In a world full of Ariana Grandeses, Nick Jonases and Taylor Swifts, you may be surprised to hear they aren’t the only front-runners in pop music. Like the background dancers in their performances, help is often needed to bring the whole production together. This is the same in music, where the people behind the scenes are unsung heroes who truly make the songs shine.
While a great hook and chorus always get stuck in our heads, we rarely get a glimpse of the people who created them. Here are a few people you had no idea wrote a lot of your favourite pop songs.
You may known Ester Dean as Cynthia-Rose Adams from Pitch Perfect, but what you may not know is she penned many of your favourite songs. David Guetta’s “Hey Mama,” Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” and Katy Perry’s “Firework” are just a few out of Dean’s 90+ writing credits since 2006. Dean has one charted song as a lead artist, 2009’s “Drop It Low,” which was featured on the soundtrack for the Lebron James film, More Than a Game.
The singer-songwriter has also written hits for Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Chris Brown and Christina Aguilera. When she’s not writing, you can hear her singing background vocals in many of today’s pop hits. Dean relayed to Time how intimate the songwriting process really is: “It’s kind of like having sex—you don’t want anyone watching. I have the coffee full of hazelnut cream and my dog looking at me crazy, like hopefully you get a hit so you can get me a bone.”
Nasri’s currently heating up the charts as the lead singer of reggae-fusion band Magic!, but this isn’t his first foray in the music industry. The talented songwriter/producer is one half of Grammy award-winning production duo, The Messengers. The duo has a massive list of credits under their name, including Pitbull’s “Feel This Moment,” Chris Brown’s “Crawl” and Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never.” If that’s not impressive enough, they had the pleasure of working with New Kids on the Block for their 2008 return album, The Block.
OneRepublic’s “Apologize” may still be one of your top 25 played iTunes songs, but lead singer Ryan Tedder had his hand in a lot of other tracks in that playlist. Beyonce’s “Halo,” Adele’s “Remedy” and Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love” are just a few memorable ballads the talented musician has helped bring to life.
In 2014, Billboard named Tedder “The Undercover King of Pop” for his massive success as a songwriter and producer. Fellow hitmaker Benny Blanco gave Billboard a glimpse into what it’s like to spend a day in Tedder’s constantly moving shoes: “He was recording strings for Adele, at the same time recording me, and then 15 minutes later, he had to take a helicopter to the airport so that he missed the traffic. Then he took a jet to perform, and then he had to be back the same day to perform in another country.”
No one would’ve guessed a rocker would be behind so much of the music that defined your middle school years. Linda Perry wrote many of our favourite early 2000s songs, such as Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” Gwen Stefani’s “What You Waiting For?” and Pink’s “Get The Party Started.”
Last year, Perry was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame with fellow prolific songwriters Lionel Richie and Cyndi Lauper. At the ceremony, Lady Gaga performed Perry’s 4 Non Blondes iconic rock song, “What’s Up.”
Perry relayed to Huffington Post how confused she was when she found out she was inducted into the hall of fame: “It was very hard to me to get it, it took me awhile,” she explained, adding that she thought there was more to the process than just getting enlisted.
There’s no way you’ve gone a day without listening to a song written by will.i.am. The songwriter/producer/rapper has seven Grammys to his name, mostly related to his work with everyone’s favourite quartet, The Black Eyed Peas. In addition to writing a majority of Peas’ massive hits, will.i.am has a lot of other successes on his resume, including Fergie’s “Fergalicious,” John Legend’s “Ordinary People” and Britney Spears’ “Work Bitch.”
Will.i.am was recently slated to return as a judge on The Voice UK after winning in 2014 with contestant Jermain Jackman. The head of entertainment of U.K. TV network ITV believes his presence is vital to the DNA of the show: “Will’s eye for talent, and unique and creative flair for mentoring means we can’t wait to see what happens next.”