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Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff’s 20 Best Collaborations

Swift and Antonoff's work together has, more often than not, resulted in pop magic.

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Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff
Photo: Taylor Swift

Pop history is littered with prolific partnerships, but the artist-producer pairing is arguably one of the most indispensable. Not only can an intrepid knob-twirler coax the best out of an artist, the most fruitful of these collaborations are often reciprocal. Think George Martin and the Beatles; Timbaland and Missy Elliott; or Jam & Lewis and Janet Jackson. Taylor Swift and former Fun guitarist-drummer Jack Antonoff have both achieved commercial and critical success outside of their work together, but their alliance over the last several years has, more often than not, resulted in pop magic.

The duo first worked together over a decade ago, on the unassuming “Sweeter Than Fiction,” a song from the British-American film One Chance. The following year, Antonoff co-wrote and co-produced three tracks for Swift’s blockbuster album 1989, the success of which propelled him to the top of every A&R exec’s wish list, helming tracks for Pink, St. Vincent, Olivia Rodrigo, and countless others.

That ubiquity has resulted in a bit of a backlash, with ostensibly serious-minded publications like the New Statesman asking, straight-faced, “Has pop reached peak Jack Antonoff?” And in 2022, a New Zealand video producer went viral for his “visceral hatred” of Antonoff’s style, flaunting his apparent ability to detect an Antonoff production within seconds.

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Indeed, Antonoff’s sound is almost immediately recognizable: a spacious, patently 1980s-era aesthetic filled with layered, reverb-soaked vocals that are often placed high in the mix and pitched-up or detuned instruments. These sonic hallmarks have inevitably influenced Swift’s songwriting, but she has, in turn, made her mark on Antonoff, pulling him back from his most idiosyncratic impulses on songs like Folklore’s “August” while giving him full reign when it serves her thematic purpose, as on the bombastic “Look What You Made Me Do.” It’s a testament to the holistic nature of their work together, evident in the 20 songs below. Sal Cinquemani

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 6, 2022.


20. “You Are In Love”

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Inspired by Antonoff’s relationship with actress Lena Dunham, with whom he parted ways in 2018, this bonus track from 1989 revels in the small details—“small talk,” “coffee at midnight,” “[kisses] on sidewalks”—that Swift observed throughout her friends’ romance. The song features a gauzy keyboard riff—the track’s only constant element—that recalls that of Bruce Springsteen’s “Secret Garden,” the influence of which can also be heard, albeit more subtly, in later Swift-Antonoff collaborations like “This Is Me Trying” and “Labyrinth” as well as “Rollercoaster,” a track by Antonoff’s side project the Bleachers. Cinquemani

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19. “Lavender Haze”

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Inspired by a phrase from an episode of Mad Men used to describe the glow of new love—in Swift’s case, love in the time of social media—the opening track of Midnights finds Antonoff and Swift letting their freak flags fly. The song’s distorted background vocals (courtesy of co-writers Zoe Kravitz and Sam Dew), flutes, and synths dovetail with the lyrics’ psychedelic underpinnings, while Antonoff’s crisp percussion slices through the haze. Cinquemani


18. “Lover”

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For all of her mastery of pop songwriting conventions, Swift has rarely sounded like what a more rockist critic might describe as classicist. Her perspective has always been so generationally specific that a deliberate, retro-styled production on something like “Love Story” or “Shake It Off” wouldn’t have worked well. The songwriting on “Lover,” though, purposefully invokes the wistful pop songs of the 1950s and ’60s. So Antonoff makes the track sound like a long-lost entry from the canon of Burt Bacharach or Jackie DeShannon or Neil Sedaka. Aesthetically, it’s a one-off in Swift’s catalog, but it’s a charming and effective one. Jonathan Keefe

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17. “Death by a Thousand Cuts”

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As with many great songwriter-producer collaborations, Antonoff’s production of this airy, whimsical take on a breakup song is in direct conversation with Swift’s lovelorn lyrics. On the verses, she converses with traffic lights and fantasizes about her lost love, her plaintive voice surrounded by hypnotically swirling keys. But when she confronts the harsh reality of her ending relationship on the chorus, the song seems to snap back to reality, the sound largely dropping out around her, save for some guitar. While, even compared to her other excellent non-singles, “Death by a Thousand Cuts” may have flown under the radar, its sonic playfulness helps to deepen Lover’s emotional range. Eric Mason


16. “Look What You Made Me Do”

