It didn’t take long after Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department announcement for fans to find proof that the upcoming album might be about her ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn. Alwyn and Swift dated for six years before they broke up last March.
Here’s all the evidence they’ve gathered so far.
Alwyn’s Connection to the Title
Given the title, fans did some digging and found a discussion Alwyn and Paul Mescal had for Variety in December 2022, during which they revealed they had a WhatsApp group chat with Andrew Scott called “The Tortured Man Club.” They joked they weren’t using it as much anymore since they were less tortured. Alwyn and Swift’s breakup happened less than four months later.
Joe Alwyn and Paul Mescal have a WhatsApp group with Andrew Scott called "The Tortured Man Club."
"It hasn't had much use recently," Alwyn says.
"I feel like we're less tortured now," Mescal quips. https://t.co/CSai4ScQpz pic.twitter.com/veCp1ZdFsD
— Variety (@Variety) December 15, 2022
Fans also noted Swift was photographed smirking with Mescal’s ex Phoebe Bridgers at the Grammys, where she announced the news:
And that Alwyn had a Soundcloud from before he started dating Swift where he read poetry.
The Symbolism of the April 19 Release Date
Alwyn and Swift split in March. News of their breakup came out on April 8, 2023.
Interestingly, The Tortured Poets Department comes out on April 19, 2024, 11 days after the one-year anniversary of the news. On April 19, 2023, Swift’s friends and brother got headline attention for unfollowing Alwyn on Instagram. Swift was photographed having dinner with Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively that night.
Context-wise, a source initially told Entertainment Tonight on April 8, 2023 that Swift and Alwyn’s breakup was “not dramatic.” The source added that “the relationship had just run its course. It’s why [Alwyn] hasn’t been spotted at any [Eras tour] shows.”
A source additionally told People on April 10 that the couple was more on-off than people knew. “They’ve had rough patches before and always worked things out, so friends thought they would take some time apart but eventually come back together,” the source said. They realized “ultimately, [they] weren't the right fit for one another.”
Alwyn “has struggled with Taylor's level of fame and the attention from the public. The differences in their personalities have also become harder to ignore after years together. They've grown apart,” the insider added. Multiple sources also revealed to People that “[they had been] talking about marriage as recently as a few months ago.”
When Tortured Poets Was Written Against Alwyn and Swift’s Relationship Timeline
Fans speculated that Swift released her first breakup song about Alwyn in May 2023, “You’re Losing Me,” particularly due to its devastating bridge. It was a Midnights bonus track.
Those lyrics went: “How long could we be a sad song / ’Til we were too far gone to bring back to life? / I gave you all my best me’s, my endless empathy / And all I did was bleed as I tried to be the bravest soldier / Fighting in only your army / Frontlines, don’t you ignore me / I’m the best thing at this party / (You’re losin’ me) / And I wouldn’t marry me either / A pathological people pleaser / Who only wanted you to see her / And I’m fadin’, thinkin’.”
In November, Jack Antonoff revealed when Swift wrote the song: Dec. 5, 2021—another hint that Swift and Alwyn’s private love story might have been a little more “tortured” than it appeared.
On Feb. 7, 2024, Swift told the crowd at her first Tokyo concert she started writing The Tortured Poets Department two years ago, so by February 2022.
“I’ve been working on Tortured Poets since right after I turned in Midnights,” she said, meaning she did it off the momentum—and headspace—of “You’re Losing Me.” “So you turn in an album months in advance so you can make finals, make sure it’s the best. So I started working on it immediately after that, and I’ve been working on it for about two years. I kept working on it throughout the U.S. tour and when it was perfect in my opinion, when it was good enough for you, I finished it. And I am so, so excited. Soon you’ll get to hear it. Soon we’ll get to experience that together. And I’m just like, I’m over the moon about the fact that you guys care about my music. It still blows my mind. I love doing this. I know I keep saying that, but that’s because it’s true. Everyone’s like, ‘Why do you make so many albums?’ I’m like, ‘Man, because I love it! I love it so much. I’m having fun. Leave me alone.’”
Hints About Alwyn in the Track List
Swift shared the track list for Tortured Poets on Feb. 6, 2024. Fans immediately honed in on track five, “So Long, London,” as likely being about Alwyn. Alwyn and Swift spent a lot of time together in London, and Swift previously released love song “London Boy” on Lover about him.
Fortnight (feat. Post Malone)
The Tortured Poets Department
My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys
So Long, London
But Daddy I Love Him
Fresh Out the Slammer
Florida!!! (feat. Florence + the Machine)
Guilty as Sin?
Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?
I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)
I Can Do It With a Broken Heart
The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived
Bonus Track: The Manuscript
Hints About Alwyn in the Bonus Song “The Bolter“
Swift announced Tortured Poets’ first bonus song on February 16, “The Bolter.” Fans immediately theorized it could be about Alwyn due to viral August 2022 paparazzi footage of them literally bolting to their car about a VMAs after-party. They held hands in the clip of their mad dash to avoid photographers.
More Details on Alwyn and Swift’s Romance—and Why It Ended
The couple was very, very private about their relationship during their six years dating, hardly ever going out publicly. In mid-December, a source spoke to Page Six about how much Alwyn hated the spotlight: “Joe would rather cut off his arm than go to [Swift-frequented, members-only club] Zero Bond,” that source said.
A separate Swift insider told the outlet, “Taylor is so in love [with her current boyfriend Travis Kelce]. She just hasn’t been with a guy who is so excited and proud to be with her in so long. She’d gotten used to having to hide away and lay low whenever she’s been in a relationship. Calvin [Harris, the DJ Swift dated in 2015 and 2016] and Joe were BIG on hiding. So she followed their lead. But now she’s finally with someone who is appropriately like, ‘Holy shit, I’m with Taylor Swift! Awesome!’ and she’s so delighted that she gets to be out in the world. Don’t forget, this is a girl who made out with Harry Styles in Times Square [on New Year’s Eve 2012] and posted pictures of her fling [actor Tom Hiddleston, in 2016] wearing an ‘I heart TS’ T-shirt. Low key isn’t actually her preferred vibe. But when it’s been at the insistence of the guy she’s with, she’s gone along with it.”
Swift took a little jab at Alwyn and those more private partners when speaking to Time in December about her new, far more public relationship with Travis Kelce. “When you say a relationship is public, that means I’m going to see him do what he loves, we’re showing up for each other, other people are there and we don’t care.,” she said. Then she contrasted it to her past relationships: “The opposite of that is you have to go to an extreme amount of effort to make sure no one knows that you’re seeing someone. And we’re just proud of each other.”
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