meta-scriptHow Switchfoot Reimagined 'The Beautiful Letdown': Ryan Tedder, Owl City, Ingrid Andress & More Detail Their Covers For The Deluxe Edition | GRAMMY.com
Switchfoot Press Photo 2023
Switchfoot

Photo: Erick Frost

How Switchfoot Reimagined 'The Beautiful Letdown': Ryan Tedder, Owl City, Ingrid Andress & More Detail Their Covers For The Deluxe Edition

As Switchfoot's seminal album 'The Beautiful Letdown' turned 20, the rock band recruited some of the acts they inspired to record a new version. Hear from seven of those artists on how their cover came to life, and what Switchfoot means to them.

GRAMMYs/Sep 14, 2023 - 07:35 pm

Seven years into their career, Switchfoot were only beginning their legacy.

On Feb. 25, 2003, the rock group released their fourth album, The Beautiful Letdown. The project marked their first on a mainstream record label, Columbia Records, an "interesting" move in frontman Jon Foreman's eyes because the album was "so spiritually driven." A Christian band at heart, Switchfoot had released their first three albums through Universal Music Group's Christian imprints Re:Think and Sparrow Records — and it was time for mainstream audiences to hear their message.

Though the album wasn't an instant success — it debuted at No. 85 on the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart — The Beautiful Letdown has undoubtedly become Switchfoot's staple record and spawned hit singles "Meant to Live" and "Dare You To Move" (the latter of which got a second life after initial placement on their third LP, 2000's Learning to Breathe). That a Christian rock band broke through while the likes of 50 Cent and a newly solo Beyoncé dominated was inspiring to many up-and-coming acts. 

Twenty years later, some of those artists have left their own stamp on The Beautiful Letdown. Out Sept. 15, The Beautiful Letdown (Our Version) [Deluxe Edition] is a 25-track reimagining of Switchfoot's breakthrough album featuring re-recordings by the band themselves, as well as covers from hitmakers Jonas Brothers, Twenty One Pilots, Jon Bellion and more.

"We weren't so sure about it. I mean, it's a strange thing to do, revisit songs that you crafted when you were so much younger," Foreman says of the concept, which was first pitched to the band by some close friends. "But the idea was intriguing — what these heroes and friends of ours would turn these songs into if they were given complete control."

As Foreman recalls, the group initially planned on having the reimagined tracks be an EP. But before they knew it, every track on the album — including a B-side, "Monday Comes Around" — was spoken for.

Calling the project "a true honor," Foreman also notes that hearing artists his band inspired put their own spin on The Beautiful Letdown has brought new life to the songs. Like Bellion's version of "Meant To Live," which Foreman listened to while watching the sunrise in Perth, Australia: "I had tears in my eyes hearing this song that I've played a thousand times as if I was hearing it for the first time." 

Below, eight of the artists who were part of The Beautiful Letdown reimagining — Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, Noah Gundersen, Adam Young of Owl City, Sloan Struble of Dayglow, Ingrid Andress, Ryan O'Neal of Sleeping At Last, Matt Thiessen of Relient K, and Caleb Chapman of Colony House — detail how their cover came together, and the impact that Switchfoot has made on their own careers.

Why did you choose to cover the song you did, and why is it important to you?

Ryan Tedder, OneRepublic: ["Dare You To Move"] came out right when I was trying to figure out if I wanted to be a solo artist or start a band. There hadn't been a lot of alternative-sounding bands that were having success in the mainstream, but still felt cool to me and authentic and had actual messages to their music. Also, they were raised in the church like I was. I didn't want to be a CCM [contemporary Christian music] artist because it felt too limiting, and Switchfoot was a group that I knew came from the same background, but was having success in the mainstream with just great music.  

That song came out at exactly the time I needed to hear it. Even the message behind "Dare You to Move." I was so nervous about moving to L.A. for the first time. That song came out and I literally picked up and moved. That song has a lot of meaning to me. 

Noah Gundersen: "Dare You To Move" was already taken! "This Is Your Life" has one of those timeless radio rock choruses that feels both familiar and brand new every time you hear it. I also think the sentiment of being responsible for your own happiness really resonates with me.

Adam Young, Owl City: I really relate to the fact that the physical things on planet Earth that we as humans desire are ephemeral. Fame, wealth, beauty, success… those can make you happy for a time, but none will ultimately satisfy you because they don't last forever. I think the point of "Gone" is that the only thing that does last forever is your soul, so ensuring that you store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust can't get at them, is an enduring piece of wisdom. It's a truth that inspires me. 

Sloan Struble, Dayglow: When I was about 5 years old, my older brother showed me Switchfoot. I'd listen to his (probably illegally burned) copy of The Beautiful Letdown every day on his portable CD player. I remember thinking this record just embodied "cool." 

"Adding to the Noise" was always a favorite to me because of its stick-it-to-the-man undertone. What 5-year-old doesn't love poking fun at consumerism and big tech?

Ingrid Andress: The guys actually picked “On Fire” for me to sing — it worked out great, because that's one of my favorite songs on the album. It's such an emotionally vulnerable song, and I've always been drawn toward that kind of music. I remember singing along to it in my room when I was growing up, so it was a really amazing full-circle moment for me when Jon asked me to sing it!

Ryan O'Neal, Sleeping At Last: When Jon called to invite me to sing on "Monday Comes Around," I think I blurted out a "yes" before he finished asking. I am a forever Switchfoot fan. "Monday Comes Around" is a great song with a gorgeous melody and I was beyond honored to be welcomed into the reimagining of it!

Matt Thiessen, Relient K: Switchfoot requested that we cover "Ammunition" specifically. However, [Relient K's lead guitarist Matt] Hoopes and I were talking about it in the car the other day, and we said we would have picked it over any other number from TBL. I always loved the energy of the song. It has a tinge of pop-punk flavor that especially appealed to me at the time the album was released.

Caleb Chapman, Colony House: Well, I got a phone call from Jon asking if we'd be up for recording "Redemption" specifically, so the song chose us, I suppose. We just couldn't believe we were going to get to be part of such an iconic project celebrating an album that impacted our whole band so profoundly.

Any fun memories from reimagining the song and/or recording it?

Tedder: I recorded on a tour bus, so my most fun memory was that we had to turn the air conditioning off. It was in the summer and we were in Texas or something. We had to kill the generator so there wouldn't be the sound of an engine running in the background. I probably lost three pounds from sweating while I was recording the song because it was unbearably hot. We were trying to keep the laptop from overheating and all my gear from shutting down. It was kind of a feat to pull that off [Laughs]. 

Gundersen: It was a lot of fun digging through the original stems for this tune. Hearing Jon's solo'd vocals, along with some of the cool and weird little ear candy that got buried in the original mix. Imagining what the process was for each one of those little parts, knowing that they are all significant in their own way.

Young: I recorded a lot of random objects around my house and cut them up into tiny microscopic samples and used them as layers in the drum sounds on the track. Silverware, door handles, ice chunks, an antique Victrola. I cut down most of the sounds I recorded and only left the attack in each sample. This left me with a palette of extremely short click sounds that made great layers for snare drums, kick drums, clap sounds, etc. I had a lot of fun with this during the recording process.

Struble: Tim [Foreman, Switchfoot's bass guitarist] and I met through a mutual friend, and we got to hang out for the first time in San Diego while I was passing through on tour. That was the first time I ever went surfing, and it was with a childhood hero of mine. If that wasn't already an epic day enough, he asked me after if I'd want to cover a song for the record. It was such a personal full-circle, mind-blowing moment.

Andress: I just remember thinking the whole time Sam Ellis and I were making it, "Don’t f— it up. Don’t f— it up." The song was already perfect. I'm glad we found a way to still keep the integrity of the song while adding my own spin on it. Once I got past the nervous part, I had so much fun diving in!

O'Neal: It was an instant joy to get to sing. Jon and Tim recorded the track and I couldn't help but smile during my entire vocal recording session.

Thiessen: Oh yes. First of all, the assignment was a catalyst for Relient K getting together for the first time in over a year. What a gift. We were able to rehearse and record in conjunction with Dark Horse Academy in Franklin, Tennessee. Basically, there were students helping, observing, and hanging throughout pre-production and the recording. We had a blast working in that environment. We also used the opportunity to record an additional cover of Switchfoot's song, "Home," from their Legend Of Chin LP. 

