Pop Stars Who Actually Write Their Own Music
Published on 01 February 2022
Last week, an interview with Damon Albarn went viral where he claimed that Taylor Swift doesn’t write her own songs. Albarn gave his opinion on Swift in a Los Angeles Times article after the interviewer noted that she was “an excellent songwriter.” To which the lead singer of Blur and Gorillaz responded, “She doesn’t write her own songs.” Even when the interviewer insisted that Taylor writes or co-writes all of her songs, Damon boldly claimed that co-writing “doesn’t count.”
Cue internet rage. Cue the army of angry Swift fans. Cue Dolly Parton rushing to defend Taylor. You know you’ve set something bad when Dolly has to step in.
This Got Us Thinking…
If an artist co-writes a song, do they still have the ability to say they wrote the song? It’s bad form for artists to criticise fellow songwriters for not 100% writing their own material, especially when the definition of songwriting has become ever more fluid over the years and is highly dependent on the genre of music. For example, pop music is often a collaborative effort, usually with a team of many songwriters and producers contributing to one track and making it into a polished piece of work. Keeping that in mind, who is to say writing rock music is more “authentic” because there is less collaboration? However, saying that, each member of a band (i.e. guitars, bass, drums) will usually contribute to their own parts. Does that count as co-writing?
Does a “co-writing” approach make the songwriting process less credible?
Co-writing isn’t a totally new concept and it’s not just Taylor Swift who enjoys a bit of collaboration when it comes to making music. For example, Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Elton John and Bernie Taupin. John Lennon was a co-writer for David Bowie’s track Fame. All these iconic music legends co-wrote and ever got any criticism for it, so why has Taylor been singled out? Do we have an outdated mindset about “traditional” songwriting?
Does Taylor Swift Write Her Own Songs?
The answer is, yes. With an impressive discography of over 100 released tracks and over 200 million records sold worldwide, many have cited Taylor as one of the leading songwriters of her generation. She has at least co-writing credits on all of her songs. While many of her earlier albums were mainly written by herself, her later albums involved collaborations with her trusted team Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, as well as fellow songwriters St. Vincent and Ed Sheeran, to name a few. Since Damon’s interview was published, those who have worked with Taylor before came to her defence, stating that Taylor arrived with fully formed songs, to which her team mainly contributed with arrangements and production.
Whether it has been written or co-written or written by the artist alone without the contribution of others, we can all appreciate the art of a well-written tune when we hear one. Much like Taylor Swift, there are many pop artists out there today known for their fantastic songwriting abilities and absolutely smashing it in the charts, showing that despite being pop artists, they can still pen a catchy tune. Let’s take a look at a few of them…
From the very beginning of his career, Ed Sheeran has been writing his own songs and has gone on to become one of the world’s top-selling musicians. Ed has founded his own record label, Gingerbread Man Records, in collaboration with Warner Music, which gives him more artistic control and freedom over his work. Ed also has quite a portfolio of work and has written chart-topping tracks for artists such as Justin Bieber and One Direction.
Sam’s music has always perfectly married vibrant, anthemic, catchy sing-along songs with somber, dark lyrics, and it’s this juxtaposition that sets him apart from the rest of his peers and keeps us hooked on his music. Sam has been always very honest about his approach to songwriting and has stated before that he writes every song by himself, without any collaboration involved.
In previous interviews, Lady Gaga has always made it clear that she is the driving force behind her music. “I write all my own music. I spend hours and hours a day in the studio, I’m a producer, I’m a writer. What I do is different”. Just like Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga has also written a handful of tracks for other artists, including Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez.
The majority of people associate Adele with her soulful voice, which carries so much real emotion. She is, nonetheless, a songwriter. In a previous interview, Adele stated, “Most people don’t think I write my own songs. They must just think I’m like everyone else”. That’s right, Adele writes her own music. While she co-writes many of her songs with other collaborators, she remains the creative force behind her heartbreaking ballads.
Some food for thought there, folks! Whether you’re a Taylor Swift fan or not, it’s easy to see that Popstars often get scrutinised no matter what they do. One of the important things for us is if a singer has co-written a song, it takes a true artist to be able to write a song well and carry it as a performer with their own voice. What do you make of it all? Would you say that we’re too harsh on Pop artists and their songwriting/co-writing ventures? Or are you in a more traditional mindset, and believe that songwriting is a strictly solo job with little or no collaboration insight?