Dr. Luke Is Back With Doja Cat’s ‘Say So,’ But Did He Ever Go Away? – Variety

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Doja Cat’s fast-rising hit “Say So” — which soars to No. 2 on the Rolling Stone Prime 100 this week and hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Sizzling 100  — is the type of music that you simply really feel such as you’ve heard earlier than.

Perhaps it’s due to the razor-sharp vocals or the TikTok-ready guitar licks, or — bonus — the Nicki Minaj visitor rap on its just-released remix. But most certainly it’s as a result of the effortlessly effervescent refrain, which is just about not possible to get out of your head when you’ve heard it, got here from the identical author as Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” Britney Spears’ “Maintain It In opposition to Me,” Pink’s “U + Ur Hand” and dozens of different hits.

That may be Lukasz Gottwald, a.ok.a. Dr. Luke, the previously high-flying hitmaker who was “disgraced” by a extensively publicized 2014 lawsuit by former protégé Kesha that alleged sexual assault and emotional abuse and tried to free her from her label and publishing contracts with him — prices he has steadfastly denied whereas his legal professionals have received a number of rounds over five-plus years in courtroom. It’s been as a few years since Gottwald’s identify was hooked up to a serious chart hit.

Whereas the credited producer of “Say So” is one Tyson Trax, that identify is amongst a number of pseudonyms Gottwald has used since being successfully shunned within the courtroom of public opinion. In actuality, the music by no means stopped for the producer, songwriter and government. His Prescription Songs publishing firm is a powerhouse that has received ASCAP’s Indie Writer of the Yr crown 3 times within the decade since its founding, and has credit on dozens of hits, together with Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Begin Now” and “New Guidelines” and Arizona Zervas’ “Roxanne.” His Kemosabe label — which incorporates Doja, Becky G and, sure, Kesha — is a partnership with Sony Music/RCA Information that he publicly eliminated himself from in April 2017, however nonetheless participates in revenue sharing through royalties he earns from credit on these artists’ releases. And whereas he’s much less energetic as a songwriter-producer than beforehand, he’s taken a powerful hand within the growth of a number of newcomers, most prominently Doja and Kim Petras (the latter beneath the pseudonym Made in China). Dr. Luke might have vanished, however Lukasz Gottwald — and his companies — haven’t gone anyplace.

But even within the e book of Luke, which counts effectively over a dozen prime 10 hits, “Say So” is huge. Think about the music’s 1.eight million adjusted music models bought, in keeping with Alpha Knowledge; 100 million-plus views on YouTube, 400 million streams on Spotify and almost 200,000 spins on terrestrial radio, per MediaBase, along with staggering stats on TikTok — these are the type of numbers the music {industry} was constructed to grab and gloat upon overtly and loudly. A lot in order that the query must be requested: has Dr. Luke been un-cancelled?

“The man’s a genius,” says veteran artist supervisor Larry Rudolph, whose purchasers embody Spears and Petras. “He’s unbelievable at what he does and all the time has been. He received into an unpleasant and unlucky public scenario with an artist — nevertheless it’s not like his expertise went away.”

Certainly, as Variety realized, relating to Dr. Luke, the {industry} appears to have gotten previous the optics of working with somebody accused — however removed from convicted — of a prison act. “It’s not forgotten nevertheless it appears to be much less of a dialog, for positive,” says one A&R government.

Nobody can argue that Gottwald isn’t an unusually gifted music maker who’s acutely in tune with traits on the horizon and sonic prospers of the not-too-distant future. He’s additionally a notoriously powerful businessman with the type of private wealth that permits a freedom wherein he doesn’t have to offer a rattling about offending these round him.

“Luke’s an asshole — everyone is aware of it,” says one other prime {industry} insider. “But I don’t assume he’s a rapist.”

Kesha’s allegations scared off a lot off the {industry} for some time — as did public statements important of Gottwald from Clarkson and Pink, to not point out widespread assist from the #FreeKesha social-media wave in 2015, and a $250,000 donation from Taylor Swift after Kesha’s injunction to free herself from her Kemosabe deal was denied by a decide. But given the dearth of proof, to not point out his musical monitor report, it didn’t keep away for lengthy.

“Initially, you’d fairly be protected than sorry, and I feel everybody wanted to take a breath till the details got here in,” says one other prime label exec who has labored with Gottwald. “I type of want he had stepped again a bit, when it comes to the media protection,” the supply provides, referring to the blistering statements from Gottwald’s camp in response to every of the a number of lawsuits round Kesha’s allegations.

“If prison prices had been confirmed, it will be a distinct story, nevertheless it’s not like he’s Harvey Weinstein,” the exec continues. “And on the finish of the day, if a music is nice and the artist is okay with it, it’s not likely my enterprise to face in the best way.”

