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Taylor Swift at the 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards

10 Clues That Taylor Swift's The Tortured Poets Department Was Coming

On the way home, I wrote a poem.

Gilbert Flores/Billboard/Getty Images

Over the years, there has been a lot of discourse comparing Taylor Swift’s skills to Shakespeare’s. There’s even a trend of quizzing people by reading aloud Swift lyrics and Shakespeare quotes, then asking who wrote which. Considering Swift’s next album is titled The Tortured Poets Department, it’s fair to say she’s OK with the comparison — and that the Swift versus Shakespeare test is about to get a lot harder, particularly if she starts writing in iambic pentameter.

After winning Pop Vocal Album of the Year at the 2024 Grammys, Swift announced her next album. “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,” she said in her acceptance speech.

“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 19th,” Swift continued. “It’s called The Tortured Poets Department. I’m going to go and post the cover right now backstage. Thank you, I love you! Thank you!”

Swifties were shocked by the announcement, especially considering so many of them expected Reputation (Taylor’s Version) to be her next big drop. But hindsight’s 20/20, and looking back now, there were quite a few clues that The Tortured Poets Department was coming.

1. Her Website’s Error Message

X: @concertleaks

Ahead of the Grammys on Feb. 4, Swift’s website went down temporarily — but it wasn’t an accident. At the time, Taylor Nation confirmed on X, formerly called Twitter, that the outage had a secret message. “THE CODE FOR WEBSITE 100000000% INTENTIONAL,” one Swiftie tweeted, and Taylor Nation liked the post.

For some fans who looked at the page source, they uncovered plenty of messages. For one, there was a message: “hneriergrd.” Unscrambled, it read “red herring.” In hindsight, Swifties think that the fan theories that Swift would announce Reputation (Taylor’s Version) was the red herring, distracting them from the TTPD announcement.

That wasn’t the only uncovered message. According to one fan account, there were quite a few words in a foreign language that seem to fit the overall album theme, when translated to English. They include: ticking sound, evidence, muses, ink, love bombs, veins, talismans, cadence, chairman, and bruises.

X: @ghostofeste

Swift, who announced the album along with a sheet of what looks like lyrics, already made reference to some of these code words:

“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.”

2. Her Grammys Outfit

Gilbert Flores/Billboard/Getty Images

When Swift rolled up to the Grammys, fans were quick to guess that her outfit was a reference to her highly-anticipated re-release of Reputation. The album is frequently associated with a black-and-white color theme, so fans were hopeful Swift’s white gown and black gloves meant an announcement was forthcoming.

However, after announcing TTPD and sharing the album art, it looks like her ‘fit was a reference to her new era. (TTPD also has black-and-white imagery, BTW.)

That’s not all. Swift wore a working clock as a choker at the event. Her latest album (that wasn’t a re-release), Midnights, made frequent use of clock imagery. Perhaps her jewelry choice was a sign, hinting at time running out for the Midnights era?

3. Her New Instagram Profile Picture

X: @SwiftNYC

Swifties went wild when Swift updated her profile pictures on all platforms ahead of the Grammys. It was still a photo from Midnights, but the color scheme changed to black and white.

Reputation re-release hopefuls were confident that this was a sign their favorite album was making a comeback, but now it’s clear that Swift was prepping to launch a different era: The Tortured Poets Department.

4. Travis’ Reference To Her Poetry

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During a November 2023 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Travis Kelce opened up about Swift’s talents as a songwriter. Here’s a direct quote from the piece:

“What a miracle, Travis Kelce says, the way Taylor Swift can turn life into poetry. ‘I’ve never been a man of words. Being around her, seeing how smart Taylor is, has been f*cking mind-blowing. I’m learning every day.’”

Now that Swift has announced her new album, fans think Kelce was referencing the project all the way back in November and dropping an Easter egg for them to pick up on (even if no one did at the time). One fan tweeted, “‘What a miracle, he says, the way Swift can turn life into poetry.’ - Travis Kelce joining the Easter egg game.”

