Talking Shop: RedOne
- 9 August 2010
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
As producer and co-writer for Lady Gaga, RedOne is responsible for some of the most ubiquitous radio hits of the last 18 months.
His work on Poker Face, Bad Romance, Just Dance and Alejandro saw him named producer of the year by Billboard magazine and songwriter of the year by music industry body BMI.
Born in Morocco, he moved to Sweden and then New York before hitting the big time - working with Michael Jackson, Akon, Kylie Minogue, Shakira and Lionel Richie, amongst others.
As he launches his new record label, 2101, and a new artist, Congolese-born singer Mohombi, the producer shared his songwriting secrets with the BBC News website.
What's the secret to writing a global hit?
I thank God for my knowledge of music. But the real secret is the artist. We did it right with Gaga. People are buying into her. The whole package - her lifestyle, her sound, her vision.
When you're working on a song, how many rewrites and drafts do you do?
You know what? Most of the time, we work really quickly. With Lady Gaga, all of her biggest songs came out this quick [clicks his fingers].
So if we heard the demos of The Fame album, would they sound almost identical to the finished, mastered CD?
Yes, yes, yes! I think it's having done this job for 20 years. You can hear what it's gong to be like [in your head] and you just take it there.
I remember me and Gaga in a bus doing Bad Romance. We did it on a bus, with two pairs of headphones. And as soon as I heard that "woah-oh-oh-oh-oaahhh" from the intro, I could just see a whole stadium singing it.
Do you always write music to fill stadiums?
Absolutely. I think it comes from being a rock fan. When you see everyone singing along to something - that's the goal. You know that the song is good. Especially in countries that don't speak English.
Is that why so many of your songs use nonsense words - like the "ra, ra, ra" refrain in Bad Romance?
Of course. It's the same with "ma ma ma ma" in Poker Face. Everything is a hook.
Do you get annoyed when songs leak online?
It kills me. Especially when Bad Romance leaked. I don't know how it happened. Alejandro leaked, too. It's amazing.
When that happens, it must be tempting to go back and make changes so people are still interested in the finished version.
The thing is, with those songs, we were still working on them. We only had the demo vocals - because we had recorded it on a little laptop microphone on the bus. So you could hear the noise of the road. And that was the version that leaked.
Then, when we got to a proper studio, we recorded it again. Just the vocals.
I imagine that record labels constantly come to you asking for "something that sounds like Poker Face".
Yes, all the time. And I say, "no - because that's Gaga!"
That's her sound. I made that music, yes, but I made it for Gaga, because that's her. That's what she breathes.
I'm not doing any more of what I call "fast food writing" - where people demand a single, a single, a single. No. If you want me to invest my time in you, you need to invest yourself in me, as an artist.
So you're saying you've been guilty of that in the past?
Yes, but not any more. Because that's what I love from the old times. You listen to Stevie Wonder and it could only be Stevie Wonder. Led Zeppelin is the same. I think that's missing nowadays.
Take Nicole Scherzinger (former Pussycat Dolls frontwoman), I just finished her album. Her last one never came out because it was collecting hamburgers, like fast food. One from McDonalds, one from Burger King, and so on. It tasted good, but it wasn't consistent.
Her new record - people are really going to go crazy about it because it's the real her.
Tell me a bit about Mohombi, the artist you've signed to your new label.
I first heard about him 10 years ago - we were both in Sweden at the same time, but I never met him until we were in America. He came into the studio and he had a CD with him - and it blew me away.
He has his own style. Whatever he's doing, he owns it. He has good melodies, good lyrics, good hooks. He has his own world, like Gaga. And he has the looks - every girl will want to dance with him in a club and put his poster on their wall.
RedOne was talking to BBC News entertainment reporter Mark Savage. Mohombi's debut single, Bumpy Ride, is out on Island Records on 4 October.