A Look Inside Today’s Pop Music Machine (BEWARE!)

Cynical about Top 40 music?  You have every right to be.  From an excellent article in the New Yorker:

Most of the songs played on Top Forty radio are collaborations between producers like Stargate and “top line” writers like Ester Dean. The producers compose the chord progressions, program the beats, and arrange the “synths,” or computer-made instrumental sounds; the top-liners come up with primary melodies, lyrics, and the all-important hooks, the ear-friendly musical phrases that lock you into the song.

“It’s not enough to have one hook anymore,” Jay Brown, the president of Roc Nation, and Dean’s manager, told me recently. “You’ve got to have a hook in the intro, a hook in the pre-chorus, a hook in the chorus, and a hook in the bridge.” The reason, he explained, is that “people on average give a song seven seconds on the radio before they change the channel, and you got to hook them.”

The top-liner is usually a singer, too, and often provides the vocal for the demo, a working draft of the song. If the song is for a particular artist, the top-liner may sing the demo in that artist’s style. Sometimes producers send out tracks to more than one top-line writer, which can cause problems. In 2009, both Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson had hits (Beyoncé’s “Halo,” which charted in April, and Clarkson’s “Already Gone,” which charted in August) that were created from the same track, by Ryan Tedder. Clarkson wrote her own top line, while Beyoncé shared a credit with Evan Bogart.

Tedder had neglected to tell the artists that he was double-dipping, and when Clarkson heard “Halo” and realized what had happened she tried to stop “Already Gone” from being released as a single, because she feared the public would think she had copied Beyoncé’s hit. But nobody cared, or perhaps even noticed; “Already Gone” became just as big a hit.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/03/26/120326fa_fact_seabrook#ixzz1qJwUyh9x

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “A Look Inside Today’s Pop Music Machine (BEWARE!)

  • March 27, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    These people and their formal make me sick. I really wish that something could be done to remove this train of thought but sadly the money is far too good for them to change this. I been a DJ in the city of Toronto for 16yrs and I am happy to say that I don't not & will not play any of this crap. Thank goodness for the interweb. Because of it, people how are sick and tired of being fed this "music" have been able to find bands that try. I look forward to the day when Pop music flips back to being something worth caring about again. Sincerely Osaze. Cheers.

  • March 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    The author of the article writes:

    "How did this happen? How did mainstream rock, once the source of the catchiest hooks in popular music, become robotic, unimaginative, and predictable, while pop, always the soul of artifice, came to seem creative, experimental, and alive?"

    I think he has it backwards, it's actually Top 40 pop music that's "robotic, unimaginative, and predictable"


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