Taylor Swift’s Tortured Poets Department Lyrics Hint at How She Really Moved on From Joe Alwyn to Matty Healy (2024)

Last year just got a lot more clear. Taylor Swift’s “Tortured Poets Department” lyrics seemingly hint at how she moved from Joe Alwyn to Matty Healy, and now we don’t know what to think.

The Tortured Poets Department” is the title track and second song from Swift’s 11th album of the same name, which Swift announced during her speech for the Best Pop Vocal Album award at the 66th annual Grammy Awards. “This is my 13th Grammy, which is my lucky number. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that. I want to say thank you to the members of the Recording Academy for voting this way, but I know that the way that the Recording Academy voted is a direct reflection of the passion of the fans,” Swift said. “So I want to say thank you to the fans by telling you a secret that I have been keeping from you for the last two years, which is that my brand-new album comes out April 19. It’s called The Tortured Poets Department.”

The album was set for release on April 19, 2024, however, it leaked a day earlier, which is when fans start dissecting and discussing Swift’s lyrics from her 16 songs — especially “The Tortured Poets Department.” Read on for what we know about the meaning behind Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” lyrics and who they’re about.

Who are Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” lyrics about?

Fans are divided about whether Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” lyrics are about her ex-boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, who she dated from 2016 to 2023, or her short-lived romance with Matty Healy, who she dated in April 2023 after her breakup with Alwyn.

Some fans believe that “The Tortured Poets Department” and album’s title is a reference to Alwyn’s WhatsApp group chat titled “The Tortured Man Club” with Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott, which he revealed in an interview with Variety in 2022. “It’s the Tortured Man Club, I think. It’s me, you — and Andrew Scott started the group,” Alwyn said in a conversation with Mescal.

Mescal added of Scott, “He’s just on it every day. He’s just on it by himself.” Alwyn continued, “Just messaging himself good mornings. We were both in the Sally Rooney universe and crossed over with Lenny Abrahamson. We were so lucky to have that experience.”

However, there are other fans who believe the lyrics are about Healy, who first met Swift in 2014, a decade before their rumored romance. “We met each other, we exchanged numbers in the same way that a lot of people in this kind of world do, and we spoke occasionally,” Healy told Australia 2Day FM Radio Show in 2015 about his friendship with Taylor. “She’s the biggest pop star in the world and I’m in Australia. There’s no relationship or anything happening. It’s just funny how people really, really buy into that.”

Swift and Healy dating rumors briefly swirled in 2016. They reignited in April 2023 after Healy was seen attending Swift’s Eras Tour concert in Nashville, Tennessee. They were also photographed holding hands in New York City in May 2023. News broke that Swift and Healy had broken up in June 2023. “Taylor and Matt are no longer romantically involved,” a source told Us Weekly at the time. “They had fun together, but it was never serious.”

Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” lyrics meaning

So what is the meaning behind Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” lyrics? Read on for each lyric decoded.

  • Verse 1

    You left your typewriter at my apartment
    Straight from the tortured poets department
    I think some things I’ll never say
    Like, “Who uses typewriters anyway?”
    But you’re in self sabotage mode
    Throwing spikes down on the road
    But I’ve seen this episode
    And still loved the show
    Who else decodes you?

    • While some fans believe that “the tortured poets department” lyric is a reference to Alwyn’s WhatsApp group chat titled “The Tortured Man Club,” others believe there are clear references to Healy in “The Tortured Poets Department.” In an interview with GQ in 2019, Healy revealed that he still uses typewriters and loves them. “I really like typewriters as well. I don’t have one with me because that is impractical, but the thing with typewriters and writing with pen to paper, there’s an element of commitment that goes with the ceremony with it. It therefore forces you to concentrate a bit better,” he said. He went on to talk about the importance of his notebook. “It’s important to have a book. It’s mainly stories that I write about my dreams of being in love with other popstars,” he said.
    • Unlike Alwyn, who’s an actor, Swift and Healy are both songwriters and essentially poets in their own right. While poetry is also a theme in Swift’s relationship with Alwyn — namely, in her Folklore song, “The Lakes,” in which she sings “take me to the lakes, where all the poets went to die” — this lyric more accurately represents Healy as it describes writer who self-sabotages their own work.
  • Chorus 1

    And who’s going to hold you Like me? And who’s going to love you, if not me?
    I laughed in your face and said,
    “You’re not Dylan Thomas, I’m not Patti Smith”
    This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel
    We’re modern idiots
    Who’s going to hold you like me?
    Nobody.
    No f*cking body. Nobody.

