John Seabrook – Song Machine


Over the last two decades, a new type of song has emerged. Today’s hits bristle with “hooks”, musical burrs designed to snag your ear every seven seconds. Painstakingly crafted to tweak the brain’s delight in melody, rhythm, and repetition, these songs are industrial-strength products made for malls, casinos, the gym, and the Super Bowl halftime show. The tracks are so catchy and so potent that you can’t not listen to them.

Traveling from New York to Los Angeles, Stockholm to Korea, John Seabrook visits specialized teams composing songs in digital labs with novel techniques, and he traces the growth of these contagious hits from their origins in early ’90s Sweden to their ubiquity on today’s charts. Featuring the stories of artists like Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Rihanna as well as expert songsmiths like Max Martin, Ester Dean, and Dr. Luke, The Song Machine will change the way you listen to music.

Author: John Seabrook
Narrator: Dion Graham
Duration: 9 hours 23 minutes
Released: 15 May 2010
Publisher: HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books
Language: English

User Review:

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This is a lively history of pop music since 1989. If you think Katy Perry is great or you hate the Backstreet Boys, you will find out why in this book.

Or so the featured music producers like Denniz PoP and Max Martin would like you to think. This is a story about that segment of pop music where the artist is usually a pretty girl or boy whose sound and look are a creation of the producer and his team.

This is a story about songwriting simplified to a formula, where words are units of melody and melody is married to the beat.

The writer looks at sound factories in Sweden, America and Korea. He follows the careers of the major Svengali producers and the acts whose hits they have manufactured, including Kelly Clarkson (who fought against the constraints), Rihanna, Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry and a more recent Taylor Swift.

Spotify, the streaming music company, also gets a chapter.

You might become cynical about the music industry after this. You might get inspiration for your Ableton compositions. You might run out to see a real loose garage band or singer-songwriter just to prove to yourself that other kinds of music are out there.

But you won’t look at today’s music hits the same after reading this book.