5 pop star and producer collaborations that changed the game

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5 pop star and producer collaborations that changed the game

Pop star producers lana del rey jack antonoff
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Some of the best and most interesting pop star producer pairings that resulted in zeitgeist defining records and singles.

When the right music producers and pop stars collide – remarkable results can be gleaned. From collaborations that resulted in the refining and deepening of an artist’s established aesthetic, to studio sessions that marked a distinct shift in approach – we’ve collated a list of some of the best and most interesting pop star producer pairings that resulted in zeitgeist defining records and singles.

Read all the latest features, columns and more here. 

Jack Antonoff & Lana Del Ray

Jack Antonoff has, for better or worse, developed a reputation for revealing the alternative side to some of pop’s more mainstream stars. He’s worked with the likes of Taylor Swift, Lorde and Clairo, as well as more alternative leaning artists like St. Vincent. So who better to produce the sultry song woman herself: Lana Del Ray?

Antonoff’s penchant for Springsteen-esque Americana is heard across a few songs, namely Lana’s “A&W”, as well as having worked on albums Norman Fucking Rockwell! and Chemtrails Over the Country Club. Jack’s production techniques are unique, but they draw on decades of recorded material through the 60s and 70s, using tape, analogue equipment and subtle arrangement techniques to bolster and augment the music he works on.

Antonoff has described using compression on loud sources as “saying something smart and yelling it. You’ve just ruined what you were saying.” instead opting to heavily compress quiet sources to bring up nuance and detail. In Lana Del Ray’s “A&W”, he recorded the drums with heavy compression, forcing himself to play to it, feeling his mistakes be amplified, forcing himself to push and pull with the hardware.

“Sometimes compressing stuff after the fact feels a little bit like taking a picture of a picture, where I’d rather just smile for the picture, knowing my picture is [being] taken.”

Ariel Reichstadt & HAIM

Ariel Rechtshaid is the producer behind Plain White Ts’ worldwide smash “Hey There Delilah”, as well as award winning albums for Vampire Weekend, co-writing Usher’s “Climax”, and Cass McCombs’s songalbum Wit’s End, that feature the song “County Line”.

These latter two songs caught the attention of Danielle Haim, one third of HAIM, who decided early on that she wanted to work with the man whose name appeared as credits on both of those: Ariel Reichstadt.

HAIM and Ariel Reichstadt met in 2012 and went on to work together for 2013’s Days Are Gone, Reichstadt also being credited with helping write a few of the songs. The relationship continued through HAIM’s sophomore record Something to Tell You. 2020’s Women in Music Pt. III featured a song called “Summer Girl” about Reichstadt’s battle with cancer, Danielle Haim wanting to be a shining light for Ariel in a dark time.

Olivia Rodrigo & Daniel Nigro

Olivia Rodrigo’s breakout album Sour skyrocketed her to fame in 2021, produced alongside Daniel Nigro, who’s also produced with Taylor Swift, Kylie Minogue and Caroline Polachek.

Nigro wrote a jingle for McDonald’s and was able to support himself on his new solo, freelance ventures for a time, before another big break producing Sky Ferreira shot him into the spotlight.

Having come from the rock world, Nigro is familiar with the guitar, recalling that Rodrigo’s song “’Favorite Crime” was written on a whim, the guitar you hear on the final master being a rough take they did to get the idea down. The two went on to produce and write most of the album, it being a hugely successful record.

Paul Epworth & Adele

Paul Epworth owns The Church Studios in Crouch End, London. Formerly owned by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics, Epworth bought the studio from songwriter David Gray in 2013 and refurbished it, including installing a monstrous 72 Channel Vintage EMI Neve console in the main live room. His hand was forced in designing the main live room without an isolated control room; the Neve never would have fit through any of the studio’s doors.

Epworth produced Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep”, building on the demo with better instruments, equipment including a 28” marching band kick drum in front of the main Ludwig kit for a little extra resonance and big band energy. The track features layers of Adele stomping on wooden boards, claps (recorded across multiple locations) to build the original rhythm tracks and bolster an otherwise sparse arrangement; all in service of making space for Adele’s vocal.

Kevin Parker & Lady Gaga

In an interview with Triple J (via Pitchfork), Australia’s very own king of pop rock psychadelia, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, described his collaboration with Lady Gaga on Joanne single “Perfect Illusion” as having “started out sort of like a career move,” however revealing that he found the experience to be far more profound than initially expected.

“It was amazing, really really good. One of those life/career-defining times. It started out sort of like a career move. Like, ‘I’ll get in on that.’ But it quickly became something so personal and so meaningful for everyone involved.”

He continued, “When you actually meet the people behind the scenes you realize it’s not this corporate world. It’s actually people full of passion and drive.”

Parkers production on “Perfect Illusion” blends his distinctive sonic hallmarks with Gaga’s pop chart topping sensibilities. Unexpected and exciting, the dreamy, psychedelic, and experimental soundscapes that unfold beneath the track’s fool-proof floor filler hooks is a sound to behold.

One of the standout elements of Parker’s production is his use of dynamic instrumentation. He introduced a driving and gritty guitar riff that played a central role in shaping the song’s rock-oriented sound. This added a layer of intensity and urgency to the track, contributing to its high-energy vibe.

Parker also showcased his expertise in crafting intricate, layered arrangements. He used electronic elements and synthesizers to create a sense of depth and complexity within the song’s production. This blending of analog and digital sounds gave “Perfect Illusion” a modern edge while retaining a raw, organic feel.

Overall, Kevin Parker’s production on “Perfect Illusion” brought an exciting fusion of genres and sounds to Lady Gaga’s music. It demonstrated his versatility as a producer and added a unique sonic flavour that contributed to the track’s memorable and impactful nature.

Check out more Jack Antonoff production tips here.