December 22, 2010


Dr. Luke Is 2010's MVP

Lester Cohen
Lester Cohen

This year, Ke$ha made a bona fide demographic out of glitter-and-eyeliner addicts who dabble in binge drinking. Katy Perry persistently brought back PVC—which we learned only looks good on her, if a little silly. And Taio Cruz was the first person to unironically use “dynamite” as a catchword since Jimmie Walker did back in the ’70s on Good Times. As Billboard magazine—that steadfast cruncher of numbers—astutely observed, based on 2010’s numbers, this was the year pop dominated our eardrums again. Even uncannier: All of the aforementioned ubiquitous personalities were boosted by Dr. Luke, who produced, among innumerable other tracks, “Tik Tok,” “Teenage Dream” and “Dynamite.”

Though just 37, NYC-native Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald has been in the business for nearly 15 years now, getting his start as the lead guitarist in the Saturday Night Live band. His earliest gigs as a producer involved working with hip-hop acts such as Black Star, Arrested Development, and Nappy Roots, and Mos Def, the latter anointing Luke with his honorary doctorate (and all of the above possibly explaining his cultivation of Ke$ha’s faux-rap style). After he struck a friendship at a party with Swedish mega-producer Max Martin—whose innumerable credits include Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” and the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”—Luke was roped in by Martin to collaborate on Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” And thus begat our love-hate affair with Dr. Luke.

Since then, his accomplishments could best be described as aural crack—bereft of nutrients, but narcotic in effect. Among his past achievements: Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend,” Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” Flo Rida’s “Right Round,” and Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” Luke earned a name making glossy, hook-laden pop tunes that are liberal with the ’80s synths, light on the deep lyrics. His sound is nothing revolutionary; it’s just Auto-Tuned to perfection. Meanwhile, Luke also possesses the unique ability to imbue the forthright sexuality of female artists like Ke$ha (down-and-dirty party girl) or Katy Perry (coy pin-up girl) with a good-natured fun—and in doing so, broaden their appeal.

Luke’s work has reached saturation point in 2010, inevitably earning him ASCAP’s pop songwriter of the year award. This merely underscored the mammoth brand he’s become. His influence is so pervasive that he already has successful proté Benny Blanco (who worked with Luke on releases by Katy Perry and Britney Spears) and in Ammo, signed to one of his two publishing companies (Prescription Songs and Kasz Money Productions) as a writer-producer. He also has his own imprint, Kemosabe Entertainment (distributed by Sony), which has been reaping endless rewards from one of its first signees…Ke$ha.

According to Ad Age, since his singles fit as cleanly into commercials as they do our heads, the next step for Luke will be to cut to the chase and deliberately write ad-baiting songs for talent such as his new discovery, singer Jessie J. This development is interesting, because as much as Luke has been derided, he has never been embattled—perhaps that is his role in 2011. But for now, whether you consider him the starter of parties or a pied piper of mindless confections, he is the one-man hit machine who should be topping our top 10 lists in 2010.