Chapman: Funny enough, we were in the studio working on some music to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of our first album, When I Was Younger, when I got the call from Jon. It was perfect timing because we were already in the headspace of looking back fondly on the music that has brought us to where we are today.

What does Switchfoot and their music mean to you?

Tedder: I think aspirational is the term. They were a great, cool band with huge, cool songs right when I needed an example of just that to justify my own pursuit. Obviously I'm a fan of U2 and the Beatles and a lot of bands from decades before me, but Switchfoot was early 2000s — right when I was like, What do I do with my life? Can you be successful in a band in 2003 and what would it sound like? I needed a band like that at that exact moment in time. 

Gundersen: Growing up in a conservative religious home, Switchfoot was one of those bands who's message and identity was just vaguely Christian enough so as not to scare my highly sensitive parents, while still being far enough outside of the bland vanilla Christian music industry to actually be interesting. And the hooks are undeniable. There's also a kind of innocent hopefulness of the early 2000s that The Beautiful Letdown in particular seems to embody. 

Young: I have fond memories of Switchfoot's music all the way back 20 years ago. I was in high school at the time The Beautiful Letdown came out, and I remember I'd just gotten my first car. Having my own car meant my world got exponentially bigger, and I rejoiced at the new freedom made available to me. I listened to Switchfoot's music a lot in that car, and when I think back to that season of my life, which was very pivotal, I always think of Switchfoot.  

Struble: There was a time in my life when Switchfoot was one of three bands, probably, that I knew existed on the planet. Their music is just so core to my childhood and my upbringing. It lives deep in my brain. I've been a fan always, but it won't ever not feel nostalgic to me no matter what new music they make — it's like watching grunge-Mister Rogers or something for me. It will always remind me of learning to skateboard in my driveway and just being a little prepubescent punk.

Andress: I grew up in a conservative family that only allowed me to listen to Christian music. I would get so bored with all of it, so when Switchfoot came on the map, it truly changed my world sonically. A Christian band that plays cool rock music? I mean, come on. That was pretty different at the time, so it gave me inspiration to think outside the box when it comes to genres.

O'Neal: Back in 2000, Sleeping At Last had the privilege of being the opener at a Switchfoot show at a small venue in Illinois. Already a fan of their work, it was a huge opportunity to get to open up for a band I so admired. They were instantly lovely to me and my band and in some miracle of kindness, [Switchfoot's drummer] Chad Butler videotaped our set and shared it with his friends at record labels. 

I was — and still am — entirely blown away by such kindness to share some local band's music with others. A few years later, Switchfoot was sweet enough to extend an invitation to open up for them on their Beautiful Letdown US Tour. It was a first-ever Sleeping At Last tour and was such a pivotal and wonderful experience. 

Forever grateful to the Switchfoot family for their friendship over the years, and the incredibly generous encouragement they've given from the start of Sleeping At Last. To have the encouragement of your heroes is such a rare and special gift.

Thiessen: We met the guys in a gymnasium in Toledo back in '97. I can still remember the warmth in their eyes as they approached us and shook our hands for the first time. I've never known a band that are as kind, loving, and nourishing to everyone they touch. They've impacted RK and my life more than I'll ever know. 

Getting to play shows, festivals, and entire tours with them, while watching them intensely impact the world, has to be one of the most gratifying blessings of God that I've ever witnessed. I am so honored to be their friend and a big fan. 

Chapman: I could write a book with this kind of prompt. Since my brother and I were kids, we have dreamed of being in a band together. When Switchfoot's first album came out, my dad brought it home, put it in the CD player, and explained that there were two brothers in the band and that they made rock 'n' roll music! 

About a year later, we ran into Jon, Tim and Chad at a mall in Nashville and got to meet them and tell them that they were our favorite band. Fast forward to The Beautiful Letdown... I had a pre-release copy of the album and remember being in the locker room before PE class one day asking all my friends if they knew who Switchfoot was. Most of my friends had not heard of them yet. To anyone who said no, I simply responded with, "You will know who they are soon."  

Each one of us in the band has unique and powerful memories attached to this album and to this band. We are honored to now call Switchfoot friends and mentors. They have led a life and career full of artistic and personal integrity that has laid the groundwork that so many of us have tried to emulate. Their kindness is their legacy, and their intentionality is like a superpower. Their music is a reflection of their heart: bold, uncompromising, disarming, and powerful. You know what they say, right? "Never meet your heroes" — unless it's Switchfoot.

What is your favorite Switchfoot song and why?

Tedder: "Dark Horses" because it's an underdog anthem and I've felt like an underdog my whole life. 

Gundersen: "Dare You To Move." As a kid who struggled with depression and anxiety, this song was a sort of self-talk anthem for me. I think it instilled something in me and my own music, something about the duality of hope and struggle and one's own choice in how to engage with life. This feels like the essence of Switchfoot: hope, pain, and potential. 

Young: I'd have to say "Chem 6A." It was the first Switchfoot song I heard back in 1997, and I remember learning it on guitar. Memories like that are priceless to me.

Struble: I freaking love "Gone." I was hooked after the first time I heard that for years. And the fact that Owl City is covering it! That is so satisfying to me. Owl City and Relient K were both bands that I admired alongside Switchfoot, so to be on this record with them is just beyond special to me. I don't think I'll ever acknowledge it as reality! Maybe it's not, who knows!

Andress: It's hard to pick, but "This Is Your Life" is probably my favorite Switchfoot song. It gave me a sense of agency over my life when I was growing up and how important it is to be present in the moment. It was pretty high-concept for me at 10 years old, but it inspired me to go after things in life because it's the only chance we have to do it.

O'Neal: There are so many that I adore, but "Only Hope" is one of my favorite songs of all time. A rare song where every single element feels in its right place. The production somehow feels intimate and expansive at the same time, and the lyrics express a deeply personal and yet completely universal story. This song perfectly captures what Switchfoot does best.

Thiessen: "The Shadow Proves The Sunshine" is definitely one of 'em. "Company Car" always makes me really happy. I'm not a big "favorite" picker, but Switchfoot as a whole is definitely one.

Chapman: It's an impossible question. Too many songs over too many years. Switchfoot is not just another band to us. It goes deeper than what is our favorite song. In our eyes, their career is an arch that doesn't exist without every piece playing its part. Every song serves a purpose, and without it, the arch collapses. That's what makes them different. That's what makes them Switchfoot. 

10 Pop-Punk Albums Turning 20 In 2023: Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, The Ataris & More

Ryan Tedder Press Photo 2024
Ryan Tedder

Photo: Jeremy Cowart

interview

Behind Ryan Tedder's Hits: Stories From The Studio With OneRepublic, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift & More

As OneRepublic releases their latest album, the group's frontman and pop maverick gives an inside look into some of the biggest songs he's written — from how Beyoncé operates to Tom Cruise's prediction for their 'Top Gun' smash.

GRAMMYs/Jul 15, 2024 - 03:46 pm

Three months after OneRepublic began promoting their sixth album, Artificial Paradise, in February 2022, the band unexpectedly had their biggest release in nearly a decade. The pop-rock band's carefree jam, "I Ain't Worried," soundtracked Top Gun: Maverick's most memeable scene and quickly became a global smash — ultimately delaying album plans in favor of promoting their latest hit.

Two years later, "I Ain't Worried" is one of 16 tracks on Artificial Paradise, which arrived July 12. It's a seamless blend of songs that will resonate with longtime and newer fans alike. From the layered production of "Hurt," to the feel-good vibes of "Serotonin," to the evocative lyrics of "Last Holiday," Artificial Paradise shows that OneRepublic's sound is as dialed-in as it is ever-evolving.

The album also marks the end of an era for OneRepublic, as it's the last in their contract with Interscope Records. But for the group's singer, Ryan Tedder, that means the future is even more exciting than it's been in their entire 15-year career.

"I've never been more motivated to write the best material of my life than this very moment," he asserts. "I'm taking it as a challenge. We've had a lot of fun, and a lot of uplifting records for the last seven or eight years, but I also want to tap back into some deeper material with the band."

As he's been prepping Artificial Paradise with his OneRepublic cohorts, Tedder has also been as busy as he's ever been working with other artists. His career as a songwriter/producer took off almost simultaneously with OneRepublic's 2007 breakthrough, "Apologize" (his first major behind-the-board hit was Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love"); to this day he's one of the go-to guys for pop's biggest names, from BLACKPINK to Tate McRae.

