Grief (Taylor's Version)
Taylor Swift performing at the Eras Tour in Singapore.

Taylor Swift Confirmed Tortured Poets Is About The 5 Stages Of Grief

Those Joe songs in the denial playlist…

Originally Published: 

Since Taylor Swift announced The Tortured Poets Department at the Grammys in February, fans have been on the lookout out for Easter eggs about the new album. Swift has been posting quite a few clues about what to expect, and the singer has actually revealed four different editions of the album (so far), leading some Swifties to believe these variants of TTPD represent the five stages of grief.

Swift seemingly confirmed the fan theory by curating five The Tortured Poets Department playlists for Apple Music on April 5. Each of the playlists addresses one of the five stages of grief, which includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, and is named after different messages on the album variants.

To accompany each Apple Music playlist, Swift shared a voice memo about what each stage means to her. A written intro on the platform also mentions that the the stages of grief fan theory was where the Eras Tour singer found her inspiration: “When Swifties agree upon a theory, Taylor takes an interest — so naturally, she's responded by crafting a series of exclusive playlists, choosing songs of her own that fit each stage.”

“I Love You, It’s Ruining My Life”: Denial

Ashok Kumar/TAS24/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

While it may not have been Swift’s intention at first to make her Tortured Poets Department variants the different stages of grief, it now seems to fit into place. To break it down, “The Manuscript” version of TTPD fits with denial. In the artwork for this edition, Swift left a message: “I love you, it’s ruining my life,” which is what Swift titled her denial playlist.

This is one of the most painful of the playlists, because Swift sets it up by saying, “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.” It then leads into songs like “Sweet Nothing,” “Lover,” and “willow,” which were all love songs rumored to be about Swift’s ex Joe Alwyn. Having Lover be a denial album gives more context to the house burning down in the Eras Tour show — even if it’s hard to see.

“You Don’t Get To Tell Me About Sad”: Anger

Don Arnold/TAS24/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

“The Bolter” matches up with anger. The message in this cover art — “You don’t get to tell me about sad” — is what Swift titled her anger playlist. She says in her message to Swifties, “These songs all have one thing in common: I wrote them while feeling anger. Over the years I've learned that anger can manifest itself in a lot of different ways, but the healthiest way it can manifest itself in my life is when I can write a song about it.”

This playlist is filled with tracks that fans have theorized are about Swift’s exes, like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” for Jake Gyllenhaal, “Is It Over Now?” for Harry Styles, and “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” for John Mayer.

“Am I Allowed To Cry?”: Bargaining

Don Arnold/TAS24/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Next up, “The Albatross” has the message, “Am I allowed to cry?”, which was used for Swift’s bargaining playlist. (Coincidentally, albatrosses spend the first six years of their life flying at sea before coming back to land. Swift and Alwyn dated for six years.)

Her voice memo for this playlist details that moment in a failing relationship where you’re trying so hard to make it work. Swift says, “This playlist takes you through songs I've written when I was in the bargaining stage, times when you're trying to make deals with yourself or someone you care about, you're trying to make things better. You're often times feeling really desperate because oftentimes we have a gut intuition that tells us things are not going the way that we hope. Which makes us more desperate. Which makes us bargain more!”

Swift’s chosen bargaining songs include “this is me trying,” “The Great War,” and “Cornelia Street” — which fans have theorized is about Alwyn.

“Old Habits Die Screaming”: Depression

Terence Rushin/TAS23/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The last of the variants is “The Black Dog,” which has the message, “Old habits die screaming.” Swift has assigned this to the depression stage. Per Swifties — and the Cambridge dictionary — the black dog symbolizes depression.

In this playlist, Swift says, “We're going to be exploring the feelings of depression that often lace their way through my songs. In times like these, I'll write a song because I feel lonely or hopeless. And writing a song feels like the only way to process that intensity of an emotion. And while these things are really, really hard to go through, I often feel like when I'm either listening to songs or writing songs that deal with this intensity of loss and hopelessness — usually that's in the phase where I'm close to getting passed that feeling.”

This is the playlist you listen to when you want to cry, because it’s filled with songs like “Bigger Than The Whole Sky,” “You’re Losing Me,” and “champagne problems.” Swift’s biggest breakup song — in popularity and length — is also on the depression playlist: “All Too Well.”

“I Can Do It With A Broken Heart”: Acceptance

Tom Cooper/TAS23/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The last of Swift’s playlist is actually named after one of her songs on The Tortured Poets Department, “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” because Swift doesn’t have a fifth variant of her album.

This is Swift’s acceptance playlist, which she describes as: “We finally find acceptance and can start moving forward from loss or heartbreak. These songs represent making room for more good in your life, making that choice. Because a lot of the time when we lose things, we gain things too.”

The Grammy winner has definitely proven that she can move on, even with a broken heart. In fact, she seems to be extra giddy vacationing in the Bahamas with boyfriend Travis Kelce. Acceptance looks good on her, and it sounds great with songs like “august,” “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” and “I Forgot That You Existed.”


With the grief theory in mind, Swift would need to release one more version of TTPD to match up with acceptance — but that’s where things get a little foggy. When Swift announced “The Black Dog” edition, she clarified that it was the “final new edition” of the album.

It’s possible that releasing all variants of TTPD is Swift’s acceptance. On April 19, when the album drops, she will officially be moving on from her last relationship and saying everything she needed to say in those final songs.

Of course, other fans are suggesting that Reputation (Taylor’s Version) will be acceptance — when she can take back ownership of those songs she wrote at the beginning of her relationship with Alwyn. Whatever it may be, fans are definitely in their acceptance era and ready to receive what Swift has to offer in The Tortured Poets Department.

This article was originally published on