Damon Albarn Says Taylor Swift Doesn't Write Her Own Songs, Co-Writing "Doesn't Count"
"I'm not hating on anybody, I'm just saying there's a big difference between a songwriter and a songwriter who co-writes"
In a new interview with The Los Angeles Times, Albarn explained that performing stripped-back sets without a backing band white promoting his latest solo album The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows leaves him feeling more exposed. "You learn whether the songs are any good or whether they were popular at the time because of the sound and the attitude," he said.
The interviewer followed up by asking whether Albarn thinks modern acts are relying on "sound and attitude" instead of writing timelessly good music, to which the musician replied: "Name me someone who's not." (Blur certainly doesn't foot the bill.)
When it was suggested that Swift was an excellent songwriter, the Gorillaz founder dismissed it, saying that she doesn't write her own songs. The interviewer clarified that co-writing was involved.
"That doesn't count. I know what co-writing is — co-writing is very different to writing," Albarn said, likely familiar with the concept from his collaborative bands. "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."
He continued: "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."
But don't take it the wrong way: that doesn't mean he's against modern pop music in general.
"A really interesting songwriter is Billie Eilish and her brother [Finneas]," Albarn said, citing what is most definitely a co-writing duo. "I'm more attracted to that than to Taylor Swift. It's just darker – less endlessly upbeat. Way more minor and odd. I think [Eilish] is exceptional."
Even the quickest Wikipedia primer of Swiftstory will have you know that this line of critique has been lobbed at the singer-songwriter for pretty much the entirety of her career, despite the fact that she had a publishing deal at age 14 ahead of ever releasing an album of her own.
In fact, being constantly accused of not writing her own songs became the driving force for her decision to pen her third studio album — 2010's Speak Now — entirely on her own (yes Albarn, that's sans co-writers).
If it's the revolving door of co-writers often seen in modern pop that he has qualms with, he must not be familiar with Swift's recent fruitful writing partnership with Aaron Dessner (give or take Jack Antonoff) on 2020's folklore and evermore; collections one would also be at pains to consider "endlessly upbeat."
In Albarn's eyes, co-writing might only count when it's between blood relatives.
Swift has since responded to the musician's comments on Twitter, saying she was such a big fan of his until she saw the interview. "You don't have to like my songs but it's really fucked up to try and discredit my writing," the pop star wrote.
See Swift's tweet below.
@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 don't have to like my songs but it's really fucked up to try and discredit my writing. WOW. https://t.co/t6GyXBU2Jd— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) January 24, 2022
Swift was recently named 2022 Record Store Day Ambassador, and one of her collaborations with Dessner made Exclaim!'s 30 Best Songs of 2021. Meanwhile, Albarn bravely recounted the tale of how he completely severed his finger in a pesto-related accident.