- 25 Jan 22
"For influential figures like Albarn to put down female artists and to dismiss them in the way that he did here and to dispute their artistic credibility, it's evident why it's so much harder for female artists to make it..."
You're probably already aware of why millions of people on Twitter are furious with Damon Albarn if you've scrolled through your social media apps this morning.
In a now-viral interview with LA Times, the Blur and Gorillaz frontman said that Taylor Swift "does not write her own songs". Obviously, this is false.
Swift was quick to respond on her own Twitter account, saying, "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."
@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. https://t.co/t6GyXBU2Jd
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) January 24, 2022
Albarn followed up by apologising and doing the typical thing when a celebrity is called out over something they actually said, deeming the article "clickbait". This was despite the fact that the journalist called him out for his error, stating that Swift "co-writes" everything she doesn't solo write.
He doubled down during the piece, stating that "co-writing isn't the same as writing" while platforming Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas (renowned...co-writers). He dubbed the Grammy Award winner's music as "too upbeat" compared to that of Eilish, which makes it unrelentingly obvious that he hasn't listened to Swift's folklore and evermore catalogues. The comments come across as incredibly ill-informed considering there was literally a documentary showcasing Swift writing the songs from folklore with main co-writer Jack Antonoff released last year (Antonoff also tweeted in response to Albarn's quotes, saying "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").
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. herb.
— jackantonoff (@jackantonoff) January 24, 2022
While it really doesn't matter what Albarn thinks too much in this regard despite his own musical talent, the sentiment expressed here raises a number of questions about why this attitude is prevalent, particularly amongst white, older, male music fans who typically prefer rock music over other genres.
Yes, it probably would be a nicer, purer world if every musician wrote every single note on their record, and it's very impressive when they do. But the slander towards Swift here reeks off an older sentiment that has existed for years amongst male music heads and journalists that should have been consigned to the dark ages; That 'real music' is four heterosexual white boys with guitars that claim they wrote their songs without any outside help and can only be that.
If you follow this idea to its end, most of the most iconic acts in popular music history have to go straight in the bin. Elvis Presley? Hack, didn't write his own songs. Beyoncé? It doesn't matter that she's an astounding singer and a brilliant performer; she has a songwriting team, so she's nothing compared to some 'indie landfill' lads.
A movement in music criticism over the last decade or so, poptimism attempted to rectify this. While there are some issues with it (constant praise for major label acts that are already massively successful and don't need the support isn't that worthwhile and can be just dull), it helped make music writing less male, less white and diversified which genres were taken seriously when it comes to critical acclaim.
Big parts of that old school mentality stem from the veneration of The Beatles as Jesus incarnate when it comes to songwriting. You can see in a lot of YouTube comment cesspools, statements like "Ugh why can't modern artists like Taylor Swift write songs like Lennon and McCartney". These sentiments are pretty funny considering that McCartney himself holds Swift in very high esteem, even interviewing her for Rolling Stone's 'Songwriters on Songwriters' issue. If worshipped traditional songwriters platform her as a songwriter, why can't Albarn or others of a similar mindset?
In another cultural change, one of the better things about the rise of the internet and the gradual decline in the importance of traditional media over the past 20 years has been the diversity of opinions and music that you can be exposed to. Instead of relying on Rolling Stone (just an example, not the worst offender when it comes to this) peddling you almost identical 100 rock band clones every year, you could discover a great rapper from the middle of nowhere in America on Reddit or, showing my age here, the likes of Best Coast on a music blog site (RIP Hipster Runoff).
However, comments like those made by Albarn and the few defenders of them show that a lot more needs to be done to change the attitudes and minds of (typically heterosexual) men. LGBTQ+ men, in contrast, are stereotyped regarding their near-religious worship of pop divas. As much as a trope as that is, it does seem to appear that straight rockers have an intensely narrow-minded idea of what a culturally relevant songwriter is.
What irritates much of Swift's female fanbase especially are his consistent assumptions about a person he clearly has never met, and whose music he has never listened to. It appears he's read the tabloid headlines about her and not much else...
Ultimately it doesn't matter if you prefer artists that write their songs or if you don't care for Taylor Swift's music (I personally don't, but I'm sure she'll somehow survive by being one of the most popular songwriters of the 21st Century). However, for influential figures like Albarn to put down female artists and to dismiss them in the way that he did here and to dispute their artistic credibility, it's evident why it's so much harder for female artists to make it.
If someone with the power and success that Swift has had can be a target for this type of criticism, where does it leave female indie musicians just starting in the industry? It showcases the uphill battle women have in music and the wider world to get their work taken seriously and why men should do the bare minimum and think twice before dismissing them in this fashion.
No, you don't have to force yourself to like a song when it's not your personal taste, but just say that it's not for you and move on. For one thing, it's a lot easier than being an ignorant bore.