Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Britney Story...

How to write a hit record without really writing a hit record.

Jeff Fenster looked at myself and Jack Perricone and said "Gentlemen, the floor is yours."

This is easily the second best thing to hear from the head of A&R at Jive Records.  The first best, of course, being "This is AMAZING. Can we use it as the single on Britney's new record?

""Well," I said, "Theresa has put one of my songs on hold for the Britney album. It's been a few weeks and I just wanted to know where it's at?

""Of course.  I'll grab the latest status update."  Jeff calmly flips through a few papers, and offhandedly asks me the name of the track.

"Oh, our tune is called Criminal," I reply.

 Jeff stops looking for papers, and turns at me with a knowing smile on his face and says "Well, I can already tell you the title is going to be a problem."

In the .5 seconds of silence before he spoke again, my mind raced to fill in every possible reason why the goddamned TITLE of our song could cause a problem. Is britney going for a "goodie-two shoes" image? Is it a concept album where all of the songs start with the letter "B"? Just as quickly as I thought of reasons, I started formulating counter-defenses.

Jeff opened his mouth again, stopping both my heartbeat, and my thought process: "Well, you see, there's another song that is going to be on the album titled 'In Love with a Criminal' and of course--."

Really?  REALLY, Jeff Fenster?  We're going to lose out on a Britney cut because someone else used a similar title?  
My brain started to think that maybe, just maybe, there was a little itsy bitsy chance that "In Love With a Criminal" was JUST far enough away from "Criminal" that we could still have the cut.

 "Well," I ask, "While you're still looking for the list.  Would you mind at least taking a listen to the tune?"

We pop in the CD, he blares it louder than I do in my studio, is bobbing his head the entire time through and looks at me at the end of the cd and says "Yeah. It's a great tune for Britney!  Oh and Here's that status sheet." Jeff looked over the latest status sheet for Britney's album and chuckled, "Ah, and look what they changed the title to!"  

He slid the sheet towards me and, for a split second every cell in my body filled with the hope that the title was changed to something banal like "In Love" or "Loving a Convict" or some other horrible title in which I would find my ticket to the cut I've always wanted, or maybe the other tune would  be low enough on the list that OUR criminal still had a chance.

I looked at the list and froze.

In order of preference.  Jive Records' #1 PICK, by none other than Max Martin himself, who by the way started writing over 2 months AFTER we submitted our tune, has been retitled: 


Oh, hi there Dues.  I must have forgotten to pay you.

On the bright side, it is an honor to be written off a Britney Spears record by Max Martin.

Max, as a massive fan of your work: I hope to be able to repay the favor some day. 

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