Dr. Luke, a.k.a. songwriter/producer Lukasz Gottwald, may be keeping a low public profile these days — in the aftermath of a years-long legal battle with Kesha — but in 2020, his streak as a hitmaker returned with Doja Cat’s “Say So,” which he produced under the stage name Tyson Trax.
The song’s stratospheric success proved to be one of many wins for Gottwald’s 11-year-old publishing company Prescription Songs, where Doja is signed as a writer, along with Emily Warren (Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now”) and Nashville-based writer Lauren LaRue, who scored her first top 10 pop hit this year with Arizona Zervas’ “Roxanne.”
Prescription’s day-to-day operations are led by a primarily female team across L.A. and Nashville. Here’s who’s who at the hit factory:
Dr. Luke: Other than Doja herself, he’s the only other credit on “Say So” which began as “an online collaboration initially,” Gottwald says. “I sent the beat to Doja and she sent back mostly what became the song. Doja recorded some of the vocals on her own. I took Doja’s harmony and made that the melody for the chorus. After that we collaborated in the studio to finish the record.”
Doja Cat: A May remix with Nicki Minaj ultimately pushed “Say So” to the top of the charts, helping to usher in a disco revival that has yet to show any signs of slowing down. “The song resonated with fans in a huge way,” says Doja, whose real name is Amala Zandile Dlamini. “It has a ‘70s vibe, but we made sure it was modern and fresh.”
Rhea Pasricha, Head of A&R, West Coast: Reuniting the creative team behind Dua Lipa’s “New Rules (Emily Warren, Caroline Ailin and Ian Kirkpatrick) helped “Don’t Start Now” soar. “The song was both nostalgic and forward-thinking at the same time, and embodied a similar strong message of female empowerment that we need in the pop music landscape,” Pasricha says, noting that the track “gave us all a much-needed escape” in the early weeks of the pandemic.
Sara Walker, SVP, Creative Synch; Megan Wood-Petersen, VP, Creative Synch: Walker and Wood-Petersen helped ensure “Don’t Start Now” was equally ubiquitous from a licensing standpoint, landing placements for the song everywhere from The CW’s “Riverdale,” Ubisoft’s “Just Dance 2021,” NBC’s “The West- minster Dog Show,” Epic Games’ Fortnite and a coveted Super Bowl spot with YouTube. “The high volume and diverse range of placements really helped cultivate fans and keep momentum going,” says Walker. Wood-Petersen adds that the song’s feel-good, throwback vibe seemed to resonate across the board “in a year when we could all use a little more of those feelings.”
Emily Warren, Songwriter: “My friend Caroline Ailin was just getting over a past relationship and still had lingering feelings of responsibility towards her ex,” Warren says of the initial concept for what became Lipa’s biggest U.S. hit to date. A wild night of dancing disco near Warren’s home in Wyoming helped structure Lipa’s defiant breakup anthem. “Dua, as usual, brought the song to life.”
Hannah Montgomery, A&R Executive: “It’s gratifying watching four friends all get their first big hit together,” says Montgomery, who helped book the session for Lauren LaRue and the co-writers who would ultimately create Zervas’ “Roxanne.” It all started with an email from Zervas’ manager Quentin “Q” Gatto. “He sent me the original bounce of ‘Roxanne,’ and we went back and forth about how big the record felt off first listen.”
Lauren LaRue, Songwriter; Katie Mitzell Fagan, Head of A&R for Prescription Songs Nashville: “We started hanging out and trying different ideas,” says LaRue, who’s also known for her co-writes with country stars Sam Hunt and Kelsea Ballerini. She along with longtime friend Zervas and co-writers 94Skrt and Jae Green scored the breakthrough pop hit, which has logged over a billion streams in 2020. Of Fagan’s terrain in Nashville, Pasricha says: “Our Nashville writers are getting as many K-Pop or dance cuts as we are out of L.A. and some of our L.A. writers and getting country No. 1s. I love those unexpected combinations, which often yield the most special songs.”
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