Performers often get all the credit for their hits, but in a lot of cases they work with incredibly talented producers who strive for perfection and push the artist's music to the next level. This week we're thinking about some of the most influential producers of the 21st century and the effect they've had on music.
Rick made his name towards the end of the twentieth century after he founded Def Jam records while still at high school. He went on to work with some of the music industry’s biggest names, and was named “the most important producer of the past 20 years” by MTV in 2007. Though some of his most well-recognised work took place before the turn of the millennium, he was twice recognised as Producer of the Year at the Grammys, in 2007 and 2009, for his work that encourages a stripped-back style that contributes to heightening the emotional power of his work.
Rick has worked with some of the biggest names in pop, including Adele.
Missy ElliottThe first female rapper in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and a highly successful artist in her own right, Missy Elliott’s work as a producer may go under the radar. All the same, it is important to recognise her as one of the key figures in launching many major stars’ careers. Her own work as a recording artist caught the eye of Thom Yorke and Damon Albarn due to her genre-bending, avant-garde approach. Her production career spans almost 30 years, during which she has collaborated with Eminem, Janet Jackson, and even Michelle Obama, cementing her position as one of the most influential musicians of this century.
Cover star of our Grade 6 book, Mark Ronson started out as a DJ while studying at NYU and quickly became one of the most sought after producers in the industry. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in the business: Bruno Mars, Lily Allen, and Lady Gaga to name a few. His ability to create a classic sound filled with horns that still feels fresh to a modern audience is unparalleled, as evidenced by the enduring success of his work on Amy Winehouse’s album, ‘Back to Black’, and the smash hit 'Uptown Funk' which saw him and Bruno Mars break record after record (if you'll pardon the pun...).
Last year Timbaland released his Masterclass series where he imparted his knowledge about production in a series of online tutorials. He certainly kept himself busy in the 2010s by working on some of the leading singles from Justin Timberlake’s ‘The 20/20 Experience’ as well as Michael Jackson’s ‘Love Never Felt So Good’. However it was the mid-00s when he was at his peak – this was a time when the charts were seemingly filled with Timbaland-produced tunes. His own album, ‘Shock Value’ spawned several hits, perhaps most notably the track ‘Apologize’, which featured OneRepublic, transforming them into global stars.
Citing Daft Punk and Eric Prydz as influences, Avicii’s untimely death in 2018 closed the curtain on what had been a meteoric rise to the top for the Swedish producer. The song that launched his career into the mainstream, ‘Levels’, fused EDM and country music in a way that has been replicated by many artists since. This tune achieved Top 10 status in many European countries on its release, and topped the charts in Hungary, Norway, and his native Sweden.
David Guetta’s early days (and nights!) in music were spent DJing at nightclubs. He grew up in Paris and discovered house music in the late ‘80s, so his rise to being recognised as one of the biggest producers around was a gradual process. He received recognition from his peers, but really exploded onto the international scene in 2009 with two of the biggest songs of the decade. First was ‘I Gotta Feeling’ by the Black Eyed Peas. This became the most downloaded song of all time and topped the charts in 17 countries. The same summer saw the release of Guetta’s own track ‘When Love Takes Over’, featuring Kelly Rowland. His status was secured as one of the most sought after producers in pop.
Linda Perry started from humble beginnings as a songwriter juggling multiple jobs when she moved to San Francisco in 1986. Fast forward to 2020 and she has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and was nominated for the ‘Producer of the Year: Non-Classical’ Grammy award in 2019. P!nk released her second album, ‘Missundaztood’, in 2001, and it was Perry’s work on production and songwriting on this album that saw her stock soar. She went on to write ‘Beautiful’ for Christina Aguilera, and work with Alicia Keys on 'Superwoman', so there was no way we could ignore her when making this list!
Love him or loathe him, there’s no doubting Kanye West’s credentials as a producer. Hugely successful as a performer and writer in his own right, his production credits include the likes of Drake, John Legend, and Mary J. Blige, while he also worked with Alicia Keys and Ludacris in the early '00s. In his own music he has more recently opted for a more stripped back approach, but this does not mean he has lost the meticulous, studious edge that made Kanye, Kanye.
PLEASE NOTE:THE MUSIC PRODUCTION ENTRY DEADLINE IS SET FOR 20TH FEB 2020! THINK YOU'RE READY?