Chad Hugo, one half of the Grammy-winning producing/songwriting duo The Neptunes, says it isn’t that complicated. There’s no formula for writing a great hit. Hard to believe this coming from a man who’s string of top-selling hits include: Snoop Dogg’s Beautiful and Drop It Like It’s Hot; Jay Z’s Excuse Me Miss, Change Clothes and I Just Wanna Love You (Give It 2 Me); Ludacris’ Moneymaker; Justin Timberlake’s Rock Your Body and Gwen Stefani’s Holla Back.
Hugo was one of seven songwriters to appear this year at BMI’s How I Wrote That Song panel discussion at the Key Club. He told the near-capacity crowd about the simple concept behind writing Justin Timberlake’s huge hit, Rock Your Body.
“[Pharell and I] wanted to make a song that would get people up like in a disco but not be a disco,” he says. “That song became Michael Jacksonish.”
The line stretched around the corner with aspiring songwriters hoping to catch a glimpse of panelists, which included: Hugo, Seal, Cee Lo, Claude Kelly, BC Jean and Bonnie McKee. Catherine Brewton, BMI Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations, moderated the panel along with Grammy-winning songwriter/producer Dallas Austin.
Cee Lo, who prior to the event was joined by members of his group Goodie Mob in the media area, discussed writing Crazy. Cee Lo said the song was influenced by a dark and strange time in his life. He was going through a divorce. So writing the song was therapeutic for him.
BC Jean, who wrote Beyonce’s If I Were A Boy, told EBONY the song was actually based on a romance that she had ended. Beyonce just sang the song. Jean decided to place the shoe on the other foot to see how things might have been handled if she could become the man. Beyonce heard the song and loved it.
Seal discussed the highs and lows of writing a hit song.
“You go from Kiss From A Rose where everyone answers your phone call,” he says. “You say jump and everyone says, ‘How high?’ You go from that to, ‘I don’t really know if I want that record.’ You have those two dynamics. That’s why I have a great deal of respect for people who have been around for a while.”
Claude Kelly is the man behind Bruno Mars’ hit song Grenade and Fantasia’s Bittersweet (which just won a Grammy). Grenade, says Kelly, wasn’t based on a true story. The two were hanging out and thought about writing a song where a man is so head and heels in love with a woman who could care if he lives or dies. That’s how that song was born.
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) is an American performing right organization that represents more than 475,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in all genres of music and more than 6.5 million works.
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Senior Editor, EBONY Magazine