After the 2010 Grammy Awards, it’s safe to say that pop music is rapidly changing. There were few soulful ballads or lyrics with meaning, but a hit on the radio doesn’t need meaning — all it needs is an infectious mid-tempo party beat, an edgy title and producer Dr. Luke.
Lukasz Gottwald has commanded music charts from behind the recording booth for the last five years and his music has become the soundtrack for adolescents and partiers.
According to Billboard Magazine, Luke claims four of the 20 top-selling digital downloads of all time, including Flo Rida’s “Right Round” and Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart.”
As American Songwriter Magazine wrote, “It’s not a question of when you’ll hear a song he produced on the radio, but how many you’ll hear in a row.”
What makes Luke a force to be reckoned with in the pop industry is the sheer simplicity of his music. However, at the same time, it is extremely controversial, critically bashed and the catchiest stuff this decade. If B.o.B’s “Magic” doesn’t leave you humming the melody, then “Party in the U.S.A.” will.
While Luke’s artistic presence is undeniable, the question remains: What will his work mean for pop music, and music as a whole? Since his influence on pop music began a few years back with Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” Luke has been reaping controversy at every turn. He wrote the nervously quirky “I Kissed A Girl” in 2008, and the song, which features a young Ke$ha dancing in the music video, was instantly a discussion-inducing hit. The track arrived at a time when gay marriage was a very touchy subject, especially in California where Katy Perry grew up.
The selling factor of Luke’s music often revolves around a single line, whether it’s a lesbian experience in the Perry smash or a reference to masturbation in Pink’s “U and Ur Hand.” If a Dr. Luke hit isn’t facing controversy, it still consists of lyrics about partying, hookups and Hollywood.
The music is ridiculed for its sound as well as its subject matter. While the producer’s mid-tempo, bass-laden hallmark tracks are catchy, has pop music forgotten about artistic value altogether? Yes, 2010 saw the rise of saintly Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj and another smash by Taylor Swift. Kanye West, who created what was easily the best album of the year, received no serious Grammy nods (and you know something is wrong when Kanye is being referred to as a redeeming factor).
Is Dr. Luke’s music more than just bubblegum? At this point, yes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t like it. His songs are well-crafted melodically, and they are encouraging new, conversation-starting personalities to music.
“Sometimes when I talk to those kinds of people, they’re like, ‘What is it like making this simple music?’” he said in a Billboard interview. “They look down on it. And I’m like, ‘No, you don’t get it. I actually like this. I don’t see a difference between brilliance in one and the other.’”
His work with Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne in 2011 will certainly prove whether the writer has staying power or is as much of a supernova as anyone else in the business. Regardless, Luke has changed the face of pop music. For better or worse, you be the judge.