The Art of Writing Hit Songs with Mann & Weil & Opinions on Frank Ocean

Mann & Weil

What goes into writing a hit song? Sound Opinions takes a look at the world of professional songwriting, from The Righteous Brothers to Beyoncé. Jim and Greg talk with legendary Brill Building songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil about their decades long career. Then they talk with Ryan Tedder about penning songs for Adele and Taylor Swift. Plus, a review of the long-awaited new album from Frank Ocean.

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Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil

This week, Sound Opinions explores the art of songwriting. Jim and Greg talk to some of the biggest pop hitmakers of the past and present. First, a conversation with the legendary songwriting duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The husband and wife team were part of the Brill Building era of 1960s New York, and worked alongside writing powerhouses like Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and collaborated with producer Phil Spector. Mann and Weil wrote some of the biggest hits of all time, from You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ to On Broadway and even We Gotta Get Out of This Place. In 2011, Mann and Weil received the Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame and since 2013, have been depicted in the Tony Award-winning musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical about the early life and career of their friend and coworker. In this interview, the duo tell Jim and Greg the origins of their famous hits, tell stories and reflect on what could have been had Barry released We Gotta Get Out of This Place before The Animals.

Ryan Tedder

Ryan Tedder

Next, Jim and Greg chat with performer and songwriter Ryan Tedder. While Tedder is best known as the frontman of the pop rock band OneRepublic, he’s also had an extremely successful career writing songs for other artists like Beyoncé, Adele and Taylor Swift. Tedder began a struggling songwriter in Nashville, but eventually producer Timbaland helped OneRepublic rise to popularity by remixing their song Apologize in 2007. Jim and Greg ask Tedder about how to write a great pop song and what it’s like to work with Queen Bey. They also discuss the longevity of music today and whether the humanity in songwriting is lost.

Blonde Frank Ocean

Blonde

Who doesn’t love a surprise? Frank Ocean surprised fans when he dropped not one but two albums without notice this past week. The R&B singer broke out in 2012 with his album Channel Orange before essentially disappearing. Over the past few months he has hinted about new music and now he has finally delivered: a visual album called Endless and a more traditional album (as traditional as it can get) called Blonde. Was it worth the wait? Jim and Greg both say yes. Jim finds that the low-key and moody Blonde takes on some weighty issues, addressing gender-fluidity and a feeling of disconnection from other humans at a time when technology has made communication easier than ever. Greg says the album’s production sounds like nothing else and occupies its own universe. He says that love is the theme to the record – and while that might seem simple, Ocean takes the concept in complex and moving directions. It’s an enthusiastic double Buy It.

Jim

Like much of the TV-watching public, Jim enjoyed binge-watching the Netflix horror series Stranger Things. The show hearkens back to many pop cultural touchstones of the ‘70s and ‘80s – including in its music. Jim notes that the synth-based score takes inspiration from the soundtrack work of the German band Tangerine Dream, a key act in the psychedelic krautrock movement. Jim’s favorite Tangerine Dream score is for the 1977 William Friedkin film Sorcerer. He says the soundtrack perfectly matches the movie’s dark, tense jungle setting. So as a dual nod to Stranger Things and Tangerine Dream, Jim nominates Betrayal, the main theme from Sorcerer, to the Desert Island Jukebox.

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