Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

January 19, 2013

Slate: How to make a Justin Bieber song

(Continued)

As a music fan and as a producer, Rechtshaid is genre-fluid. He loves Nirvana and Kurt Cobain; he admires Britney Spears for releasing songs that feel "clear and concise and 100 percent communicative." Some of his heroes include the Ramones, Fleetwood Mac and Joy Division because "they have their own sounds" and "when the song comes on you can tell whose it is."

At times he comes close to denying that his own works share any aesthetic at all. He believes his job involves getting inside a band's headspace and channeling its peculiar spirit — because "every artist, every project, should be unique." If a common theme does animate his work, it may be some version of Ezra Pound's injunction to make it new. "I strive to create music that doesn't sound like anything else," he says.

As for the hits themselves, each one has its own origin story. Sometimes an artist will call and request a track from scratch. Sometimes the call comes after Rechtshaid has already been toying with a few ideas and has a portfolio to vend. Sometimes he brings an artist what he thinks will be a beautiful fit and the artist rejects it. Sometimes, after that, the two begin an impromptu brainstorming session that produces radio gold.

"Thought of You" arose in a typically contingent, unforeseeable way. According to Rechtshaid, he and Diplo received a call from Usher requesting a meeting, so the two of them began working up a chord progression and some drum tracks. When they played the embryonic song for the star, though, everyone agreed that its tone felt slightly too bright. Usher, who is close to Justin Bieber, gave Rechtshaid his blessing to present the track to the Bieber camp. Though Rechtshaid didn't know much about the Canadian sensation, he reached out to the singer's team just before jetting off to the Caribbean to record reggae with Snoop Lion. The day he got back, he rushed into his first Bieber meeting with material he hadn't given much thought to for weeks. But none of that mattered; Justin loved "Thought of You"; Rechtshaid went home the same day and began tightening, polishing and adding effects. A few days later, he recruited Eric Belinger to write the top line (the melody and lyrics), some of which Bieber would alter and riff on during recording. The whole thing came together "remarkably quickly," Rechtshaid recalls.

For Rechtshaid's breakdown of the song, link to http://slate.me/SL0utD.

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