For the past several years, our Billboard charts and radio airwaves have been riddled with a set of distinctive sounds: those of producers, rather than singers. The number of singers who have become household names has waned, while the number of producers with that honor seems to have exponentially grown. But why? When did it become commonplace for the men behind the music to overshadow the artists that sing in front of it?
As a brief forage into musical history will show, the idea of the omnipresent producer, or what is oft-referred to as the “super producer,” is not a novel concept. The turn of the century introduced the music world to a producing pair of high school buddies from Virginia Beach, Va. named The Neptunes. Their incredible catalogue of production credits includes work with Madonna, The Hives, Jay-Z and Mariah Carey. Their futuristic, dynamic sound earned them many accolades, wealth and opportunities.
But something drastic occurred between the reign of The Neptunes and the rise of super producers in the last several years. In the past, these men were musicians first and producers second, trained both formally and environmentally in harmony, composition and cadence. Because of their musical prowess, these men were highly acclaimed and significantly paid to employ their creativity in constructing music tailored to each artist. Now, artists and record companies seem to entirely tailor to the producer.