The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory

John Seabrook

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The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory

The Song Machine Inside the Hit Factory Over the last two decades a new type of hit song has emerged one that is almost inescapably catchy Pop songs have always had a hook but today s songs bristle with them a hook every seven seconds is

  • Title: The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory
  • Author: John Seabrook
  • ISBN: 9780393353280
  • Page: 216
  • Format: Paperback
  • Over the last two decades a new type of hit song has emerged, one that is almost inescapably catchy Pop songs have always had a hook, but today s songs bristle with them a hook every seven seconds is the rule Painstakingly crafted to tweak the brain s delight in melody, rhythm, and repetition, these songs are highly processed products Like snack food engineers, moderOver the last two decades a new type of hit song has emerged, one that is almost inescapably catchy Pop songs have always had a hook, but today s songs bristle with them a hook every seven seconds is the rule Painstakingly crafted to tweak the brain s delight in melody, rhythm, and repetition, these songs are highly processed products Like snack food engineers, modern songwriters have discovered the musical bliss point And just like junk food, the bliss point leaves you wanting .In The Song Machine, longtime New Yorker staff writer John Seabrook tells the story of the massive cultural upheaval that produced these new, super strength hits Seabrook takes us into a strange and surprising world, full of unexpected and vivid characters, as he traces the growth of this new approach to hit making from its obscure origins in early 1990s Sweden to its dominance of today s Billboard charts.Journeying from New York to Los Angeles, Stockholm to Korea, Seabrook visits specialized teams composing songs in digital labs with new track and hook techniques The stories of artists like Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Rihanna, as well as expert songsmiths like Max Martin, Stargate, Ester Dean, and Dr Luke, The Song Machine shows what life is like in an industry that has been catastrophically disrupted spurring innovation, competition, intense greed, and seductive new products.Going beyond music to discuss money, business, marketing, and technology, The Song Machine explores what the new hits may be doing to our brains and listening habits, especially as services like Spotify and Apple Music use streaming data to gather music into new genres invented by algorithms based on listener behavior.Fascinating, revelatory, and original, The Song Machine will change the way you listen to music.

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      Published :2018-08-14T02:19:37+00:00

    One thought on “The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory

    1. Diane on said:

      I'm always interested in how stuff works, how things get made, what's behind a business model. The Song Machine hits the sweet spot of explaining how the modern music industry works and also being entertaining.John Seabrook wrote that he first became interested in contemporary hits when his 10-year-old son started fiddling with the car radio. Flo Rida's "Right Round" was playing. Was this music? The bass sounded like a recording of a massive undersea earthquake. The speakers produced sounds such [...]

    2. Scotto Moore on said:

      I'll admit this book goes down smooth, like a pop hit record; I ripped through it in fascination. But we'll see how kind history is to a book that essentially concludes with multiple chapters of Dr. Luke getting the equivalent of a Parade magazine profile, while Kesha is dismissed in one of those chapter titles as a "teenage nightmare." For that matter, once you put the book down on Dr. Luke riding off into the sunset with his next protege, you start to wonder why zero critical attention is expe [...]

    3. Greg Schumaker on said:

      Fantastic! Great to learn about the small world of people who've made all the most annoying songs for the last 20+ years.

    4. Jay on said:

      I have always wondered what goes into making a pop song, having read about songwriters from the 50s and 60s Brill Building and wondered whether that kind of story had changed. You know – a team of two, one sitting at the piano and one writing lyrics put together a song and go sell it to popular singers. And given society’s focus on pop singer-songwriters as do-it-all artists (which is an American thing, it turns out), I wondered if the corporate way of making songs had had an impact in how t [...]

    5. Joe on said:

      From Ace of Base through Backstreet Boys to Rihanna and Katy Perry, THE SONG MACHINE chronicles the story of how a bunch of Swedish DJs and musicians conquered the American and world charts for 20 years. It's an utterly compelling and fascinating read that opens the door and shines a spotlight upon how hits are written and the anonymous people who write them.

    6. Josh on said:

      Most of the reviews for this book start with the reviewer mentioning their love for pop music (AKA Top 40, CHR, et al). I'll start by making it clear I can't stand it. But Kristen has been raving about this book and its interesting dissection of the process behind modern pop. She is also an advocate for not letting your perceptions get in the way of what you like musically. Authenticity doesn’t matter and is a pretty vague concept anyway. So I went in with an open mind.Still hate it.But that's [...]

    7. Epizeuxis on said:

      "Bring the hooks in, where the bass at?"This book opens with an Iggy Azalea lyric. I'm not sure if this fact ultimately means anything for the quality of the product as a whole, but I feel that it's worth pointing out. And after finishing The Song Machine, it seems as good an indication as any of the reading experience.Let me attempt to explain that.Like an Iggy Azalea track (you might recognize the above quote from "Fancy"), John Seabrook's novel is flashy and easy to slip into, but begins to s [...]

