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ALKHOBAR: Overlooking the city of Alkhobar, with colorful neon lights glittering in the night sky, Swifties of the Eastern Province gathered to listen to Taylor Swift’s anticipated double album, ‘The Tortured Poets Department’, on the night of its release.

At the same time the album started playing at Alkhobar’s Trip Lounge, Riyadh hosted its own listening party at Level Up and Jeddah’s Swifties tuned in from Makan.

It was a packed room and almost every seat in Trip Lounge was occupied. Musicians Zamzam and Naif Hashem, who organized the event, engaged everyone in the room in dialogue between songs. Only two of the attendees admitted to listening to the album before coming, but still expressed surprise to others when the lyrics started pouring out of the speakers.

Musicians Zamzam and Naif Hashem, who hosted the Taylor Swift listening party, engaged with everyone in the room between songs from the new album. (A picture)

Zamzam and Hashem, who each have demanding jobs, release music separately. Zamzam, who often performs locally in places like Bohemia, is the lead singer of the indie/folk band also known as Zamzam, and Hashem, a dentist, just released a new song, “The Great Divide,” earlier this month.

Both hosts avoided listening to the album, which was released earlier in the day, before hosting the Taylor Swift Nights experience. They identify themselves as Swifties, as fans of the singer are known, and have combed through Swift’s discography with the attention of a fellow musician.


• Riyadh hosted its own listening party for Taylor Swift’s new album ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ at Level Up and Jeddah’s Swifties tuned in from Makan.

• The album’s title is influenced by the 1989 cult classic ‘Dead Poets Society’.

• Alkhobar Swifties’ unanimous favorite of the evening seemed to be ‘Florida!!!’ with Florence & The Machine.

They were the ideal guides to fill in the gaps between the songs.

“We’re here to listen to Taylor’s new double album because there’s a community here that really enjoys listening to things together. We’ve done this before and it was successful, and we’ve been planning this since the album was announced; it is so much more fun to have people gasping, screaming and crying with you,” Zamzam told Arab News.

Since its release on Friday, the album quickly climbed the charts and became the most streamed album in a single day in Spotify history. (A picture)

Swift’s latest release is a chaotic yet self-aware collection of 31 songs that all sound like signature Swift, while still offering a new sonic collage of stories made of playful, small and witty tales. In almost every song there was a lyric, or a few, that made fans groan or applaud in unison.

Since its release on Friday, the album quickly climbed the charts and became the most streamed album in a single day in Spotify history.

We’ve been planning this since the album was announced; it’s so much more fun to have people gasping, screaming and crying with you.


Swift said in an Instagram post announcing the release: “This writer believes that our tears become sacred in the form of ink on a page. Once we have told our saddest story, we can be free of it… and then all that remains is tortured poetry.”

A songwriter since her teens, Swift has always brought a romantic touch to her work, veering across genres, starting with country and experimenting with different styles ever since. Whatever style she sings in, Swift’s fans consider her a modern poet who combines the soul of the tortured artist with a playful, never-more-mature Peter Pan millennial attitude.

Since its release on Friday, the album quickly climbed the charts and became the most streamed album in a single day in Spotify history. (A picture)

Swift has made a habit of finding poetic ways to revive the voices and stories of people from the past, especially women, like the Roaring Twenties’ “It Girl,” Clara Bow, who was one of the songs on the album. after.

Speculation about song lyrics is a constant pastime for Swifties, who sift through puns and references in her lyrics in search of cryptic meanings. Swift rarely confirms who she’s writing about or why, so it’s all open to interpretation.

The album’s title was rumored to have been influenced by the 1989 cult classic, ‘Dead Poets Society’. The music video for the song “Fortnight” featuring Post Malone featured cameos from the film’s beloved stars, Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles.

“I think Taylor is finally coming into her own… this is my own interpretation of Taylor, but over the years she likes to reference classic literature and would really like to think of herself as an American poet,” Zamzam said. “I read one of her speeches (where she referred to Emily Dickinson as a huge inspiration to her…I think she just finally ripped off a band-aid that she’s been wanting to take off for a while, because she tried with ‘Evermore’ and ‘ Folklore’ (previous albums) and was like, ‘You know what? I’m leaning into it’.”

The listening group was characterized by a quiet atmosphere, dimmed lights and chairs in a row as if it were an intimate concert. The lyrics scrolled down karaoke style on a large screen. Some in the audience quickly picked up the rhythm and sang along. Some waved silently.

The unanimous crowd favorite of the night seemed to be “Florida!!!” to be. with Florence & The Machine.

The double album, which Swift says took her two years to write, seemed to have strong influences from her previous work.

Zamzam said hosting the listening party in her hometown was important because it provided a dedicated space for Swifties, many of whom come from the millennial and Gen Z generations. It gave Swifties the chance to come together to celebrate their favorite singer and openly discuss her lyrics.

“Hosting Taylor Swift Nights started in 2021… I had nothing on my mind, no expectations or anything. It was just me and my best friend,” Hashem said of the first time they hosted the event in Jeddah several years ago.

“We had no expectations whatsoever, but we were blown away by the number of people who showed up! It was like 100. I was shocked. And then I thought, ‘Okay, there are die-hard Swifties here in Saudi Arabia.’ I thought I was the only one,” he added.

He got in touch with Zamzam and the joint effort to organize a personal event for Swifties in Alkhobar was born.

“We managed to find Trip Lounge and in August (last year) we organized our first TS Nights. Having this community is very healthy. As Zamzam said before, it has a community where you can experience happiness, sadness and the like. We are going to hand out tissues in case anyone wants to cry,” he said.

“And we printed a lot of papers; one piece of paper so they can comment and rate each song, and one on which they can write down their predictions for each song. If they get the prediction right, they can cross it out. It’s like bingo. We want to entertain them (visitors). We don’t want them to be bored,” he added.

Ghada Bajaber, the youngest Swiftie in the class, was certainly not bored. She sipped lemonade amidst the heavy scribbling on her bingo sheet.

“I’m here with my mom – we always listen to Taylor Swift songs, me and my mom. It is what we do together and it is special for us,” she told Arab News. “I have exams in two days, but I came anyway. I didn’t study, I didn’t do my homework… I just came to memorize Taylor Swift lyrics – not the multiplication table,” Bajaber added.