Taylor Swift has seamlessly made the jump from country princess to pop icon. Her much-awarded songs cover genres from hip-hop to folk, pop, and even rap. Having become one of the most celebrated female artists in the modern music industry, Swift has shown that she has a rare talent for performing and songwriting. While most of her greatest songs have been solo tracks, she has also collaborated with some of the greatest names in music. These eight collaborations are some of the singer’s most memorable team efforts.
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1. “ME!” — Taylor Swift & Brendan Urie, 2019
Taylor Swift’s 2019 collaboration with Panic! At The Disco’s Brendan Urie was a break from her usual musical style. The song is a bubblegum pop, upbeat self-love anthem. It includes the fierce synth beats typical of Panic! At The Disco’s style and nods to Swift’s previous top singles, such as “Shake It Off.”
Though critics panned it as campy and unoriginal, “ME!” marked a significant new direction in Swift’s career — it was the first single released under her contract with Republic Records, which gave her increased control over and ownership of her music. It’s hard not to love the unashamedly cheesy track, especially when it features two titans of modern pop music.
2. “Safe & Sound” — Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars, 2012
In 2012, Swift collaborated with the American folk duo The Civil Wars. Their song “Safe & Sound” was composed for the soundtrack of The Hunger Games. A melancholy, folk-inspired song, “Safe & Sound” was praised for Swift’s gentle vocals and the supporting layered harmonies.
The soundtrack’s producer recruited Swift and the Civil Wars and composed the song together. Swift, who had read The Hunger Games in preparation for recording, chose lyrics expressing the inner turmoil of the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. The result was a haunting collaboration that immortalized the film in a beautiful, Americana-infused ballad.
3. “Bad Blood” — Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar, 2014
Swift’s 2014 album 1989 was a decided step away from her previous image as a country-sweet girl next door. Her remix of “Bad Blood,” which she collaborated with rapper Kendrick Lamar, is a percussion-heavy, aggressive track about falling out with a friend. Lamar’s verses, composed and recorded during a single studio session, added to the defiant vibe that signaled a new image for Taylor Swift.
While some critics panned “Bad Blood” as a weak track, the song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance; the music video won a Grammy and multiple MTV Video Music Awards.
Taylor Swift had already been moving away from the country genre by 2013, but she returned to collaborate on “Highway Don’t Care” with country superstars Tim McGraw and Keith Urban. McGraw’s voice blends beautifully with Swift’s in a sweet country ballad about lost love. Critics praised the song for each performer’s contributions (including Urban’s skilled guitar playing). But what makes it so great is Swift’s effortless genre-crossing, shining through whether she leads or takes a backseat.
John Mayer’s 2009 duet “Half Of My Heart” was a rare moment where Swift took the backseat. Nevertheless, her gentle harmonies on the chorus blended beautifully with Mayer’s vocals, making the song one of her best collaborations. The collab also led to her brief relationship with Mayer, which would later be immortalized in solo tracks “Dear John” and “The Story Of Us.”
Mayer contacted Swift on Twitter to invite her to record the song with him. “Waking up to this song idea that won’t leave my head,” he wrote. “It’s called ‘Half of My Heart’ and I want to sing it with Taylor Swift. She would make a killer Stevie Nicks in contrast to my Tom Petty of a song.”
Swift’s 2020 album Evermore was a foray into a new genre for the singer while hearkening back to her roots in country music. It also explored musical storytelling, exemplified in songs like “Dorothea” and “No Body, No Crime.” The latter was a collaboration with the rock trio HAIM.
“No Body, No Crime” is a country rock ballad that tells the story of a revenge-motivated murder. Swift was friends with Este Haim, the group’s bass player; she named the song’s protagonist “Este” in her honor. Their collaboration was a skilled nod to Swift’s country roots, seamlessly fusing her old and new styles.
Ed Sheeran is often compared to Taylor Swift because of his acoustic accompaniment and autobiographical songwriting style. In 2012, the duo collaborated on the song “Everything Has Changed,” a mournful duet about growing closer to a lover. The musical style was described as a soft folk ballad, keeping true to Sheeran’s music and Swift’s earlier acoustic style. However, it showed signs of Swift’s first ventures into harder pop thanks to its bass percussion.
Sheeran and Swift wrote the song together at her home. Though it received mixed reviews, “Everything Has Changed” remains an essential track of Swift’s collaborative career thanks to the star power behind it.
In 2017, Swift teamed up with Zayn, newly a solo artist after the breakup of One Direction. Their song “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” was recorded for the soundtrack of Fifty Shades Darker. True to the film’s theme, the track was a sultry, romantic duet. Both Swift and Zayn gave a heavy performance that brought high praise from critics, who called it one of Swift’s best soundtrack collaborations.
“I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” was praised for both singers’ vocal performances and won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Collaboration.
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