|The doctor is in, at the tree-shrouded Conway Studios compound in Hollywood, and he won't be out any time soon.|
Lukasz Gottwald -- the writer/producer better-known to the explosive-chorus-loving world as Dr. Luke -- has booked all three rooms at Conway for the entire month of September. He's told his manager to cancel all meetings, and you might have to excuse him if your call goes to voice mail. The deadline task at hand: Coming up with enough new songs for his protégée, Ke$ha, to get a deluxe repackaging of her debut album out in time for the holiday buying season.
Nothing is remotely done yet, and Ke$ha is only available for a three-week stretch, so he and fellow producers Benny Blanco and Ammo are hard at work coming up with rough tracks for the singer to put her stamp on. How many songs are they planning on adding to the "Animal" reissue?
"I'd like as many as eight, if possible," Gottwald says. "But I'll be happy if I got four or five great ones. And a lot depends on the next two weeks. She has a single right now, 'Take It Off,' which is doing pretty well. Last time I checked, it was No. 11 on iTunes. Normally, an artist would be stuck in a fourth-single slump by now, so that's encouraging. But who knows. Two weeks from now, research could come in and say that song won't go as far as we had anticipated, and then that'll mean we need a new song right away."
If Gottwald's attention to chart detail sounds a little bit (as his nickname might suggest) scientific, he's positively a rocket engineer when it comes to the arts and sciences that take place inside the studio control room, where he's known as a genial perfectionist nonpareil. He sweats the small stuff. But that sonic fussiness hasn't gotten him bogged down so much that it's kept him from racking up the most commercially enviable career in pop production at the moment.
Stats speak even louder than beats. On the Billboard Hot 100 right now, he's responsible as a co-writer and co-producer for 40% of the top 10: Taio Cruz's "Dynamite" (No. 3), Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" (No. 2) and "California Gurls" (No. 7), and Ke$ha's "Take It Off" (No. 10), which is defying a fourth-single slump. (He would have claimed half the top 10 if B.o.B and Rivers Cuomo's "Magic" hadn't slipped 11-10.) He can claim four of Billboard's 20 top-selling digital singles of all time, with Ke$ha's 5 million-selling "TiK ToK," Flo Rida's "Right Round," Perry's "Hot N Cold" and Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A."
Then there are the earlier smashes that might've made that list had they been released later in the digital singles sales revolution, like Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" and "Behind These Hazel Eyes," seminal collaborations with mentor Max Martin that put him on the pop map five years ago. That Gottwald was named ASCAP's songwriter of the year in April probably counts as a performing-rights no-brainer.
In the coming months, Gottwald will co-executive produce Britney Spears' 2011 project, alongside Martin. For his own label, Kemosabe, whose sole release so far is Ke$ha's "Animal," he'll be working with his latest signings, female singers Sabi and Sophia Black. Meanwhile, taking off his executive hat, he's still involved in plenty of production one-offs, like an upcoming single for British powerhouse vocalist Jessie J (who co-wrote "Party in the U.S.A." for herself before sacrificing it to Cyrus).
For the last five years, Gottwald has provided a veritable soundtrack for adolescence and young adulthood, assuming the mantle of Tycoon of Teen that's been passed down from Phil Spector. There's hardly a ballad to be found in his catalog, which is full of rock-tinged dance-pop with an unabashedly ecstatic quality that makes even middle-aged top 40 listeners feel like they're living the teenage dream, to paraphrase Perry.
"His hallmark is 'tempo' records-at worst, they're [midtempo]-coupled with über-melody and great concepts," RCA/Jive Label Group chairman/CEO Barry Weiss says. Consider the fact that many of these concepts have involved some form or another of cheeky female empowerment-see Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," Pink's "U + Ur Hand" and Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend"-and he could almost be considered an avatar of girls, or girl-lovers, everywhere.
But Gottwald, who will turn 37 in a few weeks, resists the suggestion that he might concoct these hits with the image of a teenage girl with an iPod in mind. His awareness of research and chart stats notwithstanding, he swears he's his own target audience.
"Apparently my taste is that of a 13-year-old girl," he jokes. "Not really. But my taste is commercial. Listen, there's been times in my life like the two years that I only listened to jazz, and probably nothing after 1966. When I went to the Manhattan School of Music, the library didn't have anything after 1966. In order to get good at that, I had to tunnel-vision and focus on that.
"But sometimes when I talk to those kinds of people, they're like, 'What is it like making this simple music?' They look down on it. And I'm like, 'No, you don't get it. I actually like this. I don't see a difference between brilliance in one and the other.' There's no compromise to me in what I'm doing. I'm trying to make songs that I love and make them feel a certain way and go to certain places. It just so happens that a lot of 13-year-old girls like that."
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