Damon Albarn Came for Taylor Swift and Deeply Embarrassed Himself. Then He Blamed the Media.

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Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Reuters; Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Reuters; Getty

Damon Albarn, the frontman of the U.K. rock band Blur and co-founder of Gorillaz, may be a veteran of the music industry, but the singer made a rookie mistake: daring to speak ill of Taylor Swift.

Sitting down for a chat with the Los Angeles Times, Albarn came ready to chat about his recent solo album, The Nearer the Mountain, More Pure the Stream Flows, his recent Icelandic citizenship status, the shambolic state of English politics, and the Beatles.

But before diving into all that, Albarn kicked off the conversation with a bold claim: Swift doesn’t write her own songs.

Jamie Lynn Spears’ Week From Hell

The 53-year-old was attempting to explain his belief to journalist Mikael Wood that very few modern songs will withstand the test of time, mainly because most musicians have been relying too heavily on “sound and attitude” rather than lyrics of substance.

Wood then brings up Swift, using the 11-time Grammy winner as an example of someone not just depending upon vibes to make quality records, saying that although her music may not be Albarn’s taste, she is an “excellent songwriter.”

Albarn begged to differ. “She doesn’t write her own songs,” he responded. Wood challenged him, mentioning how Swift—who just picked up the National Music Publishers’ Association’s Songwriter Icon Award over the summer—has co-writing credits on all her songs.

“That doesn’t count,” Albarn curtly countered. “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,” he continued. “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.”

From there the conversation moved on, and Albarn seemed pretty content with his choice of words—that is, until Swift got wind of the Q&A, which was published on Sunday evening.

“I was such a big fan of yours until I saw this,” Swift shot back on Monday, tagging Albarn in her tweet. “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.”

“PS I wrote this tweet all by myself in case you were wondering,” she added.

Encouraged by Swift’s call-out, her loyal fanbase, Swifties, sprang into action, furiously spamming Albarn’s mentions. Even musician Jack Antonoff —who served as co-writer on some of Swift’s biggest hits over her past several albums, including “Out of the Woods,” “Call It What You Want,” “London Boy” and “Getaway Car”—chimed in.

“I’ve never met Damon Albarn and he’s never been to my studio but apparently he knows more than the rest of us about all those songs Taylor writes and brings in,” he wrote. “If you were there, cool…go off. If not maybe shut the fuck up?”

By Monday afternoon, Albarn suddenly changed his tune. “I totally agree with you,” he tweeted to Swift. “I had a conversation about songwriting and sadly it was reduced to clickbait. I apologize unreservedly and unconditionally. The last thing I would want to do is discredit your songwriting. I hope you understand.”

But it’s hard to see how Albarn’s words were supposedly twisted and churned into so-called “clickbait” when the published article was a direct transcript from the two men’s conversation.

(Wood, the veteran LA Times journalist whose previous bylines include Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and Spin, has not yet responded to Albarn’s implication that he took quotes out of context.)

It’s a shitty approach for Albarn, who seemed to know exactly what he meant when he went to lengths to explain why he felt that even with Swift’s co-writing credits, it wasn’t enough in his book to make her a qualified songwriter. Instead, when he got called out and hit with a barrage of backlash, he buckled and tried to pin the offending remarks on his interview and the publication, painting the media as the enemy.

It’s also wild for Albarn to accuse Swift of not writing her own songs, as she famously was the lone songwriter for Speak Now, her third studio album, which included chart-toppers “Mine,” “Dear John,” and “Enchanted.” (In the album’s deluxe version, Martin Johnson was credited as co-writer for “If This Was a Movie.”)

While Swift does share co-writing credits on the majority of her best songs, often looking to Max Martin, Antonoff, Karl Shellback and Aaron Dessner for assistance, she still is regarded as one of the industry’s top songwriters.

(And who could forget that viral clip of Swift and Antonoff writing the bridge of “Getaway Car,” with Swift quickly pulling together the ending lyrics in a burst of excitement.)

And if Albarn needed any reminder of just how fiercely protective Swift is over her image and work, last year she embarked on a massive feat to re-record her first six studio albums in an effort to make sure her former label Big Machine and Scooter Braun could no longer profit off her.

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