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Midnights Co-Producer Sounwave Says ‘Karma’ Was a ‘Last-Minute Hail Mary’ He Sent Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s Midnights has been billed as the first truly collaborative album she’s made with producer Jack Antonoff, but the LP and the extended 3am version feature plenty of other names, both old and new in the Swift realm. One of those is Mark Anthony Spears, a.k.a. Sounwave, who collaborated on three tracks with Swift and Antonoff. 

Sounwave first cut his teeth as a key member of Top Daw Entertainment, where he worked with Kendrick Lamar and other TDE heavyweights since 2011. He won a Grammy for “Alright” in 2015 and nabbed an Oscar nomination for Black Panther’s “All the Stars.”

Since then, he’s been teaming up with other major names in pop and rap, like Beyoncé, FKA Twigs, and Chloe x Halle. He eventually struck up a friendship with Antonoff, with whom he and fellow producer/songwriter Sam Dew formed the trio Red Hearse. Antonoff ended up pulling Sounwave into the Lover sessions, and they worked on the Britpop-inspired track “London Boy” together.

“Me and Jack, we keep each other informed on any project we’re working on,” Spears tells Rolling Stone. “We usually take at least a week out of the year just to create with no goal in mind. That’s basically how Red Hearse was created.”

Before Antonoff began to work on Swift’s tenth album, he was cooking up tracks with Spears, Dew, and Zoë Kravitz. (Kravitz revealed earlier this year that she is currently working on her debut solo album with Antonoff). During a brainstorming session, the quartet put together a track that would eventually become “Lavender Haze.”

“It was not specifically meant for anything,” he recalls. “That one was me going through sounds for 15 minutes and eventually hitting one button by accident. Jack’s eyes lit up and was like ‘What was that?’It just happened to be this small little loop that my guy Jahaan [Sweet, fellow TDE producer] sent me a while back.”

Spears twisted up the loop and they added a bunch of effects to make it sound the way it does now. “Sam went in with the melodies. Zoë is actually a creative genius. She’s not just a phenomenal actor. Her ability to create different sonics and find different melodies is next level.” 

A few months later, Antonoff reached out to Spears, Dew, and Kravitz to see if he could pitch the song to Swift, who loved it immediately. She wrote lyrics inspired by a Mad Men scene, numerous tabloid rumors and online gossip about her relationship status, and “1950s expectations.”

“When Jack brought us in the hear for the first time, all our mouths dropped. She took it to a whole new world and made it her own. She created different pockets we did not hear.”

“Glitch,” one of the bonus songs on the Midnights (3am) edition, was born from the same studio session as “Lavender Haze.” The bubbly “Karma” came later, when Antonoff reached out to Spears for any other ideas he may have to contribute to the album and its synth-pop vision.

“‘Karma’ was just a last-minute Hail Mary,” Spears says. “I remembered I was working with my guy Keanu [Beats] and had something that was too perfect not to send to her. As soon as I sent it, Jack was instantly like ‘This is the one. Playing it for Taylor now. We’re going in on it.’ The next day, I heard the final product with her vocals on it.”

While it’s still too early to tell which songs will be the runaway successes from the album, it’s clear “Karma” has struck a chord on TikTok, nearing 20,000 videos for the official sound with only a few days under its belt.

“Such a fun song! It instantly rings up and you just feel joy inside. And the messaging is so cool,” Spears says.

Spears only heard a few other songs from the LP prior to its officially release; Antonoff had sent over a sampling of what him and Swift had made so Spears had a sense of the sound they were going for when he went to reproduce the beats following the lyric and vocal additions. He was impressed by the sound, concept and surprise drop of seven extra tracks. He even has favorites already.

“Right now I’m going back and forth from ‘Anti-Hero’ and ‘Glitch.’ Not to toot my own horn, but I like the weirdness of ‘Glitch.’ The breakdown part is everything it was meant to be. This is so amazing to me.”

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