Taylor Swift’s Cringe Charlie Puth Lyric Actually Makes a Lot of Sense

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

Do you know the lyric? The lyric heard round the world? You’ll find it on the title track of Taylor Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department: “You smoked then ate seven bars of chocolate/ We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist,” Swift croons on the second track. It’s kind of a backhanded compliment: “We like you, Charlie, but those Grammy nominations and multi-platinum singles aren’t really all that great.”

Fans and haters of Swift alike have joined in harmony to ask: Where did this Charlie Puth infatuation come from? My follow-up question, of course: Does Swift know the phrase “I’m hungies?” Let’s hope Travis Kelce doesn’t get his hands on that one; seems like a phrase he’d quickly become a fan of.

The answer is that, the closer you look at Swift’s interactions with Puth online over the years, the more obvious this connection should’ve been to the Swifties. In fact, it’s perhaps a little shocking Puth himself doesn’t cameo on “The Tortured Poets Department,” harmonizing with Swift on the line following his shoutout (perhaps the most egregious line on the entire album): “I scratched your head, you fell asleep/ Like a tattooed golden retriever.” I can practically hear Puth singing it now.

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The Puth street goes both ways. While Swift has approached Puth with compliments in the past, Puth has also shouted out Swift a handful of times. The connection appears to begin somewhere around 2017, when Puth was gearing up to release his second studio album, Voicenotes, and Swift was making a huge comeback with Reputation. In a 2017 Genius video explaining his lead single “Attention,” Puth starts by connecting his song to Swift’s debut album.

“I couldn’t come out with a song like this as a brand-new artist. I kind of had to Taylor Swift it,” Puth said. “In 2006, when she put out ‘My Song,’ it was very approachable. It could be applied to a lot of situations. I took that same approach.”

Charlie Puth performs during the 2024 Gershwin Prize.

Charlie Puth performs during the 2024 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song presentation to Elton John and Bernie Taupin by the Library of Congress at DAR Constitution Hall on March 20, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Taylor Hill/WireImage

Years later, in July 2021, Puth took to his Instagram story to praise Swift for being “such a genius,” specifically talking about why he loves “Teardrops on My Guitar.” After explaining why the chords make the song unique, Puth went on to say, “I just wanted to say that I think it’s so wonderful.”

We’ve known Puth is a Swiftie for quite some time, but when does Swift herself enter the picture? Not long after his “Teardrops on My Guitar” praise hit Insta. In August 2021, Puth left a note on Swift’s very first TikTok: “Welcome to Tok fellow Sag,” he commented.

“I’ve lurked your account for ages! Thanks for the welcome, piano prince,” Swift responded, adding a crown emoji. The first seeds of The Tortured Poets Department were planted on TikTok back in 2021.

Taylor Swift performs during The Eras Tour.

Taylor Swift performs during The Eras Tour at the National Stadium on March 2, 2024 in Singapore.

Ashok Kumar/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Recently, in May 2023, Puth created a mash-up of his song “When You’re Sad I’m Sad” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Swift, which he performed on tour. Perhaps Swift can find a way to interpolate this into her Eras Tour, if she really wants Puth to become a “bigger artist.”

There’s an extra layer to this history: Fans have speculated that TTPD is all about Swift’s ex Matty Healy, the frontman of The 1975. That would mean that the guy she’s talking about in “The Tortured Poets Department''—you know, the tattooed golden retriever who ate seven bars of chocolate; remember that The 1975 has a very popular song titled “Chocolate,” although it isn’t about the bars—is Healy.

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Flashback to 2018, when Puth released a cover of “If You Leave Me Now” with Boyz II Men. These tweets have since been deleted—and therefore might be fake but look totally real—but Healy appears to have shouted Puth out for the track. “That Charlie Puth and Boyz II Men track is harrrrrd,” Healy allegedly tweeted from his now-inactive Twitter account.

“Thank u matty!” Puth responded.

There are many possible hypothetical situations here: Perhaps Healy reintroduced Swift to Puth’s music. She was a slight fan, but Healy was a huge one, so they ended up talking about him for hours. Or maybe, between 2018 and 2021, Healy stopped listening to Puth, leading Swift to put him back on the right path. But my favorite conspiracy theory is that, in actuality, Swift and Healy’s love of Puth’s music was what brought them together in the first place. That’s the kind of love we all deserve.

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