Tedder sat down with GRAMMY.com to share some of his most prominent memories of OneRepublic's biggest songs, as well as some of the hits he's written with Beyoncé, Adele, Taylor Swift and more.

OneRepublic — "Apologize," 'Dreaming Out Loud' (2007)

I was producing and writing other songs for different artists on Epic and Atlantic — I was just cutting my teeth as a songwriter in L.A. This is like 2004. I was at my lowest mentally and financially. I was completely broke. Creditors chasing me, literally dodging the taxman and getting my car repoed, everything.

I had that song in my back pocket for four years. A buddy of mine just reminded me last month, a songwriter from Nashville — Ashley Gorley, actually. We had a session last month, me, him and Amy Allen, and he brought it up. He was like, "Is it true, the story about 'Apologize'? You were completely broke living in L.A. and Epic Records offered you like 100 grand or something just for the right to record the song on one of their artists?"

And that is true. It was, like, 20 [grand], then 50, then 100. And I was salivating. I was, like, I need this money so bad. And I give so many songs to other people, but with that song, I drew a line in the sand and said, "No one will sing this song but me. I will die with this song." 

It was my story, and I just didn't want anyone else to sing it. It was really that simple. It was a song about my past relationships, it was deeply personal. And it was also the song that — I spent two years trying to figure out what my sound was gonna be. I was a solo artist… and I wasn't landing on anything compelling. Then I landed on "Apologize" and a couple of other songs, and I was like, These songs make me think of a band, not solo artist material. So it was the song that led me to the sound of OneRepublic, and it also led me to the idea that I should start a band and not be a solo artist.

We do it every night. I'll never not do it. I've never gotten sick of it once. Every night that we do it, whether I'm in Houston or Hong Kong, I look out at the crowd and look at the band, and I'm like, Wow. This is the song that got us here.

Beyoncé — "Halo," 'I Am…Sacha Fierce' (2008)

We were halfway through promoting Dreaming Out Loud, our first album. I played basketball every day on tour, and I snapped my Achilles. The tour got canceled. The doctor told me not to even write. And I had this one sliver of an afternoon where my wife had to run an errand. And because I'm sadistic and crazy, I texted [songwriter] Evan Bogart, "I got a three-hour window, race over here. Beyoncé called me and asked me to write her a song. I want to do it with you." He had just come off his huge Rihanna No. 1, and we had an Ashley Tisdale single together.

When you write enough songs, not every day do the clouds part and God looks down on you and goes, "Here." But that's what happened on that day. I turn on the keyboard, the first sound that I play is the opening sound of the song. Sounds like angels singing. And we wrote the song pretty quick, as I recall. 

I didn't get a response [from Beyoncé after sending "Halo" over], which I've now learned is very, very typical of her. I did Miley Cyrus and Beyoncé "II MOST WANTED" [from COWBOY CARTER] — I didn't know that was coming out 'til five days before it came out. And when I did "XO" [from 2013's Beyoncé], I found out that "XO" was coming out 12 hours before it came out. That's how she operates.

OneRepublic — "Good Life," 'Waking Up' (2009)

["Good Life"] was kind of a Hail Mary. We already knew that "All the Right Moves" would be the first single [from Waking Up]. We knew that "Secrets" was the second single. And in the 11th hour, our engineer at the time — who I ended up signing as a songwriter, Noel Zancanella — had this drum loop that he had made, and he played it for Brent [Kutzle] in our band. Brent said, "You gotta hear this drum loop that Noel made. It's incredible."

He played it for me the next morning, and I was like, "Yo throw some chords to this. I'm writing to this today." They threw some chords down, and the first thing out of my mouth was, [sings] "Oh, this has gotta be the good life." 

It's the perfect example of, oftentimes, the chord I've tried to strike with this band with some of our bigger records, [which] is happy sad. Where you feel nostalgic and kind of melancholic, but at the same time, euphoric. That's what those chords and that melody did for me.

I was like, "Hey guys, would it be weird if I made the hook a whistle?" And everyone was like, "No! Do not whistle!" They're like, "Name the last hit song that had a whistle." And the only one I could think of was, like, Scorpion from like, 1988. [Laughs.] So I thought, To hell with it, man, it's been long enough, who cares? Let's try it. And the whistle kind of made the record. It became such a signature thing.

Adele — "Rumour Has It," '21' (2011)

"Rumour Has It" was the first song I did in probably a four year period, with any artist, that wasn't a ballad. All any artist ever wanted me to write with them or for them, was ballads, because of "Halo," and "Apologize" and "Bleeding Love."

I begged [Adele] to do a [song with] tempo, because we did "Turning Tables," another ballad. She was in a feisty mood [that day], so I was like, "Okay, we're doing a tempo today!"

Rick Rubin was originally producing the whole album. I was determined to produce Adele, not just write — because I wanted a shot to show her that I could, and to show myself. I stayed later after she left, and I remember thinking, What can I do in this record in this song that could be so difficult to reproduce that it might land me the gig?

So I intentionally muted the click track, changed the tempo, and [created that] whole piano bridge. I was making it up as I went. When she got in that morning. I said, "I have a crazy idea for a bridge. It's a movie." She listens and she says, "This is really different, I like this! How do we write to this?" 

I mean, it was very difficult. [But] we finished the song. She recorded the entire song that day. She recorded the whole song in one take. I've never seen anyone do that in my life — before or since.

Then I didn't hear from her for six months. Because I handed over the files, and Rick Rubin's doing it, so I don't need to check on it. I randomly check on the status of the song — and at this point, if you're a songwriter or producer, you're assuming that they're not keeping the songs. Her manager emails my manager, "Hey, good news — she's keeping both songs they did, and she wants Ryan to finish 'Rumour Has It' production and mix it." 

When I finally asked her, months later — probably at the GRAMMYs — I said, "Why didn't [Rick] do it?" She said, "Oh he did. It's that damn bridge! Nobody could figure out what the hell you were doing…It was so problematic that we just gave up on it."

OneRepublic — "Counting Stars," 'Native' (2013)

I was in a Beyoncé camp in the Hamptons writing for the self-titled album. [There were] a bunch of people in the house — me, Greg Kurstin, Sia — it was a fun group of people. I had four days there, and every morning I'd get up an hour and a half before I had to leave, make a coffee, and start prepping for the day. On the third day, I got up, I'm in the basement of this house at like 7 in the morning, and I'm coming up with ideas. I stumble across that chord progression, the guitar and the melody. It was instant shivers up my spine. 

"Lately I've been losing sleep, dreaming about the things that we could be" is the only line that I had. [My] first thought was, I should play this for Beyoncé, and then I'm listening to it and going, This is not Beyoncé, not even remotely. It'd be a waste. So I tabled it, and I texted the guys in my band, "Hey, I think I have a potentially really big record. I'm going to finish it when I get back to Denver."

I got back the next week, started recording it, did four or five versions of the chorus, bouncing all the versions off my wife, and then eventually landed it. And when I played it for the band, they were like, "This is our favorite song."

Taylor Swift — "Welcome to New York," '1989' (2014)

It was my second session with Taylor. The first one was [1989's] "I Know Places," and she sent me a voice memo. I was looking for a house in Venice [California], because we were spending so much time in L.A. So that whole memory is attached to me migrating back to Los Angeles. 

But I knew what she was talking about, because I lived in New York, and I remember the feeling — endless possibilities, all the different people and races and sexes and loves. That was her New York chapter. She was so excited to be there. If you never lived there, and especially if you get there and you've got a little money in the pocket, it is so exhilarating.

It was me just kind of witnessing her brilliant, fast-paced, lyrical wizardry. [Co-producer] Max [Martin] and I had a conversation nine months later at the GRAMMYs, when we had literally just won for 1989. He kind of laughed, he pointed to all the other producers on the album, and he's like, "If she had, like, three more hours in the day, she would just figure out what we do and she would do it. And she wouldn't need any of us." 

And I still think that's true. Some people are just forces of nature in and among themselves, and she's one of them. She just blew me away. She's the most talented top liner I've ever been in a room with, bar none. If you're talking lyric and melody, I've never been in a room with anyone faster, more adept, knows more what they want to say, focused, efficient, and just talented.

Jonas Brothers — "Sucker," 'Happiness Begins' (2019)

I had gone through a pretty dry spell mentally, emotionally. I had just burned it at both ends and tapped out, call it end of 2016. So, really, all of 2017 for me was a blur and a wash. I did a bunch of sessions in the first three months of the year, and then I just couldn't get a song out. I kept having, song after song, artists telling me it's the first single, [then] the song was not even on the album. I had never experienced that in my career.

