I’m a big fan of the song “22” off Taylor Swift’s most recent album. And it’s no surprise. Swift is clearly a talented singer and musical performer and the song is written by Max Martin, one of the songwriting geniuses of our era, in collaboration with fellow Swede Johan Karl Schuster who’s also making a name for himself in the pop game.
Unfortunately, in a new Diet Coke ad Swift completely ignores the real genesis of this amazing recording in favor of a mythic version of herself working as a lone songrwriter scribbling out the lyrics in a notebook:
I bring this up not to knock Swift. The unfortunate reality is that she’s operating in a world that’s oddly averse to celebrating the virtues of collaboration and division of labor when it comes to music. In other domains, however, we take it for granted. People produce more and better stuff when they specialize and part of being good at what you do is being smart about who you collaborate with. Swift was right to recognize that essentially everyone who’s ever worked with Max Martin has benefitted from the partnership and Martin was right to recognize that a collaboration with Swift was likely to be fruitful. Working together with Schuster they wrote and produced a great pop song and in the future if we want more great pop songs we’re going to need more collaborations.