What's The Difference Between Taylor Swift's Tortured Poets Department Variants? Let's Break Them All Down

Taylor Swift performs during "Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour" at the National Stadium on March 02, 2024 in Singapore
(Image credit: Ashok Kumar/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Taylor Swift loves a bonus track, and she is always releasing multiple versions of her albums. Of course, when I say this I obviously mean Taylor’s Version and the Vault Tracks. However, she also gives this treatment to her totally new albums – for example, Midnights had multiple variants that built a clock when placed together. Now, she’s done it again, as Swift’s upcoming project The Tortured Poets Department has five versions (so far). So, with the release of TTPD coming soon, let’s break down the differences between the variants and how to buy some of them. 

Overall, there are lots of questions related to The Tortured Poets Department and its tracklist. And while I can’t answer the song-specific ones today, because the album won’t be out until April 19, I can help you figure out the differences between the multiple versions of this project, which ultimately all come down to bonus tracks, the poems on the back of the album and colors. 

The Tortured Poets Department – File Name: The Manuscript

Let’s start with the version of this album that was announced at the Grammys, and the version that stands as the most common one. Available on Taylor Swift’s store, “The Manuscript” version of TTPD is the one that the pop star dropped when she let the world know that her eleventh studio album was on the way. Featuring a white background, a poem that says "I love you, it's ruining my life," and the bonus track “The Manuscript,” the album looks like this:

If you buy this version on vinyl it’ll come in what her site calls “ghosted white” discs. It also comes with a 24-page book-bound jacket that includes photos and lyrics. 

The Tortured Poets Department – Target Exclusive

With the release of each album, Swift also drops a version that’s only available at Target. This time around, it features “The Manuscript,” meaning, when it comes to tracks, you’ll get the same version we just talked about:

Taylor Swift - The Tortured Poets Department + Bonus Track “The Manuscript” (Target Exclusive, Vinyl) for $43.99 at Target. 

Taylor Swift - The Tortured Poets Department + Bonus Track “The Manuscript” (Target Exclusive, Vinyl) for $43.99 at Target

The difference here comes by way of the physical vinyl. Instead of white discs, this version comes on “Phantom Clear” discs. So, if clear is your jam, this variant is the one for you. 

The Tortured Poets Department – File Name: The Bolter

Coming right after the announcement of TTPD at The Grammys, Swift announced “The Bolter” version of the album during her surprise song set in Melbourne, Australia. This beige version of the album that features the poem "You don't get to tell me about sad," and also came with a patch, bookmark, magnet and photo cards, per Taylor Nation, was only on sale for a few days, and is no longer available. However, you can still see its unique cover and how it’s starting to form a full-color scheme with the other variant here:

Along with the different colored vinyl and album cover, this version features the track “The Bolter,” which Swifties have theories about. It’s believed by many that The Tortured Poets Department is a breakup album about Joe Alwyn, and based on how he and Swift ran away from the press and kept their relationship private, many think “The Bolter” specifically is about him. 

The Tortured Poets Department – File Name: The Albatross

Things got literally darker again with the announcement of TTPD which will feature the track “The Albatross.” The name might refer to the bird, which maybe explains the water on the cover, and/or the poem L’Albatros by Charles Baudelaire, which is about people not understanding the gift of poetry. Going from white to beige to now grey, Swift announced the third exclusive variant of her eleventh album which features the poem "Am I allowed to cry?" during a surprise song set in Sydney, Australia. 

Like “The Bolter,” this variant was only available for a short period of time and came with the same extra materials. While you can’t purchase it now, it does help illuminate the bigger picture of The Tortured Poets Department. 

The Tortured Poets Department – File Name: The Black Dog

Finally, we have the black version of The Tortured Poets Department which goes by the file name “The Black Dog.” Like the last two, this version of the album was only available for a short period of time following its announcement during Swift’s show in Singapore. 

Like the other limited edition versions, this one came with all the added-on merch, the poem "Old habits die screaming" and one bonus track. This time it’s called “The Black Dog.” There’s a popular folk tale behind the black dog that’s a metaphor for melancholy and depression, and based on the other tracks we’re getting this seems to add to the idea that this album is a break-up album. 

Overall, all five versions of this project come together to create a color scheme that gets darker and darker, and fans have theorized that the project will track the stages of grief as Swift sings about her breakup from Joe Alwyn. Of course, that won’t be confirmed until we hear the album on April 19, but in the meantime, it’s fun to theorize and think about which version of this album to buy (I personally went with “The Manuscript").  

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She has written for national publications as well as daily and alt-weekly newspapers in Spokane, Washington, Syracuse, New York and Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with her master’s degree in arts journalism and communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Since joining the CB team she has covered numerous TV shows and movies -- including her personal favorite shows Ted Lasso and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She also has followed and consistently written about everything from Taylor Swift to Fire Country, and she's enjoyed every second of it.