I went six to nine months without finishing a song, which for me is unheard of. Andrew Watt kind of roped me back into working with him. We did "Easier" for 5 Seconds of Summer, and we did some Sam Smith and some Miley Cyrus, and right in that same window, I did this song "Sucker." Two [or] three months later, Wendy Goldstein from Republic [Records] heard the record, I had sent it to her. She'd said, very quietly, "We're relaunching the Jonas Brothers. They want you to be involved in a major way. Do you have anything?" 

She calls me, she goes, "Ryan, do not play this for anybody else. This is their comeback single. It's a No. 1 record. Watch what we're gonna do." And she delivered.

OneRepublic — "I Ain't Worried," 'Top Gun: Maverick' Soundtrack (2022)

My memory is, being in lockdown in COVID, and just being like, Who knows when this is going to end, working out of my Airstream at my house. I had done a lot of songs for movies over the years, and [for] that particular [song] Randy Spendlove, who runs [music at] Paramount, called me.

I end up Zooming with Tom Cruise [and Top Gun: Maverick director] Jerry Bruckheimer — everybody's in lockdown during post-production. The overarching memory was, Holy cow, I'm doing the scene, I'm doing the song for Top Gun. I can't believe this is happening. But the only way I knew how to approach it, rather than to, like, overreact and s— the bed, was, It's just another day.

I do prescription songs for movies, TV, film all the time. I love a brief. It's so antithetical to most writers. I'm either uncontrollably lazy or the most productive person you've ever met. And the dividing line between the two is, if I'm chasing some directive, some motivation, some endpoint, then I can be wildly productive.

I just thought, I'm going to do the absolute best thing I can do for this scene and serve the film. OneRepublic being the performing artist was not on the menu in my mind. I just told them, "I think you need a cool indie band sounding, like, breakbeat." I used adjectives to describe what I heard when I saw the scene, and Tom got really ramped and excited. 

You could argue [it's the biggest song] since the band started. The thing about it is, it's kind of become one of those every summer [hits]. And when it blew up, that's what Tom said. He said, "Mark my words, dude. You're gonna have a hit with this every summer for, like, the next 20 years or more." 

And that's what happened. The moment Memorial Day happened, "I Ain't Worried" got defrosted and marched itself back into the top 100.

Tate McRae — "Greedy," 'THINK LATER' (2023)

We had "10:35" [with Tiësto] the previous year that had been, like, a No. 1 in the UK and across Europe and Australia. So we were coming off the back of that, and the one thing she was clear about was, "That is not the direction of what I want to do."

If my memory serves me correct, "greedy" was the next to last session we had. Everything we had done up to that point was kind of dark, midtempo, emotional. So "greedy" was the weirdo outlier. I kept pushing her to do a dance record. I was like, "Tate, there's a lot of people that have great voices, and there's a lot of people who can write, but none of those people are professional dancers like you are. Your secret weapon is the thing you're not using. In this game and this career, you've got to use every asset that you have and exploit it."

There was a lot of cajoling. On that day, we did it, and I thought it was badass, and loved it. And she was like, "Ugh, what do we just do? What is this?"

So then it was just, like, months, months and months of me constantly bringing that song back up, and playing it for her, and annoying the s— out of her. And she came around on it. 

She has very specific taste. So much of the music with Tate, it really is her steering. I'll do what I think is like a finished version of a song, and then she will push everyone for weeks, if not months, to extract every ounce of everything out of them, to push the song harder, further, edgier — 19 versions of a song, until finally she goes, "Okay, this is the one." She's a perfectionist.

OneRepublic — "Last Holiday," 'Artificial Paradise' (2024)

I love [our latest single] "Hurt," but my favorite song on the album is called "Last Holiday." I probably started the beginning of that lyric, I'm not joking, seven, eight years ago. But I didn't finish it 'til this past year.

The verses are little maxims and words of advice that I've been given throughout the years. It's almost cynical in a way, the song. When I wrote the chorus, I was definitely in kind of a down place. So the opening line is, "So I don't believe in the stars anymore/ They never gave me what I wished for." And it's, obviously, a very not-so-slight reference to "Counting Stars." But it's also hopeful — "We've got some problems, okay, but this isn't our last holiday." 

It's very simple sentiments. Press pause. Take some moments. Find God before it all ends. All these things with this big, soaring chorus. Musically and emotionally and sonically, that song — and "Hurt," for sure — but "Last Holiday" is extremely us-sounding. 

The biggest enemy that we've had over the course of 18 years, I'll be the first to volunteer, is, this ever-evolving, undulating sound. No one's gonna accuse me of making these super complex concept albums, because that's just not how my brain's wired. I grew up listening to the radio. I didn't grow up hanging out in the Bowery in CBGBs listening to Nick Cave. So for us, the downside to that, and for me doing all these songs for all these other people, is the constant push and pull of "What is their sound? What genre is it?" 

I couldn't put a pin in exactly what the sound is, but what I would say is, if you look at the last 18 years, a song like "Last Holiday" really encompasses, sonically, what this band is about. It's very moving, and emotional, and dynamic. It takes me to a place — that's the best way for me to put it. And hopefully the listener finds the same.

Latest News & Exclusive Videos

Pop-Punk Roundtable Hero
(Clockwise, from top left): John Feldmann, T.J. Petracca and Morgan Freed of Emo Nite, Edith Victoria of Meet Me @ the Altar, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, Josh Roberts of Magnolia Park, Ryan Key and Sean Mackin of Yellowcard.

Photos (Clockwise, from left): Joe Scarnici/Getty Images, Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Coachella, Scott Legato/Getty Images, Daniel Knighton/Getty Images, Rick Kern/Getty Images, Suzi Pratt/WireImage

interview

The State Of Pop-Punk: A Roundtable Unpacks The Genre's Past, Present And Future

With a slew of promising, diverse rising acts and major returns from big players, pop-punk is as alive as ever. Artists and industry players sound off on what a booming 2023 means for the future of the subgenre.

GRAMMYs/Dec 20, 2023 - 06:31 pm

Back in the early aughts, pop-punk was largely homogenous: a sea of predominantly white men who took over the stages of Warped Tour in their black Converse, lamenting their ex-girlfriend or small-town existence with few exceptions. But 20 years later, the genre has shape-shifted and redefined itself — and it may be more omnipresent than ever. 

While pop-punk isn't necessarily at the forefront of mainstream music the way it was in the mid-2000s, it's undoubtedly permeating culture. Two of the biggest artists in 2023 — Olivia Rodrigo and SZA — incorporated the pop-punk playbook into their songs; Travis Barker has become a go-to collaborator for a slew of rising acts blurring genre lines; pop-punk stalwarts like blink-182, Fall Out Boy and Sum 41 are returning to the genre with massive albums and tours; and When We Were Young Fest continued leaning into the nostalgia of it all, while celebrating both legendary acts and newcomers. 

One of the most remarkable aspects of the new wave of pop-punk popularity is that it's no longer defined by white cisgender males. The genre has become a more inclusive place than ever, with some of the most interesting and impressive music coming from women or people of color. Bands like Meet Me @ The Altar, Magnolia Park and Pinkshift have been pivotal to making the scene more inclusive.

As pop-punk continues to evolve, what will it look like? How will it continue to take steps toward diversity and inclusion? GRAMMY.com invited several leaders and luminaries of the industry to discuss its current state, how it infiltrated the mainstream, and the genre's ever-growing community. 

Quotes from these interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

What has 2023 meant for pop-punk?

Ada Juarez, Meet Me @ The Altar drummer: 2023 has been a great discovery year for pop-punk. Lots of pop-punk bands have been touring and playing festivals and getting their names put out there for new people to hear!

Sean Mackin, Yellowcard violinist: 2023 is maybe the biggest year for the genre. There are new bands that are inspiring and changing what music means to them – and it was strong enough to bring Yellowcard back from the afterlife, so for me personally it means a lot!

Joe Horsham, Magnolia Park drummer: 2023 is a pretty good year for pop-punk because it's officially getting mainstream recognition, and I keep seeing more and more pop-punk bands getting on rock festivals. So the demand is high.

