Meet the Songwriters Behind 2017's Chart-Topping Hits, From 'Havana' to 'Believer'

BB30 2017 - DO NOT REUSE
Courtesy Photo
Camila Cabello, "Havana"

As streaming continued to revolutionize music, songsmiths from the pop, dance, country and rock charts had breakthrough years. Get acquainted with four songwriters who stood out in 2017, below.

JACOB “J KASH” KASHER

On the charts: Maroon 5’s “Cold” (No. 16), Charlie Puth’s “Attention” (No. 5) and “How Long” (No. 26) are among Kasher’s 10 appearances in 2017 on the Billboard Hot 100, where he was the chart’s 13th-ranked songwriter this year.

His story: Following a short-lived stint as a rapper himself, Kasher started focusing on songwriting with producer Kevin Rudolf circa 2008. It was a light-bulb moment: "I thought, I might suck as a rapper, but I can put some lyrics to good use," he recalls, laughing. The Virginia native now known as J Kash has since worked with everyone from Selena Gomez to One Direction. As for his 2017 success, Kasher thanks the "smorgasbord" of genres on this year's pop charts for pushing him to expand his comfort zone. “Country and Latin music got really big,” says Kasher. “Nothing is off-limits, and there’s no wrong way to create.”

ALI TAMPOSI

On the charts: Tamposi co-wrote a pair of top 10 Hot 100 hits -- Camila Cabello’s “Havana” (No. 2) and Kygo and Selena Gomez’s “It Ain’t Me” (No. 10) -- and dominated even more on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart, where she was the year’s third-biggest songwriter.

Her story: “I don’t necessarily know what makes a hit, but I know what feels like a special song,” says the 28-year-old Florida native. Her star-studded resume proves it: Tamposi had her first placement with Beyonc√©  at 18, co-penning Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger," her first Hot 100 No. 1 hit, two years later. These days, honesty is her secret songwriting weapon -- for "It Ain't Me," Tamposi mined her own relationship history for lyrics. “Artists are expressing their vulnerabilities in a way that resonates with listeners," she explains. "Honest lyrics always win.”

MATTMAN & ROBIN

On the charts: In 2017, the two were a force on the Hot Rock Songs chart (where they were the seventh most-credited team of the year), co-writing much of Imagine DragonsEvolve LP including the band’s No. 4 Hot 100 hit, “Believer.”

Their story: The famously reclusive Swedish duo -- Robin Fredriksson and Mattias Larsson -- is part of hitmaker Max Martin and Tom Talomma’s Wolf Cousins production entity, and have crafted pop gold for the likes of Gwen Stefani, DNCE and Hailee Steinfeld. But 2017 proved the duo's versatility: While working with veteran songwriter Julia Michaels on her lauded Nervous System EP, co-penning standouts like "Uh Huh" and "Worst in Me," the duo also left their fingerprints on Imagine Dragons' Evolve, dominating the rock charts with smash "Believer."

ASHLEY GORLEY

On the charts: The year’s top-ranked songwriter on the Hot Country Songs chart, Gorley penned hits like Jon Pardi’s “Dirt on My Boots” (No. 2) and Brad Paisley’s “Today” (No. 7).

His story: “I’ve always been restless,” says Gorley, who heads up Tape Room, the Nashville publishing company that released Sam Hunt’s record-setting, chart-topping smash, “Body Like a Back Road.” It shows. In November, Gorley was awarded songwriter of the year at the ASCAP Country Music Awards -- his record fifth time receiving the honor. And while his heart is with country music (with more than a decade of professional songwriting experience, he's worked with Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and countless others), he was excited to see the genre widen in 2017. “[Hunt] is following Rihanna and DJ Khaled on my pop station," Gorley explains. "I love being part of that.”

Billboard Year in Music 2017

A version of this article originally appeared in the Dec. 30 issue of Billboard. 

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