Fans of Erin's Nice Hits! column will definitely want to peruse this New Yorker story by the great journalist John Seabrook that follows Swedish production team Stargate and their "top-liner," Ester Dean. As the article explains, the "top-liner" writes the melody and lyrics after Stargate writes the track, and this particular pairing is responsible for a number of Rihanna and Nicki Minaj's biggest hits.
Rihanna via Ester Dean: ""Oh, na-na, what's my name?," John Seabrook: "We are a long way from Cole Porter here."
The story details every step in how your pop sausage gets made, from where songs are recorded (hotel rooms, usually) to how the lyrics are written (Dean reads potential phrases culled from magazines and television off her Blackberry while improvising melodies). Even if you're not a Top 40 devotee, it's a fascinating read for the inside view into the workings of the very top of the pop music industry.
Find the whole thing here, and read on for the answer to the question, "Is this the worst song in the world?"
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the top of the Billboard charts, we have the world's worst song. Yes, it exists, and it's not "Friday" or anything by Weird Al. In fact, it's scientifically formulated to be enjoyed by fewer than 200 people worldwide.
Here's the deal: I've been on a big This American Life kick lately (yes, I am the lamest person in the world), and though the allure has faded somewhat after listening to nearly every "favorite" episode on my way to dreamland, I did enjoy this segment from the episode "Numbers" that described a project from 1996 by Russian artists Alex Melamid and Vitaly Komar.
With the help of composer David Soldier, Melamid and Komar attempted to determine through scientific polling the most- and least-desired elements in music. They then created the ideal version of each song, using the results they uncovered. The most-preferred song, which was determined to be under five minutes, featuring guitars, bass, etc., and with lyrics about love, does not interest me. It's the least-desired song (or "The Most Unwanted Song," as its proper title asserts), that caught my ear. You see:
The most unwanted music is over 25 minutes long, veers wildly between loud and quiet sections, between fast and slow tempos, and features timbres of extremely high and low pitch, with each dichotomy presented in abrupt transition. The most unwanted orchestra was determined to be large, and features the accordion and bagpipe, banjo, flute, [and] tuba. [...]
An operatic soprano raps and sings atonal music, advertising jingles, political slogans, and "elevator" music, and a children's choir sings jingles and holiday songs. The most unwanted subjects for lyrics are cowboys and holidays, and the most unwanted listening circumstances are involuntary exposure to commericals and elevator music.
Yes. A soprano rapping about cowboys, and children singing about holidays such as Yom Kippur and Labor Day, ending each verse with the line "Do all your shopping at Wal-Mart!" It really is a masterpiece. Listen to part one above, and read more about it on the artists' website. It's really more hilarious than annoying (I listened to the whole nine-minute first section no problem), with the gleefully deranged children's chorus a particularly brilliant touch. If nothing else, it's certainly held up in the 15-plus years since its creation.