Swifties at SXSW panels;Taylor Swift

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‘It’s going to be an alternative rock album’: Swifties just gathered in-person to decode ‘Tortured Poets Department’

'I think it's going to be more like the Folklore, Evermore era.'


Braden Bjella


Posted on Mar 11, 2024   Updated on Mar 13, 2024, 3:42 pm CDT

While Taylor Swift’s Eras tour is still underway, fans around the world are already eager to see what the star will do next.

On March 11, a sizable group of those fans gathered at SXSW to do everything from swap stories about their times seeing Swift to offering some theories about her new album and, crucially, what it could possibly be about.

For context, Swift announced the name of her new album at the 2024 Grammys, and since then, fans have been trying to decipher the meaning behind its title, The Tortured Poets Department.

One popular theory—and one that made an appearance at the meetup—was that the album would prominently feature the story of Swift and her ex-boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. Rumors swirled throughout the meetup about the reason for their breakup, ranging from cheating, to a lack of emotional support, to Alwyn simply not being ready to handle Swift’s level of fame.

As evidence, some attendees pointed to an alleged group chat, of which Alwyn was a member, that was called “The Tortured Man Club.” The similarity between this group chat and the album title, attendees said, was not a coincidence.

However, while these topics were fun fodder for discussion, a few attendees came to the conclusion that nothing particularly salacious happened and, as one put it, “they probably just grew apart over time.”

Others at the meetup instead focused on trying to figure out what the album might sound like.

“My friend thinks it’s going to be an alternative rock album,” offered an attendee. 

“I think it’s going to be more like the Folklore, Evermore era,” speculated another.

While few details are currently known about the album, the Los Angeles Times reported that producer Jack Antonoff, who has produced many Swift albums, would be returning to work on the album. Seeing as Antonoff’s band Bleachers just released a new album, a few people wondered if there would be a link between the sound of this album and Swift’s new record.

Travis Kelce was only casually mentioned, with guests describing him as “fun” and “ready for the fame.” Many were unaware that Kelce had attended SXSW festival a few days prior, though they showed no signs of disappointment upon learning they missed him. 

Of course, almost all of the guests were simply content to share their Swift stories. One attendee said that they fell in love with Swift when the pandemic hit, saying that her music got her through the particularly difficult period of her life.

Folklore is beautiful, but it can be hard to listen to because it reminds me of that time,” she shared.

As the Eras tour is ongoing, the phenomenon took over many discussions. Guests shared their stories trying to get tickets, their “life-changing” experiences at the show, and the new vendettas they have against Ticketmaster.

“It was like Phantom of the Opera, or Wicked,” said one attendee about his experience seeing the Eras tour. “I’ve never seen a concert that was so much like a musical.”

“It was amazing,” said one attendee of her time at the Eras tour, “but I would still sell my kidney to have seen Reputation.”

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*First Published: Mar 11, 2024, 12:38 pm CDT