What the Hell Happened: Damon Albarn Reignites Age-Old Claims Against Taylor Swift’s Songwriting Skills


On Jan. 23, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, English singer Damon Albarn said that Taylor Swift “doesn’t write her own songs.” His remark ignited immediate online controversy, eventually transforming into a viral debate over song-writing and ownership. Albarn, best known for his vocal and lyrical work in the aughts bands Blur and Gorillaz, further clarified in the same interview he thinks that Swift mainly co-writes and is therefore not as skilled with a pen as solo writers. He went on to say he considers himself a “traditionalist,” praising artists like “Billie Eilish and her brother” Finneas, who co-write their music, for their songwriting capabilities.

Swift has been fighting claims against her songwriting for most of her career — and this new occurrence suggests her battle is far from over. More than ten years ago, she wrote the entirety of her third album “Speak Now,” solo, at just 19 years old. So why, six genre-bending albums and two re-recordings later, is her lyrical mastery still being questioned?

Fans will continue to speculate about constant criticism and defend Swift, but at least one thing is clear: Swift will continue to stand up for herself. In response to Albarn’s interview, the mega pop star tweeted, “@DamonAlbarn I was such a big fan of yours until I saw this. 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.”

Albarn responded with an apology to Swift on Twitter, writing, “I totally agree with you. i had a conversation about songwriting and sadly it was reduced to clickbait. I apologise unreservedly and unconditionally. The last thing I would want to do is discredit your songwriting. I hope you understand. - Damon.”


As the conflict spread online, Swift was not alone in defending herself, and a plethora of musicians, many of whom have previously co-wrote or co-produced music with her, spoke out in attestation to her craft. Jack Antonoff, lead singer of the band Bleachers and Swift’s longtime collaborator (and close friend), tweeted, “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.” Ryan Tedder, lead singer of the band OneRepublic and independent songwriter, went to Instagram to speak in support, writing “@taylorswift can write better songs by herself, without help, than 99.99% of living writers.” Venerated country music legend Dolly Parton also spoke to Swift’s talents, saying “she’s a great writer — with or without anybody.”

Online users were quick to detail the inaccuracies and inconsistencies of Albarn’s words: first, Swift does indeed write her own songs, with chart-topping hits like “Lover” and “Back to December” credited solely to Swift. Fans also pointed out the contradictory nature of dismissing Swift’s skill because she co-writes, but praising Eilish, whose brother Finneas co-writes much of her repertoire. And Albarn’s particular remark that Swift’s music is “endlessly upbeat” quickly spiraled into fans satirically showcasing her most deeply emotional ballads, and even ironically dancing to her most somber songs. The depth and breadth of Swift’s music is on full display in her 2020 masterpieces, folklore and evermore, whose poetic lyricism and profound themes garnered critical acclaim.

Albarn’s initial comments were neither the first time Swift’s songwriting capabilities are questioned, nor will they be the last. To some online writers, this phenomenon demonstrates elements of systemic sexism in the music industry.Victoria Richards wrote in The Independent, “while Albarn is busy trashing his reputation, and losing fans…Swift is only marking herself out as more of an icon.” Indeed, if anything Swift has made clear that her creative sensitivities are far from exhausted, as she just keeps putting out more music, proof that her pen has yet to run out of ink. Perhaps this is her greatest act of resistance to the many skeptics of her craft: the persistence and perseverance to just keep writing.

—Staff writer Aarya A. Kaushik can be reached at