Right Said Fred Praise Taylor Swift's 'Dark, Cynical' Resurrection of 'I'm Too Sexy' on 'Look What You Made Me Do'
The insistent, throbbing beat on the chorus of Taylor Swift's beautifully dark, twisted revenge fantasy "Look What You Made Me Do" is inescapable and instantly sets your brain spinning. What is that? If you were asking that question on Thursday night (Aug. 24) when it dropped, all you had to do was look at the songwriting credits for the answer.
"Her team reached out to our publisher about a week ago and to be honest with you we're really happy with it," said Right Said Fred's Fred Fairbrass, who, along with brother Richard and songwriter Rob Manzoli, received a songwriting credit on Swift's new song thanks to its interpolation of their biggest hit, the 1991 smash "I'm Too Sexy." Given that Swift has seemingly been working on the album for some time and publishing negotations typipcally move slowly, the deal for the songwriting credit has likely been in the works for a while; a spokesperson for Swift could not be reached for comment at press time.
The dance pop duo should be happy. The first single from Swift's upcoming Reputation album (Nov. 10) will quite likely ascend to No. 1 on the Hot 100 tally (if not instantly, then soon) and the credit on the song will be an unexpected windfall for the group, who continue to tour regularly in Europe and around the world more than 20 years after their jaundiced take on the Me Decade made them stars.
"The idea of her doing something with the track was really interesting and initially they just told us that it was a very big star who wanted to use it and then as the conversation went on it became clear who it was," Fairbrass tells Billboard. Speaking just hours after the song debuted, Fairbrass says he and his brother didn't ask to hear "Look" before signing off, secure that if it was an artist they didn't like they might not have been so quick to say yes. "But we like her, so we were really happy."
What struck the pair after hearing the track -- which is also credited to producer Jack Antonoff -- was the affinity it has for the original song, which Fairbrass says was written "from a very cynical point of view. It was making fun of the hedonism of the '80s with the whole supermodel scene and the self-love of that time. Interestingly, she's channeled a lot of that original cynicism, which I think is quite cool. Because of the way we delivered the song... we took our shirts off and acted like idiots, so we sold the song in a very different way. But I think she's done a very interesting thing. But I like the track, I like the darkness of it."
Both Fairbrass' are also fans of Antonoff's band Bleachers, as well as country music -- Richard, a bass baritone, favors low-end singers like Tim McGraw -- and Fred says they've enjoyed watching Swift's transformation from country to pop and now, something "a bit darker... [because] we're both cynical people." On the bright side, they've been overwhelmed by the uncynical nature of Swift's team, who he says have sent flower arrangements and "ring up all the time to keep us informed. You wouldn't know she's a much bigger star from the way she is."
And while "Sexy" has gotten placed in countless films and TV shows over the years, this is the first time the Fairbrass' can think of someone giving them a songwriting credit, even if they're not quite sure how it came about. "I would think the album took a long time and I'm not sure at what stage the song was in its development, but I'm sure at one point they said, 'this sounds like 'I'm Too Sexy,'" he says. "Or maybe it's a thing where you play a song you like and say, 'we could try to do something like that.' Sometimes you write something brand new and you don't have to worry about legal issues."
Bottom line: the brothers are very pleased to be involved, it's nice to be treated well and yes, they expect to have a few more coins in their pocket as a result. "I would think so, yes," says Fred about the potential for significant checks from the publishing rights. "We'll see it in our income stream and other areas as well. It's put quite a value on us. Bands doing that for each other is quite inspiring." For now, they don't know what royalty split was discussed with their publisher, but after making a living in the music industry for nearly three decades this kind of windfall is "just gravy, really."