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(Credit: Mary McCartney)

Music

The surprising Paul McCartney song inspired by Taylor Swift

@SamWKemp

It’ll be no surprise to learn that Paul McCartney, one of the most famous and continually celebrated musicians on the planet, has taken inspiration from every corner of the music business. From those early Beatles hits inspired by Roy Orbison (see ‘Please, Please Me’) to his work with dub pioneer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry when he was performing with Wings in the 1970s, Paul McCartney has always had a talent for spotting and latching onto current musical trends. It is this same talent that, in recent years, has seen him draw inspiration from one of the biggest names in pop music: Taylor Swift.

Before the release of McCartney III in 2020, the former Beatles member released an album called Egypt Station, which featured a track inspired by Taylor’s Swift’s personal life and her relationship with her young fans. When I first heard about ‘Who Cares’, I was expecting it to be some xylophone-led pop ditty. I can’t say I’m a fan of Taylor Swift and, to be honest, the idea that even Mr McCartney had been pulled into her orbit filled me with dread. And yet, that 2018 track has real bite to it. Opening with a stream of rhythmic guitar feedback, ‘Who Cares’ quickly opens up into a classic R&B-infused stomper. It honestly couldn’t be further from a Tylor Swift song if it tried.

Speaking about ‘Who Cares’ during a BBC interview, McCartney explained how the track was influenced by Taylor Swift and her fans: “I was actually thinking about Taylor Swift and her relationship to her young fans and how it’s sort of a sisterly thing,” he began. “And I was imagining talking to one of these young fans and saying, ‘Have you ever been bullied? Do you get bullied?’”. So while ‘Who Cares’ distances itself from Taylor Swift’s euphoric choruses and polished production value, it carries much the same message as hits like ‘Shake It Off’, a track designed to offer words of wisdom and courage.

Swift’s influence on McCartney has worked the other way around too. Speaking to Country Music Channel, the pop singer explained how Paul’s solo work taught her so much when she was growing up: “I discovered his music on my own as a child, then bought all of the Beatles and Paul McCartney tapes and CDs I could find,” Swift said. “Paul writes about his life and the things he’s learned about love in such a brilliantly simple way. I feel as if I’ve been let into his heart and his mind.”

All those lessons clearly influenced the way Swift approached her songwriting as she stepped into adolescence and began crafting the tracks that would eventually make her an international star. With that success came the opportunity to meet her idol in the flesh: “When I met him backstage at his 2010 concert in Nashville,” she once recalled. “I remember being excited that he was such a kind person. Seeing him sing ‘Blackbird’ live will always be a moment I won’t forget.”

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