How Taylor Swift takes aim at Matty Healy on The Tortured Poets Department

Fans expecting a post-mortem of the musician’s six-year relationship with Joe Alwyn have been left surprised, as Swift seems to spend more time dissecting her brief fling with The 1975 frontman

Shahana Yasmin,Roisin O'Connor
Saturday 20 April 2024 11:53 BST
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Taylor Swift’s latest studio album The Tortured Poets Department dropped today, leaving fans both elated and confused.

Many fans expected the album would be heavily inspired by her six-year relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn. However, Swift has taken everyone by surprise as it emerged that her songs instead seem to address her brief dalliance with The 1975’s frontman, Matty Healy.

News of Swift and Alwyn’s breakup was first reported in April 2023. A month later, the first rumours of Swift dating Healy emerged, after they were first linked back in 2014.

However, the relationship reportedly ended after just a few weeks. She is currently in a relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight-end Travis Kelce.

Swift and Healy’s relationship sparked consternation from Swifties (Swift fans) who objected to Healy’s long string of controversies, including a podcast in which he engaged with a number of derogatory remarks about rapper Ice Spice, as well as women and Japanese people.

Healy apologised to Ice Spice in April 2023, saying he didn’t want to be “perceived as, like, kind of mean-hearted”. Soon after this, Swift announced a collaboration with Ice Spice for a remix of her song “Karma”, which some critics and fans claimed was “damage control” for Healy’s comments.

Fans are now scrambling to dissect the meaning of songs from The Tortured Poets Department, with the title track, along with songs such as “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”, “But Daddy I Love Him”, “Fresh Out the Slammer” and “My Boy Only Breaks His Favourite Toys” all interpreted to be about Healy. She also appears to reference him on “The Black Dog”, from the extended version of the album.

Taylor Swift and Matt Healy
Taylor Swift and Matt Healy (Getty Images)

In a message to fans on social media, Swift wrote: “This period of the author’s life is now over, the chapter closed and boarded up. There is nothing to avenge, no scores to settle once wounds have healed. And upon further reflection, a good number of them turned out to be self-inflicted. This writer is of the firm belief that our tears become holy in the form of ink on a page. Once we have spoken our saddest story, we can be free of it”.

Here are the latest clues that Swift’s songs are about Healy

On “Guilty as Sin?” Swift sings about “fatal fantasies” for someone in her past who sends her the 1989 song “The Downtown Lights” by Scottish band The Blue Nile.

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Healy has mentioned before that The Blue Nile is his “favourite band of all time” and that The 1975’s song “Love It If We Made It” was inspired by “The Downtown Lights.”

Fans also wrote an open letter in April urging Swift to “reflect on the impact of your own and your associates' behavior”.

On “But Daddy I Love Him,” Swift seems to address this criticism of her romance with Healy.

She sings: “I'd rather burn my whole life down/ Than listen to one more second of all this bitchin' and moanin'/ I'll tell you something 'bout my good name/ It's mine along with all the disgrace/ I don't cater to all these vipers dressed in empath’s clothing.”

Swift continues in the same vein, on “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)” singing: “The jokes that he told across the bar were revolting and far too loud/They shake their heads, saying, ‘God help her’ when I tell ‘em he’s my man/But your good Lord doesn’t need to lift a fingerI can fix him, no really I can.”

She appears to accuse Healy of ghosting her on “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”, singing: “Was any of it true?/ Gazing at me starry-eyed/ In your Jehovah’s Witness suit/ Who the f*** was that guy?/ You tried to buy some pills/ From a friend of friends of mine/ They just ghosted you/ Now you know what it feels like.”

She later sings: “And I don’t even want you back I just want to know/ If rusting my sparkling summer was the goal/ And I don’t miss what we had but could someone give/ A message to the smallest man who ever lived.”

Healy has been wearing black suits with a black tie and white shirt while touring with The 1975.

On “The Black Dog”, she shouts out another of Healy’s favourite bands, the pop-punk group The Starting Line. The 1975 covered their 2002 track “The Best of Me” while on tour last year, days before Swift and Healy were first spotted holding hands.

She sings: “I just don’t understand how you don’t miss me/ In The Black Dog when someone plays The Starting Line / And you jump up, but she’s too young/ To know this song/ That was intertwined in the magic fabric of our dreaming.”

Fans think ‘The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived’ is about Healy
Fans think ‘The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived’ is about Healy (AP)

Early reactions from both critics and fans seemed positive. However, some Swifties have pointed out their unhappiness at the clear focus on Healy, as opposed to Swift’s relationship with Alwyn.

A line about a “tattooed golden retriever” from the title track “The Tortured Poets Department”, which seems to reference Healy’s obvious ink, has also received some eye-rolls.

“All that for an album about Matty Healy,” one fan wrote on her Instagram.

Swifties looking for Joe Alwyn references will perhaps be reassured by “So Long, London,” as she sings, “I died on the altar waiting for the proof / You sacrificed us to the gods of your bluest days”.

The Tortured Poets Department has been heavily anticipated since Swift first announced it at the 2024 Grammy awards where she took home top prizes including Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album, for 2022’s Midnights.

The Independent’s Helen Brown gave the new album five stars, praising Swift’s storytelling power. “In keeping with the literary (if ungrammatical) album title, Swift is on her most piercingly polysyllabic form here,” she wrote.

The album features collaborations with rapper Post Malone and Florence Welch, of English band Florence + the Machine. Physical copies of the album will also include an original poem from Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks.

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