The other day Jason put a post on Kottke.org called How to make a star. I’d had one of these links up in the tabs for a couple months, and this other one I just found today, but both are related to star making.
From August of 1999 (via Stellar), a profile of Ray Manzella, something of a blonde-maker. He helped make Vanna White, Jenny McCarthy, and Pamela Anderson stars. The article mentions 3 women he thinks will be stars. I’d never heard of any of them, but according to Google, two of the three have had fairly successful careers (and one is married to baseball player Scott Podsednik). The other one doesn’t seem to have a Google record at all.
Ray’s a very handsome man. When people meet him, they often try to guess which movie star he looks like-Roy Scheider, Michael Douglas, Ted Danson, George Hamilton? Maybe that’s why this feels so innocent, so wholesome, like he’s just cheering on the team. He beams down at the photos. Any one of them might be the next Vanna, the next Pamela, the next Jenny, the next perfect Ray Manzella hybrid that becomes not just an actress but an icon you can cross-promote from movies to books to dolls to toothpaste to infomercials. They sold a million Vanna White dolls on the Home Shopping Network-a million dolls! “These girls jump off the page,” he says. “They’re channelstoppers, every one of them. If all three make it, it wouldn’t surprise me. If not, I’m gonna quit the business.”
In March, John Seabrook wrote about Rihanna’s song making team in the New Yorker, really about pop music in general. There’s a TON of interesting stuff in this story.
Most of the songs played on Top Forty radio are collaborations between producers like Stargate and â€œtop lineâ€ writers like Ester Dean. The producers compose the chord progressions, program the beats, and arrange the â€œsynths,â€ 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. â€œItâ€™s not enough to have one hook anymore,â€ Jay Brown, the president of Roc Nation, and Deanâ€™s manager, told me recently. â€œYouâ€™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.â€ The reason, he explained, is that â€œpeople on average give a song seven seconds on the radio before they change the channel, and you got to hook them.â€
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 artistâ€™s style. Sometimes producers send out tracks to more than one top-line writer, which can cause problems. In 2009, both BeyoncÃ© and Kelly Clarkson had hits (BeyoncÃ©â€™s â€œHalo,â€ which charted in April, and Clarksonâ€™s â€œAlready Gone,â€ which charted in August) that were created from the same track, by Ryan Tedder. Clarkson wrote her own top line, while BeyoncÃ© shared a credit with Evan Bogart. Tedder had neglected to tell the artists that he was double-dipping, and when Clarkson heard â€œHaloâ€ and realized what had happened she tried to stop â€œAlready Goneâ€ from being released as a single, because she feared the public would think she had copied BeyoncÃ©â€™s hit. But nobody cared, or perhaps even noticed; â€œAlready Goneâ€ became just as big a hit.