Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon make – up the side project Big Red Machine and they bring in folklore pal Taylor Swift for Renegade. The last time they all got together was on Exile, which was on Swift’s record, with Dessner producing, and Vernon as a guest vocal. Now, the gang is back together with Swift as the guest vocal on their record. On Renegade Swift takes centre stage, which creates the same indie pop mix that made folklore so successful.
One can see how Renegade could have found itself on Swift’s record Evermore. The track’s core theme of complications within relationships fits right in with that record. Moreover, it fits musically with Evermore, as Swift’s vocal gives the track a pop dimension that Big Red Machine’s other work lacks. I love the combination of Big Red Machine’s more indie sensibilities and Swift’s powerful pop vocal. Also, Justin Vernon has not met a side project he doesn’t like. From featuring on My Dark Twisted Fantasy to his work with Volcano Choir, Vernon loves making music with people and always brings an added dimension to everything he touches. Having said that, he is largely in a secondary role on this track, but he gives the chorus some nice vocal depth.
Lyrically, Renegade explores how people bring their experiences, anxieties and past to each new relationship. In this case, Swift sings about wanting to support the person she loves, but runs against constant barriers stemming from her partner’s past. Anxiety about relationships and a lack of trust gets in the way of the healing / supportive side of love. Moreover, this track explores how a relationship is meant to support you through personal growth, but some of that growth is up to you. A loving person is there to help you get your shit together, but ultimately, you are the one who has to get your shit together.
To sum up, Renegade is about the complexities and grey area within love / relationships…while also being a really catchy indie pop track. Taylor Swift’s vocal with Vernon’s and Dessner’s musical arrangement, for me, is a match made in heaven. This lead single has me excited for a promising Big Red Machine record. Be sure to look out for this record on some end of the year lists.
Listen to Renegade