Jack Antonoff is sort of a jack–of–all–trades when it comes to pop music. Well, at least he tries to be.
A frequent collaborator with many pop stars, Antonoff has come to resemble more a blunt that has been passed around one too many times rather than a miracle worker. His clientele include (but is not limited to): Taylor Swift, St. Vincent, Carly Rae Jepsen, Lana Del Rey, Lorde, and Clairo. Antonoff has been used for the past six Swift studio albums, counting Fearless (Taylor’s Version), the last two St. Vincent records, and the three most recent Lana albums.
Recently, pop wunderkinds Lorde and Clairo released the lead singles for their respective new albums to much hype. Lorde’s “Solar Power” was met with particular buzz, given her recent absence from the music world. What one may not see on the surface, however, is how much overlap there is in the talent behind the scenes. Clairo, along with Phoebe Bridgers, sang backup vocals for “Solar Power.” And Lorde contributed her voice to Clairo’s “Blouse.” Guess who co–produced both songs? That’s right! The man himself: Jack Antonoff.
With that in mind, the question begs to be asked: Why is Antonoff such a favorite and frequent collaborator for this highly specific niche of pop music, girl pop (for lack of a better term)? And how come his sound changes with each artist he works with? “Blouse” sounds nothing like Clairo’s last album or “Solar Power.” And “Solar Power” sounds nothing like Lorde's excellent second album, Melodrama, for that matter.
How the man shapeshifts (somewhat awkwardly) with each of his collaborators is still a mystery. Yet he still leaves tell–tale signs across each of the records he works on, muddying the sounds of his artists into a sort of mediocre malaise. All of his albums, although different on surface level, have an underlying sameness due to Jack Antonoff.
Melodrama appears to be the genesis of Antonoff’s reign over girl pop music production. He co–wrote and co–produced it with Lorde, which is now the standard affair with his other clients. Incidentally, Melodrama also sparked a viral fan–made presentation purporting that the record was actually about Lorde’s romantic relationship with Antonoff. While this hypothesis gained significant notoriety, to date, it has never been confirmed.
If anything, it leads to the conclusion that one Ella Marija Lani Yelich–O'Connor is to blame for Antonoff’s omnipresence among pop girls. Although Lorde is not the first of the pop girls to make an album with Antonoff (Swift can claim that title), she is arguably the most fruitful of his collaborations.Though Lorde's second partnership with Antonoff hasn’t been released yet (“Coming in 2021… Patience is a virtue”), Melodrama’s influence on today’s youth is palpable and vast. The hype which slowly built up on Twitter before the drop of “Solar Power” is evidence enough, not to mention the memes it spawned both before and after the release. If that’s not good enough for you, how about the account @didlorde or one of its many spin–offs, whose sole purpose is to alert fans if she dropped her third record or not each day? Or the fact that her chosen method of communication with fans is the rare (emphasis on rare) email? Lorde’s public silence is what makes her voice, when she does speak, so loud.
Mr. Antonoff’s influence also permeates other artists' music, although it is less evident than Lorde’s impact. His fingerprints are all over Swift’s reputation and St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION, albums which are twins cut from the same sonic cloth. He is simultaneously guilty for the recent decline in Lana’s music and responsible for the triumph that was 2019's Norman Fucking Rockwell! Carly Rae Jepsen wouldn't have made Emotion without him.
Antonoff is undoubtedly an omnipresent figure in the girl pop realm, but perhaps it's time for newer idols. He is the glue that ties many artists together, but when will they finally break free?