He ventured a long, long way from his sound with Bleachers, but Jack Antonoff did it: Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” unseated “Despacito” atop the Billboard Hot 100 this week and earned the indie-folkster-turned-Top 40 hustler his first No. 1 as a producer.
No, it’s not his first time topping the chart: As a member of fun., his songwriting skill helped vault 2012’s “We Are Young” to the summit, though everything about that hyper-positive, Glee flash mob of a single feels worlds removed from the venomous synths of “Made Me Do.” Antonoff’s got plenty of tricks, and he’s taking them to the bank.
The alt-pop maestro has humble begnnings, though, starting out with the early-2000s indie-pop band Steel Train, before moving onto producing and writing far more hit songs than you realize. The underground and the mainstream have blurred considerably in recent years, to the point where it’s not improbable for an even more left-field producer to make the leap, and in far less time.
Who might that be? We found plenty of candidates, some of which are already in striking distance of pop’s apex.
Around the start of this decade, BloodPop (then known as Blood Diamonds) was a glitchy underground producer, self-taught, and making marimba-addled, surrealistic tropical beats for the likes of Das Racist and Grimes (more on his connection with the latter in a sec). Over time, those connections upstreamed to the likes of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, while, fortunately, leaving much of the weirdness intact.
His Bieber collab “Friends” currently sits at No. 37 on the Hot 100, having debuted at No. 20 the week before. He cleaned up some in co-producing Gaga’s Joanne, but singles “Perfect Illusion” and “Million Reasons,” charted even higher (at Nos. 15 and 4, respectively). Quite literally, he’s is closer to a No. 1 than anyone else on this list.
Claire Boucher — aka Grimes — wrote the intergalactic EDM banger above alongside BloodPop with Rihanna originally in mind. This team-up never came to be, so Grimes decided to inject it with her own vocal stylings and release it as a one-off single in mid-2014. Even if this is the last time we hear Grimes and Rihanna’s names in the same sentence (they’re both still listed with Roc Nation management, for what it’s worth) the one-time outsider DIY producer has endeared herself to the pop world, and has the earworm-writing ability to match. There’s a decent chance your Top 40 fav is already a fan and come to think of it, Grimes has been oddly quiet since promo for 2015’s Art Angels died down…
3. Kevin Parker
Speaking of Rihanna, Parker’s indie-famous band Tame Impala will forever be a footnote in her storied discography, as their 2015 song “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” made it onto ANTI as a steamed-up cover version. Around the same time, Parker made his first formal foray into the pop collaboration game by teaming up with Gaga to help write “Perfect Illusion.” He’s produced all three of Tame Impala’s full lengths, so it’s not hard to imagine him doing the same for a more traditional chart-topper with an ear for updated-for-2017 classic rock psychedelia.
The former Vampire Weekend multi-instrumentalist has teamed up with a bunch of critically-acclaimed, ought-to-be-bigger internet favorites in recent years: Frank Ocean, Charli XCX, Haim, Carly Rae Jepsen. Alongside his burgeoning post-Vampire Weekend production career, he’s also released a brilliant chamber pop album alongside former Walkmen singer Hamilton Leithauser and his solo debut LP Half-Light is due Sept. 15. His taste is impeccable and he’s not exactly thirsting for a crossover hit, but if Bieber’s looking for a harpsichord arrangement on his next single, Rostam is the man to call.
5. Dev Hynes
The Blood Orange mastermind is another auteur whose production credits are more endeared to best-of lists than singles charts: FKA Twigs‘ “Hours,” Carly Rae’ s “All That,” Solange‘s 2012 EP True. His sound? Humid, synth-led melodies, juicy bass plucks, vocals that linger like beads of sweat. Put it on your best speakers and imagine what his Rihanna collaboration would sound like.
6. Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly
RIP Chairlift. Now that the Brooklyn production and songwriting duo are respectively solo (they disbanded amicably earlier this year), get used to seeing Polachek and Wimberly’s names apart from each other increasingly often. And get excited, too. Each of Chairlift’s three albums already sound a couple years ahead of their times, futuristic transmissions from where forward-thinking pop and R&B were headed. They endeared themselves to pop’s cognoscenti and both Knowles sisters — Solange and Beyoncé — came calling for collaborations towards the end of their run (listen for Polachek’s incandescent backing vocals around the two-minute mark of “No Angel”). Both have kept a low profiles since Chairlift’s farewell shows this spring, but they didn’t break up just to fade into the background.
The L.A. DJ-producer Samuel Long — aka Sophie — gained prominence alongside the PC Music collective, whose carnival mirror electronic pop songs inspired more thinkpieces between 2013 and 2015 than we’d like to remember. However, Sophie’s output has managed to transcend warp-speed internet age nostalgia; his recent credits include Charli XCX and CupcakKe’s “Lipgloss,” MØ‘s “Nights With You,” and a couple tracks on Vince Staples‘ Big Fish Theory. The spirit of “Lemonade” lives on. And “Bipp” is still a bop and a half.