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The black sheep or wicked step sister of Swift’s catalog—pick whichever metaphor you like—the droll lead single from Reputation will likely go down in history as the singer’s first bona fide misstep. But that’s also what makes the track—with its deceptively lush strings, pulsing hip-hop beat, Right Said Fred-aping non-hook, and lyrical allusions to Swift’s metaphorical death—the boldest and, quite frankly, most authentic thing she’d released up to that point in her career. Cinquemani

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15. “I Can See You”

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A standout “From the Vault” track from Speak Now, “I Can See You” sounds like nothing else Swift and Antonoff have created together. With its slightly flat guitar tunings and jagged, disconnected chords, the arrangement most closely recalls the Strokes’s first couple of albums, and Swift’s disaffected vocal performance suggests that she fully understood the assignment. Keefe


14. “Illicit Affairs”

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On Folklore’s most assertive track, Antonoff eschews the reverb, placing Swift’s vocal track squarely in the front of an arrangement that never once pulls focus from her dressing-down of her former lover. When she sings, “Don’t call me kid,” on the extraordinary bridge, her delivery drips with venom, accumulated over the course of a career in which her youth was often held against her. It makes for an especially potent rejoinder, and Antonoff more or less stays out of Swift’s way; he layers a single high harmony line to bring even greater heft to Swift’s reclamation of her agency. Keefe

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13. “The Black Dog”

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The most effective trope Swift deploys on The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology is changing a word or two in a familiar idiom in order to subvert expectations. The best example of that comes on “The Black Dog,” on which she takes the famous phrase “old habits die hard” and leans into the album’s themes of torture by replacing “hard” with “screaming.” Antonoff, for his part, does something similar with the production, keeping the arrangement sparse only to bring in multi-tracked vocal harmonies and a dramatic shift in dynamics on the final word of the chorus. Keefe


12. “Betty”

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“Betty” is one of a few songs on Folklore told from the point of view of a fictional character, here the lovelorn James. He’s a precocious teenager, offering some welcome moments of light humor: “You heard the rumors from Inez/You can’t believe a word she says.” As a song, it’s crowd-pleasing, upbeat, and provocative, with earthen Americana production courtesy of Antonoff. Where “Betty” really excels, though, is as a story. Swift’s lyrics are equally detailed and efficient, and her character’s voice is charmingly youthful without sacrificing Swift’s trademark emotional intelligence. “I’m only 17, I don’t know anything/But I know I miss you,” just as easily could be a pair of lines from the perspective of pre-2010 Swift, but here it offers a sense of newness and a return—however refined by Antonoff—to her roots in country music. Mason


11. “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)”

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Antonoff’s sonic ticks—embodied here by a few reverb-doused percussive slaps—are wisely kept to a minimum on the short and bittersweet “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can),” allowing the focus to remain on Swift’s story and performance. The song, from The Tortured Poets Department, is rumored to be about her brief relationship with 1979 frontman (and Antonoff’s bud) Matt Healy, with some lyrical embellishments that both obscure the subject and heighten the drama: “The dopamine races through his brain/On a six-lane Texas highway/His hand so calloused from his pistol/Softly traces hearts on my face.” And it wouldn’t be another Swift song about another ex without some carefully calibrated autocritique. “Good boy,” she says, at once infantilizing him and elevating herself as a savior. Cinquemani

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10. “Anti-Hero”

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On what sounds most like a CHR hit than anything Swift has released in years, Antonoff creates a purposeful contrast between the song’s verses and chorus, which opens with one of the singer-songwriter’s most memorable and meme-able lines (“It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem, it’s me”), whereas the verses scan like undergrad poetry that needed another few weeks in the workshop (“When my depression works the graveyard shift” lacks Swift’s usual finesse and precision). Antonoff downplays the verses and punches up the chorus, leaning into what Swift does best. Keefe


9. “Getaway Car”

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An auspicious predecessor to the just-as-thrilling “Cruel Summer,” “Getaway Car” offers a metropolitan update to Swift’s early motif of escaping her small rural town on the open road, marking the next stage in her Romeo and Juliet—or, rather, Bonnie and Clyde—narrative. Swift has inspected the us-against-the-world love story from all angles, and here she finds catharsis in letting herself crash and burn. Antonoff supplies grandiose ’80s-style drums and a kinetic trap beat that together evoke chrome rims spinning in the streetlight, and beyond the shift from country to highly modern trap-inflected synth-pop, the image of a self-destructive Swift evading capture is a far cry from the small-town narrator of her self-titled debut. Mason

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8. “Mirrorball”