5. Her Liked Tweets

In November 2023, Swift liked a tweet about Paul and Linda McCartney’s relationship, seemingly pointing out the inspiration behind “Sweet Nothing” off of Midnights. The tweet read:

“i would come back from a run with a poem to share and having listened linda would say ‘what a mind.’ though the lines may not have been supreme, she wasn’t merely being kind. she meant what she said. it’s going to make a man feel good, that kind of a thing.” - paul mccartney.”

Meanwhile, in “Sweet Nothing,” Swift sings, “On the way home / I wrote a poem / You say, ‘What a mind’ / This happens all the time.” Clearly, her Twitter like was a reference to this lyric — but could it double as a hint that more poem-inspired music was to come?

6. The “You’re Losing Me” Timeline

Instagram: @jackantonoff

On Nov. 29, 2023, Jack Antonoff shared a BTS photo of Swift when they created “You’re Losing Me.” According to him, the song was written and recorded at home on Dec. 5, 2021. Now, fans think Antonoff shared the timeline to clue fans in on the fact they were continuing to work on new projects.

A reminder: When Swift announced her next release, she explained that it was in the works for two years. That places the start of the album near the writing of “You’re Losing Me.”



7. The TS11 Instagram Post

Johnny Nunez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The Antonoff-related clues don’t stop there. Other fans pointed out one of Swift’s Instagram posts with Antonoff from October 2023. In it, they’re celebrating “Cruel Summer” being No. 1 on the Hot 100. But could there be a layered meaning? Fans noticed that Swift and Antonoff are holding up a total of 11 fingers, which could be a reference to TS11, aka TTPD.

Swift’s holding up one finger, which makes sense since they were celebrating landing the No. 1 spot. Antonoff, however, is holding up both hands as if surprised — which doesn’t fit quite as well with the message of the post. One Swiftie guessed at Antonoff’s internal monologue on TikTok: “How do I hold up 10 fingers and make it look like I’m not holding up 10 fingers?”

8. Her Previous Poetry Projects

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Swift has put out poetry before. When she released Reputation, two poems — “If You're Anything Like Me” and “Why She Disappeared” — accompanied the album magazine (which she opted for instead of the traditional booklet).

Swift has also referenced poetry and poets through her songwriting. One of the most obvious examples happens in “The Lakes” on Folklore. She alludes to the Romanticism, an era of poetry popular during the late 18th and early 19th century. She makes particular reference to William Wordsworth and the Lake District in the U.K.

Swift sings: “Is it romantic how all my elegies eulogize me? ... I've come too far to watch some namedropping sleaze / Tell me what are my words worth / Take me to the lakes where all the poets went to die.”

There was another clue TS11 would be literary-minded. The last track on Midnights (3am Edition) was “Dear Reader,” prepping the Swifties for what was next.

9. Her Electric Lady Studio Sessions

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Swift has made regular, public stops at Electric Lady Studios since May 2023. (Most recently, she was spotted heading to the recording studio on Jan. 18.) The appearances let fans know that she was still hard at work — though the details of her current project remained unknown until her Feb. 4 announcement.

At the time, she told the Grammys crowd, “I want to say thank you to the fans by telling you a secret that I've been keeping from you for the last two years, which is that my brand new album comes out April 19th," she said on stage, as the audience erupted in cheers.

There’s no way to know which recording studio visit was dedicated to which project. (Remember, Swift still has two re-recordings left, Reputation and debut.) Still, it’s fair to say that at least *some* of these stops at Electric Lady Studios were tied to TTPD.

10. The Timing Adds Up

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Swift loves a numerical pattern. (There’s a reason she announced TTPD after winning her 13th Grammy as an ode to her favorite lucky number.) But fans are now noticing that there seems to be a method to the way she’s mixing old re-releases with new album drops.

One fan on X pointed out that Swift drops a new album for every two re-recordings: “y’all… taylor just solidified the 2 | 1 | 2 | 1 | 2 re-record schedule theory.” ICYMI, in 2021, she released Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version). In 2022, she released Midnights. Then, in 2023, fans got Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) and 1989 (Taylor’s Version). Now, Swift has confirmed TTPD will be released in 2024. If she keeps up with this pattern, 2025 could be the year of re-releasing Reputation and debut.