Louis Posen, Hopeless Records founder: Pop-punk continues to be an important sub-genre in our community. In the 2000s, the community broke into the mainstream which expanded the community to a level where you can see now, in the most full circle way, the impact it had on fans then.

Morgan Freed, Emo Nite co-founder: Who would have thought that 2023 meant anything for pop-punk 10 years ago? The fact that it's alive and well, growing and thriving with younger artists who've turned what their version of pop-punk is into their own, as well as bands we've loved forever either making a comeback, reuniting or throwing together new tours with newer artists, is remarkable and meaningful. It says a lot about where we are as a country, as a community and as people that are going through their teens now or have been alive long enough to see its return.

Ben Barlow, Neck Deep singer: 2023 was a great year to revitalize the genre and give it a platform for even more in 2024. We saw the return of blink-182, Green Day and Sum 41 releasing new music, as well as a whole bunch of smaller, up-and-coming artists doing good things, too.

Jon Foreman, Switchfoot singer: [It] feels like every decade or so a younger generation discovers the beautifully dissonant energy that we all loved when we were young — and pop-punk returns from the grave like a phoenix reborn. 2023 has felt like the crest of that wave, with guitars and drums finally ringing out loud and proud once again. 

In 2023 pop-punk seemed to reach an even more ubiquitous level. How have you seen the genre regain relevance in recent years?

Juarez: Pop-punk has been a genre that tends to come and go in mainstream society. These past few years I've seen pop-punk get really popular once again — especially with blink-182 having their comeback and festivals like Adjacent Fest, Riot Fest, and When We Were Young having such pop-punk-filled lineups. Not only that, but trailblazers like Travis Barker collaborating with artists outside of the pop-punk realm and introducing their listeners to a whole new sound bring a whole new generation of pop-punkers.

Tristan Torres, Magnolia Park guitarist: Pop-punk has been bubbling since 2020, especially because of Travis Barker collaborating with new artists like KennyHoopla. But now pop-punk is pretty much synonymous with rock/alternative. It seems to be the go-to move for even pop artists when they do a rock song, such as Demi Lovato.

Mackin: 2023 is really a culmination of listeners showcasing their passion and love for music. I think it's a time of celebration and healing after a couple of sheltered and dark years.

Johnny Minardi, Head of Fueled By Ramen: Bands are having fun again and I think that's contagious. The tours are selling more tickets than ever even without gigantic mainstream hits.

Fefe Dobson, singer/songwriter: I saw that pop-punk was being championed and celebrated much more. It wasn't only musically through charting, but through fashion and culture.

John Feldmann, singer/songwriter and producer: Hearing Fall Out Boy on Sirius[XM] Hits 1, selling out the When We Were Young Festival, watching the Punk Rock Museum blow up, seeing both blink-182, and Green Day have bigger live numbers than ever. it's undeniable!

Dayna Ghiraldi-Travers, Big Picture Media founder: For me personally, it never went away. I have been working with New Found Glory since 2014's Resurrection and with Neck Deep since 2012's Rain in July EP, and haven't stopped since. I do think the return of Tom [DeLonge] in blink-182 did a lot for the genre, but overall the genre has held its ground quite nicely over the last decade.

Barlow: Nostalgia and youthful exuberance will always be a part of pop-punk. It's a broad spectrum in terms of the sound, the message and the subject matter, and so it appeals to people on a number of levels. [It] also maybe [has] something to do with rap, pop and electronic music taking inspiration from the genre allowing it to slowly filter into the mainstream. 

Why do you think this music — whether old or new — is resonating so strongly again?

Juarez: Old pop-punk never truly "died" or "got old." We hear the iconic pop-punk songs we all loved growing up constantly in today's day and age! Personally, I spend a lot of my time listening to older pop-punk, such as blink-182, Green Day, and Simple Plan; even newer than those, like The Story So Far, Knuckle Puck, and Neck Deep. It never fails to send me through a whirlwind of emotions, happiness, angst, nostalgia. It's a great genre to feel different emotions, and that's why it'll never truly get old.

Mackin: Music does go through cycles, and we are in a really refreshing time where the energy and the angsty sort of nature just collide, and it feels new again.

KennyHoopla, musician: History always repeats itself. On top of that, the world is going through a lot right now and pop-punk/emo music has resembled that. People are naturally in an emotional state right now.

Dobson: For myself, I crave songs that I can sing at the top of my lungs and let all my emotions hang out unapologetically. I think we just needed that release, and pop-punk has that rebellious and raw, honest quality to it.  

Vince Ernst, Magnolia Park keyboardist: I think this style of music is pretty relevant because it just has a youthful energy. The messages of those songs such as heartbreak, feeling like you don't fit in and wanting to be your own person will always resonate with the younger generations. Also, the classic songs of the past like "Misery Business," "Sugar, We're Going Down" and "All The Small Things" are just great songs. And great music will always stand the test of time.

Minardi: Lyrically, the genre has always been relatable for any mood. I don't think other genres do that as much, especially for younger fan bases.

Foreman: Sometimes it's helpful to step back and look at the broad strokes of adolescent development or even to associate a Jungian archetype to a specific age demographic. Post-pubescent humans are challengers, dreamers: questioning the established rules, pushing back on boundaries and societal norms. Punk music provides a perfect venue for these doubts and questions. Punk thrives when society is riddled with hypocrisy, greed and injustice. Punk rock is an organism that feeds on the dark, ugly, shameful parts of our culture, exposing these social ills to the light. Punk rock asks questions and challenges the status quo. Fortunately for punk-rock, (and unfortunately for humans) these dark times provide ample fodder for punk songs. 

Freed: I think we're going through a time where the world is so f—ed, and the information we receive is so quick and vile that we yearn for something like nostalgia (I wish there was a better term). There are also always going to be teenagers, and teenagers need something to listen to that speaks to them in a way they can understand and relate to. They're smart and see through manufactured, overly-produced s—. And that time is now. The teens have discovered emo and pop-punk, and that rocks. 

Ghiraldi-Travers: I think this music brings an energy that other genres do not. After a worldwide pandemic and the political climate, we need that high-energy and politically charged anti-establishment inspiration that we get out of pop-punk to keep pushing us along. 

Barlow: There's a realness and an honesty to pop-punk, as well as energy. Something undeniably fun and catchy, the soundtrack to your best times and the arm round the shoulder in your worst times. 

Feldmann: I think people want to have fun again at shows, and now that the pandemic is over people are actually going out and living their lives! I think the indie bedroom thing, (i.e. music to do homework to) is still super relevant, but people want to see live instruments being played and actually have an experience.

Posen: Pop-punk has a very close connection between artist and fan. They're almost one and the same and they are in it together. That makes for an incredibly connected community that wants to help and promote each other.

How can pop-punk make more space for marginalized artists?

Dobson: When my first album came out, I remember feeling like I didn't quite fit in, which I was already kind of used to growing up. I didn't really know where my space was at first but I did find a sense of community in the genre with a few other artists. I think it was because we celebrated each other's individuality. We shopped from similar stores, we enjoyed similar influences and we just wanted to be truly seen and heard — some of us for the first time ever.

Foreman: If punk rock is the definition of anti-establishment, then the genre has an obligation to be leading the way forward in making room for the marginalized and championing the causes of the ones who don't fit in.

Juarez: Pop-punk can always make more space for marginalized artists by just being open-minded with show lineups, festivals and even with communities! The more we talk about the bands around us, the more those bands get opportunities, too. Many people and artists from various walks of life listen to and/or play pop-punk — we all deserve these opportunities.

KennyHoopla: By doing it in the places that really matter. Helping local bands and giving your support to local scenes.  I've seen fundraisers for dying venues, free shows, collaboration within the scene [help].

Josh Roberts, Magnolia Park singer: Pop-punk, as we all know, has been dominated by mostly white guys, so it's been a little difficult for marginalized artists to have a space. For example, we get a lot of racist comments. But I think we can make the space safer by just taking the time to educate ourselves and being open to the messages that these artists bring to the table, even if it makes you uncomfortable. 

Barlow: With pop-punk being part of the alternative scene, it's very inclusive and welcoming. Everyone is bound by the shared love of something that often feels like more than music. However, it's historically been pretty white and we can always do better, so, no matter who you are, who you love, the color of your skin, welcome, you'll love it here. Start a band, get involved in your local scene in whatever way you can [and] know that this is a world where everyone can thrive and have a voice. 

