Song Machine

  • by John Seabrook
  • Narrated by Dion Graham
  • 9 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Over the last two decades, a new type of song has emerged. Today's hits bristle with "hooks", musical burrs designed to snag your ear every seven seconds. Painstakingly crafted to tweak the brain's delight in melody, rhythm, and repetition, these songs are industrial-strength products made for malls, casinos, the gym, and the Super Bowl halftime show. The tracks are so catchy and so potent that you can't not listen to them.
Traveling from New York to Los Angeles, Stockholm to Korea, John Seabrook visits specialized teams composing songs in digital labs with novel techniques, and he traces the growth of these contagious hits from their origins in early '90s Sweden to their ubiquity on today's charts. Featuring the stories of artists like Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Rihanna as well as expert songsmiths like Max Martin, Ester Dean, and Dr. Luke, The Song Machine will change the way you listen to music.

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What the Critics Say

"This is a fascinating tale about an amazing phenomenon: how hits get made. John Seabrook combines a love of music and an appreciation for personalities to take us on a starry journey from Stockholm and London to New York and Orlando showing how creativity gets discovered, polished, and packaged. His book is a triumph of great writing and reporting, and the lessons reverberate far beyond the world of music." (Walter Isaacson, author of The Innovators and Steve Jobs)
"Beneath the surface of today's pop music lies an industrial process as rigorous and bizarre as the one perfected by McDonald's. Seabrook shows what it takes to make a hit in a book that's beautifully written, revelatory, funny, and full of almost unbelievable details." (Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Command and Control)
"Anyone who wants to understand how the clash of cultures has shaped what we listen to should read this important book. John Seabrook has a marvelous ear for language - and perfect pitch when it comes to music journalism." (Bob Spitz, author of The Beatles: The Biography)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Want your music canned or in a box?

This is a lively history of pop music since 1989. If you think Katy Perry is great or you hate the Backstreet Boys, you will find out why in this book.

Or so the featured music producers like Denniz PoP and Max Martin would like you to think. This is a story about that segment of pop music where the artist is usually a pretty girl or boy whose sound and look are a creation of the producer and his team.

This is a story about songwriting simplified to a formula, where words are units of melody and melody is married to the beat.

The writer looks at sound factories in Sweden, America and Korea. He follows the careers of the major Svengali producers and the acts whose hits they have manufactured, including Kelly Clarkson (who fought against the constraints), Rihanna, Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry and a more recent Taylor Swift.

Spotify, the streaming music company, also gets a chapter.

You might become cynical about the music industry after this. You might get inspiration for your Ableton compositions. You might run out to see a real loose garage band or singer-songwriter just to prove to yourself that other kinds of music are out there.

But you won't look at today's music hits the same after reading this book.
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- true britty

Awesome.

Best book on the music indistry ever. It was so interesting to hear how stars are made and I will probably even reread this future.
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- Tamara Field

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-05-2015
  • Publisher: HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books