“We’re, as Quincy [Jones] would say, ‘chasing chills,'” says producer Tommy Brown. “If you can’t memorize it, walk out the room and come back and sing it again … usually it’s not a hit.
“I’m always trying to find the thing that has the hair standing up on my arms.”
On the latest Billboard Chart Beat Podcast, co-hosts Gary Trust and Trevor Anderson, from the Billboard charts department, welcome Brown and fellow creators, and Billboard chart regulars, Tayla Parx, Leon Thomas, Sarah Hudson and Jesse Saint John.
Also joining are longtime Billboard Chart Beat Podcast guests Dave Penn and Yael Penn from Hit Songs Deconstructed, which analyzes the compositional characteristics of top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits, among other services.
The two-part episode was recorded during Parx’s Burnout, a camp for songwriters, producers and other music talents that took place Oct. 9-13 in Brooklyn and New York City.
While part one focused on the importance of maintaining wellness for songwriters and producers, part two delves into the craft of songwriting and what ingredients most often lead to hits. Along with an undefinable magic, elements that appear to be key ingredients to chart success are authenticity, perhaps now more than in ever in a social media era in which fans are so invested in artists’ lives; knowing when to adhere to a proven blueprint but also when to break the rules; and, a camaraderie among collaborators that often helps elicit optimal creativity.
Among their chart triumphs, Parx co-wrote Ariana Grande’s first two Hot 100 No. 1s, “Thank U, Next” and “7 Rings,” as well as Khalid and Normani’s “Love Lies” and Panic! at the Disco’s “High Hopes,” along with Hot 100 entries for BTS, Mariah Carey and Fifth Harmony.
Brown co-wrote and co-produced “Thank U, Next” and “7 Rings,” after first hitting the Hot 100 as a co-writer of The Black Eyed Peas’ “Just Can’t Get Enough,” which rose to No. 3 in 2011.
Thomas is part of production team The Rascals (Grande, Toni Braxton, Meghan Trainor), after breaking through in the role of Andre Harris on Nickelodeon’s Victorious. Hudson co-wrote Katy Perry’s 2014 Hot 100 leader “Dark Horse” (featuring Juicy J) and Iggy Azalea’s No. 3-peaking “Black Widow” (featuring Rita Ora), while Saint John co-wrote the Hot 100’s current No. 1 for seven weeks running, “Truth Hurts.”
“The best part has been genuinely feeling the support of my community of writers,” says Saint John. “You always pray for a massive hit, but it feels even better to feel that people are happy for you.”
To listen to every episode of the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast since its launch in March 2016, with artists, label executives, radio programmers and personalities, songwriters, producers and more, you can go to Acast, Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Overcast, PocketCast, Podbean, Stitcher and TuneIn.