“Luke was all the time a troublesome enterprise man, generally harder than he wanted to be,” says Chris Anokute, a veteran A&R government and head of Younger Eternally who has recognized and labored with Luke for greater than a decade. “He didn’t all the time know when to fold, and by no means made it simple should you had been on the opposite aspect of negotiation. But personally, he was all the time an awesome good friend, is in actual fact very delicate and susceptible when you understand him. Typically enterprise makes you placed on a masks, so that you simply don’t even acknowledge your self generally. “

Nonetheless, the Kesha warfare has been an especially ugly and harmful authorized battle that has grievously broken a number of careers, dragged Girl Gaga and Katy Perry into the proceedings, and affected dozens of the artists and executives with whom Gottwald has been affiliated.

Anokute thinks that’s unfair. “No one’s good, folks make errors,” he tells Variety. “In a courtroom of regulation, he has been confirmed harmless. Dr. Luke is without doubt one of the best producers in modern-day pop music. Creatively, there’s nobody higher. I’ve by no means sat subsequent to anybody with that a lot expertise. He’s taught me extra about the way to hear, dissect and prepare successful music greater than anybody I’ve recognized.”

Gottwald’s internet value is the results of royalties that he’s entitled to on his personal work and Prescription’s — for unfastened reference, a chart-topping music within the U.S. can earn $2 million a 12 months in publishing with extra funds coming from grasp rights, synchs and public efficiency payouts — and in addition savvy investing. He additionally owned a stake in beverage firm Core Vitamin — which some declare he pressured his artists to put money into — that netted some $525 million when it was bought by Dr. Pepper’s father or mother firm final 12 months. As well as, his portfolio features a vital quantity of prime actual property in Hollywood.

Gottwald’s rise from cocky guitarist within the “Saturday Night time Dwell” home band to one of many largest hitmakers of this century gained steam across the flip of the millennium, when he started an apprenticeship with Swede Max Martin — who truly is the largest hitmaker of this century, with smashes starting from the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears to Justin Timberlake and The Weeknd. Gottwald hit the bottom working in 2005 with Clarkson’s career-defining “Since U Been Gone,” then adopted with a multi-platinum barrage together with Kesha’s breakthrough “Tik Tok” along with hits by Perry and Cyrus.

He launched Prescription Songs in 2009, a publishing firm/hitmaker boot camp styled on Martin’s firm — which itself was impressed by Cheiron, the studio, label and writer created by Martin’s mentor, the late Denniz Pop, the inventive drive behind the early ’90s blockbuster act Ace of Base. (Going again even additional, the Swedish pop enterprise has been deeply influenced by Abba’s almost unprecedented musical and enterprise success within the 1970s and ’80s.) Over the previous decade, Prescription has grown right into a powerhouse, with workplaces in Los Angeles and Nashville.

Some excellent news for the producer got here in March, when a federal decide in Los Angeles overturned a $2.eight million jury verdict in opposition to Dr. Luke and several other others within the “Darkish Horse” copyright case. A jury discovered final 12 months that the hit Katy Perry music — which Dr. Luke helped write and produce — had borrowed an eight-note recurring riff from an earlier music by the Christian rapper Flame. But Choose Christina Snyder vacated the choice, discovering that the riff was commonplace.

Clearly, Gottwald not wants to write down songs so as to hold the lights on. But in one other longstanding music-industry open secret, the presence of somebody’s identify within the credit of a music — significantly within the dozen-or-more-writer pileups that accompany most hits at the moment — doesn’t imply that individual labored intently with the artist within the studio, and even contributed musically in any respect. Gottwald, like many prime hitmakers, has earned a popularity for such a observe made simpler by the very existence of Prescription, in addition to for being a demanding overseer that expects these beneath him to work grueling schedules with hours upon hours spent modifying these tremendous, barely audible however mandatory sonic particulars.

Thus, when media alarms sounded over Gottwald’s identify within the credit of Iggy Azalea’s 2018 non-hit “Savior,” Azalea responded on Twitter, writing: “It’s produced by Cirkut [a.k.a. Canadian songwriter-producer and frequent Gottwald collaborator Henry Walter] and one other child MHL, who’ve manufacturing agreements with Luke. Their offers and who they’re tied in with business-wise on no account make ME ‘working’ with Dr. Luke.”

Nevertheless, Gottwald stays a credited author of the music, and its listed producers are Cirkut and the mysterious “Manhun Glow,” a reputation that apparently has no different songwriting or manufacturing credit and, following the MHL acronym, could be an indelicate pseudonym.

On “Say So,” that Dr. Luke magic will be heard from the opening bars: particularly in the best way the refrain, in all its earworm glory, hits you first. It’s the type of lightning-in-a-bottle second that comes from expertise within the type of a skilled ear, real expertise and relentless pursuit of successful. Gottwald has this holy trinity down pat, and in contrast to recording artists, it’s not as if he wants the “Dr. Luke” model to succeed.

“Time is the good healer, and he’s been all however exonerated, so far as I can see,” the high-ranking government says, including, “as an {industry}, we’ve forgiven far worse.”

“I’ll work with him once more,” says Anokute. “As soon as a hitmaker all the time a hitmaker.”

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