Posen: We can be more aware of artists and fans who share the same passions, interests and values but find themselves outside the community. If we raise awareness, both those in the community would reach out and those outside would feel more welcome. At Hopeless, we make it part of all our conversations about signings, hiring and other decisions to make sure we aren't unconsciously leaving anyone out. One of the results is a current artist roster where front people are more than 50% female or non-binary identifying artists.

Ghiraldi-Travers: If the most established artists take younger bands out on the road with them, it is the best way for the marginalized bands to gain new fans. It would also be great for the more popular artists to give a space for features on songs they are releasing that connect directly to that new band's Spotify account. 

Freed: I feel lucky that this scene is the most accepting community I've ever encountered. My wish is that as new generations of artists emerge into the scene and create new spaces within the pop-punk community, [so] inclusivity will be so ingrained into the scene that it won't even be a question.

How has When We Were Young helped give pop-punk a more mainstream boost?

Juarez: A festival as exclusive and influential as When We Were Young was a huge boost for pop-punk in the mainstream — it's a great opportunity for such a community of people to come together and listen to their favorite artists in the same place and create memories. Everyone talks about it, everyone posts about it, people who missed out wish they were able to be there.

Posen: The When We Were Young Festival has played a significant role in the rise in popularity and excitement around iconic artists from our community and the connection they have to the newer generation of artists.

Mackin: Yellowcard grew up dreaming to one day be on the Vans Warped Tour, and in our career we were included in their lineup nine separate times. So playing WWWYF really felt nostalgic, and getting to share the stage with so many of our friends in one place, I think it showed other people and listeners (who may not have already been familiar with the scene) how many people love this sub-culture of music. 

Minardi: Beyond the 85,000 [people] in attendance each day, the social media presence that goes viral with announcements covers a lot of ground that standard roll out plans for music don't always hit.

Feldmann: When my band Goldfinger played When We Were Young, we had close to 50,000 people watching us. I would say 80% of them had never seen our band. I think it was a great place for young people to see some of the legacy acts and also see some of the new current pop-punk bands. That festival was huge.

Foreman: I love to see a lot of my friends on the bill, bands that haven't really toured for years are getting back together to play the festival. And I love that the world is getting to hear their songs again. 

Ghiraldi-Travers I was lucky enough to attend When We Were Young in 2022 and was hired to run the press room at the 2023 festival and the energy of this festival is palpable. You walk the grounds and see ages of fans who are small enough to be on their parents shoulders and fans in their sixties. It has brought together all types of music lovers and is incredible to witness a sea of emo/pop-punk/rock fans flood the streets of Las Vegas. 

Freed: I think When We Were Young took all the best bands and brought them back into the spotlight. I hope that people who have been hooked back into the scene by WWWY's nostalgia focus are also able to check out the passionate and heartfelt work that other artists/creatives are doing to push the needle forward on emo.

Which artists do you believe are bringing pop-punk into the future and why?

Juarez: There are many artists out there bringing the genre into the future and some of them are us, Olivia Rodrigo, Anxious, Willow Smith, KennyHoopla, Daisy Grenade, Pool Kids, Pollyanna, and Citizen! The list goes on and on. All these artists are bringing something new to the table, whether it be a new sound or merging pop-punk with other genres. It's refreshing and new — as it should be.

KennyHoopla: Neck Deep, Hot Mulligan, Magnolia Park, Knuckle Puck are taking pop-punk into the future.

Freddie Criales, Magnolia Park guitarist: TX2 is someone who is bringing pop-punk to the future. Not only is his music good, but he also makes it a point to make his shows a safe space for marginalized groups. He speaks out against a lot of the injustices that are put on people in the LGBTQIA+ community, and I think that's pretty important. Stand Atlantic is another band that comes to mind. They are really good at infusing a lot of futuristic sounds into their music, and I think that's important because that keeps the music modern, fresh and inspiring to the next gen.

Minardi: Games We Play, jxdn, Meet Me @ The Altar, Hot Mulligan and Anxious are all doing it in their own authentic way and kicking ass.

Feldmann: Turnstile, Hot Mulligan, Heart Attack Man, KennyHoopla, Alexsucks, 408...there's too many to mention here!

Ghiraldi-Travers: I see incredible potential in House Parties, NOAHFINNCE, Greyson Zane, Hot Mulligan, Felicity, Action/Adventure, Magnolia Park, Spanish Love Songs, and of course, Meet Me @ The Altar. 

Dobson: I think Avril [Lavigne] continues to bring the genre into the future. I love that she's always been herself and stuck to her vision, which is something that isn't always easy to do in this industry.

Freed: Title Fight, Meet Me @ The Altar, Noelle Sucks, Pile of Love, Captain Jazz, Home is Where, charmer, Egbert the nerd, Petey, awake but still in bed, Heart Attack Man, Alien Boy, Carly Cosgrove, Dogleg, Hot Mulligan and tons of already popular artists switching their styles to pop-punk/emo.

Barlow: I think KennyHoopla, for sure. To see a Black-fronted pop-punk band — shout-out Magnolia Park — is hugely inspiring and nothing but a good thing for the scene. [Josh Roberts] has insane energy and a captivating stage presence. He writes from the heart and takes little drops from other genres which will absolutely push the genre forward. 

Posen: From the Hopeless roster, artists like Scene Queen, NOAHFINNCE, TX2, LOLO, Pinkshift, phem, and others are leading us into the new chapter of our scene. They are not stuck on sounding a certain way, looking a certain way or saying a specific thing. They represent how young people feel today.

Where do you think the genre is headed in 2024 and beyond?

Dobson: Pop-punk, though [it] wasn't in the spotlight or "mainstream" for a minute, never really went anywhere. It's always been there. 

KennyHoopla: It's either going to blow up, or show that it was truly just a just a moment that paired well with the world's events. Only time can tell, but there will always be a space for those who grew up listening to pop-punk and just never grew out of it.

Juarez: I think pop-punk will continue to mold itself into a genre that many different people want to be a part of. It's more than a genre — it's also a community. The pop-punk community is vast and should be accepting and open-minded.

Minardi: Hopefully it's headed to a place that can help launch the next batch of great artists versus only supporting the legacy.

Roberts: I think pop-punk will be something that people use to infuse into their sound — like a hyper-pop artist who uses a pop-punk vocal cadence. Or, a pop artist using a pop-punk guitar riff. At this point, artists aren't really making one type of genre. They infuse a bunch of different genres together to make something new. So I think pop-punk will be more of an integration than a standalone genre. But of course, there's still gonna be a few artists just doing the classic sound.

Posen: The newer pop-punk and other related genres in our community are becoming more diverse with less boundaries [in terms of] sounds, look, historical culture and other differences. It's so cool to see the melting pot of people, sounds and ideas create music and a scene with far less limitations creatively and otherwise.

Ghiraldi-Travers: The genre is more solidified than ever and is only going to continue to grow. The established talent is cranking out some of the best albums of their career which is only going to inspire up-and-coming musicians to keep playing and keep growing. They see longevity, and it is inspiring. 

Barlow: The current crop of bands are the best they've ever been, and the heavy hitters are still very active which makes for a healthy scene. The scene is strong enough right now to keep making waves and growing, old fans rediscovering and new fans being made. Plus, it's only a matter of time before the next blink-182 are found in the mountains of California, farting and laughing at dick jokes. 

Why 2002 Was The Year That Made Pop-Punk: Simple Plan, Good Charlotte & More On How "Messing Around And Being Ourselves" Became Mainstream

Taylor Swift performing in 2015
Taylor Swift performs on the 1989 Tour in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in June 2015.

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/LP5/Getty Images for TAS

list

7 Ways Taylor Swift's '1989' Primed Her For World Domination

With the arrival of '1989 (Taylor's Version),' take a look at seven ways the original album prepared the country-turned-pop star for a global takeover.

GRAMMYs/Oct 27, 2023 - 03:50 pm

When Taylor Swift released "Shake It Off" — the lead single from her fifth studio album, 1989 — in August 2014, she couldn't have known just how apt the lyrics "I never miss a beat/ I'm lightning on my feet" would be to her career nine years later.

Since then, Swift has never missed a chance to shake up the industry, whether she's redefining artist and fan relationships or fighting for her masters. And Oct. 27 marks a special day in the Swift world, as it's not only the day her groundbreaking, genre-defying, and two-time GRAMMY-award-winning album arrived in 2014 — it also marks the day Swift takes it back with the release of 1989 (Taylor's Version).

