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Who’s ‘Nils Sjöberg’? One of Rihanna’s big hits was written by this pop star under a fake name

(NEXSTAR) — As Rihanna takes the halftime stage for Sunday’s Super Bowl LVII, it’s the perfect time to take a deep dive into her nearly 20-year discography. (Her first album was released in 2005.) As you come across the superstar’s 2016 single “This Is What You Came For,” with Scottish DJ Calvin Harris, you may be surprised to learn one of pop music’s other biggest superstar women helped pen the song.

But she wasn’t originally listed on the credits for the dance track.

Instead, Harris and someone named “Nils Sjöberg” were credited as the songwriters. The mystery writer went unnoticed for a short while before reports surfaced that Sjöberg was none other than Harris’ former girlfriend, Taylor Swift.

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Both Harris and Swift later confirmed it.

Swift, now 33, discussed her reasoning at the time, and then again in a November 2020 conversation with music legend Paul McCartney for Rolling Stone. As Swift explained, she hadn’t wanted her relationship with Harris to overshadow the song.

“I wrote under the name Nils Sjöberg because those are two of the most popular names of Swedish males,” Swift told McCartney. “And nobody knew for a while. I remembered always hearing that when Prince wrote ‘Manic Monday,’ they didn’t reveal it for a couple of months.”

But the story doesn’t stop there. (Warning: Relationship drama ahead.)

Taylor Swift, right, hugs Calvin Harris after winning the award for Top Billboard 200 album for “1989” at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas in 2015. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
By the time “This Is What You Came For” hit radio, both Swift and Harris had broken up after about a year of dating, as timelined by Cosmopolitan and confirmed in 2016 by both stars via Twitter. In a tweet, Harris addressed the split, saying “the only truth is that a relationship came to an end and what remains is a huge amount of love and respect.” Swift retweeted the message.

But several months of tension between the pair would follow, especially after Swift soon began dating actor Tom Hiddleston.

It was widely speculated — though never publicly discussed by any involved — that the Swift-Harris relationship may have ended due to the Swift-Hiddleston relationship.

Long story made short: Harris and Swift scrubbed photos and mentions of each other from social media and unfollowed each other. Then, when news of the Swift’s “This Is What You Came For” penmanship surfaced, Harris seemingly downplayed Swift’s involvement in the song, tweeting: “I wrote the music, produced the song, arranged it and cut the vocals though.”

As Vanity Fair explains, after Harris’ assumed slight, a Swift representative responded with a seeming implication that Swift alone was responsible for the hit, saying: “Taylor Swift wrote ‘This Is What You Came For’ under the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg.”

In yet another (now deleted) tweet, Harris responded to the statement by saying, “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.”

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While both Harris and Swift would follow up the social media barbs with songs that appearing to take jabs at each other (Swift’s 2017 album “Reputation” is believed to contain many references), the drama over “This Is What You Came For” appeared to die here.

Coincidentally, “Nils Sjöberg” was killed off in the video for Swift’s 2017 single “Look What You Made Me Do.” Shortly after, Harris addressed the song’s aftermath, telling British GQ the online drama was “completely the wrong instinct. I was protecting what I see as my one talent in the world being belittled. … Now I see that Twitter thing as a result of me succumbing to pressure. It took me a minute to realize that none of that matters.”

Ultimately, “This Is What You Came For” reached No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, though it was No. 1 on two other Billboard dance charts. It reached Nno. 1 chart status in 12 other countries, including Harris’ native Scotland.

Official credits for the song have since been updated with Swift’s real name.

Though it just missed the top spot in the U.S., the song nevertheless helped continue Rihanna’s long stretch of chart smashes. Altogether, Rihanna has won nine Grammy Awards and dozens of other industry accolades. Come March 12, she could earn her first Academy Award, with her song “Lift Me Up” from 2022’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” nominated for Best Original Song at the 95th annual ceremony.

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