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“By the mid-2000s the track-and-hook approach to songwriting—in which a track maker/producer, who is…”

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“By the mid-2000s the track-and-hook approach to songwriting—in which a track maker/producer, who is responsible for the beats, the chord progression, and the instrumentation, collaborates with a hook writer/topliner, who writes the melodies—had become the standard method by which popular songs are written. The method was invented by reggae producers in Jamaica, who made one “riddim” (rhythm) track and invited ten or more aspiring singers to record a song over it. From Jamaica the technique spread to New York and was employed in early hip-hop. The Swedes at Cheiron industrialized it. Today, track-and-hook has become the pillar and post of popular song. It has largely replaced the melody-and-lyrics approach to songwriting that was the working method in the Brill Building and Tin Pan Alley eras, wherein one writer sits at the piano, trying chords and singing possible melodies, while the other sketches the story and the rhymes.

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“By the mid-2000s the track-and-hook approach to songwriting—in which a track maker/producer, who is responsible for the beats, the chord progression, and the instrumentation, collaborates with a hook writer/topliner, who writes the melodies—had become the standard method by which popular songs are written. The method was invented by reggae producers in Jamaica, who made one “riddim” (rhythm) track and invited ten or more aspiring singers to record a song over it. From Jamaica the technique spread to New York and was employed in early hip-hop. The Swedes at Cheiron industrialized it. Today, track-and-hook has become the pillar and post of popular song. It has largely replaced the melody-and-lyrics approach to songwriting that was the working method in the Brill Building and Tin Pan Alley eras, wherein one writer sits at the piano, trying chords and singing possible melodies, while the other sketches the story and the rhymes.”

- John Seabrook, The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory
Miles Kimball
Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

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