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Magazine Sparks Debate After Anonymously Publishing Swift Album Review Due To Potential Threats From Fans

'Paste' magazine explained that they published a negative review of Swift's new 'The Tortured Poets Department' album without a byline due to possible 'threats of violence' from her fans.

Taylor Swift
Ashok Kumar/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

A music critic for Paste magazine received flak for withholding their name when publishing a review of Taylor Swift's new album The Tortured Poets Department.

Paste said the anonymity was intended to protect the critique's author from potentially threatening Swifties who might be opposed to the negative review.

The monthly music and digital entertainment magazine explained their reasoning on X (formerly Twitter) in a follow-up to a previous post about Swift's latest record.

The note from the editor read:

"There is no byline on this review due to how, in 2019 when Paste reviewed ‘Lover,’ the writer was sent threats of violence from readers who disagreed with the work."

Lover was Swift's 2019 album that a Paste staff writer called "a cliche-ridden waste of time" and "milquetoast work."

The tweet added:

"We care more about the safety of our staff than a name attached to an article."

The Tortured Poets Department is Swift's much-anticipated eleventh studio album. She surprise-announced its release while accepting the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album for her tenth record, Midnights, on February 4, 2024.

TTPD has received mostly favorable reviews.

According to music review aggregator Metacritic, the synth-pop album received "universal acclaim" based on a weighted average score of 84 out of 100 from 12 critic scores.

Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield described the album as the singer's "wildly ambitious and gloriously chaotic" project. Variety's Chris Willman agreed and said TTPD was an "audacious, transfixing" album combining "cleverness with catharsis."

Those who weren't as impressed included The New York Times' Lindsay Zoladz and Slant Magazine's Jonathan Keefe, who suggested the "Bejeweled" singer could have "edited" the 16-track album's standard edition.

But Paste's review of TTPD was particularly scathing, especially with its headline indicating Swift "can’t help but infantilize the very people who buy into her music and drive her successes upwards in the first place," which was more a critique of the artist than her latest album.

The writer even agreed with Courtney Love's unpopular assessment of Swift as “not interesting as an artist," writing:

"I think 'The Tortured Poets Department' proves as much."

The writer noted that credited reviewers are treading lightly when penning a dunk piece on one of the biggest artists of all time.

"We are now left at a crossroads. Women can’t critique Swift because they’ll run the risk of being labeled a 'gender traitor' for doing so. Men can’t critique her because they’ll be touted as 'sexist.'"

In part, the conclusion read:

"What’s hollow about 'The Tortured Poets Department' is that the real torture is just how unlivable these songs really are."
"When your brand is built on copious levels of 'I’m just like you!' as the demigod saying it to their fans does so from a multi-million-dollar production set, it’s hard to not feel nauseated by the overlording, overbearing sense of heavy-handed detritus we’re tasked with sifting through on 'The Tortured Poets Department.'"

And the internet braced itself.

Some social media users approved of the writer's safety precautions to deliver their unfiltered critique.

Others thought the anonymous writer's approach in penning the review was "cowardly".

Things got out of hand when Kayleigh Donaldson, a critic and pop culture writer for Pajiba, was accused of penning the blistering album review—even though she doesn't write album reviews.

The faction of aggressive Swifties believed without evidence that Donaldson bashed their musical matriarch.

So they retaliated with threatening tweets, proving why the Paste critic was forced to review TTPD under the veil of anonymity.

"So, this is weird," wrote Donaldson, and added screenshots of the unfairly targeted complaints from Swifties.

"I'm being badgered by harassing Swifties who think I wrote a review I had nothing to do with?"
"I seldom review music. Also, maybe stop proving the publication's point by looking for someone to attack over a negative write-up?"

She wrote in a follow-up tweet.

"I am genuinely scratching my head trying to remember a time I reviewed an album or song. This is so not my field!"

TTPD has already made history as Spotify's most pre-saved album a day before its release.

The album made history again when it became 2024's most-streamed album in a single day in less than 12 hours after its release.

Two hours after Swift released TTPD, she announced that it was a secret double album and released The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology, which included an additional 15 songs, bringing the work to a total of 31 tracks.

"It's a 2am surprise: The Tortured Poets Department is a secret DOUBLE album," she wrote on Instagram, adding:

"I’d written so much tortured poetry in the past 2 years and wanted to share it all with you, so here’s the second installment of TTPD: The Anthology."
"15 extra songs. And now the story isn’t mine anymore… it’s all yours."

Both versions of TTPD are available for streaming on your favorite music streaming platforms.

Physical copies including CDs and vinyl with varying editions are also sold exclusively at Target.