The Primer: Five Top Songwriters - Aug 27, 2007
"The hit song was clearly not a fluke, as over the following year Dennis clocked up three other number ones"
In this HitQuarters special, we introduce to you the work of some of the world's leading songwriters.
Find out who is behind some of the biggest international hits of the last decades, with a stratling track record of writing for Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, Pussycat Dolls, Jesicca Simpson, Backstreet Boys, Pink, Anastacia, Boyzone...and many more!
Cathy Dennis began her career as an acclaimed soulful pop diva but she has since become one the most influential, prolific and successful songwriters in the industry, penning hits for such artists as Britney Spears, The Spice Girls, Celine Dion and Kelly Clarkson.
Norwich, England-born Dennis began her performing career at the age of 13 as a singer with her father’s big band. Later when she was singing as part of a cover group she was spotted by music impresario Simon Fuller. A recording contract with Polydor Records followed.
Although long in gestation, her debut album proved very popular on its release in 1990, spawning three Billboard top ten hits – including ‘C’mon and Get My Love’ and ‘Just Another Dream’ - and making her the US’ biggest selling UK artist of 1991.
Two further albums followed, and with them minor hits such as ‘Why’ and ‘Irresistible’, but Dennis was becoming disenchanted with performing and when the second, her most personal collection, ‘Am I That Kinda Girl?’ proved a commercial disappointment she decided to give up her singing career indefinitely and instead concentrate on writing and producing songs for Fuller’s 19 Productions.
The move proved a shrewd one as Fuller’s company would hit pay dirt in the late ‘90s with S-Club 7 and the Spice Girls and then in producing the talent-search TV shows Pop Idol (UK) and American Idol (US).
In 2001 Dennis achieved her major breakthrough hit. Kylie’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ was a huge international smash, reaching No.1 in 15 countries and earning the songwriter three Ivor Novello awards.
The hit song was clearly not a fluke, as over the following year Dennis clocked up three other number ones; S-Club’s ‘Have You Ever’, Will Young’s ‘Anything Is Possible’ and Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Before Your Love’. Pop Idol winner Young’s hit proved to be the fastest selling debut single of all time and the 12th biggest selling song in UK’s all time charts.
In 2003 the hit songs continued when her ‘Sweet Dreams for My LA-Ex’ gave former S-Clubber Rachel Stevens a massive solo smash. The year also saw her contribute tracks to Kylie’s ‘Body Language’ album, and the two multi-million-selling debut LPs from Delta Goodrem and Clay Aiken.
The following year Dennis’ contribution to Britney Spears’ No.1 album ‘In The Zone’ resulted in the hit ‘Toxic’, which has sold over 800,000 copies worldwide.
Franne Golde is an acclaimed award-winning music writer and producer whose songs have appeared on more than 90 Million records worldwide and featured on some of the biggest selling soundtracks of all time.
Golde’s career in the music industry found its feet when, as a regular occupant of a rented studio at the famous Chess Studios in Chicago she was taken under the wing of the legendary R&B artists, producers and songwriters who recorded there.
Her first band received great local notice and by the mid-‘70s Golde was making solo records for Atlantic Records and later Epic/Portrait. Her albums featured songs she co-wrote with luminaries such as Albert Hammond and Tom Snow.
In the early ‘80s Golde’s songwriting partner Carole Bayer Sager introduced her to legendary producer Richard Perry, who was impressed enough by the young writer to convince her to leave her hometown of Chicago and sign with Braintree Music, his Los Angeles-based publishing company.
Golde began to establish her songwriting credentials with the co-authorship of ‘Nightshift’, the US and UK Top 10 smash for the Commodores, and the song ‘Don’t Look Any Further’, a classic that would become a modest 1984 R&B chart hit for Dennis Edwards, and then go on to inspire jazz, reggae and soul interpretations and regular sampling by numerous dance and hip-hop acts.
Golde’s songs also began to feature on some of the biggest soundtracks of the next decade, including the Grammy Award-winning The Bodyguard, and multi platinum albums Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II and Selena, which featured her hit song ‘Dreaming Of You’.
