5 Must-Hear Collaborations by Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff

When Taylor Swift began her creative partnership with Jack Antonoff, Big Machine Records had reservations about the singer recording a straight pop album.

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Before 1989 was released, Swift told Billboard that everyone around her thought she was naïve to abandon her country sound. However, the album sold more than a million copies in its first week.

Though she worked with a team of high-profile producers then, her work with Antonoff sounded different. They collaborated on the new wave song “Sweeter than Fiction” for the 2013 film One Chance. Antonoff, equipped with his Juno-6 synthesizer, foreshadowed the masterpieces the duo would soon create as they shaped Swift’s pop direction and pop music generally. Their recordings have catapulted Swift into an extraordinary level of fame.

Below is a brief playlist of Swift and Antonoff’s modern classics.

“Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” from The Tortured Poets Department (2024)

Swift gradually inched toward the baroque pop of Lana Del Rey before “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” (Del Rey appeared on Midnights’ “Snow on the Beach.”) The “tortured poet” said she felt bitter about how pop artists are treated in culture. She said, “We love to watch artists in pain, often to the point where I think sometimes, as a society, we provoke that pain, and we just watch what happens.” Antonoff used sparse drum programming and sparkling synths to transform Swift’s rage into a furious stadium anthem.

The scandal was contained
The bullet had just grazed
At all costs, keep your good name
You don’t get to tell me you feel bad

“August” from Folklore (2020)

“August” follows a love triangle Swift invented for Folklore. Antonoff sent Swift an instrumental, and she quickly wrote the song. The character in “August” unwittingly finds herself in an undefined relationship. Though she falls in love, she’s soon treated like “the other girl.” Antonoff’s dream pop sits well alongside Aaron Dessner’s indie folk. Folklore doesn’t sound like an obvious stadium album until you hear the hook in “August.”

Your back beneath the sun
Wishin’ I could write my name on it
Will you call when you’re back at school?
I remember thinkin’ I had you

“Lover” from Lover (2019)

Antonoff performs all the instrumentation on “Lover,” and the sparse rhythm section echoes Paul McCartney (on bass and drums). Swift wanted the production to sound like “the last two people on the dance floor.” Indeed, “Lover” sounds like Mazzy Star singing to a lonely couple at 3 a.m. Swift wrote the bridge as wedding vows and said it was the purest love song she’d written at the time.   

We could leave the Christmas lights up till January
And this is our place; we make the rules
And there’s a dazzling haze, a mysterious way about you, dear
Have I known you 20 seconds or 20 years?

“Cruel Summer” from Lover (2019)

“Cruel Summer” became a hit four years after its release. Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, wrote the accidental anthem with Antonoff and Swift. The hook echoes St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy track “Cruel.” Then the force of the Eras Tour happened. Without any promotion from the record label, the song went viral on social media and now has more than 2 billion streams on Spotify. It’s an example of how the streaming era continues to change the notion of a hit. Though marketing departments still work hard to break singles, music fans have the ultimate say. Swift, Antonoff, and Clark also received writing credits on Olivia Rodrigo’s “Déjà Vu,” which recycles a melody from “Cruel Summer.”

Hang your head low
In the glow of the vending machine, I’m not dying
You say that we’ll just screw it up in these trying times
We’re not trying

“Anti-Hero” from Midnights (2022)

Swift explored cabin-in-the-woods fiction on her companion albums Folklore and Evermore. “Anti-Hero” uses dark synth-pop to explore her fame and personal struggles. It’s self-deprecating and brutally honest about how outsized fame blocks her from meaningful connections. She refers to herself as a lumbering object, or “monster” who’s “slowly lurching towards your city.” The chorus showcases how brilliantly Swift can turn a phrase. Antonoff’s solitary synths sound as lonely as Swift must feel at her level of fame. Yes, she’s on top of the mountain, but exclusivity is also subtraction.

It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me
At tea time, everybody agrees
I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror
It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero

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Photo by Kevin Winter/WireImage

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