denial," it says, "This is a list of songs about getting so caught up in the idea of something that you have a hard time seeing the red flags, possibly resulting in moments of denial and maybe a little bit of delusion. Results may vary.”

As April 19 nears closer, take a deep dive into everything Swift has unleashed so far — and get ready for a lot more divulging once The Tortured Poets Department arrives.

All Things Taylor Swift

(Clockwise from top left): Metro Boomin, Taylor Swift, Bryson Tiller, Sinkane, St. Vincent, Tori Kelly, Future, TXT
(Clockwise from top left): Metro Boomin, Taylor Swift, Bryson Tiller, Sinkane, St. Vincent, Tori Kelly, Future, TXT

Photos: Taylor Hill/Getty Images; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy; Joseph Okpako/WireImage; Chloe Morales-Pazant; Mike Coppola/WireImage; Sasha-Samsonova; Prince Williams/WireImage; Peter White/Getty Images

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15 Must-Hear Albums In April 2024: Taylor Swift, Vampire Weekend, St. Vincent & More

April promises to shower listeners with heavy-hitting hip-hop, pop, country and rock releases. From Metro Boomin and Future's upcoming collab, to TOMORROW x TOGETHER's new minisode, get your April 2024 playlist ready with 15 exciting new releases.

GRAMMYs/Apr 1, 2024 - 01:24 pm

This year, April brings more than just showers to beget May flowers. Instead, there must be something in the stars: In the fourth month of 2024, four artists are releasing their fourth studio albums. These are pop-rock band X Ambassadors’ Townie, R&B singer Bryson Tiller’s Bryson Tiller, rapper PartyNextDoor’s P4, and Irish rockers Picture This’ Parked Car Conversations.

Numerology aside, April will also contemplate exciting new works from pop masters Taylor Swift, whose The Tortured Poets Department drops mid-month, and St. Vincent’s All Born Screaming, country star ERNEST’s Nashville, Tennessee, jazz master Kenny Garrett and electronic producer Svoy’s What Killed AI?, and — allegedly — the second part of Future and Metro Boomin’s first joint-effort, We Don’t Trust You.

There’s music for all tastes ready to fill your playlists for the rest of the year. Read on for 15 of the most exciting albums dropping in April 2024.

TOMORROW X TOGETHER - minisode 3: TOMORROW 

Release date: April 1

Luckily, fans of the K-pop quintet TOMORROW X TOGETHER (TXT) rarely have to wait for new music. Six months after releasing their third studio album, The Name Chapter: Freefall, the group is gearing up to release minisode 3: TOMORROW.

The seven-song EP is fronted by upcoming lead single "Deja Vu," which is said to mix trap, rage, and emo rock into their signature emotional intensity, as per a press release. The other tracks continue to expand the group’s versatility, experimenting with pop rock, house, and acoustic guitars. 

As usual, the concept of the album is connected to TXT’s overarching lore, and features several references to their past works — track "- --- -- --- ·-· ·-· --- ·–," for example, evokes their debut era where Morse Code was used in teasers and in the single "Crown."

TXT will embark on their Act: Promise World Tour starting May 3-5 in Seoul, South Korea, and then head to the U.S. for 11 shows across the country, including two dates at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Conan Gray - Found Heaven

Release date: April 5

Gen Z popstar Conan Gray has Found Heaven. After 2022’s Superache, his upcoming third album was co-produced by legendaries Max Martin, Greg Kurstin, and Shawn Everett, among others.

Gray had been teasing the 13-track record since last year with a slew of buoyant, '80s-tinged singles ("Never Ending Song," "Killing Me" and "Lonely Dancers") and poignant, Elton John-esque ballads ("Winner," "Alley Rose"). "When I was making the album, I was really obsessively listening to music of that era," he explained to NME. "I think also, because it was a deeply emotional time, I was almost hiding from reality. I didn’t listen to a song from the 2020s during the making of this album."

