The Social Media Abyss – Damon Albarn and Songwriting

A bit of drama from last week came up, well, at least before Neil Young and Spotify wiped the floor with the news cycle.

The battle was this – Damon Albarn, of Blur and Gorillaz fame, said some stuff about Taylor Swift not writing her own songs. Taylor said stuff back, as did a lot of other people, and here we are days later.

Albarn was in Los Angeles to perform his only booked US concert of 2022 and did an interview with the L.A. Times while we was in town. In that interview, Albarn went into a conversation about songwriting and had this to say about Taylor Swift:

Not a very flattering portrait of Swift’s songwriting prowess, to be sure. This portion of the interview quickly took flight on social media and Taylor used Twitter to address Damon:

Taylor got a lot of support from people who have worked with her as well as others in the general music community. It wasn’t a good look for Damon, who made a Twitter apology to Taylor then played his solo show in L.A. Damon did acknowledge the snafu by dedicating Blur’s Song 2 to the writer of the Times piece, stating that the writer requested it before casting Albarn in the the “social media abyss.”

The crux of the issue is songwriting. Is there some higher plane of existence for someone that writes their own songs as opposed to a performer who either doesn’t write or has help doing so?

It does depend on genre. In country and pop, two areas that Taylor Swift has operated in, it doesn’t matter. Both openly source songwriters for the process. In rock music it’s more muddled. It’s often a sign of authenticity and credibility to write one’s own songs. It can be looked down upon to use outside songwriting help, though many of rock’s bigger acts have done so and benefitted from it.

In this instance the songwriting argument really doesn’t matter. Taylor Swift is known for a lot of things, and one of those things is writing her own music. That’s been a known thing since Taylor came on the scene and detractors began pushing back against her. It dates back to before 2010, when she was a huge force in country music and traditionalists were upset with her. She’s been accused of a lot of things, fair or not, but not writing her own music hasn’t really been one.

I don’t know where Damon was going with his train of thought in that interview, and in reading the words I don’t see where he got “clickbaited.” Nothing was deceptive in the interview, and the interviewer even seemed to try and steer Damon away from what he was saying. And of course the piece ran with that portion of the interview – not really clickbait, but more so offering up the thing that more people are going to read.

Had Damon Albarn not said anything disparaging about Taylor Swift, this interview would have gone unnoticed by anyone who doesn’t follow Damon. The Britpop nostalgia audience and Gorillaz fans would have seen it and it would have then been lost to the ether. Instead, Damon’s name was all over socials for a few days. He might not have intended for that and I would give him the benefit of the doubt there, but he did dig his own hole.

On the topic of songwriting – I used to be one of those people who hemmed and hawed about musicians writing their own songs. I have been primarily a metal and rock fan, and that “authenticity” is held up as a debate point against the excesses of pop music. But over the years I’ve learned to quit caring. I’ve gotten into genres like country, where songwriting is as much a factory as an art. I’ve also quit caring about arguing such points at all. No one really cares on either side of the argument and it just pisses people off. I gain nothing from the argument and fans of musicians who hire outside writers aren’t going to alter their music tastes based on someone condescending toward them about it.

I do think this is a bit of an odd turn for Damon Albarn. He’s normally a pretty likable guy and isn’t one to often put his foot in his mouth. I don’t know what he gains from trying to throw Taylor under a bus. His stature in music is pretty well set – Blur’s legacy is almost 30 years old and the Gorillaz have been a thing for over 20 years. He isn’t going to score points with anyone, especially when what he said about Taylor doesn’t hold water.

This is the part right before the conclusion where I had space reserved in case one of the Gallagher brothers chimed in on the ordeal. Noel has been mum and Liam said little about his old adversary Albarn. Instead, Liam appears to be a Taylor Swift fan and offered nothing to fan the flames of this drama.

I don’t have much more to add to the discussion of Albarn versus Swift. Taylor clearly “won” the argument that she didn’t ask to be a part of in the first place. Damon Albarn pulled off his Los Angeles show with a bit of egg on his face and will probably be fine as time moves on. And while Swifties likely won’t be happy with him for a long time, Damon can thank Neil Young for knocking his name out of the trending topics list a few days later.

3 thoughts on “The Social Media Abyss – Damon Albarn and Songwriting

  1. Every news site is looking for click bait so they ask the questions that could get them that.

    But I seriously don’t understand why artists would conduct interviews with anyone these days and get their story hijacked. They have so many tools at their disposal like social media and blogs, and they can write their own story and own it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think he kinda stepped in it on his own here. What you outlined does happen a lot though. It does make more sense for an artist to control their message like that, but I guess there still is enough buzz from doing an interview with a big publication or TV show to be worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The thing is the research that I’ve come across would state that the Blur fans wouldn’t care or watch the TV show or publication he’s using to promote it.

        He’s not reaching out to his fans by doing those interviews, he’s basically trying to get people who aren’t fans to come and watch and they normally don’t go and watch unless they have a friend who is a fan and they get them to come and watch with them.

        Like

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