Renegade

Single | How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? (Big Red Machine Album) | [2021]

“Renegade” is the fifth track from American indie duo Big Red Machine’s second studio album, How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last? (2021). Big Red Machine is the project of The National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Taylor and Aaron co-wrote and recorded “Renegade” the same week folklore won the Grammy for “Album of the Year” in March 2021. Taylor provides the lead vocal while Justin Vernon sings backup.

“Renegade” is a continuation of the eclectic, ethereal style that Taylor introduced her fanbase to with her sister albums of 2020, folklore and evermore. Still, Taylor tapped into a more experimental vein of her songwriting style with this collaboration, adding another string to her very impressive musical bow. Producer Aaron Dessner told Apple Music:

“Taylor and I didn’t wanna stop writing songs together – and still don’t, really. […] There were some instrumentals where she was like, ‘This might be Big Red Machine’. So it just kind of happened naturally. After we finished evermore she wrote ‘Renegade’ and I was just – again – being hit by a bolt of lightning or something. When you get the chance to work with someone like her, she’s a savant and just this incredibly hardworking and wonderful person, so it was just special.” — Aaron Dessner

BACKGROUND AND RELEASE
On April 13, 2021, Justin Vernon previewed new music on his Instagram account, in which he shared a brief clip of a forthcoming collaboration with Taylor, saying “that’s the awesome Taylor one. I think this should be the single”. On June 27, 2021, a cryptic teaser was posted to Big Red Machine’s social media. It depicted videos of Vernon and Dessner, and shots of Taylor penning lyrics. On June 29, 2021, the band revealed their second studio album, How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?, its release date, cover artwork and track listing; “Birch” and “Renegade” placed fourth and fifth in the list, respectively, featuring Taylor’s vocals on both. Another teaser was posted to the band’s social media on July 1, 2021, a 14-second long snippet, captioned with a link to the lyric video of “Renegade,” directed by Michael Brown.

LYRICAL CONTENT AND PRODUCTION
The themes woven throughout “Renegade” are that of relationships, anxiety and worry. The track chronicles how mental health issues can affect a budding relationship, much like “The Archer“, a ballad from Taylor’s album Lover (2019). The lyrics describe both sympathy and frustration for how anxiety affects the relationship. It’s a relatable story, one that rings true to anyone who’s been with a partner that sruggles with their mental health. “Renegade” is really some of Taylor’s best material. In an interview with Apple Music Zane Lowe about the song, co-writer Aaron Dessner elaborated on his reaction to the song:

“I, emotionally, was really struck by the first time I heard it just the way she talks about how anxiety and fear get in the way of loving someone or create an inability for someone to love. And I think it’s incredibly relatable, but it’s expressed in the context of this fairly experimental sound world. The way it came together as a song just really sums up the whole the Big Red Machine record.” — Aaron Dessner

“Renegade” is an upbeat indie pop and folk pop song driven by guitar and drums. It also has orchestration from Dessner’s twin brother Bryce. As reported by Secretly Store, Taylor recorded her vocals while quarantining with Aaron Dessner ahead of the 2021 Grammys, where they won the “Album of the Year” accolade for folklore (2020). After the song’s release, Taylor wrote:

“I can’t believe I get to work with Aaron Dessner. When Aaron came into my life, I was ushered into his world of free-flowing creativity where you don’t overthink, you just make music. His generosity of spirit and humility bleeds into every part of his life, and that’s why so many artists have jumped at the chance to be a part of his collaborative project, Big Red Machine. A song we wrote (which also features Justin Vernon) is out today! It’s called ‘Renegade’. Thanks Aaron for asking me to show up at your party.” — Taylor Swift

CRITICAL RECEPTION
Upon release, “Renegade” received critical acclaim. Jason Lipshutz of Billboard wrote: “‘Renegade’ carries the texture of a modern National song — all skittering beats and emotional warfare for adults — but the experience of hearing Swift leave her imprint on that world remains thrilling, even after many months and multiple Bon Iver duets. They sing together here, too, and it’s just as satisfying as ‘exile‘.” Variety‘s Jonathan Cohen said the song continues “the more musically adventurous vein” of Taylor’s latest work with Dessner, using emotionally stirring couplets. Nina Corcoran of Consequence wrote that “Renegade” is a “folk-pop earworm” with Taylor’s “future classic” lyrics.

COMMERCIAL PERFORMANCE
“Renegade” was sent to U.S. Adult Album Alternative radio on July 2, 2021 as the album’s third single. “Renegade” will also impact adult contemporary radio on July 12, 2021.

