Suppose someone like Beyoncé is in need of a song to release. We’ve already established (a few chapters back), that she can “cowrite” with a Songwriter Producer. But this isn’t always a viable option. If she’s on tour, she may not have time to sit down and write with Producers. At which point, she’ll seek submissions from Publishing companies who have a whole roster of Songwriter Producers looking to score a Beyoncé song. And seeing as Beyoncé is currently one of the hottest singers on the planet, I can assure you all of the submissions, every one of them, will be hot off the presses and written specifically for Beyoncé to sing.
As you can imagine, when someone like Beyoncé needs a new song, she’s going to get hundreds of submissions, all of them from professional Songwriter Producers signed with Publishers. Her managers might even, on some occasions, be inclined to include an all-call by placing a small classified ad in a trade rag like the Hollywood Reporter or perhaps Billboard. On those occasions, you, I, or anyone can submit a song for consideration. Clearly, it’s a long shot.
You see, once the submission deadline is reached, the song demos are prioritized. At the top of the pile are demos from the hottest Songwriter Producers with the most recent string of hits. Next come the tracks delivered by the once-hot Songwriter Producers, followed by the up-and-coming Songwriters. Given the seeding process of song demo submissions, the current and hottest Songwriters have a massive advantage.
The procedure is simple. Beyoncé and/or her managers listen to the demos, one at a time, starting with the hottest Songwriters, and continue through the pile until she finds her perfect song. Once that happens, the search is over. The rest of the songs are thrown out, never to be heard again.
As you can imagine, the chances that Beyoncé will make it through all of the professional Songwriter submissions, followed by the up-and-comers, and on to the all-call submissions is highly unlikely. So why do they have all-call submissions? Frankly, I’m not sure they do anymore. Someone as big as Beyoncé probably doesn’t get through more than ten tracks. She’s getting submissions from the hottest Songwriters in the world.
At the end of the day, Songwriting is a business, and there is a great deal of competition. Any advantage, no matter how small, can make a difference. Given this, a smart professional Songwriter will first perform a detailed analysis of Beyoncé’s catalog in order to determine her tendencies in regard to subject matter, key, tempo, melody, harmony, rhythm, and even arrangements. A professional Songwriter will then hire a demo singer who sounds a little like Beyoncé, but is not quite as good. The goal is to deliver a song that Beyoncé hears as her own. In other words, to write a Beyoncé song.
Now, sometimes a song is written with no particular singer in mind. The Douchebag Ditty would be a good example of that. Clearly there was no point in pitching the Douchebag Song to Beyoncé. Even if we could get an audience with her, our meeting wouldn’t last long. Beyoncé tends to sing about love. The Douchebag Song is about hate. This was no Beyoncé song.
At first blush, I thought approaching the Pharcyde made some sense. Not only does the Pharcyde have something to say, the Ditty’s hook seemed to align with their humorous style. But as I’ve given it more consideration, I’ve had questions. For starters, is Douchebag a word that the Pharcyde would use?
As I’ve expressed before, I’m not sure it makes a whole hell of a lot of sense for middle-aged rappers with roots in the inner city to be complaining about Douchebags driving Priuses. It’s just not a theme that rings all that true. At least not until cops start driving Priuses, which would be somewhat amusing, because I don’t think they’d ever catch anyone.
But when you think about it, a Billionheir would seem an equally unlikely messenger of the Ditty. And just for the record, the Douchebag Song has nothing to do with criticizing environmentalists. That’s not the message at all. I’m just pissed off at all the Billionaire Douchebags who feign oblivion as they gum up the works for their own selfish purposes. Admittedly, that’s not a great message coming from a Billionaire’s Heir. Not that it matters. Most people don’t pay attention to subtext. Oblivion abounds.
Sometimes I wonder just how many people actually think about lyrics. For instance, “Every Breath you Take,” the mid-’80s hit song by the Police, is about a stalker. Yet somehow, this song is often featured at wedding receptions.
It just goes to show you, the feeling of the music is far more powerful than what you say. Musically speaking, “Every Breath You Take” feels like a love song. Which it is. From the perspective of the stalker. It’s actually kind of creepy when you actually think about the lyric.
Every breath you take
Every move you make
I’ll be watching you.
Because that’s what normal relationships are about. Watching your partner’s every move?
It’s kind of like when you call someone a Douchebag with a smile. The meaning is the same—it just appears less hostile, given the friendly delivery. The point is that most people will take away the wrong message from the Douchebag Song, so it’s really not a problem for Kanish to be the messenger, despite being a Billionheir. If we make the Song fun to sing, no one will ever notice the darker message of the Song, or the blatant hypocrisy in the person performing it.
