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The Ringer
In the November 23 newsletter:
Welcome to a special edition of our newsletter dedicated to Every Single Album, a podcast with Nora Princiotti and Nathan Hubbard—two music superfans who examine the careers of some of our most iconic pop stars by going through every single one of their albums. Nora and Nathan first covered Taylor Swift and now they're diving into Adele's discography, starting with 30 and following with her three other iconic albums.
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A "Brief" Q&A With Nora and Nathan:

Editor's note: We asked Nora and Nathan to each come up with three questions for the other person to answer. The following Q&A is their conversation.


NORA PRINCIOTTI: So, Nathan, I’ll start with the central question of our relationship and of Every Single Album’s origin: How did we become friends again?

NATHAN HUBBARD: Well, we started out as enemies. Bill Simmons connected us on a text thread because we were the two people in his life (other than his daughter) who relentlessly talked to him about Taylor Swift. I think he was trying to get us to have a Swift-off. It almost worked at first.

NORA: I seem to recall you threatening to hack into my social accounts and pretend to be a Katy Perry stan.

NATHAN: I’m glad it didn’t come to that. But what transpired instead was a 10,000-word text thread through the course of the pandemic and quarantine, where we got to experience the release of Folklore, the Long Pond sessions, and Evermore together as pen pals. Taylor just kept giving us reasons to write each other, and at some point Bill insisted we stop texting and turn on the microphones. During a time in which everyone was cut off from each other, we managed to use Taylor as a vehicle to build a friendship and find connection. And the feedback to the pod suggested we weren’t the only ones!

NORA: Taylor Swift. Bringing people together.

NATHAN: So, we’ve now made over 24 hours of Taylor content together but we’ve only met twice in person. What did you not already know about me that you only learned when we hung out?

NORA: I mean, you don’t smell *great* ...

NATHAN: The Katy Perry hack is still on the table.

NORA: Just kidding. First of all, I’ve learned that you’re a great hugger just like Taylor! You’re also like 9 feet tall, which you don’t get on Zoom. Really, though, I learned that if you make dozens of hours of Taylor content with someone and talk about music you love and interesting careers and growing up, you’ll get to know someone pretty well. When we visited in L.A. we both said goodbye fairly casually because it didn’t feel like the first time we’d hung out, or something we wouldn’t be doing again all that quickly. And then we both had to call each other after and say that it was so fun and exciting to finally meet in real life. There is one more thing I learned that I need to mention though.

NATHAN: Here it comes.

NORA: You’re afraid of straws. Terrified.

NATHAN: I am not. I just don’t like them and I don’t need the plastic.

NORA: Do not try to make this about the whales. A straw of any material shakes you to your core. When we met for the first time this summer we got smoothies. When we’d finished them you kindly took my cup to the recycling bin with yours, but you held it at arm’s length to keep the straw as far away as possible.

NATHAN: And this is the thanks I get, apparently.

NORA: I’m sorry, but the people need to know. But back to the podcast. Other than reading an endless stream of my Taylor thoughts, what’s been your favorite part about our ESA: TS process, and what are you most excited about for Adele?

NATHAN: With Taylor, there is just so much detail; she has lived all of her celebrity life in the online space. I’ve loved the process of sifting through the complexity of each era—from her growth as an artist, a businessperson, and a human being—and trying to synthesize it into a narrative. At the end of the day, I think my favorite part has been interacting with the fan base. The song draft truly took on a life of its own, and it was an idea we threw in at the last minute. We are still getting sent draft results for us to pick a winner. But Taylor is a very different creature than Adele. I have spent a lot of time marveling at the talent of Adele, without putting as much thought into her story and the richness of the meaning behind her songs. So I’m listening to her in a whole new way because of ESA. It’s unearthed completely new context to her artistry. I’ll ask you something similar, what was your favorite moment from all of our ESA: Taylor Swift podcasts?

NORA: Other than when I schooled you in our song draft?

NATHAN: Whatever, I got “Better Man,” and I’m holding “New Romantics” hostage from you forever.

NORA: Our Speak Now episode might have been my favorite. It’s such an underrated Taylor Swift album and diving into those songs with you was really fun. One of the themes we got into a lot on the pod was that when Taylor reaches the limit of what she can do with a certain collaborator or within a certain style she always pushes herself to expand her boundaries and do more. I love that we weave in music, business, and personal factors into all our conversations, but this podcast was born out of us loving these songs and we got to really break down a lot of those on that episode. Also, we got to talk about the movie Valentine’s Day.

NATHAN: You love that movie.

NORA: It was the height of Taylor Lautner’s career. Beyond a specific episode, though, the best part of doing this show has been talking to the people who listen to it. I’ve been having an ongoing conversation about Taylor Swift in my head for a decade-plus now. We became Taylor pen pals and I got to start having it with, you know, a real person. And now we get to have it with so many other people and that’s really awesome. I’ve always felt really lucky in my work to get to have a relationship with an audience or readers and to get to inhabit a space where people are, hopefully, learning about and being entertained by something they love. This one we really got to build, so it makes that connection all the more special to me. I’m excited to do that with Adele and other artists, too. Sorry this got sappy!

NATHAN: It’s because you were thinking about your favorite movie. Taylor Lautner movies make you emotional.

NORA: You’re lashing out because you’re still salty about the song draft. I’ll move us on: If you were to drop a Taylor-style Easter egg about anything you want, what would it be and how would you drop it?

NATHAN: We disagree about the results of that draft, but one thing we definitely agree on is our love for dogs. And you know this, but I rescued a puppy this year and named him August. He makes me happier than Jack Antonoff during the Long Pond sessions. That feels like a pretty giant Easter egg omelette.

NORA: AUGGIE!!!!!

NATHAN: OK, last one, as a nod to your “other job” as an NFL reporter. Who would be the better NFL quarterback between Taylor and Adele, what would they be great at, and what would be the right defensive strategy to play against them?

NORA: Ultimately, it’s Taylor, because she has more ways to beat you. I’m sorry to make this comparison, but she’s Tom Brady. Not the most physically gifted but fundamentally solid, adaptable, and she just keeps working. If you think about it, Taylor kind of started as a game manager—in her country-pop lane, not doing too much—but she’s just added more and more elements over time and just keeps winning. Adele is like Lamar Jackson. She’s got incredible physical ability, and the challenge is always finding the right balance between not boxing that in while still creating a structure within which it can thrive. Lamar is the most-blitzed quarterback in the NFL right now, and that’s what you do against Adele, too: bring pressure, try to get her out of what makes her great. She’s going to beat it a lot of the time anyway, though. Taylor … there’s no scheme she can’t beat, because sometimes she’s weak on an opening drive. Hope you can goad her into a mistake or two—Brady doesn’t throw a lot of picks but some of the ones he does throw are head-scratchers. And for goodness’s sake, do not give her bulletin board material.

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“Sometimes the road less traveled is the road best left behind.”
—Adele
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