The one question that won’t allow the Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo feud story to disappear.

What's more interesting?

An up-and-coming popstar, with one of the most exciting debuts in years, writing a scathing song about her little-known ex-boyfriend? Or said up-and-coming popstar writing a scathing song about the biggest artist in the world, who she previously idolised and felt mentored by?

I mean, duh.

No offence to the non-famous ex-boyfriend of Olivia Rodrigo, allegedly a former club promoter and DJ named Zack Bia (or... offence. As I said, the song IS scathing). But there's nothing more clicky than a feud between two famous women.

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That's why, at this moment, headlines and social media users are debating the likelihood that Rodrigo's song 'Vampire' – about an older 'famef**ker', who 'only comes out at night' – is taking a shot at Taylor Swift.

In reality, that's a pretty tenuous theory. The song mentions an age-gap relationship and establishes the subject as a 'cool guy' in the first verse. And calling a woman, who has often been slut-shamed in the past, a 'famef**ker' is probably not the best idea. But hey, as I said, that's less fun than accepting that it's about a dude whose name registers... well, close to zero recognition.

And it's not an idea that Rodrigo is willing to shut down completely.

"I mean, I never want to say who any of my songs are about. I've never done that before in my career and probably won't... I was very surprised when people thought that," she said in a new profile interview for The Guardian, promoting her upcoming second album, Guts.


Fans are mad that she didn't just say no. But the ambiguity is a tactic that has also fared well for Swift. She has a song literally titled 'Dear John', and she's refused to state categorically that it is actually about a fairly famous dude she was previously linked to, whose name is, you guessed it, John. There is power (and very clever marketing) in keeping a song open to listener interpretation.

And so, this is the latest evidence being used to drive a Swift x Rodrigo 'feud' amongst fans and across homepages.

The narrative is particularly interesting because, for a while, the pair appeared close. In early 2021, Rodrigo and her bestie and fellow (possibly former) Swiftie, Conan Grey, promoted the release of Swift's first re-record, Fearless (Taylor's Version). Rodrigo, who had just achieved near instant superstardom with the release of her debut hit 'drivers license', spoke often about growing up idolising the musician, and they exchanged letters after meeting at that year's Brit Awards in London.

But rumours of things going south (I just want to point out that it's very hard to write this without using a pun, considering Rodrigo's album Sour and Swift's song 'Bad Blood') began later that year, based on writing credits given retroactively to Swift and her 'Cruel Summer' co-writers Jack Antonoff and Annie Clark on Rodrigo's song 'deja vu'.


The matter comes down to the bridges of both songs, which each crescendo with 'shouty' lines. In a video for Rolling Stone, Rodrigo said she was directly inspired to do that by 'Cruel Summer'.

"It's one of my favourite songs ever. I love, like, the yelly vocals in it, like, the harmonised yells that [Swift] does, I think they're, like, super electric and moving, so I wanted to do something like that," she said of 'deja vu' in April 2021.

Three months later, Swift, Antonoff and Clark were added as songwriters on the track.

In her The Guardian profile, it was confirmed that Rodrigo and her co-writer, Dan Nigro, had to hand over 50 per cent of the royalties from 'deja vu', as well as another single 'good 4 u', which was involved in a separate crediting issue with Paramore's Hayley Williams and her former bandmate Josh Farro.

Most people would agree that having to hand over half the money from your successes over what boils down to 'similar vibes' is a bit silly. But in recent years, the landscape of music credits has become more and more like the Wild West. In 2015, the estate of Marvin Gaye successfully sued Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over 'Blurred Lines', which they said copied the 'feel' and 'sound' of Gaye's hit 'Got to Give It Up'. This decision really threw things into chaos. Suddenly, you could sue over a ~vibe~?

Recent legal decisions surrounding songs like Dua Lipa's 'Levitating' and Ed Sheeran's 'Shape of You' and 'Thinking Out Loud' in 2022 and 2023 have gone ways to remedy the mess, but Rodrigo's debut pre-dated those.


"I was so green as to how the music industry worked, the litigious side," she told The Guardian about the crediting. "I feel like now I know so much more about the industry and I just feel… better equipped in that regard. It wasn't something I thought about too much."

Music law is complicated – but to simplify a long and frankly boring story, almost all musicians outsource this part of business to publishing companies that handle royalties and credits on their behalf.

With 'Cruel Summer', Swift, Antonoff and Clark all have separate publishing deals – meaning there are at least three separate entities who could have pursued this credit on 'deja vu', and Antonoff is on record as not knowing about it until the decision was made.

"I had never met her and I had never been in a room with her. So it's interesting… it came through the channels that the bit of 'deja vu' was inspired by that bridge and we were going to be credited, and I thought that was really cool," he said in an interview with NME.

Williams said her publisher was "wildin" when the company posted an Instagram celebrating the success of the song due to her and Farro's writing credit - an ambiguous response that some took as shade and others took as confirmation that Williams did not pursue or particularly care for the credit.

In terms of business, it unfortunately makes sense that these decisions were made – either after requests from their publishers or by Rodrigo's team as a preemptive measure. Rodrigo is on record as stating her inspiration, and artists and their teams have a legal responsibility to pursue these kinds of issues. How can you argue against someone else, who you maybe don't have such a personal relationship with, ripping you off if it happens in the future, if you've let it slide in the past?


But on a personal level, it surely must've stung – and the personal level is where this 'feud' is the most interesting. Who would want to get bogged down in the details when the alternative is a big, personal beef between mentor and mentee?

To be fair, it would be hard not to be upset by half of the money from your hits going to someone else, especially artists who you have long admired and looked up to. So it's also no wonder Rodrigo abruptly stopped her overt Swiftiness, even if this is all 'just' business.

What's evolved is a story where fans are arguing who is right or wrong, when the truth – whatever it actually is – can't be boiled down so simply, or succinctly summed up in a dramatic, clicky headline.

Because just like how a song being about one of the most famous people in the world is more interesting than a song about a wannabe-DJ, two famous women butting heads is a much easier story to sell than boardrooms of suits complaining over contracts.

Feature image: Getty/Mamamia.

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