Kanish was in the back of the garage working on the Douchebag lyric as Aardy and I set up some lounge chairs in the driveway. It was far too beautiful an afternoon to be holed up in the garage as Kanish looped the same four bars ad nauseam.
With our makeshift driveway lounge in full effect, Aardy pulled out a bottle of Illuminati vodka from his bag. Admittedly, it was a vodka I’d never heard of before, and for good reason—it’s Canadian. It’s also a relative newcomer to the ever-growing vodka scene, and it’s not even imported into the US, making it my current favorite premium vodka, as it’s impossible to get. It also made for the most divine vodka martinis I’ve had in quite some time. And that’s saying something, as I happen to be an unapologetic vodka snob.
Aardy and I were enjoying our afternoon Illuminati martinis in the driveway when, much to our surprise, the Rev pulled up. In a Rolls-Royce, no less!. What the fuck?
In the back of the Rolls was a young man, Indian, clad in pure white. The Rev jumped out of the car to greet us. The kid remained in the back.
“Holy shit!” the Rev announced. “Quentin Tarantino was right—you are in the sticks!”
He was referring to a scene in Pulp Fiction in which the Cleaner, played by Harvey Keitel, disses Redondo Beach by calling it the sticks. Of course, Quentin is right about that. Even with a population above 67,000, this was surely the sticks. I swear they roll up the streets by ten around here.
“Nice ride,” I said. “Where’s your driver?”
“I don’t like sitting in the backseat while someone else drives. I like to be in control of my own destiny, you know what I mean?”
“I do. I think your fare is waiting for you to open his door.”
The young man in the back of the car sat motionless and petulant. Ooh, boy. The Rev may have gotten a bad seed.
“What the hell?” Rev muttered. “Mukesh!”
Kanish was so deep in thought, he didn’t even realize the Rev had arrived. That is, until he heard his best buddy’s name yelled out.
Kanish bolted from the garage to the car and opened the door for his friend, who inexplicably shut it again and began speaking sternly in Hindi through the open window. Kanish reached in and smacked his friend on the head, and then opened the door so as to physically pull this white-clad Mukesh person from the car. Both of them were chattering excitedly in Hindi, which ceased abruptly upon the two of them reaching our position.
“This is Mukesh, everyone,” Kanish announced. “We were dorm mates at Eton.”
“Hello,” Mukesh said unenthusiastically with a wave.
“Come, come, Mukesh!” Kanish said as he herded his friend. “Have you been to the ocean yet? We will be back!”
“Look at that,” the Rev said almost sentimentally as he watched the two Billionheirs frolicking toward the beach. “Thick as thieves. I bet there’s no secrets between those two.”
As much as I enjoy impromptu visits, the goal for today was to get the rhyme written for the Douchebag Song. Still, the creative process is not one that can always be scheduled. If Kanish preferred to gallivant with his friend, then so be it. The writing brain does not confine itself to a timeline, and your subconscious will work on a creation as you go about your day. In fact, I would argue it’s critical to engage in some level of procrastination. Not only does that give the brain time to sort, it also allows for seemingly random events to have some influence on the process. Besides, we had time.
Rev and Aardy shot the shit for a bit. I had introduced them several years back, and they’ve been golfing buddies ever since. Aardy, who was already dressed the part, invited the Rev to play a round, which he turned down outright. This was not on the agenda, and the Rev immediately focused his attention toward the open garage.
“So! This is your room! And you have a Slate MTX, too! I was thinking about getting one of these. Can I try it?”
Without prompting, the Rev opened Logic and began moving faders on the touch screen.
“Holy shit! This is so much better than a mouse! Look at this, I can bring the fader up and down with my hand.”
“Check out the knobs,” I encouraged.
“Oh, shit! They’re rotary. Son of a bitch! Did your Billionaire’s Heir get you this?”
“Of course not.” I chuckled.
Annapurna brought down a large plate of bite-sized sandwiches (all of them with the crust cut off), which the three of us began to devour.
“You have a chef, too? Damn. I gotta talk to this kid. He’s a bit douchey. Your Billionheir is so . . .”
“Gregarious?” I said.
“Yeah. He’s gregarious. Mine is . . .”
“You really have a way with words!” the Rev complimented.
The Rev sparked up a cigarette in the driveway, and Aardy arranged the lounge chairs so we could all talk.
“Gentlemen,” Aardy began. “I don’t think there’s any need to be protectionist here. Everyone knows everyone, you know?”
