Warning: John Seabrook's new piece in the New Yorker is about to confirm your worst fears about manufactured pop. Spoiler: it's real. Second spoiler: it's not that bad and it's nothing new.
Using Rihanna as an example of the typical modern popstar, Seabrook reveals the process of creating hits, including the working relationship between the writer who composes the instrumental, and the "top-liner" who only writes the vocal hooks. Seabrook describes "writing camps," essentially a summit of the most popular producers organized by Rihanna's label, Def Jam, to generate material for a new album in a short time.
The process is relatively simple: a writing team composes a track, then if Rihanna accepts it, she records a version of the song in different kids of ad hoc studios, mostly buses and hotel rooms while on tour.
Like most underbellies, there's a considerable amount of scandal. At one point Kelly Clarkson allegedly tried to block a Beyoncé release when she discovered her single was based from the same song. She didn't succeed. It didn't matter. [TNY]