Taylor Alison Swift, one of the most decorated singer-songwriters and best-selling musicians of all time, would like to issue a correction.
The artist came to her own defense on Monday after a fellow musician, Damon Albarn, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times taking a dig at Swift that, as anyone who’s followed her nearly 20-year career is likely aware, is categorically false: “She doesn’t write her own songs,” the 53-year-old British musician quipped when the Times music critic commended Swift’s songwriting prowess.
Swift, 32, responded on Twitter, identifying herself as a onetime fan of Albarn’s before issuing a dressing-down worthy of one of her best diss tracks.
“Your hot take is completely false and SO damaging. You don’t have to like my songs but it’s really fucked up to try and discredit my writing,” wrote Swift, who has a CVS-receipt-length list of songwriting credits to her name and the accolades to prove it.
Like anyone who’s been in the spotlight for most of their life, Swift has earned some criticism: for her onetime aversion to talking politics, for some slut-shaming lyrics on old albums, for fetishizing African colonialism in a music video. Some might call her dance moves cringeworthy. But criticizing her for not being a songwriter? Let’s review.
In 2004, at the age of 14, Swift struck a songwriting deal and became the youngest person ever signed to Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Then, in 2007, a teenage Swift became the youngest person ever honored by the Nashville Songwriters Association as songwriter/artist of the year. In 2010, the Songwriters Hall of Fame presented her with the Hal David Starlight Award highlighting young songwriters. In 2015, she became the youngest person ever recognized on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time.
She is “a songwriting savant,” Rolling Stone acknowledged years early, in 2008.
Swift is credited as a songwriter or co-songwriter on all of her 11 albums. She famously wrote her third studio album, Speak Now, without any co-writers as a direct response to people who denied she could do it.
“I’ve had several upheavals in my career. When I was 18, they were like, ‘She doesn’t really write those songs.’ So my third album I wrote by myself as a reaction to that,” Swift told Rolling Stone in 2019.
Perhaps more than any other artist of her generation, Swift is known for producing songs recounting her most personal life experiences and relationships (and her harshest critics won’t let you forget it.) If someone else were covertly writing these songs, it might be one of the greatest cons in the history of the music industry.
An hour after Swift responded to the interview, Albarn issued a tweet apologizing. But he blamed the Times for its framing, saying that he and pop music critic Mikael Wood “had a conversation about songwriting and sadly it was reduced to clickbait.”
The interview, which was published in a question-and-answer format, doesn’t give Albarn’s claim much credence. Here’s how he responded when Wood corrected him about Swift’s songwriting.
Wood: Of course she does. Co-writes some of them.
Albarn: That doesn’t count. I know what co-writing is. Co-writing is very different to writing. I’m not hating on anybody, I’m just saying there’s a big difference between a songwriter and a songwriter who co-writes. Doesn’t mean that the outcome can’t be really great. And some of the greatest singers — I mean, Ella Fitzgerald never wrote a song in her life. When I sing, I have to close my eyes and just be in there. I suppose I’m a traditionalist in that sense. A really interesting songwriter is Billie Eilish and her brother. I’m more attracted to that than to Taylor Swift. It’s just darker — less endlessly upbeat. Way more minor and odd. I think she’s exceptional.
Swift probably wouldn’t call her sob-inducing, 10-minute version of “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” an “endlessly upbeat” song, but the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
And there’s one more thing she’d like to add to the record.