By now, you’ve attended enough barbecues and beach trips to notice one of this summer’s catchier power ballads surfing the airwaves—and in truth, power is exactly the right word to describe the story behind the pop earworm.
“Fight Song” marks a major debut for Rachel Platten, a 34-year-old singer who was already steadily climbing the charts before a major endorsement from Taylor Swift at the pop star’s June 6 concert sent Platten into the skies. Swift brought Platten onstage to perform a duet version of “Fight Song,” and the crowd of 50,000 strong went wild. “She was very sweet and kind and very aware of the song, and we dove right into talking about its meaning and empowerment,” recalls Platten.
But Swift’s blessing is merely a late addition to the support that Platten’s unstoppable smash has drummed up on its own. Good Morning America used the song in an inspirational campaign, sparking messages of enthusiasm by cheerleaders and cancer patients alike, all taking to social media to claim Platten’s song as their own personal themes of endurance.
“The first time it happened, a woman who had cancer sent an email to her family [saying], ‘I have three months to live, but I don’t want you to be sad. I want you to know this is how I feel, and this song is my anthem,” says an emotional Platten. “I knew the song was helping me, but seeing what a difference it had had on this woman’s life made me realize there was something to this song. People need to hear this, it’s connecting to people’s lives. This is going to help.”
The song appeared on The Bigger Loser and Pretty Little Liars back in 2014 and popped again when Platten performed it at the Radio Disney Music Awards last April. When the trailer for CBS’s Supergirl dropped in late May and sent the Internet soaring, “Fight Song” underscored the emotional second half. Now it’s backing a national Ford commercial.
“Weight loss, sports, a superhero thing and a car…I think life is difficult, and we need a reminder of our strength,” says Platten. “Everything’s been so serendipitous, that things are just happening in the perfect order.” Her social media presence has notched up in the weeks since Swift took notice, but for Platten, the messages of endurance are what she gauges as the real success. “It’s an empowerment anthem, and everyone’s being reminded.”
The song’s origins are pulled directly from Platten’s underdog efforts trying to break into the music industry. After gigging around New York City for years, her 2011 track “1,000 Ships” caught interest of major labels, but it peaked on the charts and she was subsequently dropped. “It was one of the darkest periods I’ve gone through, being told I have a shot and then it being pulled out from under me,” she says. “And I was 29 and I thought, ‘This is done. I don’t have any time left.’ In this industry, there’s no pop artist that can make it past 30.”
“Fight Song” was born during that time, and Platten spent a year and a half writing the song before convincing producers to get on board. Platten’s success could be attributed to her powerful message, her famous new friend, or the groundswell of support she’s getting from listeners who are just eager to turn up the volume and sing along this summer. They’ll do it en masse when Platten hits the road in July with Colbie Cailat and Christina Perri, or when the singer’s debut album (which she says is just about done) hits shelves. Either way, Platten hopes fans will be singing their emotions at the top of their lungs, whatever they may be. “Whether it’s pain or joy or empowerment, I just want my music to help people experience it.”