    • Patti Smith is an American singer and poet, while Dylan Thomas was a Welsh poet and writer, who had a reputation as a “roistering, drunken and doomed poet,” according to The Welsh Academy Encyclopedia of Wales. While Thomas could be a reference to either Alwyn or Healy, given that they’re both from the United Kingdom like Thomas, the description of Thomas more accurately represents Healy’s reputation.
    • That said, Swift and Alwyn were seen leaving the Moxy Chelsea hotel in August 2022 after an MTV VMAs afterparty. The now-infamous video shows Alwyn leading Swift by hand while running from the hotel to their car. After Swift and Alwyn’s breakup, many accused Alwyn of trying to hide Swift by rushing her to the car, so there’s speculation that the lyric about Swift’s relationship not being the Chelsea Hotel could be a reference to that video.
  • Verse 2

    You smoked then ate seven bars of chocolate
    We declared Charli Puth should be a bigger artist
    I scratch your head you fall asleep
    Like a tattooed golden retriever
    But you awaken with dread
    Counting nails in your head
    But I’ve left this one
    Where you come undone
    I chose this cyclone with you

    • Both Alwyn and Healy have been photographed smoking, however, Healy is known for chocolate in his band The 1975’s 2013 “Chocolate,” which is used as a euphemism for cannabis. Though it’s not an indicator of Healy’s opinion of him, Puth did cover The 1975’s song “Somebody Else” for BBC Radio 1 in 2017. Healy also has several visible tattoos across his entire body, while Alwyn does not.
  • Chorus 2

    And who’s going to hold you like me?
    And who’s going to love you like me?
    I laughed in your face and said,
    “You’re not Dylan Thomas, I’m not Patti Smith”
    This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel
    We’re modern idiots
    Who’s going to hold you like me?
    Nobody. No f*cking body. Nobody.

    • Because of Healy’s reputation and his list of controversies, Swift received a lot of criticism when news broke of her relationship with Healy. The chorus of “The Tortured Poets Department” speaks to how only Swift and the subject of the song understand their love, which could be a representation of her and Healy’s relationship.
  • Bridge 1

    Sometimes I wonder if you’re going to screw this up with me
    But you tell Lucy you’d kill yourself if I ever leave
    And I had said that to Jack about you So I felt seen
    Every we know understands why it’s meant to be
    ‘Cause we’re crazy.

    • The most popular theory is that “Lucy” is Lucy Dacus, a member of the band Boygenius, while “Jack” is Jack Antonoff, Swift’s frequent collaborator. Both Alwyn and Healy have relationships with Boygenius. Alwyn is best friends with actor Paul Mescal, who was engaged to Boygenius member Phoebe Bridgers before splitting in 2023. Mescal is also a part of Alwyn’s “The Tortured Man Club” WhatsApp group chat, while Bridgers also opened for Swift’s The Eras Tour. Healy also used to be close friends with Boygenius, however, Healy seemed to confirm that they had a falling out in September 2023. “I told Lucy Dacus that ‘Boygenius’ had inspired me and George to start a new band called ‘Girlretard’. I don’t really hear from her that often,” Healy tweeted as a joke. Dacus responded, “you don’t hear from me at all.”
  • Bridge 2

    So tell me, who else is going to love me?
    At dinner you take my ring off my middle finger
    And put it on the one people put wedding rings on
    And that’s the closest I’ve come to my heart exploding.

    • Rumors swirled that Swift and Alwyn were secretly engaged for years. Alwyn responded to the rumors in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in 2022, in which he denied the claims. “If I had a pound for every time I think I’ve been told I’ve been engaged, then I’d have a lot of pound coins,” Alwyn said. “I mean, the truth is, if the answer was yes, I wouldn’t say, and if the answer was no, I wouldn’t say.” He continued, “We live in a culture that people expect so much to be given. So that if you’re not posting all the time about what you’re doing, how you’re spending a day, or how you made a breakfast, does that make you a recluse?”
  • Chorus 3

    Who’s going to hold you? ….Me.
    Who’s going to know you? …Me.
    And you’re not Dylan Thomas
    I’m not Patti Smith
    This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel
    We’re two idiots

  • Outro

    Who’s going to hold you?
    Who’s going to hold you?
    Who’s going to hold you?
    Who’s going to hold you?
    Who’s going to hold you?
    Who’s going to hold you?
    Who’s going to hold you?
    Who’s going to hold you?
    Who’s going to hold you?
    Who’s going to hold you?

    You left your typewriter at my apartment
    Straight from the tortured poets department
    Who else decodes you like me?

Taylor Swift’s Tortured Poets Department Lyrics Hint at How She Really Moved on From Joe Alwyn to Matty Healy (2024)

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