HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF YOU FOUND OUT YOUR FAVOURITE ARTISTE DIDN’T WRITE THEIR SONGS?
Music is an art. And just like every other art form people appreciate the creative process behind it. Music lovers are thrilled by the creative genius of artistes and how they put their bodies of work together. But what happens when you find out that the hit song you’ve been bumping your head to all week, the song climbing higher and higher every day on the charts, isn’t indeed a creation of the artiste in question but was written by someone else? Could we compare ghostwriting in music to lip-syncing or the use of stunt doubles in movies?
Having this conversation with a friend of mine I asked her how she would receive it if it were revealed that Bruce Lee, who is like the grandmaster of kung-fu movie stunts, actually had a stunt double who performed all those flips and gravity-defying kicks. What then would be our new impression of Bruce Lee? I doubt that it would remain the same. The idea of ghostwriting seems to be finding more and more a comfortable place in the music industry. Some of the biggest artistes in the world are riding on it and even when the conversations are brought up in the media, it doesn’t seem to really defame the image of these artistes.
It’s a shocker that some of the biggest hits over the years were not written or originally owned by the artistes who take credit for them. Rihanna’s 2012 hit single ‘Diamonds’ for instance was written by Sia. Beyonce’s 2006 hit song ‘Irreplaceable’ off her second studio album was in fact originally owned by Neyo and was supposed to be a country song, which I find very hilarious. Justin Bieber’s breakthrough hit titled ‘Baby’ which completely smashed YouTube viewing records was actually written by Christina Milan. Another song by Justin Bieber ‘Love Yourself’ was written by Ed Sheeran, an individual who is usually in the mix when we talk about song-writing for other artistes.
Jon Bellion was given legitimate songwriting credit for Eminem and Rihanna’s ‘Monster’ back in 2013 and there are reports that Bebe Rexha had a hand in the song as well. Bruno Mars originally wrote Ceelo Green’s ‘Forget You’.
To blow your mind even further one of the most iconic artistes in history, Elvis Presley, was never a songwriter. Sometimes he got co-writing credit but it was only arranged as part of a deal with his management. In more recent times, the beefs between the likes of Meek Mill, Pusha-T and Drake have been centred around Drake’s alleged ghostwriter Quentin Miller. Bringing it down to the music scene in Nigeria, we can recall the never quite settled dispute between Tuface and Blackface over the ownership of the former’s timeless track ‘African queen’.
Till date Blackface, who together with Tuface and Faze formed the musical trio known back in the day as the Plantashun boiz, still claims that Tuface owes him royalties over the ownership of the song. Also, sometime in 2017 there was some sort of backlash on Teni the entertainer after she revealed via twitter that she actually wrote Davido’s single ‘Like That’. I guess most of it was from angry Davido fans who felt she was lying but her statements have in fact been confirmed to be true. Some reports suggest that Davido’s 2018 award winning single ‘If’ which was produced by Tekno was originally written by the latter. There are also rumours that Peruzzi and Mayorkun who are both signed to Davido’s label DMW have a major hand in many of Davido’s top tracks.
Also sometime in 2018, a rather awkward track titled ‘More Life’ on Burna boy’s Outside album sparked conversations on the internet that he had worked with Drake on the mixtape also titled ‘More Life’ and had been ripped off and cut out of the project eventually. Burna boy however in an interview with UK’s Tim Westwood made little of these allegations and stated that he felt honoured to even have been asked to work with an artiste like Drake in the first place. Well, we may never actually know the entire story when it comes to things like this.
Some people are of the opinion that if you take the songwriter out of the artiste, you are left merely with a performer, not that performing is an easy task anyway. The idea of ghostwriters for some also, trivializes the ingenuity of making music and reduces it more to a commercial ordeal. And while a lot of artistes are enjoying massive success regardless of this, you can’t help but admit that the people with these opinions have a valid point. So then, what if Leonardo da Vinci didn’t actually paint the Mona Lisa but used some sort of carbon paper to replicate the original piece, made a few adjustments and paid off the original artist? I’ll leave you to judge. What’s your opinion of songwriting in the music industry?