Jack Antonoff is a musician, writer and producer, who has been a part of many corners of the pop music industry. From being the guitarist and percussionist in Fun., to producing the soundtrack for the film “Love Simon”, to heading two of his own bands (Steel Train and Bleachers), to writing and producing for artists like Taylor Swift, Lorde, St. Vincent, The Chicks, Lana Del Rey: Jack Antonoff has done it all. He has done a great job of not only making a name for himself but also creating a sound for himself. So what makes his producing and writing so great? Grandiosity, honesty and a whole lot of synths.
As summed up in a review of Bleachers’ second album “Gone Now” by Pitchfork, Jack Antonoff doesn’t create the sleek and palatable pop music that is typical of the Top-40 Charts. His sound, especially in his solo projects, is chock-full of horns, bright piano, synths and samples. The grandiosity of his second album, “Gone Now,” was compared to Elton John in a Rolling Stone review. This same larger-than-life sound coupled with a good hook makes many of the songs he writes/produces addicting. Some examples of this being “Cruel Summer” and “Out of the Woods” by Taylor Swift, “Green Light” by Lorde and “Strawberries and Cigarettes.” Not everything he produces is as extravagant as those though, he also knows how to produce a down-to-earth ballad as can be seen in “Crowded Places” by Banks and much of “folklore,” Taylor Swift’s eighth album.
There’s a certain honesty that comes with a song written by Antonoff. The best example of this radical honesty is, “I Wanna Get Better,” the hit single off of Bleachers’ first album, “Strange Desire.” Antonoff has been very open about losing his younger sister, Sarah, to cancer when he was 18. “I Wanna Get Better” is an autobiographical excerpt from that low period in his life. Many of the songs he writes and co-writes have themes of self-improvement and/or insecurity, “The Archer” by Taylor Swift and “Liability” by Lorde are great examples of this. Much of his work with Bleachers touches on themes of growing up in New Jersey, young love, childhood and heroes. It all feels very authentic, and, like the New York Times put it, sets him apart from the methodical and scientific approach to pop music others in the industry favor.
The mixture of extravagant instrumentals, authenticity in his songwriting and his love for synths is Antonoff’s signature, and his approach has been rewarded with critical acclaim. He’s won four Grammys for his work and is still actively creating. He recently released two singles at the end of last year, “45” and “chinatown (feat. Bruce Springsteen)” ahead of an album release that should be coming sometime in 2021. Until then, you can check out a playlist by Spotify user Nathaniel Cruel that has every song Antonoff has ever produced.
Until next time,