Taylor Swift answers to no one.

Not music industry executives: Her songs returned to TikTok in the middle of a licensing dispute between the app and her label.

Not mayors: When she graced their cities during her Eras tour, they declared days in her honor.

Not the international community: A Singapore-exclusive stop in Southeast Asia sparked a row between the city-state and nearby Thailand and the Philippines. The Japanese embassy issued a statement about her Super Bowl travel plans.

And Swift doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. She announced new music within minutes of winning her latest Grammy for album of the year.

You might take all this as proof of Swift’s business genius, nothing personal. But in her latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, there’s definitely an “above it all” attitude. These songs are snarly. America’s sweetheart may have nothing left to prove. But she certainly has scores left to settle.

Swift is hardly a stranger to revenge. This is the songwriter, after all, who brought us lyrics like “It’s obvious that wanting me dead / Has really brought you two together.”

But TTPD broadens her aggression and scorns the prospect of reconciliation. A small-town girl takes on her community over a controversial love affair and trolls her parents with a joke pregnancy announcement. A depressed performer boasts sardonically about how well she can sell happiness to frenzied fans. A woman seethes at being seen as a problematic starlet by her new boyfriend’s circle.

There’s a track suspiciously similar to an Olivia Rodrigo song (the two singers have a rumored feud). The title of another appears to name-drop Kim Kardashian, an older nemesis.

Critics agree that the album is bloated, with “quality-control issues.” It could “use an editor.” My favorite celebrity blog, Lainey Gossip, noted in exasperation that there are “so many are skips. Too many skips with unnecessarily silly lyrics that weaken the lyrics that are clever and insightful.”

In both lyrics and length, then, TTPD reeks of the “teenage petulance” that Swift herself sings about. The problem with her hubris here isn’t just aesthetic: an onslaught of stale arrangements with longtime musical collaborators, a plethora of visceral F-words, and one bewildering line. It suggests an artist either unwilling to accept the wisdom of others, or bereft of it.

“Everything is permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial,” Paul writes to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:12, AMP). He offers a variation on that theme in his letter to the Galatians: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love’” (5:13).

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Just because something is allowed—whether eating meat sacrificed to idols or putting out a 31-song record—doesn’t mean it’s prudent. True freedom, paradoxically, is created by limitation, dictated not by legalism but by consideration for others. When Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit, he includes self-control alongside love and kindness. Restraint isn’t just a private practice but one with ramifications for an entire community.

Again and again, Scripture teaches that we often don’t know what’s best for us; we need each other to discern what’s beneficial and what’s not. “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise,” says one of many Proverbs to this effect (19:20).

But where does Taylor Swift get her wisdom? Is it even possible to receive honest feedback at this level of celebrity? What happens when no one in your inner circle is empowered enough to keep you from publicly feuding with someone you already devoted an album to seven years ago?

Maybe there’s someone behind the scenes lovingly encouraging her to rethink her victim narrative or to take a pause before processing her personal life publicly. If there is, she’s not listening.

Or perhaps Swift’s problem is less a lack of advisors and more an abundance of inappropriate ones: her fans. Some of her angst in this album is directed at people who attempt to speak into her decisions without authority, in the absence of real relationship. Take “But Daddy I Love Him”:

I’d rather burn my whole life down
Than listen to one more second of all this griping and moaning
I’ll tell you something about my good name
It’s mine alone to disgrace
I don’t cater to all these vipers dressed in empath’s clothing

God save the most judgmental creeps
Who say they want what’s best for me
Sanctimoniously performing soliloquies I’ll never see

The fans may demand more music, track her every move, and obsess over her personal life. But even they aren’t really telling Swift no. She’s won their adoration, no matter what—TTPD obliterated Spotify streaming records. Last year, thousands of people watched TikTok livestreams of each Eras concert. It no longer matters if Taylor Swift’s albums are “good.”

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And yet, there’s still insecurity. As several high-profile negative reviews of TTPD circulated over the weekend, links to raves began appearing on Swift’s X account. Despite the album’s enormous success, her public image came across as a woman who isn’t interested in feedback.

I flew across the country to attend Eras last year. I was once in the top 10 percent of all listeners of Midnights. I wore my Taylor Swift T-shirt last Friday to generate conversations with others about the release. But as I texted a friend last weekend, I “just want more” for her.

There’s a kind of freedom in songs with cringe lyrics like “You know how to ball, I know Aristotle,” and no stress about whether an album’s going to sell.

But freedom without introspection, and without accountability, quickly starts to look like foolishness and insignificance.

As even secular critics of TTPD concede, bypassing constraints may come at a cost to your work. They also may come at a cost to your soul.

Morgan Lee is the global managing editor at Christianity Today.