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#Dr. Luke

dr luke
Posted on 08/05/2011 at 2:15 PM

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Lukasz Gottwald is not a name known to a large percentage of pop fans. But they sure like his records. Dr. Luke is hands-down the biggest producer of the last three years. A former music student and one-time guitarist for the Saturday Night Live house band, Luke combines serious digital-era studio chops and session-musician skill with a love for the biggest, bounciest, crassest hooks. And thanks to that mix of superhumanly slick professionalism and utter shamelessness when it comes to chasing hits, he’s been able to crank out smash after smash for Ke$ha, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Britney, and many others.

NOWNESS: We don’t really have to go into detail here, do we? The guy has had more to do with the sound currently emanating from your FM radio about 90% of the time than maybe anyone else on this list, essentially creating the template for early-‘10s pop through his recent work with Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Ke$ha and countless other hitmakers. Just about everything on pop radio that wasn’t produced by Gottwald sounds like it easily could have been. He is to pop music right now what Timbaland was five years ago and what The Neptunes were nearly a decade ago. All that, and he doesn’t even insist on popping up in the music videos. (20/20)

RESUME: In addition to being the unfuckwithable commercial beast of the moment, Luke had a pretty good track record working with a more guitar-based rock/pop sound in the middle of the ‘00s as well. His Max Martin co-produced songs for Kelly Clarkson (“Since U Been Gone,” “Behind These Hazel Eyes”), Pink (“Who Knew,” “U + Ur Hand”) and Avril Lavigne (“Girlfriend”) were among the biggest and best radio hits of their era, laying the groundwork for the mega-success he would have towards the end of the decade and beyond. (9/10)

DRAMA: The closest Gottwald‘s come to drama is a 2007 lawsuit where ’70s power-poppers The Rubinoos claimed that he ganked the hook from their song “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” for Avril’s “Girlfriend.” They kinda had a point, even if Gottwald’s career escaped unscathed. These days he seems to be ripping off his own old hits more than anyone else’s. (5/15)

THIRD-BEST SONG: Luke’s best songs are his two biggest collaborations with Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone“ and “My Life Would Suck Without You,” where he lays off the preset disco beats and gets to work with a decent singer for a change. He’s also produced a ton of dreck. (3OH!3, anyone?) So we’ll just go with Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok,” which is Luke’s biggest hit and also sums up his whole approach to pop: spend most of the time coming up with a blunt sing-song chorus so immediately memorable that it takes you two or three spins to realize the lyrics are total gibberish; add a vocal track that sounds as glossily inhuman as the keyboards; and  set it all to a club-ready rhythm that stomps the shit out of the concept of “subtlety.” (8/10)

MUSIC VIDEOS: Tough one, seeing as how he’s never the star of his own records. We’ll throw him a couple points for some of the iconic videos he helped make possible—“California Gurls,” “Tik Tok,” etc.—but that’s all we can give him. (2/10)

LIVE SHOW: Again, kind of a non-issue. Though it should be noted that Dr. Luke makes records, precision-tooled earworms with big beats, rather than the kind of songs that lend themselves to live reinterpretations. Which probably explains why so few of his clients are known for their incendiary, unforgettable gigs. (1/5)

NON-MUSICAL VENTURES: In interviews, he discusses almost nothing other than his day job, and we assume maintaining a monopoly on the pop charts eats up the majority of his free time. Dr. Luke may have an abiding interest in nature conservancy or building wrought-iron furniture or biofuel research. But all non-musical ventures will probably have to wait until the planet grows weary of his sound. Which doesn’t seem like it‘s going to happen any time soon. (1/5)

FASHION/HAIR: Befitting a guy who spends most of his time behind a mixing desk and away from cameras, Dr. Luke’s sartorial choices aren’t going to upstage his flashier clients any time soon, at least going by his press shots.  But when you all but live in a recording studio, you can get away with a jeans-and-hoodies diet. (2/5)

HOTNESS: Unlike a lot of behinds-the-scenes industry types, Gottwald’s actually not a bad-looking guy in an aging indie rocker sort of way. Though admittedly it’s a little ironic that he looks like he should be playing in Wilco given his output. (2/5)

WHO THEY’VE DATED: See “Non-Musical Ventures.” Come on, people don’t care who the producer dates. Unless it’s on a Mutt Lange/Shania Twain tip. (0/5)


FAN CRAZINESS: Attention crazy fans: If you’re building shrines to the guy who operates the Pro Tools console, you’re doing it wrong. (1/5)



—Jess Harvell

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