March 19, 2012


How Rihanna's Lyrics Are Written

Samir Hussein
Samir Hussein

Do you wanna know how your pop music sausage is made? If so, The New Yorker went behind the scenes this week with Ester Dean, a 24-year-old professional songwriter who has written tracks for Nicki MinajKaty PerryBeyoncéMary J. BligeChristina AguileraKelly Clarkson, and, above all, Rihanna.

Dean’s songwriting process for Rihanna begins on her BlackBerry, with the songwriter trying out new words and melodies over pre-recorded beats in the studio (without Rihanna). After singing through the words and melodies and arranging and rephrasing them, they become a song, and if that song is good enough, Rihanna sings it on one of her albums. But where do the words themselves come from, if not Ester Dean's mind?

According to The New Yorker, "Dean carried her iced coffee into the recording booth... She took out her BlackBerry, and as the track began to play she surfed through lists of phrases she had copied from magazines and television programs. She showed [the reporter] a few: 'life in the fast lane,' 'crying shame,' 'high and mighty,' 'mirrors don't lie,' 'don't let them see you cry.'"

And that's how it's done! Now you know. We think Andy Warhol would approve.

Does it change how you feel about Rihanna?