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It’s been about a fortnight since Taylor Swift released her latest album, “The Tortured Poets Department.” It’s been almost three months since the album was announced and I began to call it her “Dead Poets Society.” I did this as it felt both more natural to say and, being brutally honest, it annoyed Teen Girl just a teeny bit. 

Just as Cinderella’s coach again became a pumpkin, Swift graced her fans’ evenings with the release of “TTPD” on April 19. With barely enough time to consume the 16 songs on the initial release, a 2 a.m. surprise: it’s a double album, and 15 more songs dropped.

All of this happened outside of my awareness. My backpack patch reads, “I’m Ride or Die–Until about 9 p.m.” The album drop was past my bedtime, er, the album drop(s).

Instead, I awoke to the living corpse of Teen Girl, whom I later learned went to bed after 4 a.m., because she simply HAD to listen to the additional album. (Her resurrection was before 12 noon and just in time for lunch, no alchemy required.)

Beyond the magic of teenage sleep patterns, what struck me more is just how uniting music can be generally, and with Swift’s music in particular. We were miles from home, yet Teen Girl managed to find a random Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus with whom to discuss the new album. Izzy’s from England, Sarah from France and no-nametag (Peter? Cassandra? Robin?), all became complicit in these impromptu interpretative conversations. None were casual small talk but instead went all-in from the get-go.’

“Florida!!!” seemed to be a popular tune, either for the catchy beats or subtle message that Teen Girl assured me made zero sense to her. (Specifically, the line of all her friends smelling of weed or little babies won’t likely resonate until at least she’s in her late 20s and is living this truth.) 

It was odd, seeing these near-strangers talk at 100 miles an hour speed as though they were fresh out of the slammer and hadn’t spoken to another person in years. “What’s your favorite song? Why? What about the 2 a.m. bonus drop? How does this compare to “Red” or “Fortnight” or the other albums? Do you think ___ was the prophecy easter egg from her Instagram post? Did you even sleep last night?”

I’ve long since given up trying to fight the Swiftie tides. Rather, I’ve even picked up enough of the lore to blend in with all but the most devoted. (Perhaps that’s more a testament to Teen Girl’s pledge of “I can fix him (no really, I can)” as though my not knowing the nuance of Taylor tunes was a fundamental defect.)

So yes, when told, I’ll wear the friendship bracelets like the albatross that they are, don my cozy “Folklore” sweatshirt and TS dad hat, and face the world. There’s far worse ad-hoc communities of fans out there, and at least in this one I can usually hold my own—and wearing the Swiftie uniform, rarely do I fret about who’s afraid of little old me.

In another era, I may have dubbed the album The Tortured Parents Department. If not for all the crack-of-dawn chatter, then for the continued discourse on the vinyl varieties and nuances of the album. I also remain aware that the days are numbered before Teen Girl moves out with a “so long, London” and it’s just me and my bride discussing how it did end, and (hopefully) well before the first “But Daddy I love him.”

And when asked, I’ve now learned that “Florida!!!” is the right answer for my favorite song…unless we’re being honest, then I’ll admit that “Fortnight” was rightly placed as the first track.

Paul George is the copy editor and columnist for The Express. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @paulgeorgePIO.

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