    8. Matthew Budman on said:

      Some New Yorker authors -- Kolbert, Orlean, Gladwell, et al -- are able to incorporate their individual feature articles into a larger narrative so seamlessly that you forget you actually read some of this material before. But The Song Machine never quite gels -- some of the sections are fascinating if a little depressing (pop songs have become pure product, literally meaningless, assembled on a computer), but with extended sections focusing on a few figures (Kelly Clarkson, Max Martin, etc.), i [...]

    9. Steve Peifer on said:

      So if you were going to write a history of US presidents who were African American and didn't include President Obama, it would be sort of suspect? To ignore the 800 pound gorilla named Taylor Swift is to kind of miss the point. Instead we get LOTS of Kelly Clarkson, and he dredges up the Clive Davis battles to no purpose except to prove they are both jerks. An occasional cute line doesn't compensate for all the filler to try to unsuccessfully hide a lack of access to people who might actually h [...]

    10. Meg on said:

      Who knew This book is all about SWEDEN. This guy, Max Martin, in Sweden has written more current hit songs than just about anyone… it's crazy. Remember the "don't touch that dial!" feel in the songs of the 70's and 80's? Those songs were known to have a magical note, a hook, somewhere in the first 30 seconds of the song. That note that kept you from moving on through the static until you got to the next station over. Today's songs are different. Today, the songs we hear in the supermarket, the [...]

    11. Chris_P on said:

      Not gonna finish it.Not so interesting afterall.Not what I expected.

    12. Mandy on said:

      Surprisingly fascinating reporting on the mega songwriters and producers shaping the pop scene. It starts a little slowly but becomes a page-turner to follow the machinations of artists, business, taste, and the Swedes manipulating it all.Pro-tip: Seabrook has made Spotify lists of the songs he mentions throughout, which should enrich the experience even more to figure out the stylistic differences between Stargate and Dr. Luke.

    13. Alex on said:

      Buckle up, children. This is going to be long and scathing.Let me say first and foremost that while I love pretty much all different sorts of music, I live for good pop music in a different way. There's something exhilarating about the build-up to a good chorus, in hearing all the different melodic elements come together until you are taken over by some weird spirit to belt out a "WHOA-OH-WHOA-OH" along with the singer. I don't care if it's horrifically overproduced (well, I can care, under the [...]

    14. Eren Buğlalılar on said:

      Son 30 yılın endüstriyel müziğinin bir tarihi. Daha çok ABD merkezli. "Hit" parçaların kimler tarafından nasıl üretildiğini ve pazarlandığını, sanatçı hikayeleriyle birlikte sunuyor. On yıllardır insanların diline dolanan parçaların yalnızca birkaç kişi tarafından yazıldığını öğrenmek ilginç oldu.Tekelleşme her yerde. Müzik piyasasını da yutmuş. Şöyle diyor kitap:2008 yılında, raflarda bulunan 13 milyon şarkıdan 52 bini, müzik endüstrisinin gelirin [...]

    15. Paul on said:

      The music industry is a strange beast. Not only is it fickle and flighty, but it has changed dramatically from even twenty years ago. Gone are the A&R men finding that individual with the perfect voice that they can sign and promote with the hope of getting the hits. Now we have a machine that can almost produce hits to order, almost being the key word… There are producers out there who have the ability to write songs that have what they describe as ‘hooks’, those little parts of a tra [...]

    16. Peter Boyle on said:

      At the time, I don't think any of us knew how much of a game-changer All That She Wants was. Sure this catchy single from Ace of Base was a smash hit across Europe in 1993, but it also ushered in a new era of Swedish pop music production that lasts to this very day. I remember being entranced by the song as a whippersnapper - it was the whistling synths, unusually phrased lyrics and something *different* about the chorus (which I now know is in a minor key) that marked it out as a bit special. T [...]

    17. Allison on said:

      4.5 stars. This is a very inside-baseball peek into the current world of pop hit-making, which is exactly what I anticipated and was looking for. The book came across my radar because of the Dr. Luke/Kesha scandal, and while it does chronicle Dr. Luke's rise, it also gets into the nitty-gritty of how someone like Dr. Luke becomes a superstar in the industry, tracing all the way back to Ace of Base/Swedish hit-makers to Lou Pearlman and the Backstreet Boys and continuing on through the American I [...]

    18. Constance on said:

      I LOVE pop music, so I was the perfect audience for this book. I wish it were a little more academic - as it is, it is a little disjointed topically, and a little gossipy, but that all also made it really fun to read. I also appreciate that the author included a chapter on k-pop.I learned why "I Want It That Way" (one of the greatest pop songs ever) has such weird and nonsensical lyrics -- because the crazy Swedes who wrote all pop music at that time (and most of it now) cared more about the sou [...]

