“It’s not enough to have one hook anymore,” Jay Brown, the president of Roc Nation, and Dean’s manager, told me recently. “You’ve got to have a hook in the intro, a hook in the pre-chorus, a hook in the chorus, and a hook in the bridge.” The reason, he explained, is that “people on average give a song seven seconds on the radio before they change the channel, and you got to hook them.”
Sometimes producers send out tracks to more than one top-line writer, which can cause problems. In 2009, both Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson had hits (Beyoncé’s “Halo,” which charted in April, and Clarkson’s “Already Gone,” which charted in August) that were created from the same track, by Ryan Tedder. Clarkson wrote her own top line, while Beyoncé shared a credit with Evan Bogart. Tedder had neglected to tell the artists that he was double-dipping, and when Clarkson heard “Halo” and realized what had happened she tried to stop “Already Gone” from being released as a single, because she feared the public would think she had copied Beyoncé’s hit. But nobody cared, or perhaps even noticed; “Already Gone” became just as big a hit.
Decades ago, when I was a student at one of the London conservatoires, I discovered just how difficult conducting really is. With the cockiness of youth I reckoned it was something I could add to my portfolio of skills without too much trouble. I signed up for a course, and soon found myself in front of a student orchestra, with a Brahms symphony on the music stand. I gave what I thought was a clear upbeat into the piece, and almost immediately things started to fall apart. The winds raced ahead of the violins, the basses lumbered in their wake. The horns missed an entry, probably because they were laughing. Meanwhile I flailed on. Brahms’s carefully contrived texture disintegrated like a ghastly slow-motion car crash.