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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

If youve listened to pop radio at all this summer or been in a mall, or at the amusement park or the grocery store, youve heard this song.

(Soundbite of song, "California Girls")

Ms. KATY PERRY (Singer): (Singing) ...California girls we're unforgettable. Daisy Dukes, Bikinis on top. Sun-kissed skin...

WERTHEIMER: Thats just one of the string of hits produced by 36-year-old Lukasz Gottwald, aka Dr. Luke. Dr. Luke is the man behind Britney's return to the ring.

(Soundbite of song, "Circus")

Ms. BRITNEY SPEARS: (Singing) All eyes on me in the center of the ring just like a circus.

WERTHEIMER: The phenomenal rise of Ke$ha.

(Soundbite of song, "Tick Top")

KE$HA (Singer): (Singing) Don't stop, make it pop. DJ, blow my speakers up. Tonight...

WERTHEIMER: And skater punk Avril Lavigne's anthem.

(Soundbite of song, "Girlfriend")

Ms. AVRIL LAVIGNE (Singer): (Singing) Hey. Hey, You. You, I dont like your girlfriend. No way. No way. I think you need a new one...

WERTHEIMER: Over the last five years, Dr. Luke has stormed the pop charts with over a dozen number one hits, making him one of pop's most bankable producers.

I sat down with the doctor to ask him about what he does.

Mr. LUKASZ GOTTWALD (Music Producer): Well, basically I feel like my role is to find great songs with the artists, for the artists, and have them shine in a way that a lot of people will hopefully like.

WERTHEIMER: To showcase the Katy Perry, the Ke$ha?

Mr. GOTTWALD: Yeah. Well, each artist has something special about them. And I try to find whats best in them and find a song that works with it. A lot of times, these artists have their own ideas and it's taking their ideas and sifting through them and finding what I think is going to work, and what we all think is going to work.

(Soundbite of song, "Since You've Been Gone")

Ms. KELLY CLARKSON (Singer): (Singing) Here's the thing. We started out friends. It was cool but it was all pretend. Yeah. Yeah, since you've been gone...

WERTHEIMER: You first big break as a songwriter and a producer was the song that you co-wrote for the former "American Idol" contestant Kelly Clarkson. Im sure many of our listeners will remember this.

(Soundbite of song, "Since You've Been Gone")

Ms. CLARKSON: (Singing) But since you've been gone, I can breathe for the first time. I'm so moving on, yeah. Yeah. Thanks to you, now I get what I want, since you've been gone.

WERTHEIMER: Now, Kelly Clarkson, it's a totally different kind of song from anything that we heard on "American Idol." How were you thinking about Kelly Clarkson and that song?

Mr. GOTTWALD: I wasnt...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOTTWALD: ...when we first wrote it because we didnt write it for her. But I think there might been a little bit of a happy accident there. Something about the song in general has a sort of indy guitar kind of feel that wasnt what you'd expect from her. Whats different about it is I think whats good about it and one of the reasons why it worked, it was a surprise.

WERTHEIMER: But it's a breakup song. It's angry. You know, it's like not the persona of Kelly Clarkson that we thought we knew.

Mr. GOTTWALD: Im sorry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOTTWALD: I apologize.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Who Knew")

PINK (Singer): (Singing) You took my hand. You showed me how. You promised me youd be around. Uh-huh. Thats right...

WERTHEIMER: The notion of who writes the song used to be, it seems to me, a very big deal. I mean for those of us who think back to Bruce Springsteen, for example, it doesnt seem to be quite so important now.

Mr. GOTTWALD: I think that changes through time because prior to Bruce Springsteen, I don't think Elvis wrote a lot of his songs. I dont think during Motown, a lot of those artists wrote a lot of their songs. So I think that that changes, and also changes depending on what kind of music genre you're talking about.

And you do have artists right now, who write a lot for themselves, too. Like Katy Perry co-wrote every song on her record.

WERTHEIMER: Let's try another track. This is "Party in the USA." It's Mylie Cyrus.

(Soundbite of song, "Party in the USA")

Ms. MYLIE CYRUS (Singer): (Singing) I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan. Welcome to the land of fame, excess. Whoa, am I gotta fit in? Jumped in the cab, here I am for the first time. Look to my right and I see the Hollywood sign. This is all so crazy, everybody seems so famous...

WERTHEIMER: You work with a lot of young women and this song, like many of yours, is sung from a young woman's perspective. How do you get into the head of a very young woman like that?

Mr. GOTTWALD: Well, this actually written, not for Mylie Cyrus. Originally it was written from an English artist's perspective, and an adult English artist. When I say adult, I mean like 22.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Right, yeah.

Mr. GOTTWALD: And I guess Mylie heard it and everyone liked it. And so we ended up recording it for her and changing a couple of lyrics. She says: Welcome to the land of fame excess. But originally it was: Welcome to the land of fame and sex.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: I see.

Mr. GOTTWALD: So she couldnt say that so we had to change a couple of lyrics.

(Soundbite of song, "Party in the USA")

Ms. CYRUS: (Singing) So I put my hands up, they're playing my song. The butterflies fly away. I'm nodding my head like yeah. Moving my hips like yeah...

WERTHEIMER: Do you like working, do you prefer working with these young women.

Mr. GOTTWALD: You know, it's interesting, I get asked that a lot. Basically, if you look at the charts there's not a lot of male artists that are out. And for whatever reason, female artists sell a lot more records and get played a lot more on the radio.

(Soundbite of song, "I Kissed a Girl")

Ms. PERRY: (Singing) This was never the way I planned, not my intention...

WERTHEIMER: Do you think radio is important, still?

Mr. GOTTWALD: Yeah, I think when you look at the audience impressions of some of the biggest pop songs, you're talking about, you know, over 140 million people are exposed to a song in a week. It's hard for an artist to even go out on tour and sell seats if they dont have a big radio hit. So radio, in some ways, drives these artists' careers.

(Soundbite of song, "I Kissed a Girl")

Ms. PERRY: (Singing) I kissed a girl and I liked it, the taste of her cherry ChapStick. I kissed a girl and I liked it. I liked...

(Soundbite of song, "I Came To Dance")

Mr. TAIO CRUZ (Singer): (Singing) I came to dance, dance, dance, dance. I hit the floor...

WERTHEIMER: Do you think that artists that you work with have some kind of an expectation when they come to you, that you can make a hit for them?

Mr. GOTTWALD: May be.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOTTWALD: Yeah, and I mean I always want to make sure that I do a good job for myself anyway. You know, if I'm not happy with something and I don't feel like its right, I won't really put it out.

WERTHEIMER: Thats a lot of pressure.

Mr. GOTTWALD: Tell me about it.

WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much for doing this.

Mr. GOTTWALD: Thank you.

WERTHEIMER: Dr. Luke, he produces hits.

(Soundbite of song, "Dynamite")

Mr. CRUZ: I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, saying ayo. Got to let go...

WERTHEIMER: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And Im Steve Inskeep.

(Soundbite of song, "Dynamite")

Mr. CRUZ: (Singing) Saying ayo, baby let go cause we going to rock this club. We going to go all night. We going to light this up like it's dynamite...

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