By Kayla Ngai
As Taylor Swift sang in “I Did Something Bad”: “If a man talks sh*t then I owe him nothing. I don’t regret it one bit because he had it coming.”
On January 23, the Los Angeles Times posted an interview with Damon Albarn (singer from the bands Blur and the Gorillaz). The interviewer mentioned that “Taylor Swift is an excellent songwriter” to which Albarn replied, “with [his] words like knives,” that she “doesn’t write her own songs.”
Famous for her unique and authentic songwriting, this statement is obviously untrue. For starters, Taylor Swift wrote the entirety of the “Speak Now” album by herself. Additionally, whenever she works with collaborators on her albums, Taylor Swift is often the one doing most of the writing. Newsweek also has a full list of albums in which Taylor Swift is solely credited or co-credited for the songs, not even including the ones she has written for other artists.
The interviewer even tried to nudge Albarn in the direction of rectifying his wording: “Of course she does…Co-writes some of them.” But Albarn wouldn’t relent, stating that songwriting doesn’t count when there’s a partner involved because it is very different to writing alone.
He then followed up with his comment by mentioning another artist: “A really interesting songwriter is Billie Eilish and her brother.” Billie Eilish, according to him, is famous for working with her brother, Finneas, in writing and creating songs. That makes me question— wouldn’t that also be considered co-writing? What makes them so different?
Apparently, it was a matter of personal taste. “I’m more attracted to that than to Taylor Swift. It’s just darker— less endlessly upbeat,” added Albarn.
I would have to argue otherwise; although it is true that many of Taylor Swift’s songs are upbeat and fun, there are many other songs that are more somber. Her latest two albums (not re-recordings), “Folklore” and “Evermore” are less upbeat and display Taylor’s range as an artist and a writer. It is fine if Damon Albarn does not like Taylor Swift’s music or style, but he should have left it at that. He did not have to insult her craft and try to discredit her work.
The next day, Taylor Swift did not “tolerate it” and replied to the allegations on Twitter. The Hollywood Reporter posted the interaction where she called out Damon Albarn. “I was such a big fan of yours until I saw this,” Swift said. “I write ALL of my own songs. Your hot take is completely false and SO damaging.” An additional tidbit from Taylor was noted in a Rolling Stone article, “P.S. I wrote this tweet all by myself, in case you were wondering.”
Albarn then tweeted in reply that he agreed with her and he apologized “unreservedly” for his words. At first, it took me by surprise. However, in his tweet, he also mentioned that his conversation about songwriting had been reduced to clickbait, hoping that others would empathize with his case. Like Taylor sang in Mr. Perfectly Fine, “Mr. Insincere Apology so he doesn’t look like the bad guy,” many Swifties (fans of Taylor Swift) and netizens are calling out Albarn for being disingenuous. And I would agree.
In my opinion, Damon Albarn’s final response and apology seemed like it was simply a reaction to the pressure that came from fans and traction online. Instead of taking full ownership of his words, he blamed the Los Angeles Times for creating clickbait. I don’t agree with this claim; his words certainly could not have been taken out of context because the entire interview was posted in the article.
Although I don’t believe that Damon Albarn should get canceled for his words, he should have been more conscious about how his presumption could negatively impact others, especially when he does not know enough about the matter. Discrediting someone for their songwriting is harsh, especially when the singer is known for writing songs from the heart.