The Taylor Swift-Jack Antonoff Enigma

On Friday, Taylor Swift released her 10th studio album, Midnights. Like many of its recent offerings, it featured pop producer of the day Jack Antonoff. And while their work together is one of the most significant of Swift’s career, is there a certain similarity in much of it? Would she be better served looking elsewhere for her next projects? Last Every albumNora Princiotti and Nathan Hubbard discuss everything Midnights, including other production options Taylor may explore in the future. To listen to the entire conversation, listen now and subscribe for next episodes dissect Midnights.

Nathan Hubbard: It’s really easy to say that Jack Antonoff is his most important collaborator, isn’t it?

Nora Princiotti: Yeah, I think we should each identify our finalist for their most important collaborator who isn’t Jack, but let’s give Jack a performance review here first. What do you think?

Hubbard: I can’t believe that in the space of eight days he released the 1975 album and he released this album. And that four other people are going to show up to the Grammys thinking they have a shot at winning Producer of the Year.

Princes: Ryan Tedder posted something on Instagram that went like this: “I wanted to share some of the things I did this year. And it was just like, “I don’t know if it was the right time, mate.”

Hubbard: It’s like Carly Rae Jepsen’s album is coming out the same night as Taylor Swift.

Princes: Who slams, by the way.

Hubbard: Yeah, that’s really good. And it’s going to get lost a bit in the hubbub of that. It does not matter. That’s why Rihanna took her album away from Adele back when people were buying physical albums. You have to step out of the shadows.

But I’ll say this, though: the kind of lasting impression, 36 hours after this stuff came out, is that I’m so glad Jack and Taylor made this album together, and I’m sure they’ll continue to work together in some respects in the future. But that’s the last time I want to hear a bit of a Taylor-and-Jack album, because it’s getting kind of redundant. They are, I think, consciously on this album, but maybe unconsciously, recycling a lot of things that they did together.

I love this album, I love it. But what we saw with Folklore and Still was that working with others, even Zoë Kravitz on this album, those interactions seemed to fuel a lot of creativity. And I understand it was a concept album. If it’s ever gotten any reviews, that’s kind of the inconsistent nature of the album. Even if each individual song is worthy. That’s it: Do these things really hold together?

I’m ready to see her go from here and challenge herself to work with other people and see what comes of it. They’ve done some of these things before, and again, that might have been the point, but I’m ready to see her do something without the great Jack Antonoff next.

Princes: I’m with you there, and it’s good to get out. I don’t think there will really be an end to them being collaborators in one way or another. But as far as it being the star sound of an album, this is a Jack Antonoff sounding album. The drums are incessant. It’s incredibly heavy. You have the Ohthe sand aahIt’s everywhere. The cool stuff on “Bejeweled,” which also has all those sparkly sounds.

I think we talked about it on another mod when we were talking about Jack at one point. There’s this Coco Chanel quote about getting dressed before you leave the house: Take one thing off. Jack’s production style is the antithesis of that. It’s like, “Let’s add people clapping at midnight in ‘Question…?’ I think that helps this album feel very cohesive sonically. I like the overall aesthetic of Midnights. I am with you for many reasons, but to use a Nathanism: they have reached the end of the forest together and are already going back and making references to things past.

I don’t know, we’re already kind of overdosing with Jack Antonoff. You can’t go to Jackier’s, so I think she’ll go somewhere else.

Hubbard: So, if it’s not Jack, because it’s the most obvious…

Princes: Sounwave, aka Mark Spears, gets production and writing credits for “Lavender Haze”, “Karma” and “Glitch”. And on an album that has a lot of backwards time, or we can identify where it’s derived from, all of those songs are very fresh to me. They do something very different. And I think the album isn’t as good if it doesn’t have that freshness on those songs.

Hubbard: And that’s an example of why we would expect this to move forward: she would be working with someone other than Jack, because that’s into her. And now we’re talking about the top echelon of all-time songwriters in rock history. This is an unprecedented fucking series of—

Princes: She has 200 quality songs. She will repeat certain things from time to time. It is very good.

Hubbard: It sounds ridiculous to say this, but you have to put her on the same platter as Lennon and McCartney. I think you would probably give the Innovation Award to McCartney, no doubt. But she continues to create, and I tell you that Paul McCartney’s 11th, 10th solo album did not have the same creativity. And so her legacy is going to be the incredible amount of content that she was able to create. His productivity, prolific nature is unmatched. And another album with Jack Antonoff will ruin it.

Princes: I agree with you, but I’m not that worried either, because consider his ability to shapeshift. Right? Two years ago we were in Folklorian Woods knitting sweaters.

Hubbard: She knows. She went from Nathan Chapman to Max Martin. She went from Max Martin to Jack, and then she brought in Aaron Dessner. Because it was a concept album, it feels like she went with security. I don’t think it was intentional. I think both of their partners are actors and were working on a project together. And it is therefore naturally that they fell into it together. And what happens when two of the most prolific and creative people get together and drink several bottles of wine? This album is coming.

This transcript has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. To listen to the full episode, listen on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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