In addition to this Golde worked on the major TV series Miami Vice and Touched by An Angel, which included the Kinneys’ country hit single ‘Somebody’s Out There Watching’.
More recently her works have appeared on Jessica Simpson’s multi-platinum album ‘In This Skin’, Christina Aguilera’s 1999 debut (‘So Emotional’) and her Grammy Award winning Latin CD ‘Mi Reflejo’ (‘El Beso Del Final’).
Additionally she has shown her skills still reach beyond the pop mainstream with credits on Kellie Coffey's debut country album and Tammy Cochran’s single ‘Love Won’t Let Me’, a Top 40 hit on the country chart.
With her 2005 Pussycat Dolls’ UK No.1 and US Top 1o hit song ‘Stickwitu’, Franne Golde has shown that her ability to pen commercial pop hits remains undimmed after over 25 years of professional songwriting.
Billy Mann (William Hort Erlichman) is one of the world’s leading songwriters and producers. His in-demand talents have produced hits for Pink, Jessica Simpson, Hall & Oates amongst many others, as well as four international Grammies.
Mann was raised in Philadelphia and the city’s distinctive musical culture had a profound influence on the impressionable young artist, particularly the blue-eyed soul of Hall & Oates and the Philly Soul of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
His life in music began when as a child he learnt the piano, before moving on to bass, flute and guitar. From then on music would dominate his life; as a teenager he would be writing songs, singing in a gospel choir, and performing in local bands all whilst studying vocal music and creative writing.
An impressive performance at the Philadelphia Music Awards, led to an important encounter between the teenage Mann and Jazz legend Grover Washington Jr. , who inspired the young artist to pursue his ambitions at all costs.
Mann complied and through sheer determination and hard work – performing on street corners and at open mike nights across the U.S. - he cultivated a name for himself as one of Philadelphia’s top up-and-coming singer-songwriters.
His talent and efforts paid off when in 1994 he was discovered by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey’s producer Ric Wake and signed to A&M Records.
Two solo albums followed - his eponymous debut in ’95 and ‘98’s ‘Earthbound’ - which sparked critical acclaim and modest international hits ‘Ain’t Gonna Keep Me Hangin’ Around’ and ‘Killed by a Flower’, as well as a collaboration with songwriting inspiration Carole King.
However, it was when Wake introduced Mann to the idea of writing songs for other artists that a new, more enriching phase of his career opened up.
Mann proved himself a formidable pop star songwriter with scores of hits to his credit including The Backstreet Boys’ ‘Song for the Unloved’, Jessica Simpson’s ‘With You’, Anastacia’s ‘Heavy on my Heart’ and fellow Philly Pink’s ‘God is a DJ’.
He has also proven to be a particularly versatile multi-genre writer, penning hits beyond the fringes of the pop mainstream such as Celine Dion’s ‘Treat Her like a Lady’, Dana Dawson’s ‘Three is Family’, and ‘Do it for Love’ for his long-time heroes Hall & Oates. In 2002 Mann engineered Art Garfunkel’s return to the charts with the album ‘Everything Waits To Be Noticed’.
Mann’s desire to help other artists has extended into prominent roles in the management and development company Stealth Entertainment and his Cred Records label. He also writes the influential ‘Indie Beat’ column for Seventeen magazine, which is aimed at upcoming artists.
Linda Perry is a songwriter, musician, producer and A&R figure. Perry achieved fame in the ‘90s as the singer/songwriter of the 4 Non Blondes, and has achieved subsequent success supervising the careers of chart hit-makers Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera and James Blunt.
Perry began her musical career in the late ‘80s as a solo performer in the clubs and coffeehouses of San Francisco. In 1990 she was asked to join the alternative rock band the 4 Non Blondes as a singer, and two years later they were signed by Interscope Records.
The band’s 1992 debut album ‘Bigger, Better, Faster, More!’ proved a slow seller, but when Perry’s ‘What’s Up’ was picked up by a Las Vegas DJ and ultimately MTV, it resulted in a belated but massive 1993 international hit and the band’s break into the mainstream.