“Exactly,” the Rev replied. “The kid wanted to see his friend, so that’s the main reason for the visit. But I’ve been thinking about all this shit, and I want to apologize to you, Zerman. You asked me to keep the whole Billionheir thing to myself, and I fucked up and told Willy about it, and that was dumb. I was wrong and you were right. If you want to keep this whole Billionheir crap quiet, then I’m all for it. You gotta accept my apology, brother.”
Sure! Now that you have your very own Billionheir, now you want to keep it quiet!
“I really appreciate that Rev,” I replied. “Of course I accept your apology. Thank you.”
“Aw, I knew you couldn’t stay sore at me. Shit. Neither one of us would have a Distribution deal with Willy if I hadn’t opened my big fat mouth. So it’s not all bad, right?”
“You have a deal with Willy? As a Producer?”
“Fuck that! Everyone and their brother is a record Producer these days. As a Mogul!”
“As a Mogul? But there’s no such job position as a Mogul!” I said indignantly.
“Sure there is! You and I are now Moguls, my friend. There’s no way around that. Willy has blessed us both with this. Don’t question it!”
I don’t know what pissed me off more. The Rev telling Willy about my Billionheir, or Willy dishing out Mogul status to other Producers. Aardy, who had been quiet to this point, interjected a thought.
“So, let me guess,” Aardy said. “You’re cowriting a song with your Billionheir, and you get an eight-figure Label deal if the track is a big hit?”
“Yeah. Hey. Whoa. Wow! You guys too? Well, that’s pretty nuts.”
Who knew that mentoring Billionheirs could be so universally lucrative?
The boys had returned from their walk, and I was certain Kanish was going to suggest we play the Douchebag track for his friend. This would have been nothing short of awkward, because there was no fucking way I was playing this track for what it now turns out is our competition. Much to my surprise, Kanish chose to beg off.
“Thank you vehdy much for bringing Mukesh for a visit, Rev. I vehdy much appreciate the gesture, but I’m afraid my Producer wants me to deliver a vocal today.”
“We should get out of your hair then,” the Rev replied.
We all said our goodbyes as Mukesh stood expectantly at the back of the Rolls-Royce.
“I’m not opening the fucking door for you!” the Rev admonished. “That’s not my gig, kid.”
Mukesh begrudgingly opened his own door and the Rev drove off. Kanish took a seat in the driveway lounge.
“I’m afraid I have some vehdy distressing news.” Kanish winced.
“Let me guess: the Rev and Mukesh got the same deal as us,” I replied.
“To be Moguls, no less! And Mukesh is going to perform the rap!”
“Really? They’re doing a rap song too? What the hell does the Rev know about hip-hop?”
“You know what this means, right, boys?” Aardy interjected.
“The race is on.”
“The race? What is this race you speak of?” Kanish asked quizzically.
“Well, it’s like this,” Aardy started. “Willy isn’t going to be handing out two eight-figure deals. Either we get the deal or they do. That means . . .”
“We need to hit first,” Kanish reasoned.
Clearly, if the Rev was producing a hip-hop track with an Indian Billionheir Artist, and we were producing a hip-hop track with an Indian Billionheir Artist, finishing first could be the difference between eight figures and none. There are only so many radio slots, and putting out two songs from new Artists, both Indian, and both rappers, could potentially kill everyone’s chances. Without a hit song, there is no Label deal. And since Willy would likely only push one of our songs to radio, we had to beat Rev to the punch.
“I noticed you didn’t offer to play your friend the track,” I said to Kanish.
“Certainly not. Why would I share our unfinished work with my competition? Do you think that I brought Mukesh here so that he could become a Music Mogul before me?”
“Good point. So, how are we doing on these Douchebag verses then, Kanish?”
“I am vehdy much ready to record.”
After a few minor tweaks to the lyric, we began to record the vocal to the Douchebag Song in earnest. Kanish did a great job. He performed like a pro. He took direction. He delivered passionate performances. He was able to make changes on the spot. The beat was working. Kanish was working. Everything was working.
Kanish took a final drag from the late-night Fatty. The three of us were all well past the high fives and accolades that come from capturing a money vocal.
“What is the lesson today?” Kanish asked.
As cutthroat as things have become, and despite being in a race against the Rev to deliver a hit record, I would not allow our newfound competition to Manifest into any kind of animus. Deep down, I’ve been greatly annoyed with the Rev for betraying my trust, but as he pointed out, if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t be in these rather exciting circumstances in the first place.
“To understand everything is to forgive everything,” I replied.
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