At the time of the original's release, its name was inspired by the singer's birth year to mark a symbolic shift as she transitioned from a country singer to a pop star. She was tired of speculation around her love life, finding creative inspiration in other things, like a move from Nashville to New York and her friend's romances.

1989 sold over 1.2 million copies in its first week, making Swift the first artist ever to have three albums sell over one million copies in their first week. The album also helped Swift make history at the 2016 GRAMMYs, as its Album Of The Year win made Swift the first female solo artist to win the accolade twice. (She's since furthered her record with a third AOTY win for folklore in 2021.)

In the original liner notes, Swift touched on 1989 being an album about "coming into your own, and as a result... coming alive." In a way, she was prophesying everything she'd do in the subsequent nine years — from surprise albums to a larger-than-life tour to everything in between — by consistently reimagining and redefining what it means to be a pop artist today.

Now, the 1989 rerecording represents a different type of rebirth — one that, through the rerecording process, has given Swift a new perspective that has allowed her to come into her own all over again. "I was born in 1989, reinvented for the first time in 2014," Swift wrote in a note to fans on Instagram upon the (Taylor's Version) release, "and a part of me was reclaimed in 2023 with the re-release of this album I love so dearly."

As you blast 1989 (Taylor's Version), dig into seven ways the original recording helped pave the way for Swift to become a global superstar. 

It Proved Swift A Successful Genre Shapeshifter

After Swift's Red saw pushback from the country community for blurring the lines between country and pop, 1989 would see the singer take a hairpin turn and go full-on pop. The catalyst for a full-length pop album was Red's loss for Album Of The Year at the 2014 GRAMMYs — something that Swift admitted caused her to cry "a little bit" and then decide it was time to make the leap.

Like Shania Twain before her, Swift's move from country to pop caused controversy both within the music industry and in her own team. Her record label at the time were skeptical of the change — even prompting to suggest she still record some country songs — and required a "dozen sit-downs" to better understand why she wanted to leave country music behind.

Realizing that if she "chased two rabbits" by pursuing both country and pop she would end up losing them both, Swift opted to fully embrace the new chapter of her life that came with moving to New York, cutting her hair, and shaking off the media by leaning into where her music was taking her.

With racing production and synthesized saxophones, 1989's lead single, "Shake It Off," was a reintroduction to Swift's artistry — and hinted at the true mainstream pop star she'd soon become.

She Took A Stand Against Naysayers

As part of the campaign for 1989, Swift spoke about the critiques she's received as a female singer/songwriter that her male counterparts don't often face. In particular, she touched on artists like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars, who also write songs about their love lives, but don't get similar pushback. Due to the autobiographical nature of her songwriting, love is a constant theme in Swift's work. But on 1989 she looked at it differently — and did so by taking aim at the media.

Where Red's "Mean" was written for the critics who never have anything nice to say, the tongue-in-cheek "Blank Space" is pointed directly at all those who suggest she's a maneater. Almost like a B-side to "Shake It Off" — which reminds that "the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate" — "Blank Space" serves as a satirical version of herself that gives a slight nod to how warped the media's perception is of her, singing "Got a long list of ex-lovers/ They'll tell you I'm insane/ 'Cause you know I love the players/ And you love the game."

She Enlisted Powerful Pop Producers

After working with Max Martin and Shellback on two of Red's biggest hits, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "I Knew You Were Trouble," Swift recruited them again to bring their expertise and pop flair for her new era. (Martin co-wrote and co-produced seven of the 13 tracks, while Shellback worked on six of those seven; both were involved on two of the three deluxe tracks.) As a songwriter, Swift liked just how much writing with a pop mindset helped push her out of her own comfort zone, something she explored with Martin on Red.

Swift further expanded her list of pop-superproducer collaborators by teaming with Ryan Tedder on two tracks, "I Know Places" and "Welcome To New York." While it's the only time the two have worked together, it checked another dream collab off of Swift's bucket list.

1989 was also the first album Swift worked on with Jack Antonoff, who has since become one of her biggest collaborators. Though he only co-wrote/co-produced three songs ("Out of the Woods," "I Wish You Would" and deluxe track "You Are In Love"), Antonoff's work soon proved majorly successful for Swift and several other pop stars, including Lorde and Lana Del Rey. Antonoff even credits Swift as the "first person who recognized" his talent as a producer.

It Expanded On Her Narrative-Driven Storytelling

As Swift was growing up and becoming reflective, her music was mirroring that maturity. This led her to explore themes and moments in her life that would weave their way through the album and become part of a larger story. The secret messages she placed throughout 1989 detail how different songs work together as a larger picture.

After the release of "Shake It Off" and the announcement that 1989 would be a pop-centric album, some fans and critics were fearful that Swift's storytelling would weaken when placed in a typical pop format. Instead, the ethos of 1989 is entirely shaped by Swift's love of autobiographical writing. After becoming irritated by the media's obsession with her love life and calling her promiscuous, she pulled from larger creative artistic inspiration.

On the synth-heavy "Welcome To New York," the album's opening track, she sings about finding freedom after moving to the place that once intimidated her, whereas "New Romantics" is a call-to-arms that references the very synth-pop cultural movement in music in the '80s — something that inspired 1989 as a whole (more on that soon).

Songs like "You Are In Love," which was inspired by Jack Antonoff's relationship with then-girlfriend Lena Dunham, exhibits her ability to write about her friends' relationships. Even if she found inspiration in her own romantic life, she looked at it from a changed perspective — like on "Out of the Woods" which sound mirrored the anxiety she felt due to a fragile relationship. By using pop music as her own personal playground, she took what she learned as a songwriter in country music and created a place where pop music could be both catchy and emotional.

It Incorporated '80s Synth-Pop Production

At the time of release, 1989 was lauded as the most cohesive out of all of Swift's albums, due in part to the fact that she, Shellback, and Martin used 1980s synth-pop as inspiration. Citing the '80s decade being a defining era for experimentation in pop music, Swift saw how it mimicked her own journey as a redefined pop artist.

Despite 1989's exploration of heartbreak and pain, Swift and her producers juxtaposed the heavier themes with sounds that are similar to the larger-than-life tracks of the '80s, yet still resonated with listeners. It's a pairing and influence that Swift has incorporated throughout the albums that followed, like on "Paper Rings" from Lover, "Getaway Car" from reputation, and "Long Story Short" from evermore.

It Marks The Beginning Of Swift's More Mature Songwriting

Since most of Swift's songs were, at that point, mostly autobiographical and focused on her own love life, many cynics claimed that Swift should reflect and figure out why all of her relationships end in heartbreak. On 1989, she looks back on the experiences that shaped her — like losing a friend as heard on "Bad Blood" or predicting just how badly a relationship will haunt you on "Wildest Dreams."

"Clean," the final song on 1989, demonstrates Swift's prowess at using bigger concepts to both touch on her own personal experiences and still make it universally relatable. On the final track of the standard edition, she explores a broken relationship by using vices as a metaphor for being addicted to someone. It's a track that, since its release, has become a fan-favorite because of its relatable topics, like grief and healing.

Although songs across 1989 are tied together by love and heartbreak, Swift approaches the themes in a more introspective and independent way. Where earlier tracks like Taylor Swift's "Should've Said No" and Speak Now's "Better Than Revenge" are bathed in anger, on 1989 Swift views love with more experience, understanding that not everything is black and white — as heard on "Style" ("He says, 'What you heard is true, but I/ Can't stop thinkin' 'bout you and I'/ I said, 'I've been there too a few times'") and "This Love" ("When you're young, you just run/ But you come back to what you need.")

She Took Artist-To-Fan Engagement To A New Level

What has always set Swift apart from other artists is her level of fan engagement, whether on social media or in person. With 1989, she doubled down on her relationship with fans, introducing the Secret Sessions. 

In the lead-up to release week, Swift hand-selected 89 fans from across the US and invited them into her home. Swift personally entertained the crowd by playing them music from the album ahead of its release date and gave them bigger insight into the album-making process. She continued the Secret Sessions with 2017's reputation and 2019's Lover.

As she continues on the Eras Tour and releases 1989 (Taylor's Version), Swift also continues to redefine what it means to be a pop artist. Her era of pop stardom officially began with the release of 1989, and with its re-recorded counterpart, we get to relive that era all over again. 