To celebrate this new, holy era, Gray will be touring Australia in July, North America in September and October, and Europe and the UK in November. "I want people to know that I was having fun and goofing around, and I want you to smile and I want you to feel like you can just be yourself," he added. "I just want the album to be a reminder to people that you can be so many things all at once."

Sinkane - We Belong 

Release date: April 5

Ahmed Gallab, the Sudanese American multi-instrumentalist behind Sinkane, has built his discography resisting musical genres. We Belong, his upcoming eighth studio album, is no different: it combines pop, funk, electronic, afrobeats, disco, and more into "a love letter to Black music," per a press release.

Sinkane’s first album since 2019’s Dépaysé, We Belong features 10 tracks and participations by Bilal, Money Mark, STOUT, and others. Each song tells the story of a different era in Black music and history, laced with love and hope for the future: the disco groove of "Come Together," the gospel choirs of "Everything Is Everything," the funky bassline of "How Sweet is Your Love."

Along with live band the Message, Sinkane has announced a select 10-city tour in the U.S., starting May 3 in New York City and wrapping up on June 9 in Pioneertown, California.

X Ambassadors - Townie

Release date: April 5

**Pop rock trio X Ambassadors dive deep into nostalgia for Townie, their fourth studio album. The record was inspired by their experience of growing up in the small city of Ithaca, New York, and how it shaped who they are.**

"As a grown man, I’ve fallen back in love with upstate NY, and I oddly feel blessed to have had something to rally so hard against/fight to escape from as a kid," vocalist Sam Harris said in a statement. "No Strings," the first single off the project, is an anthem for that restless feeling, and anchors their concept in a haunting, propulsive melody. "Your Town" and "Half-Life" continue the journey, although taking more melancholy tones.

X Ambassadors first set off their Townie tour in Europe and the UK during February and March. On the day of the release, they will begin the North American leg of the tour in Vancouver, Canada.

Vampire Weekend - Only God Was Above Us 

Release date: April 5

Five years after releasing their latest record, 2019’s Father of the Bride, indie band Vampire Weekend will drop their fifth studio album, Only God Was Above Us.

According to a press release, frontman Ezra Koenig wrote most of the songs in 2019-2020, and spent the last five years refining them with bandmates Chris Baio and Chris Tomson. The result is a collection of 10 "direct yet complex" tracks, "showing the band at once at its grittiest, and also at its most beautiful and melodic," as seen in singles "CAprilicorn," "Gen-X Cops," and "Classical."

In addition to a sold out performance in Austin, Texas that will coincide with the total eclipse on April 8 and a headline show at Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona, Vampire Weekend has announced an extensive North American tour throughout summer and fall.

Bryson Tiller - Bryson Tiller

Release date: April 5

Grab your tickets to Bryson Tiller’s upcoming tour while you can: he might go on a hiatus right after. That’s what the R&B singer and rapper told Complex, alleging that his number one passion is actually video games. "I've been designing a game for the past three years; been looking into internships for different companies. That's what I want to prioritize after this album comes out."

The album Tiller refers to is his eponymous fourth LP, a 19-track collection that includes a feature by Victoria Monét, and is described as "seamlessly blending R&B, dancehall, pop, drill, trapsoul, neo-soul, and hip hop" in a press release. "Bryson Tiller is not just an album; it's a declaration of artistic independence and a tribute to the relentless pursuit of greatness."

The project’s three alluring singles ("Outside," "Whatever She Wants," and "CALYPSO") exemplify how Tiller pushed the boundaries of R&B even more, and solidified his identity as one of music’s most singular artists. "My No. 1 goal with this album is just for everybody on Earth to hear it one time," Tiller also told Complex. "My guarantee is that they'll love [at least] one song."

Tori Kelly - TORI.

Release date: April 5

"You think you know who Tori Kelly is, but this album will prove that maybe you didn’t," said the YouTube-star-turned-singer in a NME interview about her fifth studio album, TORI. "I feel like I’m stepping into my power and owning my craft."