A MUSICAL FAMILY TREE
“Renegade” marks the third (released) collaboration between Taylor, Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon. Nathan Hubbard, former CEO of Ticketmaster and co-producer of the Ringer podcast „Every Single Album: Taylor Swift” shared his thoughts on the song on Twitter, writing: “I love the song but the remarkable thing about it is that it reflects the incredibly prolific creative moment these artists are in together. The through line between Dessner, Vernon, Taylor and (not featured here) [Jack] Antonoff now looks like one hell of a musical family tree. […] It’s fair to say ‚Renegade‘ is sonically similar enough that it’s unclear where the lines between these individual and collaborative projects start and end. What’s a Taylor Song? What’s a Big Red Machine song? The National? Bon Iver? It’s increasingly hard to decipher. It feels like Big Red Machine is a project to meet the moment of rapid content release; it’s a vehicle for a collective of artists to put out a song without putting out an album. […] They’ve built a metaverse for music.” Aaron Dessner told Zane Lowe:

“This song was something we wrote after we finished evermore and it dawned on us that this was a BRM [Big Red Machine] song. Taylor’s words hit me so hard when I heard her first voice memo and still do, every time. Justin lifted the song further into the heavens, and my brother’s (Bryce Dessner) strings and drummer Jason Treuting add so much. The feeling and sound of this song feel very much at the heart of How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?; I’m so grateful to Taylor for continuing to share her incredible talent with me and that we are still finding excuses to make music together.” — Aaron Dessner

Lyrics

[Verse 1: Taylor Swift]
I tapped on your window on your darkest night
The shape of you was jagged and weak
There was nowhere for me to stay, but I stayed anyway
And if I would’ve known how many pieces you had crumbled into
I might have let them lay

[Chorus: Taylor Swift & Justin Vernon]
Are you really gonna talk about timin’ in times like these?
And let all your damage, damage me
And carry your baggage up my street
And make me your future history, it’s time
You’ve come a long way, open the blinds, let me see your face
You wouldn’t be the first renegade, to need somebody
Is it insensitive for me to say “Get your shit together so I can love you?”
Is it really your anxiety that stops you from givin’ me everything?
Or do you just not want to?

[Verse 2: Taylor Swift]
I tapped on your window on your darkest night
The shape of you was jagged and weak
There was nowhere for me to stay, but I stayed anyway
You fire off missiles ’cause you hate yourself
And do you know you’re demolishin’ me?
And then you squeeze my hand as I’m about to leave

[Chorus: Taylor Swift & Justin Vernon]
Are you really gonna talk about timin’ in times like these?
And let all your damage, damage me
And carry your baggage up my street
And make me your future history, it’s time
You’ve come a long way, open the blinds, let me see your face
You wouldn’t be the first renegade, to need somebody
Is it insensitive for me to say “Get your shit together so I can love you?”
Is it really your anxiety that stops you from givin’ me everything?
Or do you just not want to?

[Bridge: Taylor Swift]
And if I would have known
How sharp the pieces were you crumbled into
I might have let them lay

[Chorus: Taylor Swift & Justin Vernon]
Are you really gonna talk about timin’ in times like these?
And let all your damage, damage me
And carry your baggage up my street
And make me your future history, it’s time
You’ve come a long way, open the blinds, let me see your face
You wouldn’t be the first renegade, to need somebody
To need somebody, to need somebody, to need somebody, to need
Are you really gonna talk about timin’ in times like these?
And let all your damage, damage me
And carry your baggage up my street
And make me your future history, it’s time
Is it insensitive for me to say “Get your shit together so I can love you?”
You come a long way, open the blinds, let me see your face
You wouldn’t be the first renegade, to need somebody
Is it really your anxiety that stops you from givin’ me everything?
Or do you just not want to?

General Information
AlbumHow Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?
FeatureTaylor Swift
ReleasedJuly 2, 2021
RecordedMarch 8-14, 2021
StudioLong Pond (Hudson Valley, NY)
Kitty Committee (Los Angeles, CA)
April Base (Eau Claire, WI)
GenreAlternative
Folk Pop
Length4:14
Label37DO3D
Jagjaguwar
SongwritersAaron Dessner
Taylor Swift
ProducerAaron Dessner
HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT’S GONNA LAST? CHRONOLOGY
BirchRenegadeThe Ghost of Cincinnati
Interview with Aaron Dessner
Official Lyric Video
Official Audio
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