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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

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Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

Editorial | Let’s stop bullying Joe Alwyn — no matter what Taylor Swift titles her new album tracks

Taylor+Swift+arrives+at+the+66th+annual+Grammy+Awards+on+Feb.+4%2C+2024%2C+in+Los+Angeles.
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Taylor Swift arrives at the 66th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 4, 2024, in Los Angeles.

Taylor Swift shocked fans this past Sunday by announcing an all-new album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” in her acceptance speech for the Grammy for best pop album for “Midnights.” On Monday, she released the tracklist via an Instagram post. “Tortured Poets” promises to be an exciting one, with features from artists Post Malone and Florence and the Machine. But it also appears to contain some pointed references.

Some of the track names seem to reference Swift’s relationship with actor Joe Alwyn, including “So Long, London” — Alwyn hails from London and was previously celebrated in the “Lover” track “London Boy” — as well as “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)” and “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart.” As far as we know, unlike “Midnights,” the album is not written as reflections on experiences long passed, so it’s hardly a jump to think Swift will mourn her six-year relationship in it. Fans and outlets alike have already seized on the assumption that the songs are about Alwyn.

But these assumptions bring with them a fresh wave of Alwyn trash talk online.

Lyrics from the “Midnights” track “You’re Losing Me,” released after their breakup went public, already had internet fans saying things like “Morning, hope everyone has a good one, except joe alwyn, hope he doesn’t wake up” and “Joe Alwyn count your days.” While of course most of these are jokes, the sheer quantity of them is more than any of us in his position could bear. 

We already know that online hate can have very real consequences, as in the case of Joshua Bassett, who received death threats and vitriol online following Olivia Rodrigo’s release of “Drivers License,” presumed to be about him. He later experienced dangerous septic shock which he said he suspected “stress had a part in.”

“I would see TikToks with like 50 million views and 10 million likes saying, ‘If I ever see that kid on the street, I’m going to f—ing kill him.’ It’s hard to see that and then be living in New York and walking down the street,” Bassett said in a 2021 GQ interview.

Swift is hardly the first artist to write about past relationships that fans can easily pin to particular lovers, but as the most streamed artist on Spotify by almost 10 million streams in 2023, Swift does it at an incomparable scale with unusually fervent fans. With 105 million monthly streams on Spotify alone and a dedicated army of “Swifties” reading into every word, Swift is aware of the power of her audience. Rather than shielding Alwyn, who has stayed respectfully silent since the breakup, Swift remains passive as her fans take her choice words and run with them. 

Of course, the other party involved in ex-bashing also needs to check itself — the fans. Some act as if they know best what Swift needs, portraying her as a passive participant in her own commercial empire or a delicate rose who needs protection by her fans against being perceived as sexual from her own choreography. And, frankly, the jokes about Alwyn are tired at this point. At the end of the day, it falls on individuals to be mature and remove themselves from parasocial speculation. Still, Swift has a responsibility to let her fans know what is and isn’t okay — and to avoid stoking the fire herself.

There’s obviously a fine line to walk here — art shouldn’t censor itself. Swift deserves to sing about her feelings and heartbreak in her signature detail. But there are ways to do it without dragging further into the public eye someone who repeatedly expressed throughout their relationship his discomfort there. At a minimum, Swift could make a disclaimer as she did before performing “Dear John” on the Eras tour. 

For now, we’ll hope that either Swift’s Alwyn-suggestive titles are something altogether different from what most fans expect, or that her fans focus on enjoying the music over bullying someone’s ex online.

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