Pop

In Demand: Why Miley Cyrus, Dua Lipa and More Love This Pop Songwriter

Ali Tamposi
Christina Arza

Ali Tamposi

Veteran pop tunesmith Ali Tamposi — who has co-penned smashes for Kelly Clarkson, Camila Cabello and 5 Seconds of Summer, among others — admits it has taken time to feel comfortable writing over Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, while she’s thankful to be having in-person sessions again with close collaborator Andrew Watt (after everyone gets tested, of course), she says the adjustment taught her a valuable lesson: “The workload isn’t nearly as intense this year, but we’re starting to understand quality over quantity.”

Since wrapping 2019 as BMI’s pop songwriter of the year honoree (an award she shared with Watt), Tamposi, 31, has used the pandemic to home in on a more select group of projects, including Creative Waves Foundation, a program she founded with her mother, Candy, that provides financial support to underprivileged young artists. She’s also developing a curriculum for a free online music-education program. “I don’t know when I would have [otherwise] had the opportunity to really isolate my focus,” she says, “and at a time when people need creative outlets.”

The British pop star’s second album, Future Nostalgia, was released just weeks after the United States shut down in March due to the pandemic. Tamposi, who co-wrote the INXS-interpolating third single, was nervous about its delayed arrival. “We weren’t sure if and when they would release it, but they decided to move forward, and we were all extremely pleased with the way it unfolded,” she recalls. “Break My Heart” later peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. “That’s a testament to the power of [Lipa’s] artistry. When I’m watching her in the studio, I see she knows exactly what she wants and is simultaneously open to suggestions.”

 

Tamposi and the U.K. artist first worked together in Los Angeles in January. Then she joined him at New York’s Electric Lady Studios in March to finish the dreamy “Are You Even Real?,” one of a series of singles Blake has released since his 2019 Grammy-nominated album, Assume Form. “We worked on a bunch of ideas together,” she says. “Everything he puts his touch on feeds your soul. I just came in as a tool to help him get his full idea out.” Also scoring writing credits on the track were Starrah, a frequent collaborator of Madonna and Nicki Minaj, as well as Peter Lee Johnson, who provided strings on Ariana Grande’s Positions.

 

Tamposi and Watt contributed multiple songs to Cyrus’ Plastic Hearts, including the Stevie Nicks-sampling lead single, “Midnight Sky,” which interpolates the legend’s “Edge of Seventeen” and came together a month before its August release. “There isn’t any area that [Cyrus] won’t talk about, which is great for me as a writer,” says Tamposi of the Hot 100 top 20 hit, on which the pop star sings of being a free spirit post-breakup. Working on Plastic Hearts allowed Tamposi to create within “this merge of classic rock, modern drums and synths,” she says. “That’s where [Cyrus’] voice shines the most. The album feels really true to who she is.”

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 5, 2020, issue of Billboard.