This song features Rihanna, who belts out the lyrics over Calvin Harris' bubbly arrangement. The pair have worked together before, scoring hits with "We Found Love
" and "Where Have You Been
Calvin Harris originally intended for the song to go Rihanna's Anti album. He told Rickie, Melvin and Charlie on KISS FM's breakfast show. "I was playing it to her for [her] album and she said, 'I don't really think it suits my album.' I went, 'Ah OK, no worries.' And then she said, 'But I'd do it as a feature'. I'm like, 'What?!'"
"'OK, that's incredible,' you know, 'thank you so much,' and then when she was done with her album, she recorded this for me."
The song was debuted on the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show on April 29, 2016. Harris admitted Rihanna hadn't heard the final mix until he played it to her at Coachella a fortnight previously. (Rihanna had made a surprise appearance at the California music festival when she joined Harris to perform "We Found Love"). Harris told the show's host Nick Grimshaw:
"She was like 'this is sick.' It was great. It was the first time anything's happened like that with me when I sit with the artist and nervous to play it to her because I changed so many bits from when she heard it, like musically. I'll never forget that actually, sitting in the trailer playing it and seeing the vibe hitting her, she was into it. It was amazing."
One of the songwriters is a certain Nils Sjoberg. It was later revealed that the mystery contributor was in fact Taylor Swift, who penned the song and recorded a demo on her iPhone before sending it to her then-boyfriend, Calvin Harris. She also recorded backing vocals for the track.
Harris and Swift had feared that their status as a celebrity couple might overshadow the song, which was why Swift hid under the Swedish-sounding pseudonym.
During a radio interview with Ryan Seacrest, shortly after the song's release, Harris was asked if he planned to collaborate with Swift.
"You know we haven't even spoken about it," he replied. "I can't see it happening though."
According to TMZ
, this exchange was the breaking point in their relationship, as Swift felt disrespected, and they broke up shortly afterwards.
Harris responded to TMZ's story by defending his contribution to the song: "I wrote the music, produced the song, arranged it and cut the vocals. Initially she wanted it kept secret, hence the pseudonym... I figure if you're happy in your new relationship you should focus on that instead of trying to tear your ex bf down for something to do."
He also took a jab at Swift by referencing the bad blood
between her and Katy Perry, tweeting "I know you're off tour and you need someone new to try and bury like Katy ETC but I'm not that guy, sorry. I won't allow it."
Following Harris' confirmation that Swift worked on the song, the BMI online database officially credited the American songstress as a "Songwriter/Composer" on the track under her birth name. BMI also added the Taylor Swift Music company as publishers alongside Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, who handle Harris' publishing.
Calvin Harris was desperate to get Rihanna's vocals, but getting the Bajan superstar on his song didn't prove to be easy. Eventually, the Scottish DJ ended up flying out of New York at the end of a trying day, with the recording in a brown bag. He recalled to Zane Lowe on Beats 1:
"She was gonna do it in LA. She didn't, she couldn't. She had to finish her album. So it got pushed back a couple months and then there was a day in New York, or like some hours in New York that she had free because she was on tour at the time as well. I said well OK we didn't get the vocal last time, I'm gonna fly over to New York and just make sure that I get it because I really want it today. This is the only day she has on tour if it's not today it's another two months, so can I come over.
So I checked into the Mercer and I waited for her engineer to call me. Her engineer didn't call me [laughs] and then I was texting him and I was like 'is she there yet' she wasn't there yet. In the end it was four am I fell asleep. I woke up at like eight to three texts from him and he was like 'we got it. It's great, let me get everything together for you. And you can come pick it up tomorrow.'
So he finished at two, my flight was at four. We left the hotel, I had this brown bag with a hard drive in it. We drove to the studio, we heard the vocal once. I'm like 'that's great' they put it on the hard drive, I put it in my bag, we drive around the corner to the helipad, we take off in the helicopter to the airport and I have this priceless vocal in my brown bag. Get on the plane, I sat it there opposite me in the seat, I looked at it and I was just like that was like a bank heist. That felt incredible, knowing that I had the most important vocals that I've ever got and it felt amazing. I would've waited six months for it."
Taylor Swift surprised fans on October 22, 2016, when she performed a stripped-down version of the track live in concert at her Formula 1 Grand Prix concert in Austin, Texas. "I've never performed this song live before," she told the crowd. "But if you know it, maybe you can sing along and I can get to know what that feels like... to have it sung back to me."
UK Prime Minister Theresa May arrived on stage to the sound of this song prior to her speech at the 2017 Conservative conference. Harris condemned their use of his music, saying it was "not approved." He added: "I do not support nor condone happy songs being played at such a sad event."