6 Ways Taylor Swift's Eras Tour Took Over Movie Theaters

All Things Taylor Swift

Jon Bellion performing in 2019
Jon Bellion performs in London in 2019.

Photo: Ollie Millington/Redferns

list

9 Songs You Didn't Know Jon Bellion Wrote & Produced: Hits By Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez & More

Pop superproducer Jon Bellion is the man behind Tori Kelly's new ep, 'tori,' but he's also been involved with countless hits for more than a decade. Check out nine of Bellion's biggest songs, from Eminem to Jonas Brothers.

GRAMMYs/Aug 3, 2023 - 01:36 pm

If the name Jon Bellion sounds familiar, it's probably because of his 2016 single "All Time Low." With its relentless "low-low-low-low-low" chorus, the electronic-fused pop confection scored Bellion his first major hit — as a solo artist, that is.

Prior to Bellion's breakthrough with his debut solo single, he'd already made a name for himself behind the scenes by writing and producing songs for the likes of Eminem, Jason Derulo, Zedd and CeeLo Green. And in the seven years since "All Time Low" became a top 20 hit, he's celebrated plenty of other smashes with some of pop's A-listers from Christina Aguilera to Justin Bieber.

This year alone, he worked with the Jonas Brothers to executive produce their statement-making record The Album, helped shape Maroon 5's "Middle Ground" — which is expected to be the lead single off the veteran pop-rockers' forthcoming eighth studio album — and teamed up with Switchfoot for an orchestral 2023 update of the band's 2003 breakout single "Meant to Live."

Bellion's most recent work can be heard on Tori Kelly's new self-titled EP tori, which dropped July 28. Along with producing the project, Bellion joined Kelly for a magnetic, electro-tinged track titled "young gun." Upon the EP's release, Kelly herself noted Bellion's impact, calling their collaboration "the start of something really special."

In honor of Bellion's latest project, take a look at nine songs you may not have known contained Bellion's signature touch — a roadmap to his becoming one of the most in-demand producers of the moment.

Eminem feat. Rihanna — "The Monster"

One of Bellion's earliest smashes came courtesy of Eminem — well, and Bebe Rexha. The pop singer penned the track's dark hook while working on her debut album, but it later made its way to Eminem and eventually shapeshifted into his fourth collaboration with Rihanna. The song became the duo's second No. 1 collaboration following 2010's "Love The Way You Lie" and remains one of most monstrous hits in Bellion's career.

Jason Derulo — "Trumpets"

Jason Derulo worked solely with Bellion on this top 20 hit from his 2013 Tattoos, which was later re-packaged as 2014's Talk Dirty. Built around an irresistible horn line of, yes, literal trumpets, Bellion and Derulo concocted a bouncy, flirtatious symphony to smoothly objectify the R&B singer's lady love, and manages to name drop Coldplay, Katy Perry and Kanye West over the course of just three minutes and thirty-seven seconds.

Christina Aguilera feat. Demi Lovato — "Fall in Line"

Bellion handled production on Christina Aguilera's fierce 2018 team-up with Demi Lovato, "Fall in Line," off the former's 2018 LP Liberation. Behind the boards, Bellion effectively captured all of the feminist rage and empowerment that the two vocal powerhouses lit into their lyrics, pairing their sneering vocals with a vamping strings section, rattling chains and a robotic male overlord futilely demanding, "March, two, three, right, two, three/ Shut your mouth, stick your ass out for me."

"Fall in Line" scored a nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 2019 GRAMMYs, marking Aguilera's twentieth career nod and Lovato's second. 

Maroon 5 — "Memories"

To kick off their seventh album, JORDI, Maroon 5 enlisted Bellion to co-write lead single "Memories." The gentle ballad found frontman Adam Levine mourning the loss of a friend, pouring one out over a lilting reggae-pop line that cleverly samples Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major." While the heartfelt song is dedicated to the band's longtime manager (and namesake of the LP) Jordan Feldstein, who tragically passed away in 2017 due to a blood clot, the relatable sentiment of "Memories" helped it peak at No. 2 on the Hot 100.

In addition to "Memories," Bellion also worked with the band on two other songs from JORDI, co-writing fourth single "Lost" as well as Anuel AA and Tainy collab "Button." Three years later, he would reunite with the band to co-write and co-produce their latest, equally delicate single "Middle Ground" alongside the likes of Andrew Watt and Rodney Jerkins.

Miley Cyrus — "Midnight Sky"

Miley Cyrus came raring into her glam rock-inspired album Plastic Hearts on the back of "Midnight Sky," an unapologetic statement of independence following her split from longtime love Liam Hemsworth. Dripping in sultry synths, the power ballad took a page from '80s rock icons like Joan Jett, Debbie Harry and Stevie Nicks.

The sound was an entirely new one for Cyrus — which is one of Bellion's tools when working with a new superstar for the first time. In a 2023 Billboard interview, he likened his approach to inventing a new kind of ride for the given A-lister. "They have already built an amazing theme park: millions of people go to it and experience their roller coasters," he said. "They put me in charge of revamping or creating a new section of the theme park, and they let me be the foreman of it all." The new style worked in Cyrus' favor, and earned Bellion yet another top 20 hit on the Hot 100.

Justin Bieber — "Holy"

Bellion's fingerprints are all over Justin Bieber's 2021 album Justice, starting notably with its Chance the Rapper-assisted lead single "Holy," which he both co-wrote and co-produced. The superproducer contributed to six other songs on the pop-driven LP — including the pop radio No. 1 "Ghost," which was inspired by Bellion's late grandmother — as well as three deluxe tracks. And though Bellion didn't have any credited features, his voice can still be heard: he offered background vocals on seven of the songs.

Justice earned Bellion his very first GRAMMY nomination, as the project was nominated for Album Of The Year at the 2022 GRAMMYs (Bieber also received seven other nods). 

Selena Gomez — "My Mind & Me"

Bellion first collaborated with Selena Gomez on Rare album cut "Vulnerable" alongside Amy Allen, Michael Pollack and The Monsters & Strangerz. Two years later, the entire team reunited for the title track to the pop singer's Apple TV+ documentary My Mind & Me.

Bellion and co. helped Gomez tap even further into the most vulnerable side of her psyche to date. "Vulnerable" saw Gomez letting her guard down with a new flame, but "My Mind & Me" allowed her to completely lay bare her mental health journey. "Sometimes I feel like an accident, people look when they're passin' it/ Never check on the passenger, they just want the free show," she sings. "Yeah, I'm constantly tryna fight somethin' that my eyes can't see," over spare guitar and piano.

Jonas Brothers — "Waffle House"

After the success of their 2019 comeback album Happiness Begins with producer Ryan Tedder, the Jonas Brothers recruited Bellion to helm the boards on their 2023 follow-up The Album. The producer helped the hitmaking siblings tap into a new facet of their pop-rock sound, finding inspiration in the '70s music their dad raised them on. (As Joe Jonas told GRAMMY.com upon the album's release, Bellion "was saying exactly what we were hoping for" when they first met to mull over ideas.)

While Bellion had a hand in every song on The Album, second single "Waffle House" is the latest to earn both him and Jonas Brothers a top 15 hit on pop radio. Bellion also serves as the one and only featured artist on The Album, coming out from behind the boards and into the vocal booth for bombastic closer "Walls."

Tori Kelly — "missin u"

Tori Kelly first linked up with Bellion thanks to Justin Bieber, as the pair worked together with the Biebs on tender bonus cut "Name" from the Justice sessions. So, when it came time to launch a new era with her self-titled EP tori, the songstress turned to Bellion to help bring her vision to life.

On lead single "missin u," the two-time GRAMMY winner throws the guitar-driven singer/songwriter vibes of her past work out the window in favor of a sleek R&B sound reminiscent of the early 2000s. The sonic gear shift is a natural fit for her lithe voice as she replays a romance that "was rainin' purple skies in my room." Somehow, Kelly even manages to outdo the vocal acrobatics of "missin u" with a deliriously brilliant "R&B edit" that adds even more layers, soul and vocal flourishes to the single.

"When I first started working with Jon Bellion, we were just beginning to scratch the surface on a new sound that truly felt like my own," Kelly explains in a video celebrating the release of her self-titled EP tori. "I know that I'm gonna look back on this collaboration as the start of something really special." As for Bellion's thoughts on his latest project? "Tori Kelly's the greatest vocalist of all time!"

Ariana Grande's Musical Growth In 15 Tracks, From "The Way" To "Positions"