Taylor Swift's understanding of the element of surprise is her best marketing tool (2024)

Rumours were already circling before the 2024 Grammy Awards that Taylor Swift would use the global stage to announce the re-recording of hersixth studio album, Reputation.

But Swift loves a secret, and when she took to the stage to collect her first Grammy award of the evening — best pop vocal album for her 2022 release, Midnights —she dropped a bombshell.

She is releasing a completely new album: The Tortured Poets Department.

Why the shock?

Swifties were ready for an announcement at these awards.

And all signs pointed towards the release of her own version of her 2017 album, Reputation.

In the lead-up to the awards her website was shut downand her social media profile photos were replaced with black-and-white versions (an aesthetic synonymous with the Reputation era).

Before these changes, Swift had been dropping hints that Reputation (Taylor's Version) was next to be released.

The strongest theory dates back to May 2023, when the music video for the single Karma came out, including a scene with a coffee cup that had fans convinced Reputation was coming next.

The latte art on the coffee resembled a clock face — a nod to her 10th album Midnights — with the fingers visible on either side of the cup showing a blue manicure on one side and a black manicure on the other.

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Keen-eyed fans noticed that a blue-manicured finger was in between the eight and nine symbols on the latte clock, and a black-manicured finger was next to the number two. They believed this indicated that Reputation would follow the re-release of 1989 in October, and could be expected this month.

It also would have followed the original timeline of when those albums were released.

Then Swift arrived at the awards in aSchiaparelli couture white gown, and black gloves, with a silver chain choker (very Reputation-core).

So when she took to the stage to accept the 13th Grammy award of her career, she thanked her fans, and it appeared that Reputation (Taylor's Version) was imminent.

"This is my 13th Grammy, which is my lucky number," Swift said.

The number 13 has been an important symbol for Swift throughout her entire career: She was born on December 13 1989; turned 13 on Friday the 13th; and she even used to paint the number 13 on her hand before every concert when she first started performing.

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Her 13th award was always going to be a milestone for Swift and her fans.

"[I have] a secret I've been keeping from you for the last two years," she continued.

"Which is that my brand new album comes out April 19th. It's called The Tortured Poets Department."

The element of surprise

Swift is a fan of the surprise announcement, especially at an awards show.

At the MTV Video Music Awards in 2022, when she received the video of the year award, she announced her album Midnights.

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The Tortured Poets Departmentalbum artwork and concept were live on her website and social media accounts within minutes of her speech, revealing another well-orchestrated moment from a music marketing expert.

The surprises are the best part for a lot of Swifties — many who go on to study the clues she leaves behind in such detail that it's genuinely impressive she managed to keep this secret

At the time of writing the Instagram post announcing The Tortured Poets Department is Swift's most-liked post of all-time on the platform, surpassing the 1989 (Taylor's Version) post with a staggering 13.6 million likes in the last 24 hours (and rising).

So it's not surprising this announcement sent the internet into a tailspin.

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And among those reactions, a curious connection was made over the album's title.

What's in a name?

Swift's ex-boyfriend, who she dated for six years, British actor Joe Alwyn, revealed in Variety's Actors on Actors series in December 2022 that he and fellow actors Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott have a WhatsApp chat group called the "Tortured Man Club".

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Alwyn and Mescal have both starred in Sally Rooney book adaptations, Alwyn in Conversations with Friends andMescal in Normal People, andboth series are known for their melancholy tone.

Many fans at the time believed the chat name was also a reference to Mescal's late 2022 split with his reported fiancé, musician Phoebe Bridgers, and Alwyn and Swift's split, which was confirmed in April last year.

So is the new album title a little jab at their sadboi group?

Adding to the theory is the fact that Bridgers and Swift happen to be close friends; they have collaborated on several songs together, and Bridgers even opened the Eras concert tour during its North American leg last year.

Coincidence? We may never know.

What we do know

Announced with the tagline "All's fair in love and poetry", The Tortured Poets Department will be Swift's 11th studio album and will feature 17 tracks, including a bonus track titled The Manuscript.

Swift released the track titles the day after the announcement, confirming collaborations with Post Malone and Florence + the Machine.

The track list also includes a song titled Clara Bow, named for the 1920s silent film actor. She was well-known for starring in the movie It, which brought her global fame and earned her the title "The It Girl".

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The social media reveal of the cover art — featuring Swift in a classic moody woman pose (lounging in a bed, with half her head cut out of frame) — was also accompanied byseveral lines of handwritten poetry, giving fans a glimpse of lyrics to come.

"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 / All's fair in love and poetry…

— Sincerely, The Chairman of the Tortured Poets Department."

Swift's website was updated in corresponding sepia tones following the announcement, allowing fans to pre-order and pre-save the album.

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And, as keen fans would know, this isn't the first time Swift has referenced poets in her work.

Many reacted to the news by pointing to similar lines in the 2021 bonus track The Lakes, from her eighth studio album Folklore, where she pleads to be taken "to the lakes where all the poets went to die", then adding: "Those Windermere peaks look like a perfect place to cry / I'm setting off, but not without my muse".

Some fans are already theorising that The Tortured Poets Departmentwill be similar in tone to her previous sister albums, Folklore and Evermore, pushing a long-held fan theory that there was a third album in the Folklore-Evermore universe.

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What we do know following the announcement of The Tortured Poets Department is that Australian fans will be more excited than ever for the Eras Tour to kick off on February 16 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground — set to be the biggest crowd of her career. Many are speculating there will be more surprises to come.

Knowing Swift's career so far, it's a safe bet.

The Tortured Poets Department is out on April 19.

Posted, updated

Taylor Swift's understanding of the element of surprise is her best marketing tool (2024)


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