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Taylor Swift namedrops The Blue Nile on ‘Tortured Poets Department’ track ‘Guilty As Sin?’

Taylor Swift has namechecked the cult Scottish indie band The Blue Nile on a track on her huge new album ‘The Tortured Poets Department’.

On the album’s ninth track ‘Guilty As Sin?’, Swift sings: “Drowning in The Blue Nile / He sent me Downtown Lights / I hadn’t heard it in a while / My boredom’s bone deep / This cage was once just fine / Am I allowed to cry?

‘The Downtown Lights’ was the band’s biggest song, reaching the Top Ten on the American Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1989, famously also the year that Swift was born.

Listen to the two tracks in question below:

Aside from having similar themes to Swift’s new album – navigating difficult relationships, the aftermath of heartbreak – the reference to the song also appears to be another nod to The 1975’s Matty Healy, with whom Taylor was romantically linked for a short period of time in 2023.

Healy once told Vulture that The Blue Nile were his “favourite band of all time”, and he has named ‘Hats’, from which ‘The Downtown Lights’ is taken, as his favourite album of the ‘80s. He has also stated that his song ‘Love It If We Made It’ is like “The Blue Nile on steroids”.

Led by singer Paul Buchanan, Glasgow’s The Blue Nile have a devoted underground following, and are praised for their elegant, melancholic melodies and restrained, patient synth and guitar arrangements. Despite only releasing four studio albums, they are considered one of the most influential alternative bands of their era.

The Blue Nile are far from the only other artists to be name checked on ‘The Tortured Poets Department’.

The title track refers to a “Lucy”, which fans seem convinced is a reference to Lucy Dacus, one third of the Grammy-winning group boygenius and someone who has connections to both Swift and Healy, who again is thought to be the subject of the song.

Dacus had a friendship with Healy for years, as did boygenius bandmate Phoebe Bridgers, who previously stated that she had been a fan of the frontman “forever” before they joined forces in 2020.

Her relationship with Swift also comes through Bridgers, as the latter acted as the opener for the pop icon on her ‘Eras Tour’. Similarly, in May last year – just days after Swift confirmed her relationship with Healy – both Dacus and fellow boygenius bandmate Julien Baker joined Bridgers for the opening slot in Nashville.

Elsewhere, Charlie Puth gets a shout out on the same song, while fans are also speculating about whether ‘thanK you aIMee’ is aimed at Kim Kardashian.

The National‘s Aaron Dessner has spoken too about being “forever grateful” to have worked alongside his brother Bryce and Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff on the album.

In a three-star review of the album, NME wrote: “‘The Tortured Poets Department’ ends up chasing its own tail with frenzied attempts to respond to critics despite Swift’s current stature.”

It continued: “Swift seems to be in tireless pursuit for superstardom, yet the negative public opinion it can come with irks her, and it’s a tired theme now plaguing her discography and leaving little room for the poignant lyrical observations she excels at. It’s why the pitfalls that mire her 11th studio album are all the more disappointing – she’s proven time and time again she can do better.

“To a Melbourne audience of her ‘Eras Tour’, Swift said that ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ came from a “need” to write. It’s just that maybe we didn’t need to hear it.”

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