In 1995, whilst working on the follow-up album, Perry left the group citing creative differences. She then began a solo career under supervision of Interscope. However, Perry quickly became disillusioned when her first record ‘In Flight’, despite a warm critical reception, proved too downbeat and different for the tastes of radio playlists and Interscope’s promotional team.
As a result Perry founded her own label, Rock Star Records, under the pretext of providing a springboard for aspiring artists she liked. Although, as a result of business inexperience, it proved to be another blip in her career, it did establish the second phase of her career as an important figure ‘behind the scenes’.
This was ignited in 2001, when the huge success of Pink’s ‘Misunderstood’ not only established Pink as an exciting pop star but also Linda Perry’s credentials, as she produced and co-wrote many of the tracks, including the hit ‘Get The Party Started’.
The success led to Perry giving Christina Aguilera a career makeover with the creation of her sophomore album ‘Stripped’, and the international hit ‘Beautiful’- a contribution that earned Perry two ASCAP songwriting awards and a Grammy nomination.
Her experience inside the industry provided the business acumen, money and respect to build solid foundations for her next label, Custard. Her instincts proved astute when she signed British singer-songwriter James Blunt. With producer Tom Rothrock she helped fashion Blunt’s international smash ‘Back To Bedlam’ and its international hit single ‘You’re Beautiful’’.
Read the HitQuarters Interview with Linda Perry
Sturken & Rogers
Revered songwriting-production Sturken & Rogers have been responsible for more than 20 Top 40 hits, including twelve Top 5 hits. Their songs have helped sell more than 60 million albums, both in the US. and around the world.
Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers began their career in the New York R&B scene of the mid-‘80s. They helped create the legendary Beat Street soundtrack and started to get noticed with their production work on records by such artists as Cheryl Lynn and Jennifer Holiday.
Their crossover into the mainstream pop world came with the comeback of Donny Osmond, writing and producing his No.2 smash ‘Soldier of Love’ and the Top 10 hit ‘Sacred Emotion’. In 1991 they themselves appeared in the charts - as Rhythm Syndicate they scored a No.1 hit with ‘P.A.S.S.I.O.N.’ as well as a Top 10 follow-up with ‘Hey Donna’.
The duo grew weary of the demands of the performing artist and returned to the relative sanctity of the studio desk. Success in Europe duly followed, firstly with Eternal’s UK Top 5 hit ‘Power of a Woman’ and then onwards with contributions to such major international albums as the Brand New Heavies’ ‘Shelter’ and Boyzone’s ‘Where We Belong’, the single from which the pair’s ‘All that I Need’ topped the UK charts.
By 1997 the duo’s attentions had returned to the US. Their ‘God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You’ soared into the Billboard Top 10 as performed by teen sensations N-Sync, before taking on a second life with country legend Alabama, and climbing into the Billboard Country Top 5. A subsequent recording by jazz artist Kirk Whalum confirmed its status as a genre-defying classic.
The late ‘90s saw Sturken & Rogers’ songs appear on multi-platinum debut albums by Jessica Simpson, Anastacia and Mandy Moore. They were also responsible for writing and producing songs for Christina Aguilera's chart-topping debut.
As the millennium turned and the teen-pop era faded, Sturken & Rogers moved their attentions elsewhere – firstly to R&B/Latino star Javier, whom they discovered, produced and wrote for, including hit single ‘Crazy’, and then to Kelly Clarkson, for whom they wrote the hit ‘The Trouble With Love Is’, on the behest of legend Clive Davis.
Their successful with association to Davis led to the pair’s involvement with the American Idol project in 2004 and then with Rod Stewart’s ‘Great American Songbook Vol. II’.
The duo’s next step was to found their own record label, SRP Records. Their first discovery proved a winner- with 16-year old Rihanna’s debut single ‘Pon De Replay’, co-written and produced by Sturken & Rogers, becoming a worldwide smash.
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