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Generally speaking, adult-pop songs about high school fall into one of two modes: wistful recollections of major milestones—prom, graduation, first loves (see SZA’s “Prom” and Mitski’s “Two Slow Dancers”)—or sarcastic, often anti-authoritarian rebukes of the strictures of secondary school. While Swift has occasionally embraced the longing of youth (“Fifteen”), her typical mode of nostalgia is more biting (“Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince”). “Mirrorball” falls neatly between these categories, picking up where the latter song left off by setting her love story in a world populated by “masquerade revelers” agog at Swift’s downfall. In any other context, referring to her detractors as clowns would read as bitter, but conveyed with breathless amazement by Swift and accompanied by Antonoff’s dreamy, reverb-heavy production, it feels triumphant. Mason


7. “This Is Me Trying”

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Is it though? Because the layers upon layers of reverb that Antonoff places on Swift’s vocal tracks creates a feeling of distance that makes her narrator sound more than a little evasive. “I’m here at your doorway,” she sings, coming across as a ghost who damn sure isn’t showing up on anyone’s Ring camera. The song itself is one of Swift’s most vulnerable– “You said all my cages were mental, so I got wasted like all my potential” is, perhaps, the best lyric on Folklore—so the sense of unease in Antonoff’s production makes for the album’s most thematically complex track. Keefe

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6. “My Tears Ricochet”

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One of Folklore’s most straightforwardly resentful stories, “My Tears Ricochet” is grounded narratively in the idea of a toxic lover showing up at their ex’s funeral. Antonoff’s production touches are stirring: The sharp beats of strings on the chorus recall the bridges of Swift’s early-2010s songs, and the warm echo of the singer “screaming at the sky” on the bridge evokes the thrill of the lyric “He looks up, grinning like a devil.” Mason


5. “Cruel Summer”

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The monumental single that never was, “Cruel Summer” is the pinnacle of Swift’s longstanding forbidden love narrative. Co-written by Annie Clark, this Lover track’s compact, high-intensity pacing and ever-escalating melodrama exemplify pop perfection. Swift exhibits the full breadth of her vocal range and charisma, singing “Devils roll the dice/Angels roll their eyes” with an Antonoff-style yelp. And the bridge, which he underscores with skittering, starry synths, finds Swift letting her hair down, crying out to admit that she’s sacrificed her peace of mind in service of a doomed love. Mason

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4. “The Archer”

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Swift had already done her Katniss Everdeen cosplay by contributing two fantastic songs to the first Hunger Games soundtrack, so Antonoff wisely avoided any roots-music signifiers that might have invited those comparisons as she sang of having been “The Archer.” Instead, he creates tension between the violence of Swift’s imagery—“Combat, I’m ready for combat” is as potent an opening line as any she’s written—with a gentle, melancholy arrangement. The percussion is propulsive, but it never hits any louder than a mezzo piano, leaving Swift to escalate the song’s intensity through one of her most evocative performances. Keefe


3. “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)”

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Arguably Swift’s definitive artistic statement, this reworking of a fan favorite is a thoughtful pop-rock epic whose skillful songwriting justifies its radio-unfriendly runtime. There’s something touching about hearing today’s Swift sing about finding her old self, and Antonoff updates the song, softening its acoustic rock instrumentation and making it less fitting for punching the air and more appropriate for quiet contemplation. New details, such as chimes that highlight the Old Taylor’s fantastical navete, further recontextualize “All Too Well” as not just a great pop song, but an affecting and vivid story-song. Even beyond the business realities underlying Swift’s decision to re-record her early music, reinterpreting the deeply personal “All Too Well” nearly a decade later proved to be a similarly empowering exercise in rewriting her story. Mason

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2. “Out of the Woods”

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The tone of the drums on “Out of the Woods” is more 1981 than 1989, but the thundering percussion that Antonoff builds the track around is so effective at creating a sense of urgency behind Swift’s narrative that the anachronism doesn’t matter. To this point in her career, Swift’s songs were all grounded in her confidence and her absolute certainty, so the unease of “Out of the Woods” was a departure, thematically and from a construction standpoint, since she’d rarely resorted to the trope of repeating lines or phrases for effect. Even if it was something of a pop throwback, it sounded like nothing Swift had done to date. Keefe


1. “August”

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Whether Swift is looking back just a few weeks in the midst of her Sad Girl Autumn or reminiscing about a summer fling sweetened by the distance of decades, Antonoff’s production on “August” wraps the singer’s voice in layers of reverb, ghostly memories chiming in with suddenly remembered details. Those details—a meeting behind the mall, a descending electric baseline, a twisted bedsheet, a nimbly plucked banjo—accumulate over the course of the track, making for a sustained crescendo of longing for something that was never meant to last through that one cruel summer. Keefe

Check out our Swift x Antonoff playlist on Spotify.

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