Home / Tech / News / In praise of Nils Sjoberg, Taylor Swift's hilarious songwriting pseudonym

In praise of Nils Sjoberg, Taylor Swift's hilarious songwriting pseudonym

It feels a little like the music community is taking one long, collective nap this summer, and that means I’m extremely grateful for today’s semi-salacious news involving Taylor Swift, Calvin Harris, and some songwriting subterfuge. TMZ reported this morning that Swift secretly co-wrote Harris and Rihanna’s smash hit “This Is What You Came For” under the pseudonym “Nils Sjoberg,” and that Swift and Harris chose to keep the collaboration a secret so their relationship wouldn’t overshadow the song’s performance. When Harris told Ryan Seacrest that he couldn’t see himself ever collaborating with Swift in late April, it apparently kicked off the chain of events that led to the couple’s break up a few weeks later. And when Swift’s rep confirmed her role in the song this morning, Harris hopped on Twitter to weigh in on its composition and the ensuing drama. Scandalous!

It’s hard for me to imagine caring less about the Harris-Hiddleston-Swift-Perry rhombus of interpersonal sniping; I just hope everyone is leaving Rihanna out of this and allowing her to smoke blunts on a Caribbean yacht in peace. With that said, I want to take a moment to recognize the absolute genius of the pseudonym Swift chose when she and Harris were registering “This Is What You Came For.”

Swift didn’t pick the name “Nils Sjoberg” because she thought it’d be strange and foreign enough to confound amateur songwriting sleuths. She picked it because most of pop’s biggest hitmakers are Swedish, and they have been for decades. Swift knows some of them personally, of course: she’s worked extensively with Max Martin (aka Martin Sandberg, the greatest pop producer ever), Shellback (aka Karl Schuster), and Mattman & Robin (aka Mattias Larsson and Robin Fredriksson). She’s also undoubtedly familiar with the work of people like Tove Lo, Robyn, and Peter Svensson, all of whom are veteran performers and writers, not to mention the other Scandinavians with similarly unwieldy names (by American standards) who are floating around the industry. What do all of these people have in common? They’re Swedish, just like the hypothetical Sjoberg.

This is like something out of a pop murder mystery

This is like one of those murder mysteries where the killer leaves a clue that makes it feel like she’s tipping her cap to the detectives on the case. Choosing the name “Nils Sjoberg” is more than just an inside joke for pop scholars. It’s also a smoke bomb that probably tripped up a few dozen innocent writers. Imagine you’re covering “This Is What You Came For” and you’re scanning the credits to see who wrote the song. You see Sjoberg’s name and don’t recognize it. What’s your first thought? It’s probably just a new dude in Max Martin’s cabal, one who’ll have dozens of credits to his name in a year’s time. And you move on, not realizing the biggest pop star in the world just pulled one over on you. I’ve been laughing about it all afternoon. Well played, T.S.


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