Music politics change depending on where you’re looking. In the hip-hop scene, it’s not uncommon to see artists supporting each other and praising artists and musicians who helped them get their stuff out there. But in the world of mainstream music, the politics are a lot more complicated and annoying.
Major popular artists like Bruno Mars, Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber continue to release music that fans lose their minds over, even though most of it follows the exact same formula — simple but catchy lyrics on top of an equally catchy beat. Despite this repetitive formula, most pop listeners continue to give these artists undying praise and treat them like music gods — even though most of them only do a mere fraction of the work that it takes to produce an album.
Music producers are severely under-recognized in all music communities, but especially in pop and top 40’s hits. For example, Justin Bieber’s 2015 album “Purpose” was met with critical acclaim. Some reviewers even called it “the best album of his career.” But does Bieber deserve all that praise? Why don’t we ask the 26 producers who collaborated to perfect the music? Or the 26 contributing writers who helped him write the lyrics? While music critics and journalists may know that Bieber wasn’t the only talent on the record, none of that information is widely discussed among his audience and most listeners still think Bieber put forth most of the effort.
Even when popular artists only appear as features on a lesser-known producer’s track, they still receive more recognition for that track than the producer does. Let’s take a song like “Uptown Funk.” The parent album that this single comes from, “Uptown Special,” belongs to and was produced by Mark Ronson, which is no secret. All the singers featured on the tracks are just that, features. But chances are if you ask people about “Uptown Funk,” the majority will call it a Bruno Mars song instead of a Mark Ronson song, even though Mars is just a feature on the track.
Mars’ vocals are a crucial part of the song, but if the backing music wasn’t catchy or sounded like garbage, the song wouldn’t be nearly as popular. Not to mention, in addition to Mars, writers Jeff Bhasker, Philip Lawrence, Lonnie Simmons, Nicholas Williams, Devon Gallaspy, The Gap Band and Rudolph Taylor also created the lyrics. So, with all this collaboration on one track, why should Mars receive so much of the praise when all he did was lend his voice and, perhaps, a few ideas for the lyrics?
As pop artists continue to neglect their production teams, hip-hop artists do much more to provide producers and writers with recognition for their work. For example, many people don’t know that Kanye West started as a producer for Jay Z. After producing a few tracks for Jay Z he broke off into his own career, but Z was always ready to credit and support him.
Following this example, many hip-hop producers now have just as many fans as the rappers who utilize them. When it comes to hip-hop, half the song is the quality of the vocals and the other half is a great beat. Now that listeners are becoming more interested in the production side of hip-hop, they are more willing to listen to obscure rappers’ tracks if they were produced by beatmakers like Clams Casino, DJ Mustard, or No I.D. Because of this, fans of the genre are exposed to a larger variety of artists and both the performers and the producers reap the benefits.
Even if the writers and producers themselves don’t care, it’s unfair that they aren’t given recognition for their hard work. While pop artists pay good money to put their services to use, and the names of writers and producers are credited on the albums, that’s no excuse for fans not to recognize that the person singing or the pop icon plastered on the album cover isn’t the only talent responsible for the record’s content.