As some of you know, I’m a bit of a data fanatic. I like Tableau’s software because it takes your data and visualizes it in a variety of interesting ways. In keeping with my project analyzing 40 years of American #1 songs, this chart looks at the Top 10 Songwriters that have the most time at the #1 position. Mariah Carey is actually the most prolific writer, as seen on the chart above. Let’s be fair, we all know the ‘change a word, earn a third’ rule in songwriting; what I’m trying to say is that Mariah may have written a verse here or there, but she wasn’t solely responsible for any of her songs. Like many ‘pop’ artists, she employed many outside writers to help with the music and lyrics (I have that viz as well, and I’ll post that another day.)
Actually, if you look at this chart, a lot of the most prolific writers aren’t artists in their own right – Max Martin, Lukasz Gottwold (also known as Dr. Luke), James Harris III (also known as Jimmy Jam), who worked closely with Terry Lewis, Scott Storch – 5 of these Top 10 Writers aren’t performers in their own right, and thus are less well known to the average consumer of the music they produce. And those ‘products’ are people like Taylor Swift, Janet Jackson, Katy Perry, etc. You get the idea. Apparently it takes a lot to bring a pop song to fruition.
Or that’s what ‘they’ would have you believe. Because within the Top 10 above is one Barry Gibb. Don’t get me wrong, Barry Gibb wrote (and produced) songs for other artists – quite a few, or else he wouldn’t have managed to be as prominent in the Top 10 as he is in the chart above. But, as a member of the Bee Gees (his band) in the 70’s, the only other writers were his brothers Robin (represented here) and Maurice. So, if modern pop music makes you think it takes a ‘factory’ to produce a hit single, look to an earlier post of mine about the Bee Gees and their run of #1 singles. They wrote them without outside help, and still managed to leave a lasting impression upon the pop charts. So, the next time you hear a #1 single, search out who the real talent behind the creation is. Is it the singer, the group, or some outside ‘consultant’ hired to make a hit single? If it’s the latter, doesn’t that take all the fun out of the process?