Has Taylor Swift Written Her Best Song (Ever)?

Taylor Swift Fortnight Music Video Black and White
Fortnight Music Video Screenshot

Taylor Swift is no stranger to conjuring an earworm - a song you play on repeat. Without missing a beat of her long-time streak, Swift’s new album “The Tortured Poets Department” is chock-full of them, including the impressive lead single “Fortnight.” When you take into account, she is more than 15 years into her record-setting career, and her possession of this skill is unparalleled.

Nearly 20 years after her debut single “Tim McGraw,” Taylor Swift does not hold back with one of her most soul-baring catalog of songs. There are countless standouts in “Tortured Poets Department,” and “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” is one of them. Listen to it here:

“Tortured Poets Department” feels like a soul sequel to “Reputation” with its black-and-white aesthetic, marking the contrast between a poet’s white paper and the ink of a black pen. 

Swift opens a vein of anger from the grief process like never before.

At 34 years old, Taylor Swift is going through life with a shifting perspective like the rest of us. Many of her fans have grown up with a similar learning curve to adulthood. The concept of “adulting” has become an ever-evolving question mark compared to our parents’ stark yet clear definition of being a “grownup.”

Throughout her “eras,” Taylor Swift’s core ethics apparently remain black and white, with the occasional foray into gray. Life does not burst with the tie-dye vibrance of “Lover” or the nighttime reverie of “Midnights.” 

Swift’s colors are stripped back to their bluntest layers.

I am only speculating here. The song title could be inspired by the acclaimed play-turned-movie “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” which is named after writer Virginia Woolf. All of which is to use Woolf’s name as a homonym of “Wolf” as in “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” – the song.

“Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” tackles similar ground as “Nothing New” from the “Fearless” Vault, “My Tears Ricochet” (from “Folklore”), and every daring entry on “Reputation.” There is a victorious, taunting beauty to every line of lyrics. Swift’s pen drips with vibrant eloquence and resonates with roaring passion, saying:

“If you wanted me dead, you should’ve just said. Nothing makes me feel more alive.”

Throughout the record, Taylor Swift is not afraid to confront her critics, discuss bad breakups, problematic people, emotional turmoil, or any other element comprising her life. Swift leaves nothing unsaid. It is all there. The good, the bad, and everything in between, gets Swift’s attention.

There is an edge of righteous anger that echoes throughout the album. Where “Midnights” had strong hints of melancholy, “The Tortured Poets Department” broods with a revitalized and not-so-quiet rage.

Is it another phase of the grieving process?

With reckless abandon, Taylor Swift does not shy away from her mortality and the imagery of death, openly wondering if some wish to make it happen. In “Anti-Hero,” she imagines a will-reading, in “My Tears Ricochet,” she uses death and a wake as a key symbol.

Head back to “Reputation,” and she speaks one of her most famous lines, “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone, right now/Why? Oh, ‘cause she’s dead.” In sharp contrast, “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” tells of Swift triumphantly leaping from near-death at the gallows. It is a self-empowerment power-ballad on steroids, and I love it.