The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook - review by Pete Clark

Pete Clark

By Hook or by Crook

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory


Jonathan Cape 338pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Readers of a certain age and sensibility will be appalled by the message of this book. John Seabrook takes us on a lucid and well-researched tour of the places where modern hits are created and finds whey-faced nerds bent over mysterious digital boxes flashing coloured squares while they cobble together irresistible pop sounds from the electronic ether. Nowhere to be seen is the artist hunched over piano or guitar, desperately seeking inspiration; gone is the session musician chugging manfully at a can of beer; abandoned is the sleekly imposing mixing desk, from which the wizard producers of old would conjure exhilarating sounds.

Instead, we meet a cast of crafty characters, many of Scandinavian origin and often rejoicing in made-up names such as Big Juice, who are attuned to the fervent needs of a new and ever-changing audience of youngsters. They take a massive, bass-heavy beat from here, add on a hook from there, and occasionally drop in a rap from elsewhere. If it all goes according to plan, a smash hit is born. If

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