Producers and Mix Engineers and Writers Oh My!

grammy award statuetteThe Grammys are right around the corner and the nominations are in.  We all know who the nominations are for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best New Artist, but how many of you know who the Producer of the Year, Non-Classical or Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical?  These artists are just as important as the famous singers and bands we see plastered all over televisions,  in magazines, and at concerts.  These behind the scenes superheroes sometimes do it all.  They are the project managers of an album coordinating the right sound for the artist, organizing song structure, assisting with the writing process, and mixing and mastering the album that we here once it’s released.  Some producers become the A&R person developing and growing an artists sound or even taking them in a new direction or crossing over genres like Taylor Swift did this year with Max Martin and Shellback.

There are six legendary producers nominated for the 2015 Grammy who include Paul Epworth, John Hill, Jay Joyce, Greg Kurstin, and Max Martin.  Epworth worked with ‘Pendulum’ (FKA Twigs) and ‘Queenie Eye,’ ‘Road,’ and ‘Save Us’ (Paul McCartney) in 2014 and has worked with other prominent artists such as Adele, Coldplay, Lana Del Ray, Foster the People, and Bruno Mars.  In 2012 he won the Grammy for Producer of the Year for his work on Adele’s album ’21.’

John Hill worked on one of my favorite albums this year ‘Strange Desires’ by the Bleachers.  Jack Antonoff, lead singer and songwriter of the Bleachers and the lead guitarist of the band Fun created a true masterpiece with producer John Hill.  The lyrics and the 80s type music is something that really stands out of the bubble gum pop that is predominant in today’s music culture.  On this album alone I think Hill should get the Grammy, but I’m a little bias.  Hill has also worked with artists Eminem ‘Guts Over Fear,’ Shakira ‘Can’t Remember to Forget You,’ and Christina Perri’s ‘Burning Gold.’  In the past he has also worked with Wu Tang, Nas, Kings of Leon, Pink, and Natasha Bedingfield.

Jay Joyce has produced for Cage the Elephant, Sleeper Agent, Eric Church, and Thomas Rhett, while Greg Kurstin produced some of the power artists this year such as Ellie Goulding, Sia’s ‘Chandelier,’ Lana Del Ray, and Lily Allen.  Finally there is superstar producer Max Martin who has produced and wrote some of the catchy number 1s that we have heard all over the radio over the last 2 decades.  In 2014 he produced and assisted in writing with ‘Bang Bang’ with Ariana Grande, Jessie J, and Nicki Minaj, as well as ‘Dark Horse’ and ‘Unconditionally’ (Katy Perry), Problem (Ariana Grande and Iggy Alzala), and ‘Shake It Off’ (Taylor Swift).  Martin also won the 2014 ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Award, so who knows maybe the 2014 Grammy lies in his future.

Who ever wins Album of the Year, Record of the Year, or Best New Artist everyone will know because sales will go through the roof and iTunes will be flooded with a new top song and top album list as winners are announced.  Don’t be afraid to look outside the box and check out what these producers and writers are working on; their work could become your next favorite song.  It’s hard to read liner notes now a days, but google who worked on an album, it might surprise you how many of these producers have a hand in so many different genres of music.  They are the final sound of an album and without there guidance and understanding of sound, there would be no final cut.

What Makes A Hit Song?

MixBoard

What makes a hit song?  For the past four days I have been listening to the hottest hits from the 80s, 90s, 00s, and today to try and see if any pattern emerged, but each decade had it’s own focus of popularity from 80s hair bands to 90s grunge, garage bands and boys bands to 00s pop/ punk artists.  What I discovered is that many producers and writers from past decades are still writing and producing hits for today’s artists and a lot of them have work with one another in some capacity; either producing on the same album or even on the same hit song.

First, you have Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins.  He worked on Brandy and Monica’s ‘Boy is Mine’ in 1998, Destiny’s Child’s ‘Say My Name’ in 1999 as well as with Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Janet and Michael Jackson, and most recently on Ariana Grande’s new album My Everything.  Another well-known producer and writer is Max Martin.  Think of the most popular pop songs from the 90s through today, Max Martin probably was involved as either a writer, producer, or both.  He worked on Ace of Base’s ‘I Saw the Sign,’ Britney Spears ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time‘ to today’s artists such as Maroon 5’s ‘One More Night‘ to Taylor Swift’s current hit ‘Blank Space.’  I have mostly touched on pop and R&B producers but what about rock?  Well, for Rock it seems that Desmond Child is your man.  He has worked with artist such as Aerosmith, Jon Bon Jovi, Chicago, Joan Jett, and KISS, but he also has crossed over into the pop genre with artists such as Katy Perry, Jesse McCarthy, and Ricky Martin (Click here for hit producer playlist).

I could continue to give you a list of other reputable producers that have helped created some of the most recognized music  of yesterday and today, but let’s switch back to my original question and that is “What Makes A Hit Song?”  What I have discovered is it is an artist’s team (artistic and business), how the mass public relates, and what is currently the popular genre in today’s youth.  The teenage years are when you start to find yourself, discover who you are as a person, extremely emotional, as well as being more open-minded to music.  The fans and the branding are what guides the success of the next superstar.

So, what about the artists that have an amazing sound, but don’t have a Billboard hit?  In the music industry, if you have become popular in America you have “made it” in the industry, but what about those bands that have an amazing sound and their lyrics are like poetry?  Mariana’s Trench is one of those bands.  They were signed to Cherrytree Records (associated with Interscope Records) in 2013.  Mariana’s Trench has a huge following in their home country (Canada) selling out arena tours, as well as become a multi-platnium and award winning artist, but in the United States they haven’t even touched the Billboard Charts as a band.  It should just be all about the music.  If you have great music then it should be recognized on all levels, in every country, but unfortunately that is not how business works.  It seems to come back to branding and building an image as well as how that image is perceived by the fans.  Continue to discover new music.  Check out other artists that your friends are listening to, and become a promotional fan for a new artist that you have created a passion for in music.

Check a Marianas Trench Playlist here, as well as other music lead singer and guitarist Josh Ramsey has done collaboratively written and produced with other artists.