Who Is Justin Bieber 'Friends' Collaborator BloodPop?

BloodPop
Courtesy of Purple PR

BloodPop

The Kansas City-born Michael Tucker has cooked up hits for Madonna, Lady Gaga, Haim, Grimes others over the past four years.

The name itself evokes a certain kind of feeling: BloodPop. It's visceral, action-packed, mysterious, alluring, hypnotic, gritty and a bit confusing, which kind of sums up the earworm music that Kansas City-born Michael Tucker has cooked up for collaborators including Madonna, Lady Gaga, Haim, Grimes and Justin Bieber over the past four years.

Now, Tucker, the producer/songwriter/musician previously known as Blood Diamonds and sometimes as Blood, is at it again, dropping his latest radio candy on Thursday (Aug. 17), Bieber's "Friends." The dark, throbbing dance track is full of BloodPop's signature moves: digital swoops and yelps and an insistent beat that puts it somewhere in that sweet spot slipstream between pop and EDM that's performing so well on the charts these days. 

But what is BloodPop's story? Like so many of today's studio wizards, the producer -- who, his official bio states, is nearly 7 feet tall -- has mostly preferred to stay in the background, letting his clients shine even as he helps them assemble potential hits and releases the occasional solo single and EP. According to a 2013 bio on the OWSLA site, he was born "Michael Diamond," and was described at the time as a 22-year-old Los Angeles resident who studied classical and "modernistic jazz from his adolescence in Kansas City and then, after moving to Vancouver to study a degree in video game design, he became absorbed in all music electronic." 

He told Pitchfork in 2011 that he studied jazz guitar in middle school, then attended the Kansas City Art Institute when he turned 17, discovering the music of bands such as M83. "Around 2007, I picked up some DJ equipment and fell into the hell vortex of DJing these f--king s--tty art school parties with people wearing jungle spandex and Indian headdresses being like: 'Play some Girl Talk,'" he told the site. "I was so f--king over it, man. I was studying classical animation, but I wasn't really digging it at the time. So I learned this production software."

Describing himself as "the weird kid with headphones," to The Fader in 2014, he recalled being exposed to hip-hop and not understanding how it was made. "I knew older musicians and stuff, but no one could give me a straight answer," he said. "I was like, 'how the f--k does Daft Punk do what they do? What are they using?"

While in Vancouver, BloodPop began uploading glitchy electronic instrumentals to Soundcloud as Blood Diamonds before being discovered by Transgressive records, according to a 2016 profile in Dazed. Speaking to Stereogum the year before he explained the evolution of his pseudonym and how it reflects his changing views on music and production. 

"When I started out as Blood Diamonds I was never really planning on being successful in the least bit. The 19-year-old me was planning on making video games and putting out records on SoundCloud anonymously," he said. "But in recent years I felt a need to be more socially responsible because of the conflict of blood diamonds, the actual blood diamonds. I decided that out of respect, I shouldn’t share that name. I stopped putting out my own records for the last two or three years as Blood Diamonds not only because of the name conflict, but because I didn’t just want to just be a beat-maker. Beats are fun, and they’re great to listen to, but purely instrumental tracks don’t connect with as many people." 

The addition of the "pop" to his name was a reflection of what he's always wanted to do: "make good pop music and not be ashamed of it." When he started making music in 2011, BloodPop said he was listening to Kesha and Swedish House Mafia, without an understanding of what EDM was or what a producer like Dr. Luke actually did. "I was oblivious to that," he said. "I didn't understand the difference between Arcade Fire and something really corporately produced. I just knew they sounded different."

Following his first singles as Blood Diamonds in 2010 and 2011 ("Heart," "Lasting Love," Grins," "Move the Stars") he told The Fader that he met Grimes at his first show under that name when she played on a bill in Vancouver before him, which resulted in their collaboration on "Phone Sex" in 2012. That led to his first remix for a well-known artist: a 2012 re-do of Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools (Drank)." What followed were remixes for Major Lazer, Sky Ferreira, Kiesza and Ellie Goulding, before BloodPop began his first steps into the mainstream with production on Grimes' "Go" and Tinashe's "Bet." 

After a 2014 EP and a remix of a Beyoncé track on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, things went all the way up in 2015 when he was tapped to co-write five songs on Madonna's Rebel Heart album and six on Bieber's Purpose, including the smash "Sorry." The roll continued with co-writes for Fifth Harmony ("Scared of Happy"), Britney Spears ("Better") and John Legend ("What You Do to Me"). Things truly went stratospheric, though, in 2016, when he received co-writing credits for all the tracks on Gaga's Joanne album. That was followed up by a producer credit on the Haim song "Want You Back" from their Something to Tell You album (plus a remix of their "Little of Your Love" single). 

Among the other acts he's produced and/or written for according to his bio: AlunaGeorgeCharli XCXDreezyLe1fLupe FiascoMikky EkkoPia Mia and more. 

Which brings us back to "Friends" -- co-written with Bieber, Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels -- and one of the first major singles to feature BloodPop's name on the same line as the lead artist. With "Friends" tipped as Bieber's potential third Hot 100 No. 1 of 2017, this could BloodPop's moment.

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