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How Are Top Forty Songs Made?

How Are Top Forty Songs Made?

An interesting article from the New Yorker, “The Song Machine: the hitmakers behind Rihanna” by John Seabrook runs through the closed-loop approach to Top Forty radio.

Ester Dean is one of the “top-liners” mentioned.  With a number of hits to her credit, she sings her demos and writes the lyrics.  She’s a 5-time Grammy winner and written Top Forty songs for Beyonce, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Usher and Chris Brown among others.

And while she’s part of the “process” she’s a talented writer who’s found a niche morphing into the sound and persona of those she writes songs for – not an easy task to do consistently.


Ester Dean “What’s My Name” Demo



It also mentions an interesting incident in 2009 when Kelly Clarkson claimed the track Ryan Tedder created for Beyoncé’s “Halo” (as yet un-released) was submitted to her as well.  The result of the one (or two tracks) was “Halo” from Beyonce (shared a credit with Evan Bogart), and “Already Gone” from Kelly Clarkson (her own writer). Clarkson tried to stop “Already Gone” from being released as a single for fear of the public thinking she had copied the Beyonce song, but it was too late.

In the end, listeners didn’t care.  Maybe the whole incident speaks more to how a formulaic approach works just fine for Top Forty songs and radio listeners who aren’t really listening, and that Kelly Clarkson has songwriting integrity we should admire.

Regardless – give both a listen and decide for yourself.


Top Forty Songs: Beyonce’s “Halo”



Top Forty Songs: Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone”



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