    19. Sarah on said:

      A book about what goes into making pop music. There’s a basic history overviewing how pop music has developed, and chapters on specific artists. Pop artists are often portrayed as timid, nervous teenagers who were chosen for their looks, singing ability and also docility, since producers want someone reliable who isn’t going to try to interfere with their song-writing process. The chapter on Dr Luke was unreadable to me, the author of this book heaps on praise for music producers but seems t [...]

    20. Troy Blackford on said:

      Unexpectedly fantastic pulling-back of the curtain on the modern music industry, starting with the 're-rise' of pop music in the early nineties and travelling through the current day. We find out that most of the hit pop songs are written by a handful of mostly Scandinavian gentleman, learn about the way musicians are packaged, and how our music consumption habits have changed and the machinations behind all of it. A truly fascinating book, framed in a touchingly personal manner by a gifted writ [...]

    21. Bartłomiej Kurzyk on said:

      Dobre. Książka opisuje, jak wygląda współcześnie produkcja muzycznych hitów pop. Wydawało mi się, że sporo wiem, ale kilka rzeczy mnie solidnie zaskoczyło - np. poziom specjalizacji w zespołach producenckich (specjalista od mostów!). Sporo historii muzyki pop - od Ace of Base, przez Spice Girls do Rihanny, z wycieczkami do grunge i k-pop. Dla osoby wychowanej na MTV - cholernie interesujące :) Miejscami można pogłębić, czasem zbyt dużo mało wnoszących anegdot, ale generalnie [...]

    22. marianne on said:

      My love-hate relationship with pop music is confined to the insides of my car, and even then, it’s only intermittently that I channel-surf my way to the Top 40. Once I’m there, it’s a crap shoot; one minute I’m belting along to a catchy tune I could listen to on repeat, the next I’m angrily switching radio stations again because I’ve recognized the opening notes to a song I loathe and I want to crawl out of my skin so much it hurts. No other music genre causes me these extreme mood s [...]

    23. Jim on said:

      Full Disclosure: I did not finish this book. I read only the first 80 pages, and then skimmed the rest. As such, perhaps I shouldn't be reviewing it. Please disregard my opinion on this if you think I didn't give it a fair shot.This book is Seabrook's description of "the hit factory," his term for the behind-the-scenes group of producers/songwriters responsible for so many of contemporary Top-40 hits (and most of the money that comes from contemporary pop). The approach is journalistic and seems [...]

    24. Brooks Tate on said:

      I recently attended a lecture on the subject of "play" and play's role in childhood development. One requirement for an activity to be play is having "no ulterior motive." Reading John Seabrook's Song Machine was a refreshing read for me. I had no other motive than just to be entertained, and entertained I was cover to cover! What do Taylor Swift, Backstreet Boys, Rihanna, Ace of Base, Katy Perry and Britney Spears all have in common? A small gaggle of white Swedish men. DJ Denniz PoP began this [...]

    25. Christopher White on said:

      This book was laid out like the song catalog of my life. 60s Motown through 70s disco, 80's glam rock and hair bands, into the CD era and the Napster transformation of the music industry, and now the streaming of today. It was really interesting to learn the behind-the-scenes stories of the music I was so familiar with and THOUGHT that I knew.It was also an exploration of the factions of the business. The enduring ones, like the constant battle between the artists and the labels, as well as the [...]

    26. Kai on said:

      It provides exactly what I wanted in a basic understanding of the modern history of pop music. Neither too detailed nor too concise, the chapters follow specific artists and producers (Martin, Rihanna, Ester Dean, Dr. Luke/Kesha, etc.), blending interviews, background info, and anecdotes into highly readable stories that together give a decent picture of pop music. In other words, it's informative, but far more story-like than many informative books. This is a great starting place for learning a [...]

    27. Don Gorman on said:

      (2 1/2). This book instantly moved my musical expertise into the present. Prior to this, I have been a maven of the 60's, 70's and some even earlier. Although I was aware of some of the methods these folks employed, I didn't know anything about the folks who were doing this. An interesting snapshot into the last 20 or so years of the pop world and some pretty good insights on what is happening now in the music world. Goodness knows, it sure is a changing model. Very informative.

    28. Eric on said:

      Really eye-opening look on a culture and industry that pervades our daily lives and culture but most of us don't stop to really think about. There are some great zingers in the book (jabs at Chris Brown, Microsoft). I wish the outtro section closed with a look at where the music industry is going, and interviewed more topliners and writers on their creative process than just talking to producers.

    29. fonz on said:

      Fix-up de artículos publicados en el New Yorker sobre la industria musical y la gente que fabrica los éxitos de la música pop anglosajona desde mediados finales de los noventa, cuando el péndulo del gusto popular pasó de la "autenticidad" del rock grunge al pop "prefabricado" de New Kids on the Block o N´Sync (y en ésas seguimos). El arranque resulta bastante interesante, sobre todo los primeros capítulos que narran el panorama y evolución de la industria musical norteamericana durante [...]

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