When Prince died last month his amazing artistic life and musical career swelled to the surface of our consciousness. One thing I recently learned was that he wrote Nothing Compares 2 U for Sinéad O’Connor, a song that earned her world-wide success in 1990. She was so well known for this song that when she was recently thought to be lost in Chicago the Mirror-UK wrote “The Nothing Compares 2 U singer was reported missing…”. I love that song and loved Sinéad for singing it but it makes sense that Prince wrote it, as it sounds like his words. It certainly makes me appreciate Prince and all the other pop musicians out there who not only write their own songs but feed the artists that don’t.
Kesha, Sia, and Katy Perry, for example, are wellsprings of creativity who have got all their peers covered when they need a little help. Katy Perry has written songs for Kelly Clarkson, Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, Ashley Tisdale, Jessie James, Miley Cyrus, and Iggy Azalea. One of Iggy’s biggest hits, Black Widow featuring Rita Ora, for example, is a song written by Katy and you can totally her Katy’s “voice” in it.
I like and respect singer-songwriter-musicians such as Katy Perry much more than performers like Beyoncé. When songwriter and former 4 Non Blondes frontwoman Linda Perry, who has written hits for Pink, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, and Kelly Osbourne, was asked “How do you feel about Beyoncé changing one word on a song and getting writing credit. Does that bother you as a songwriter?” she responded “That’s not songwriting but some of these artists believe if it wasn’t for them your song would never get out there so they take a cut just because they are who they are. But everyone knows the real truth even Beyoncé. She is talented but in a completely different way.”
I was putting together a playlist of songs the other day that I wanted to rehearse for future karaoke opportunities. One of the songs I added is “Beyoncé’s” If I Were A Boy. But when I listened to it, I felt a huge disconnect between the lyrics and the singer. I wanted to know the person behind the song and how it was created. A quick search turned up singer-songwriter Brittany Jean Carlson (BC Jean) and a video of her singing her original If I Were A Boy. It’s amazing but for some reason her label turned it down and it ended up in the hands of Beyoncé. The reality is that Beyoncé is actually doing a cover of the song so it should not be considered “Beyoncé’s song”. People listen to this and conclude “Beyoncé is amazing”. That’s fine if they are referring to her voice but the sentiment of the song and its heart and soul is all Jean.
As to how it was created, Jean was walking around Times Square with a collaborator when she found out that her first love, a guy she had just moved in with, had cheated on her. She and her friend walked by a pizzeria and she commented that if she were a boy she would totally chow down on some pizza at that moment (she was on a diet). Her friend basically said, “go on…” and the long list of things she would do became the lyrics for the song. They went back to the studio and she created the melody. It was an emotional outburst that happened in less than half an hour.
Jean played piano as a kid and at the age of 14 started turning her own poetry into song lyrics. Then she taught herself how to write lyrics by listening to the music she liked. She wrote down the lyrics to figure out the songs construction.