Taylor Swift's Secret Hits: A Songwriting Expert Parses Her Latest Lyrics

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Taylor Swift attends the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

She didn’t release any new music of her own in 2016, but you could still find Taylor Swift’s work on the radio, with two dissimilar smashes that she quietly co-penned. Hit songwriter Busbee (5 Seconds of Summer, Maren Morris) analyzes Swift’s 2016 writing credits -- both of which she initially kept under wraps from the public.

“This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna
​Harris originally credited ex-girlfriend Swift under the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg on this smash hit.

“I intuitively understand the lyric: There’s the she, the you, the them, and I don’t really know what’s going on, but it feels awesome. Even as she has evolved into a pop writer, her songs have been so literal that you can tell she comes from that country tradition. But this is the truest pop song in her catalog in the modern sense: It’s just an emotion.”

“Better Man” by Little Big Town
The country group didn’t reveal Swift’s writing credit on its latest hit until nearly two weeks after its release.

“That concept -- ‘I wish you were a better man’ -- just punches you in the stomach. You’re not saying, ‘You suck, go away, this doesn’t work’; you’re saying, ‘I wish this worked better.’ It’s not exactly a traditional sentiment, or the thing you would expect. And there’s nothing complicated about it, but it’s not banal -- that’s the essence of what Taylor is.”

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 17 issue of Billboard.

Billboard Year in Music 2016


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