Her first LP since 2020’s A Tori Kelly Christmas, TORI. took inspiration from '90s and early aughts R&B and pop, as heard on singles "Missin U" and "Cut." "I was trying to create this world of nostalgia, but also there’s that balance with [TORI.] feeling fresh and new," she said. Comprising 15 tracks, it also includes participations by Ayra Starr in "Unbelievable," LE SSERAFIM’s Kim Chae-won on "Spruce," and Jon Bellion — who co-wrote and produced the album — on "Young Gun."

During the creation process, Kelly told Bellion that her guidelines were to be able to "belt out [songs] in the car" and "dance" to them, like one can do in the powerful "High Water." As far as it goes, it looks like they accomplished their mission.

Kelly will kick off her Purple Skies North American tour on April 12 in Ventura, California, and conclude it on May 3 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Future & Metro Boomin - TBA / We Still Don’t Trust You 

Release date: April 12

Rap titans Future and Metro Boomin have been personal friends and work peers for over a decade, but their first collaborative album is only coming out now. We Don’t Trust You, the first installment of a double album, dropped on March 22, while the second part — titled yet to be announced — is slated to release on April 12.

In We Don’t Trust You, the duo showcased their flawless chemistry with grandiose tracks, haunting trap beats, and star-studded features, such as "Like That" with Kendrick Lamar, "Young Metro" with The Weeknd, and "Type S—" with Travis Scott and Playboi Carti. As Metro defined in an interview with Complex, "it’s the classic Future and Metro, but just updated."

So far, no further details have been shared about the second album, but expectations remain high for the duo to outdo the first effort.

girl in red - I'M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!

Release date: April 12

"I wanted to sincerely apologize for the events that happened directly after the release of my second album, I'M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!" prefaced Norwegian singer girl in red — real name Marie Ulven — on a solemn social media video last month. But while viewers caught their breaths, she revealed it was all a witty joke: the album will only come out on Aprilil 12.

"This is a big year for me. 2024 is, like, my year," she added in the video. I'M DOING IT AGAIN BABY! follows Ulven’s 2021 debut If I Could Make It Go Quiet, but feels "more fun and more playful, and a little bit more confident," as she told Billboard. Lead track "Too Much" brings that novelty heads on, while singles "Doing It Again Baby" and "You Need Me Now?" with Sabrina Carpenter prove that Ulven’s powerful pop is only getting better.

Ulven will kick off her Doing It Again tour from April 16-June 2 in North America, and from Aug.27-Oct. 5 in Europe.

Kenny Garrett & Svoy - Who Killed AI?  

Release date: April 12

For his first electronic foray, NEA Jazz Master and GRAMMY-winning saxophonist Kenny Garrett enlisted the acclaimed producer-musician Svoy. The result is Who Killed AI?, a seven-track daring exploration of jazz and pop culture.

"The first two songs are really reminiscent of Miles [Davis]," Garrett shared in a statement. "The way I’m stretching the melody — that’s how I played with Miles." The opener and lead single "Ascendence" is a strong preview of what’s to come: distorted synths and drum and bass beats fused with Garrett’s fun and brilliant lines, a compelling portrait of what the future of music can be.

Later in the year, Garrett plans to take the album on a live tour. "I think my fans will find this interesting," Garrett shared in a statement. "Some people forget that my teacher was Miles Davis. So for me, it’s not that I have to do something different. It is just something that I do. All you have to do is present the music and let them take the journey." 

ERNEST - Nashville, Tennessee 

Release date: April 12

Early in March, singer/songwriter ERNEST announced on social media that he would be running for mayor in order to "legalize country music." Of course, fans started to get their hopes up for new music — and they were right. The plot was just part of his promotion for the newly announced Nashville, Tennessee, out April 12.

A tour de force with 26 tracks, the record features a bevy of guest stars: from Jelly Roll ("I Went To College, I Went To Jail"), to Lainey Wilson ("Would If I Could"), and ERNEST's two-year-old son, Ryman Saint. It also includes a bluegrass cover of Radiohead’s "Creep" with HARDY, and a cover of John Mayer’s "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room."

