Hit singles don’t just happen when Justin Bieber steps up to the mic and opens his 16-year-old yap to sing. Often it takes just as much blood, sweat and tears (not to mention a little magical fairy dust) from the producers behind the boards to give a pop song that extra shine. We rounded up the eight musical wizards—including Dr. Luke, photographed here for a Billboard cover story earlier this year—who we feel made 2010 a very listenable 12 months on Planet Pop. Check them out below. ALEX DA KID
Eminem’s Recovery was the best-selling album of 2010, and a lot of that had to do with the hit single “Love The Way You Lie.” The drama-filled Alex Da Kid-produced track was not only the third most-downloaded iTunes song this year, it was also the best-selling single in the UK. “I knew that if it got the right attention—which an Eminem single pretty much does—I thought people would really embrace it,” Alex told us about the Grammy-nominated smash.
THE-DREAM & TRICKY STEWART Sure, these guys were behind Ciara’s too-hot-for-BET R&B hit “Ride.” But let’s face it—when it came to 2010, one song from this producing pair stood out from all the rest: “Baby.” Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0 single cemented the young crooner’s status as a teen force to be reckoned with, and helped him snag a MTV VMA and four American Music Awards. Up next for the Bieb: the Grammys, where he’s up for Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album. Up next for Dream and Tricky: probably another zeitgeist-like hit that will flow nicely with “Umbrella”, “Single Ladies” and, of course, “Baby.”
Midas-touch songwriter/producer Lukasz Gottwald had a stellar year in the charts thanks to hits done both with Max Martin (Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream”, Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite”) and without (Ke$ha’s “Your Love Is My Drug” and “We R Who We R”, B.o.B’s “Magic”). Along with Martin he co-executive produced Katy Perry’s #1 album Teenage Dream—a chore the pair have now taken on for Britney Spears’ forthcoming 2011 LP.
Though he frequently collaborates with Dr. Luke these days, Swedish maestro Max Martin is also an able producer on his own—or with his other right hand man Shellback. In fact, Max and Shellback were responsible for Adam Lambert’s summer single “If I Had You”, Pink’s third #1 hit “Raise Your Glass” (as well as her Greatest Hits…So Far!!! track “Fuckin’ Perfect”) and Usher’s Top 10 smash “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love.” Martin also reached the top of the Hot 100 this year with Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream.”
Madonna pretty much put this London-based tunesmith on the mainstream production map when she promoted him from musical tour director to producer for her 2005 Confessions On A Dance Floor album. And this year alone Price either produced, co-produced or executive produced the following: Scissor Sisters’ Night Work, Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite, Brandon Flowers’ Flamingo, Take That’s Progress. He also lent his skills to nearly half of the tracks on Duffy’s recently-released sophomore LP Endlessly.
Strangely, Mikkel Storleer Eriksen and Tor Erik Hermansen (aka Norwegian production team Stargate) had a rare misfire this year with Ne-Yo’s “Beautiful Monster.” But their handful of Hot 100 chart-toppers—Katy Perry’s “Firework”, Rihanna’s “Rude Boy”, “What’s My Name” and Grammy-nominated “Only Girl (In The World)”—more than made up for it. They also scored a sizable hit overseas with Alexis Jordan’s “Happiness.”