If you had told us years ago that Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon’s band Big red machine would make an album with Taylor Swift, we would have thought you were delirious. But times have radically changed, and two indie albums later (co-written with Dessner of The National and Vernon of Bon Iver, the first of whom also co-produced), Swift has proven that while she may not have the independent sensibilities of an Angel Olsen or a Sharon Van Etten, some of her best songwriting comes when she taps into this side of her muse. The pop star is featured on two tracks from the upcoming Big Red Machine album, How long do you think it will last?, and today the band released their first contribution to the project, “Renegade”. This may be one of Swift’s best songs to date, so it’s a bit of a surprise to learn that she didn’t want it on any of her latest records.
Yes, it’s a Big Red Machine release, but it’s still Swift’s song. While talk to Zane Lowe of Apple Music about it, Dessner explains that Swift felt that some of the songs she wrote for her last two records would suit Big Red Machine better. ” After finishing Always, she wrote ‘Renegade’ and it was like, again, she had been hit by lightning or something. When you have the chance to work with someone like her, she’s just … she’s a scholar and an incredibly hardworking and wonderful person. So, it was just special, ”he says.
“Every time we write a song together we’re both a little bit stunned. Or sort of, ‘How is that possible?’ Because it feels like the shoe fits so well in some way. ‘another. And I’m thinking about something about the way I think, or the way I relate to music emotionally, and then her incredible insight or her way of retracing music and its narration and its sense of melody, there’s something that really clicks, ”Dessner explains.
You can tell Taylor Swift is behind the lyrics, “Is it insensitive to me to say ‘Put your shit together so I can love you?’ Is it really your anxiety that keeps you from giving your all to me? Or you just don’t want to? The musician often sings the fantasies of what she wants in a partner: the end of the fairy tale, the lover who indulges on the whim of letting Christmas light up in January, the one who will stand by her side when she will really need someone’s support.
But Swift thrives just as much when she is brutally honest about exposing an inadequate love interest. (After all, there’s a reason fans still love “Dear John” so much.) So while this callout song doesn’t have the hyper-specific details of yesteryear, where fans can identify the type that Swift is potentially writing about, it’s a more accessible track, one that rings true for anyone who’s been with an inadequate partner. And as is so often the case with her best material, she frames it in a way that undermines the power of whoever she is speaking to – the one who drives her without being able to engage – by reversing roles. and forcing them to face their shit. via his lyrical zingers: “You shoot missiles because you hate yourself / And do you know that you demolish me? / And then you shake my hand as I’m about to leave.
On the contrary, this song proves why Swift’s new era as a freelance artist is working. “Renegade” is poppy – combining a mellow guitar, simple drum beat, and rolling synths – but sleek enough to sound like something an artist like Adult Mom (another big Swift fan) might have written. It’s a track that could easily serve as the ‘fuckboi’ anthem of the summer, reminding listeners that they are worth more than someone’s cheap apologies for not giving them what they deserve. And really, isn’t that exactly what many of us need as we venture into the world of post-pandemic dating?