Taylor Swift has a song called “The Man” with the following lyrics:
“’Cause if I was a man, then I’d be the man
I’d be the man
I’d be the man
They’d say I hustled, put in the work
They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve”
Taylor’s song “All Too Well” seemed kinda prophetic a few days ago when an article called “The Movie Star and Me” was published on Medium about a writer who was mind-f-cked by an actor and on “The Man” it was hindsight and foretelling, because in an interview with the LA Times, Blur’s Damon Albarn shook his head and questioned how much of this she deserves.
Damon and journalist Mikael Wood are talking about song quality, and Damon suggests that some popular songs are sold more on “the sound and the attitude” rather than on their own merits. And that’s why a lot of modern music won’t hold up. So Mikael follows the train of thought:
LAT: You think a lot of modern musicians are relying on sound and attitude?
Damon Albarn: “Name me someone who’s not.”
LAT: She may not be to your taste, but Taylor Swift is an excellent songwriter.
Damon Albarn: “She doesn’t write her own songs.”
Of course she does. Co-writes some of them.
Damon 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.”
Damon is now trying to backtrack on his comments, claiming they were taken out of context and clickbait. Clickbait? Sure. That’s the quote that was pulled and shared, because, of course, Taylor. But also … he said what he said. And it doesn’t read like they were taken out of context. This asshole doesn’t know what the f-ck he’s talking about.
As Mikael Wood points out, and this applies to more than just Damon Albarn, Taylor Swift may not be to your taste, you might not like her and her music, you might find her too much – drama and whatever – but suggesting that she’s not responsible for her own music, that she doesn’t write her songs, is uninformed and ignorant. She’s a prolific songwriter. They might not all be great songs, but not every song Bob Dylan wrote was great either. The point is, they’re her songs, they came from her, and to say otherwise is its own violence. Because you’re tearing an artist away from the art she created. So it’s understandable that she took great offence to his f-cksh-t, and said as much on Twitter:
@DamonAlbarn I was such a big fan of yours until I saw this. I write ALL of my own songs. Your hot take is completely false and SO damaging. You donâ€™t have to like my songs but itâ€™s really fucked up to try and discredit my writing. WOW. https://t.co/t6GyXBU2Jd— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) January 24, 2022
PS I wrote this tweet all by myself in case you were wondering ðŸ˜‘— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) January 24, 2022
Taylor Swift’s whole thing is songwriting. She started her career as a songwriter, at 14. That was her first music industry deal – not as a performer but as a songwriter. Her big fight with Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun over her masters and her new deal announced a couple of years ago was all in service of protecting her songwriting. It is her professional priority. And at this point, after a selling streak of over a million albums, multiple albums in a row, in the age of streaming; after it’s been widely known (because Taylor Swift is never low profile) that she regularly gives songs she writes to other artists (example: “Better Man” and Little Big Town, one of their biggest hits, a song Taylor wrote HERSELF); after being one of the most productive musicians worldwide for over almost 15 years, it tells you that if even Taylor Swift isn’t taken seriously by some of her peers, how difficult it must be for women in the business without even a fraction of her success.
And Taylor’s not the first woman that Damon Albarn has come for. A few years ago he tried it with Adele too, after working with her briefly on 25 and then patronising her, calling her “insecure” and then going on to refer to her music as “middle of the road”. He also revealed that she didn’t end up using any of the songs that they collaborated on so was that the problem? Was it really about her talent or the fact that she didn’t fall over with gratitude and include his contributions on her album? Is that really insecurity? Or is it actually the opposite – having the confidence to make a call about her own work and the songs she wanted to put out there.
This situation is not exclusive to music either. In almost every industry, the work of women is undermined and overlooked and/or discredited. You know what it looks like: an idea is put forward by a woman, it’s shrugged off; same idea comes from a man and suddenly it’s the best sh-t ever. If you are a woman and you’ve never had that experience, I love that for you, but I’m sure there are five for every one of you reading this nodding your heads because you’ve been there. And now, look, you have something in common with Taylor Swift.