In addition to "I Went To College, I Went To Jail," four other advance tracks have been shared: "Why Dallas" with Lukas Nelson, "Ain’t As Easy," "Ain’t Too Late," and "How’d We Get Here."

Taylor Swift - The Tortured Poets Department 

Release date: April 19

On the same night that she won her  lucky 13th GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album with 2022’s Midnights, Taylor Swift also announced her 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department. Coming out April 19, the record will feature 16 tracks and collaborations by Florence + the Machine on "Florida!!!" and Post Malone on "Fortnight."

"I needed to make it, it was really a lifeline for me, it sort of reminded me why songwriting gets me through life," Swift said during her The Eras Tour show in Melbourne. "I've never had an album where I needed songwriting more than I needed it on Tortured Poets."

Along with the statement, Swift also shared an alternate cover for the physical album, titled after and including bonus track "The Bolter." Later on, three other versions named "The Manuscript," "The Albatross," and "The Black Dog" — all including an eponymous bonus track —  were also made available for purchase.

For the rest of the year, Swift will be touring through Europe and North America. As usual with the singer, more surprises are likely to come soon.

PartyNextDoor - PartyNextDoor 4 (P4)

Release date: April 26

**Canadian hitmaker and singer PartyNextDoor will make his long-awaited return this month. PartyNextDoor 4, also dubbed P4, is his first full-length work since 2020’s Partymobile, and continues his eponymous albums series after 2016’s P3.**

"This is the hardest I’ve ever worked on an album. This is the proudest I’ve felt," Party told Billboard for his March cover story. "I’m excited to grind even more for the next [one]. I’m in love with how hard you should work for it." 

He also explained that love is the reason why he takes so long to release new stuff. "I get into relationships and then music becomes second," he said. "I think I’m going to take a break from relationships, a long break, and just get back to making music."

In support of the release, Party shared moody, intimate singles "Resentment" and "Real Woman" — inspired by the same relationships that kept him off stage.

St. Vincent - All Born Screaming

Release date: April 26

In an interview with Mojo, St. Vincent — also known as Annie Clark — defined her upcoming seventh album, All Born Screaming, as "post-plague pop." Since its creation started right after the release of 2021’s Daddy’s Home, the years of seclusion and adjustment due to the COVID pandemic were a prominent influence in her new work.

"That kind of isolation breeds paranoia and loneliness, and loneliness can breed violence," she said. "It’s been a time of loss collectively and personally. [But] loss and death are very clarifying things, they make everything that doesn’t f—ng matter go away."

Comprising 10 tracks and features from Dave Grohl, Cate Le Bon, and Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa, All Born Screaming is St. Vincent’s first entirely self-produced set, and an attempt at showcasing what does matter. "This record is darker and harder and more close to the bone. I’d say it’s my least funny record yet. There’s nothing cute about it," she added.

Clark released two singles off the album, "Broken Man" and "Flea," and is gearing up for a North American tour starting May 22.

Picture This - Parked Car Conversations

Release date: April 26

"Parked Car Conversations is by far the most personal album we have ever created," said vocalist and lyricist Ryan Hennessy in a press release about Picture This’s upcoming album. "It is an album about everything involved with being human. Love and loss and hurt and euphoria and all of those other complex emotions that flutter in between."

The album consists of 15 songs, but a third of it can be previewed through bittersweet, soaring singles "Get On My Love," "Song To Myself," "Leftover Love," "Call It Love," and "Act Of Innocence." Overall, Parked Car Conversations is a soundtrack "not to a movie, but to life," and aims to convey "the ups and downs of living" through ballads and anthems alike, according to Hennessy. 

Coming almost three years since the Irish band’s last release, 2021’s Life in Colour, the new record will be celebrated in high spirits with an Europe and U.K. tour, starting April 21 in München, Germany.

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