Most people don't give today's pop artists a lot of credit because they don't write the majority of their music. Though this may be true, it is in no way a new phenomenon. For years members of the music industry having been writing songs for other artists, and often times the singer captured all the fame while the writer remained a faceless, barely thought of, figure behind his typewriter and guitar. But when looking back at scenarios like when Bruce Springsteen gave his friend Patti Smith her only hit
, we see the artistry and magic that comes out of writing for another artist. So, while times have certainly changed since the 1970s, songwriters are still reaping the benefits of ghost-penning for pop artists, and making undeniably catchy tunes in the process.
We took a look back at the recent history of pop music to see who is really behind the monster hits of the last two decades. The artists we discovered have the pop masterpiece formula embedded deep in their bones, and are responsible for basically every epic road trip singalong you've ever shamefully taken part in.
If you're like me and grew up in the mid-90s and early-00s, Max Martin basically owned your soul, and your ears, for a good chunk of your childhood. The writer behind the major hits of Backstreet Boys, 'N SYNC, and Britney Spears, Martin is the reason that you uncontrollably burst out singing along to "Oops!...I Did it Again" at your cousin's bar-mitzvah. It's hard to say what his best contribution to the music world was, but "I Want it That Way," is indisputably one of his most significant songs.
Although boy bands disappeared from the world for a few years — undoubtedly to Max Martin's chagrin — they're back with a vengeance and making pre-teen girls cry more than ever. You can't think of a boy band today without thinking of One Direction, but how about thinking of Tom Fletcher? Fletcher, lead vocalist of British pop rock band Mcfly has helped keep One Direction in the hearts, minds and headphones of a good portion of the worldwide female population by writing songs for all three of the group's albums. One of the songs that Fletcher wrote for One Direction is "I Would," which is not necessarily one of the band's biggest singles, but still a pure pop song, complete with quintessential catchy lyrics that perfectly fit One Direction's image.
Another ghost-popper, and musician in his own right, is Ryan Tedder. The front man of One Republic, Tedder has written songs for basically every pop star who's boasted a chart-topping hit in the last five years. His roster includes Beyonce, Ellie Goulding, Maroon 5 and Demi Lovato, but one of the more invigorating songs from his extensive catalog is Adele's "Rumor Has It" off of her hit album 21
. The song, co-written by Adele, was a change from the slow, sad tracks that occupied the majority of the record, and we get to hear a spirited Adele who isn't going to put up with anyone's B-S.
For a slight change of pace we give you Jeff Bhasker. Instead of writing for a bunch of pop princesses, Bhasker is a master at working with pop rock bands and rappers. He's the man behind songs like Jay-Z's "Run This Town" featuring Rihanna and Kanye West, and most of the songs from Fun.'s Some Nights
. One of his most electrifying songs is "All of the Lights," which he co-wrote with Kanye and a few others. Fast beats and dark commentary, the song is theatrical and flashy; a perfect demonstartion of Bhasker's skill for radio hits.
If you need some sick violin skills or help with an intricate string arrangement, you call Owen Pallett. Pallett has lent his orchestration gifts to pop stars like Taylor Swift, but he has also worked with plenty of artists outside of the pop world. He has written the string arrangements for the likes of The Last Shadow Puppets, Fucked Up and Beirut, and has toured with a lot of big-name bands. Pallett also co-wrote the string arrangements for Arcade Fire's first two albums. "Rebellion (Lies)" off of Funerals
best highlights Pallet's expertise. The strings in the song maintain a steady beat, adding in the robustness of sound that we expect from Arcade Fire.
If the female artists who perform pop songs are called princesses, then Charli XCX is definitely a queen. Her repertoire includes Icona Pop's mega hit "I Love It" and everyone's favorite song of this summer, Iggy Azalea's "Fancy." Charli XCX has skyrocketed herself to fame by writing songs for other people, and "Fancy" demonstrates what she does best. The song is spunky and fast moving, and satisfies every girl's need to sing along to a fun-loving tune with her clique.
Sia is another female vocal powerhouse who has had great success writing for other artists, and she's basically just as ubiquitous in the pop world as the aforementioned Ryan Tedder. The woman behind the words of songs like Britney Spears' "Perfume" and David Guetta's "Titanium," on which she's also a featured vocalist, Sia has left her footprint all over the music industry. Most recently, Sia was one of the writers for Beyonce's "Pretty Hurts," which has more substance than the overplayed "Titanium," and allows Sia to add her socially conscious layer to the pop world.