Taylor Swift Explains the Meaning Behind 'Fortnight,' 'Clara Bow' and More “The Tortured Poets Department” Tracks

Swift discusses her songwriting process for several 'TTPD' tracks in new commentary for iHeartRadio and Amazon Music

<p>Beth Garrabrant</p> Taylor Swift

Beth Garrabrant

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is pulling back the curtain — just a bit — on her legendary pen.

When The Tortured Poets Department was released on April 19, the singer-songwriter, 34, provided special commentary on the record — as well as in-depth insights into a selection of songs including “Clara Bow,” “Fortnight,” and more — as iHeartRadio premiered it.

Swift gave even more insights on the already critically acclaimed album to Amazon Music for its special Tortured Poets Department listening experience: Taylor Swift Track by Track.

Related: Taylor Swift Smashes Spotify Single-Day Records with Most-Streamed Artist and Album

Introducing the record on iHeartRadio, she said that “a lot of the songs on The Tortured Poets Department deal with the idea of heartbreak or loss in a metaphor of something else.”

"Down Bad"

In “Down Bad,’” for example, Swift said she compared “the idea of being love bombed where someone, you know, rocks your world and dazzles you then kind of abandons you as an alien abduction where this girl was abducted by aliens but she wanted to stay with them and then when they like drop her off back in her hometown she’s like, ‘Where are you going? I liked it there, it was weird but it was cool, come back!’”

“The character in the song just felt like, ‘I’ve just been exposed to a whole different galaxy and universe I didn’t know was possible, how can you put me somewhere I was before?’”


<p>Taylor Swift/ Youtube</p> Taylor Swift and Post Malone in the music video for "Fortnight"

Taylor Swift/ Youtube

Taylor Swift and Post Malone in the music video for "Fortnight"

Discussing opening track “Fortnight,” which features Post Malone, Swift told Amazon Music that it “exhibits a lot of the common themes that run throughout this album,” one of the biggest being “fatalism — longing, pining away, lost dreams.”

"I think that it’s a very fatalistic album in that there are lots of very dramatic lines about life or death. ‘I love you, it’s ruining my life.’ These are very hyperbolic, dramatic things to say,” she said. “It’s that kind of album.”

Related: Post Malone Raves About Taylor Swift After The Tortured Poets Department Feature on 'Fortnight': 'I Am Floored by Your Heart'

In her iHeartRadio commentary, she added that she “always imagined that it took place in this, like, American town where the American Dream you thought would happen to you didn’t, right?”


The second guest act on The Tortured Poets Department comes in “Florida!!!” — a haunting track that Swift both penned and sang with Florence and the Machine's Florence Welch.

Reflecting on the “jumping-off point” she used to write the tune with Welch, 37, during the record’s iHeartRadio premiere, the Midnights songstress said, “I think I was coming up with this idea of like, what happens when your life doesn’t fit, or your choices you’ve made catch up to you, and you’re surrounded by these harsh consequences and judgment, and circumstances did not lead you to where you thought you’d be, and you just want to escape from everything you’ve ever known, is there a place you could go?”

<p>Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty; Gilbert Flores/Billboard via Getty</p> Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine; Taylor Swift

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty; Gilbert Flores/Billboard via Getty

Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine; Taylor Swift

“I’m always watching like… Dateline, people have these crimes that they commit, where do they immediately skip town and go to? They go to Florida,” she said. “They try to reinvent themselves, have a new identity, blend in.”

“And I think when you go through a heartbreak, there’s a part of you that thinks: ‘I want a new name, I want a new life, I don’t want anyone to know where I’ve been or know me at all.’ ”

"Clara Bow"

Closing track “Clara Bow” — whose namesake is an actress from the silent film era — is “a commentary on what I’ve seen in the industry that I’ve been in over time,” Swift revealed to Amazon Music.

“I used to sit in record labels trying to get a record deal when I was a little kid,” she said. “And they’d say, ‘You know, you remind us of…’ and then they’d name an artist, and then they’d kind of say something disparaging about her, ‘But you’re this, you’re so much better in this way or that way.’ “

“And that’s how we teach women to see themselves, as, like, ‘You could be the new replacement for this woman who’s done something great before you.’”

Related: Clara Bow's Family Reacts to Taylor Swift’s New Song, Says Actress Would Have Been 'Protective' of Singer (Exclusive)

So, when deciding who to name-drop in the “The Lucky One”-esque tune (Stevie Nicks, Bow and Swift herself), the singer said she “picked women who have done great things in the past and have been these archetypes of greatness in the entertainment industry.”

Clara Bow, Swift noted, “was the first ‘it girl,’” while “Stevie Nicks is an icon and an incredible example for anyone who wants to write songs and make music.”

"Who's Afraid of Little Old Me?"

“Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” — whose lyric “You wouldn’t last an hour in the asylum where they raised me” birthed the album’s first viral meme — was born from a moment of bitterness, Swift revealed on Amazon Music’s track-by-track experience.

Swift said she wrote the track alone, while “sitting at the piano in one of those moments when I felt bitter about just all the things we do to our artists as a society and as a culture.”

“There’s a lot about this particular concept on The Tortured Poets Department,” she continued. “What do we do to our writers, and our artists, and our creatives? We put them through hell. We watch what they create, then we judge it.”

“We love to watch artists in pain, often to the point where I think sometimes as a society we provoke that pain and we just watch what happens.”

"My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys"

As the name hints, “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys,” is told “from the perspective of a child’s toy,” the singer said on iHeartRadio’s premiere commentary.

The song, which she penned alone, is about “being somebody’s favorite toy until they break you and then don’t want to play with you anymore — which is how a lot of us are in relationships where we are so valued by a person in the beginning, and then all of the sudden, they break us or they devalue us in their mind.”

“We’re still clinging on to ‘No no, no. You should’ve seen them the first time they saw me. They’ll come back to that. They’ll get back to that.’ So it’s kind of like a song about denial, really,” she said, “so that you can live in this world where there’s still hope for a toxic broken relationship.”

The Tortured Poets Department is out now.

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