It’s only April, but it’s hard to imagine any album will be heard more this year than Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department.

The album took less than 12 hours to break this year’s record for most single-day Spotify streams, and is projected to sell two million units in its first week. On Thursday, Spotify announced it had broken the record for the most pre-saved album in the platform’s history.

Swifties have known it was coming since February, when the singer announced it while accepting a Grammy Award for her previous album, Midnights. But Swift surprised fans after its midnight E.T. release by dropping an additional 15 tracks at 2 a.m. Friday.

“It’s a 2 a.m. surprise: The Tortured Poets Department is a secret DOUBLE album,” Swift wrote on Instagram. “I’d written so much tortured poetry in the past two years and wanted to share it all with you, so here’s the second instalment of TTPD: The Anthology. 15 extra songs. And now the story isn’t mine anymore … it’s all yours.”

Fans stayed up all night 

Swift had cryptically teased a 2 a.m. countdown as part of an elaborate marketing campaign in the lead-up to the album, which even included a physical “library installation” in Los Angeles, curated with items that dropped hints and references to the inspirations behind the songs.

The hype boiled over after tracks from the album leaked online Wednesday, causing a frenzy on social media.

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CBC News Network speaks to Karleena Squires, a lifelong Taylor Swift fan, celebrates Swift’s latest album release through local events, resonates deeply with the personal themes in Swift’s music, and cherishes the surprise double album despite initial leaks.

Karleena Squires in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., a self-declared Swiftie, the nickname for the singer’s fanbase, says she stayed up for the album drop at 1:30 a.m. Newfoundland time Friday. She said she was surprised by the announcement of the additional tracks, which also she stayed up to listen to, two hours later.

Squires told CBC News she loves The Tortured Poets Department, saying it is different from Swift’s past releases, but with hints and callbacks to older albums.

“This one feels like it’s truly completely from her heart, for probably one of the first times ever, where the full album is really a deep dive into what she’s been going through for the last few years,” Squires said.

The album has been met with plenty of critical acclaim, with Rolling Stone calling it “wildly ambitious and gloriously chaotic,” although some critics called it a weak effort — Exclaim! called it “mud-tier” synthpop with “mushy and monotonous production.”

A woman walks past a record store.
LPs of the album are pictured on display at Kops in Toronto on Friday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ex-boyfriends and celebrity feuds

Fans have been fervently speculating online about the meaning behind the songs, and specifically, who they were written about. Some assumed the album would focus on Swift’s six-year relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn that ended last year, while others pined for dirt on The 1975 lead singer Matty Healy, whom she briefly dated last summer. Both camps appear to have been satisfied, as fans have picked out potential references to both men.

The lyrics have also been met with mixed reviews. Many Swifties said they deeply resonated with the themes, while others poked fun at lines like, “You smoked then ate seven bars of chocolate; we declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist; I scratch your head, you fall asleep; like a tattooed golden retriever.” Many have speculated that bit, taken from the title track, to be about Healy, a tattooed smoker whose band has a song called Chocolate.

So Long, London, meanwhile, could be about Alwyn, whom she lived with in the U.K. “Thinkin’, how much sad did you think I had, did you think I had in me? Oh, the tragedy,” she sings. “So long, London, you’ll find someone.”

Fans have said they believe the track thanK you aIMee, from the 2 a.m. release, to be a jab at socialite and fellow billionaire Kim Kardashian, with lines like, “All that time you were throwin’ punches, I was buildin’ somethin’,” and “I can’t forgive the way you made me feel.”

Swift has been known to hide messages in the capitalization of certain letters, in this case spelling out “Kim.” She and Kardashian have a long-running feud that started when rapper Kanye West, whom Kardashian later married and has since divorced, interrupted her onstage at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards to declare that singer Beyoncé should have won the award Swift was receiving.

The references are not limited to the living. The final track from the midnight release is titled Clara Bow, after the superstar actress from the silent film era of the 1920s.

“You look like Stevie Nicks in ’75, the hair and lips,” Swift sings. “Crowd goes wild at her fingertips, half moon shine a full eclipse.” Nicks, who rose to stardom with the band Fleetwood Mac and has also had a successful solo career, contributed directly to The Tortured Poets Department, writing a poem featured prominently in the liner notes.

Swift, who was added to Forbes magazine’s annual new billionaires list earlier this month, released the album while on a short break from her globe-spanning Eras Tour, also the subject of a Disney+ concert film.

The Tortured Poets Department is her 11th studio album.

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