"It's a company policy that we can't refer to it without saying, parenthesis 'One Last Kiss,'" RCA Music Group CEO Peter Edge jokes, referring to P!nk's latest top 10 hit, which without the parenthetical would be titled simply, "Blow Me." But there was a brief moment early this year when the song could've had a considerably less memorable title.
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The singer had been working with producer Greg Kurstin on an intense nine-day songwriting session that yielded six songs. One particular track, an empowering breakup anthem in the vein of P!nk's 2008 No. 1 "So What," seemed like it might be written and recorded within a day-it just needed a title.
"She kept coming back to 'Let's throw in the towel,' and it was one of those things where we had to say, 'Is that line really the song?'" Kurstin recalls. "So then I came back with 'Blow me … one last kiss' and we got really excited. Most of the time with P!nk she's so strong writing lyrics I don't really interfere. I let her do her thing. That could've been the only time I did that."
For a long time Kurstin, 43, was one of pop's best-kept secrets. A fixture on the Los Angeles alt-rock scene who's toured with Beck and Red Hot Chili Peppers and is half of lounge-pop duo the Bird & the Bee, he produced for kindred spirits who favored his craftily catchy touch, like the Flaming Lips (2006's "Haven't Got a Clue") and Lily Allen (2009's It's Not Me, It's You).
But when a song he co-wrote and produced for Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," crowned the Billboard Hot 100 in February and became the biggest-selling hit in Clarkson's career (3.7 million copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan), Kurstin went from cult favorite to every label's must-have. So far this year, his diverse resume includes the subtle alt-rock of the Shins ("Port of Morrow"), the breakout electro-pop of Marina & the Diamonds ("Electra Heart") and P!nk.
Up next is another album with Allen, or Lily Rose Cooper as she's now known professionally; a new set from Tegan & Sara ("It's a lot poppier than their other stuff but also more experimental in some areas," Kurstin says); and a couple of tracks with Swedish pop singer Lykke Li. And then there's his ongoing collaborations with Sia, who's also having an unexpectedly huge 2012 with top 10 hits "Titanium" with David Guetta and "Wild Ones" with Flo Rida.
"She's always saying, 'Should I sing my demos worse?'" Kurstin says with a laugh. "It's crazy how good she is in the studio, and so fast, and her voice is amazing. I'm so glad all this has happened to her. She deserves it."