These days it’s difficult to hear any great pop song without imagining Jack Antonoff locked away in his studio, pumping out some of the best synth-inspired melodies of the last decade. That’s because Antonoff has quickly become the secret producing and songwriting weapon for several of pop music’s most powerful icons like Lorde, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sia, Grimes, Fifth Harmony, Tegan and Sara… the list goes on and on—and it’s growing.
Perhaps one of his most well-known and arguably best collaborations is with pop’s reigning queen, Taylor Swift; he played a massive role in Swift’s 2014 pop-infused classic, 1989. That’s why it was no surprise when his name was listed with a co-writer credit with Swift on her latest single, “Look What You Made Me Do” off her highly anticipated upcoming album, Reputation.
The track, a personal revenge song filled to the brim with sweet vindication, has Antonoff’s 80s influence written all over it. After 1989 took home awards for both Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year at the 2016 Grammy’s, it would have been a shock if Antonoff wasn’t involved with Reputation. So, how exactly did Jack and Taylor begin their musical relationship? More than that—how many layers of this relationship are there to pull back? Here’s a brief history of how two angsty humans came together as a pop music force to be reckoned with.
As the story goes, Jack and Taylor met at an award show in Hamburg (the 2012 MTV European Music Awards, to be exact.) They struck up a conversation about how to avoid the hoopla that comes along with award shows and found solace in their shared feelings towards them (Hollywood life ya’ll, it’s tough.) After that, they started to run into each other at other award shows until finally deciding to spend some time together outside of the glitz and glam of the red carpet. On one particular occasion, they began discussing Yazoo and their 1982 hit “Only You.” From there, Antonoff shared a song he was working on inspired by “Only You,” and once Swift heard the melody she announced she wanted to write lyrics for it. The rest as they say, is history.
What came next was a string of collaborations that would not only shape the way 1989 presented itself to the public but ultimately, influenced the album’s overall success; Antonoff carries three writing and producing credits on 1989. The first song the pair pumped out together was the result of an early track Antonoff sent to Swift, back when they were texting, emailing and swooning over Yazoo. It eventually became “I Wish You Would,” a perfectly bubbly beat about a guy driving past his ex’s house thinking she hates him, when really she is still in love with him. It’s a classic tale of wishing things were different.
Then there was “Out of the Woods,” a song that was released as a promotional single for 1989 with no intention of an official release or music video. That quickly changed: “Out of the Woods” became the official sixth single off the album. It’s also interesting to note that Swift wrote and sent lyrics to Antonoff within 30 minutes of receiving the song from him. He recalls this moment as something that “blew him away,” a glowing testament to the working relationship the two had built together at that point.
Capping off the duo’s musical magic on 1989 is the ultimate love song appropriately named “You Are In Love.” Swift has described the song as the “single most poignant track about real, true love.” She’s spoken out passionately about the feeling it evokes, and how the melody itself is the culmination of love for better or worse, in sickness and health.
And then came the lyrics.
Now is as good a time as any to mention Swift’s cozy relationship with Antonoff’s long-time girlfriend, Lena Dunham. These two gals were singing the praises of one another before, during, and after the success of 1989, and have rallied in each others corner on several occasions. During the recent US election, the media ate Taylor alive for not speaking out against Trump, but Lena jumped to her defence claiming that she didn’t share her view on politics for fear of being attacked online once again.
By attaching herself to Swift’s squad, Dunham found herself in Swift’s universe for an extended period of time, and the whole world was watching closely. From a spot on the catwalk during Swift’s performance at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, a coveted spot in the “Bad Blood” music video as Lucky Fiori, and countless scrolls through Swiftie’s former Instagram page, Dunham made her mark as Tay’s ultimate BFF.
So, what does this have to do with the music? During the early days of their friendship, Dunham shared intimate details and stories of her relationship with Jack and without even realizing it, Swift ended up writing lyrics about their love story on “You Are In Love.” The track can only be found on the deluxe version of the album in Canada and the US. Upon it’s release, Swift went on record stating the song was written about Antonoff and Dunham’s relationship, and that she avoided telling them until it was complete to avoid looking like a huge creep. It must have been well received on their end, as Dunham was quoted in the media stating the track would be their wedding song.
In between collaborating on songs for 1989, the duo also managed to co-write “Sweeter Than Fiction” for the One Chance soundtrack, because they are music making machines. “You Are In Love” closed out the chapter for their work together on 1989, but it certainly wasn’t the end of Jack and Taylor’s friendship, nor their ability to work well in the company sandbox.
In the months following, the two could be found on red carpets gushing over each other’s talents, and when they couldn’t be together to celebrate the intense success of 1989, they put in a call like Antonoff did at the 2016 Grammy’s when he accepted the award for Best Pop Vocal Album in Taylor’s absence. When he made it to the podium, Antonoff dialed Swift to inform her of the news as he shoved the mouthpiece into the mic for the audience to hear. It’s the kind of love and respect that music executives simply can’t buy.
With the pressure of 1989’s success beating swiftly down on Taylor, both Antonoff and Dunham remained her biggest cheerleaders, keeping the friendship circle strong and fully in tact. When things finally began to wind down for Swift, she found an opportunity to partner with Antonoff once again, this time with former One Directioner, Zayn in tow. While Zayn’s only credit is vocals, Swift and Antonoff share co-writing credits on “I Don’t Want To Live Forever”, which was written for the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack. It was just what Swifties needed, since Tay had gone incognito after the 1989 World Tour.
And then they took a break from one another. No bad vibes, no drama.
It was quite simply just a break, as Taylor sashayed away from the spotlight. That didn’t stop Jack from collaborating with another one of Swift’s purported squad members, Lorde. The New Zealand singer’s much anticipated second studio album, Melodrama, is a complete collaboration between Lorde and Jack Antonoff. In fact, Antonoff is credited as co-writer and producer on all but one track on Melodrama, some of which were recorded in the same home studio he produced tracks for 1989.
Somewhere in the middle of all this collaborating, Antonoff graced the world with the second album from his own band, Bleachers. Gone Now is a 12 track ode to Antonoff’s childhood memories, paired with themes surrounding his sister’s passing while he was a senior in high school. The lead single “Don’t Take the Money” was co-written by and features Lorde. Naturally, a true blue friendship has formed between the two, and now we have the tripod we never knew we needed in Swift, Antonoff and Lorde.
As it turns out, 1989, Melodrama, and Gone Now weren’t enough to keep us going. On August 18, 2017 the world watched as Taylor Swift began a social media purge without warning, deleting all of her accounts and her website. Buzz hit the air immediately, as everyone began chirping about the possibility of a new album. Two days later, Swift came back online with a series of cryptic snake videos and news of a new single: “Look What You Made Me Do.” A few hours after its release, news came forward that Antonoff co-wrote and produced the track. But Jacky boy wasn’t the only well-known artist involved in its success: Swift’s people reached out to Richard Fairbrass, Fred Fairbrass and Rob Manzoli, better know as Right Said Fred, to credit them as co-writers for melody they borrowed form their megahit “I’m Too Sexy,” which is sampled perfectly throughout “Look What You Made Me Do.”
Jack and Tay even sent the guys flowers with a thank you card for letting the song come together.
So now, we sit and we wait. Swift’s possible revenge album Reputation is set to release November 10, 2017 and of all the 15 tracks reported to be included on the album, we’re crossing our fingers in the hopes Antonoff is partially responsible once again for it’s insanely predictable success. And if you’re asking how many songs can Taylor and Jack create together, you should know by now that the limit does not exist.