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From Patti Smith to the Starting Line: All the Pop Culture Name-Checks in Taylor Swift's 'The Tortured Poets Department'

Others in the mix include Charlie Puth, Stevie Nicks, and - lest we forget - Ms. Swift herself

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Source: MEGA

Patti Smith, Charlie Puth, and Stevie Nicks all make cameo appearances - lyrically speaking - on Taylor Swift's new album.

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When Taylor Swift dropped The Tortured Poets Department on Friday, fans immediately began poring over the lyrics with a fine-toothed comb, trying to work out everyone and everything mentioned by Swift. While some of the references were more oblique than others, others were decidedly specific.

We've gone through the songs to help identify anyone you might not already know...and, yes, some that you definitely do know, but we still had to cover them anyway.

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Source: Taylor Swift

The cover art for the Anthology version of Taylor Swift's 'The Tortured Poets Department'

Dylan Thomas and Patti Smith (“The Tortured Poets Department”)

The first name drops on the album are in the same line: Dylan Thomas and Patti Smith - both poets, which checks out, given their placement in the album's title track. Thomas was a Welsh poet known for continuing the Romantic movement of poetry into the 20th century. Patti Smith is most known for her influence on the New York City punk rock scene in the 70s, but also for her work as a spoken word performer, songwriter, painter, and author. The Chelsea Hotel is also referenced in the line, a legendary New York City Hotel known for having celebrity guests, some of them resulting in their demise - such as Dylan Thomas himself - but others just taking residency to continue their art, like Patti Smith in the '70s.

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Charlie Puth (“The Tortured Poets Department”)

Charlie Puth is a pop musician who was first discovered through his YouTube videos, which led to an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and, in turn, a record deal. Best known for his 2015 hit, “One Call Away," Swift and Puth have never been mentioned as being friends, but Puth’s other big hit, “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” features Swift’s close friend, Selena Gomez.

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Lucy and Jack (“The Tortured Poets Department”)

It is presumed that given the context of the song that the “Lucy” referenced in this song is BoyGenius member and close personal friend of Swift, Lucy Dacus. Dacus, a Virginia native, is known best outside of her work with BoyGenius for her breakout single on 2018 album, Historian, “Night Shift.” Similarly, it also has to be presumed that the “Jack” in the song is Swift’s longtime producer, Jack Antonoff. When not producing for artists such as Lorde, Lana Del Rey, and The 1975, he also produces, sings, and writes for his own projects, Fun and Bleachers.

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The Blue Nile (“Guilty as Sin?”)

In the opening lines of the song, Swift sings, "Drownin' in the Blue Nile / He sent me 'Downtown Lights' / I hadn't heard it in a while," referencing the Scottish band and the hit single from their 1989 album, Hats. We've already written an entire piece that should serve as a solid primer for anyone who isn't already familiar with them, which you can read right here, but if you can't take the time to read it right now, then you can at least listen to the song by clicking on the video below.

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Clara Bow (“Clara Bow”)

Clara Bow was an American silent film actress from New York City who coined the nickname “The It Girl” during the roaring 20s. In 1929 she transitioned to being in “talkies”, or films with audio, appearing in nearly 60 films over the course of her career. Her last film was 1933's Hoop-La, and her final public appearance - such as it was - was as the Mystery Voice on an episode of the radio version of the game show Truth or Consequences. She died of a heart attack in 1965 at the age of 60, but her contributions to early cinema were not forgotten: in 1994, Bow was honored with a stamp by the United States Postal Service.

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Stevie Nicks (“Clara Bow”)

Stevie Nicks is best known for her time as lead vocalist of Fleetwood Mac, a position she started in 1975, the year referenced in Swift’s concluding track, Clara Bow. During a period while the band was on hiatus, she developed a very successful solo career, releasing hits such as “Edge of Seventeen," "Stand Back," and "If Anyone Falls." As of this writing, she technically remains a member of Fleetwood Mac while also continuing to write and record her own material.

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Taylor Swift (“Clara Bow”)

Swift’s outro for The Tortured Poets Department ends in a mysterious way that only she could get away with: name dropping herself. If you have made it this far, I’m sure that you are well aware of Dr. Taylor Alison Swift and her entourage of 14 Grammys, so I will stay away from that elaboration. This name drop does put into question the perspective of the song. Is Swift talking about herself in the third person or is a mysterious alter-narrator coming through? The world may never know...

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The Starting Line (“The Black Dog”)

The Starting Line is a pop punk band formed in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s, arguably best known for their 2003 single “The Best of Me,” which was a minor UK hit and belatedly found enough success in the US for the single to be certified gold. While the band is not known to have any direct connection to Swift, but it’s been theorized that the reference to the band is tied to the fact that Matty Healy, the frontman for The 1975 who seemingly served as a major source of inspiration for The Tortured Poets Department, covered “The Best of Me” while on tour with The 1975 last year.

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