When we listen to music, we typically attribute our listening experience to the person on the album cover, not considering or forgetting that there are MULTIPLE people behind the scenes who made that album happen. Of the more vital figures in the recording process are producers; many of whom could walk right by us in the grocery store and we would never know that they’re the reason behind our favorite song’s existence (no, not every producer is a key-name with a solo record or shouts out their name at the beginning of every song). If you don’t already know, producers are generally responsible for the musical (and sometimes vocal) arrangement. Every so often, producers also contribute lyrics. When an artist releases subpar music, they themselves are often blamed, but the producers are really the ones who should take the bag. If they do their job, producers can make a barely talented artist average or good artist great. Many of your favorite artists might not be as successful without them. Here’s a list of some big names that only go as far as their producers. You might be surprised at who you see on the list.
#5 Trey Songz, Key Producer: Troy Taylor
Okay, I may get some flak for even putting Trey Songz in a category that has “artist” in the title, but in my defense, Songz was actually listenable and kind of unpredictable once upon a time. Now, this isn’t one of those deluded “Oh, he sounded so much better and he didn’t just sing about sex in the early days” rants, because let’s be honest: he’s sung about sex since his first album and in abundance. However, the difference from the “Gotta Make It” album’s sex songs and those on “Chapter Five” is the music and the little fantasies he and his songwriters left to the imagination by not being overtly explicit. His first album, which is considered an R&B classic, was almost exclusively produced by Troy Taylor. Don’t know Troy? His credits include Whitney Houston’s remake of “I’m Every Woman,” Tyrese’s “Sweet Lady,” Toni Braxton’s “Just Be a Man About It,” Aaliyah’s “Miss You” and B2K’s “Why I Love You” (one of their few good songs), just to name a few. As time progressed, more people got added to the mix on Trey’s albums, making a cesspool of forgettable songs. Not to discredit the other producers who have come and gone on the Songz bandwagon, but there’s just no genuinely amazing music-to-artist chemistry by the time he gets to “Passion, Pain and Pleasure.” We saw the foolery when Taylor wasn’t featured on “Trey Day” and songs like “No Clothes On” made the cut. Even with big names like R. Kelly and Stargate, Songz came off as corny, lackluster or like a Diet R. Kelly. Yet, “Ready” filled the void for the general public and guess whose name showed up in the credits the most as a producer? Troy Taylor. “Jupiter Love” anyone?
#4 Christina Aguilera, Key Producers: Too many to list
So Aguilera is great for this list because she makes two points: 1) some artists are only great with a select few producers and 2) NEVER burn bridges that’ll keep you from getting to your hometown.
The interesting thing about Christina is that she doesn’t really work with anyone more than twice album wise; the only common denominator is Linda Perry who frequently appeared on “Stripped” and “Back to Basics.” I won’t make this into an argument for which albums have been successful or not, because that doesn’t really qualify the greatness of the music. Let’s just say that “Bionic” and “Lotus” haven’t musically put Ms. Aguilera in the best light. Her self-titled debut was an amazing mix between bubble-gum pop and R&B tracks to show off her vocal versatility, and gave her a solid foundation to attract audiences to both catchy songs and her amazing voice, without her even having to touch a pen. By “Stripped,” Aguilera began to take full control and write songs about social and personal issues, which is probably why most of her fans hold the album to such a high standard. The producer behind the bulk of this feat? None other than Scott Storch, who gave the project grungy, raw undertones that made it such a classic to most listeners. Other significant ingredients included Linda Perry’s musical softness and vulnerability in the ballads and the catchy, yet soulful touch of Matt Morris, who co-wrote over half of it (Morris is responsible for Kelly Clarkson’s “Miss Independent,” which was originally written for “Stripped”).