50 Years Ago This Week, a Landmark TV Series With a Classic Theme Song Debuted

Fifty years ago on Saturday (Sept. 19), The Mary Tyler Moore Show debuted on CBS, sandwiched between Arnie (another freshman sitcom) and the long-running detective series Mannix.

Moore’s show, of course, became an all-time classic. It was the first female-fronted sitcom to win three Emmy Awards for outstanding comedy series. Its stars won a collective 16 acting Emmys, more than any other series in TV history.

But I’m not here to praise the show, but rather its letter-perfect theme song, which was written and performed by Sonny Curtis.

The version of the song heard over the opening credits that first season is different than the one you probably remember and can sing by heart. The tone was more uncertain and anxious, reflecting the show’s initial premise—an unmarried woman, 30ish, coming off a romantic breakup, moves to Minneapolis to make a fresh start. The lyric begins: “How will you make it on your own?/This world is awfully big/Girl this time you’re all alone.” It ends on a hopeful, but not quite certain, note: “You might just make it after all.”

Curtis revamped the lyric for Season 2 to the sunnier version you know and love: “Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?” The concluding line now expressed certainty: “You’re gonna make it after all.” Because, by then, of course, Mary Richards had made it: She had a job (associate producer!), a funny best friend (her upstairs neighbor, Rhoda) and a really cool studio apartment.

Curtis related the story of how the song came about in a Q&A with Jim Liddane of International Songwriters Association.

One of my dear friends, Doug Gilmore, who was road manager for Roger Miller, called me one day and said that Mary Tyler Moore was readying a sitcom, and they wanted a real good song for the theme. He also said that they had a couple of writers in mind, and asked me if I would like to have a shot at trying out for it as well.

“Naturally I said yes, and later that morning, he dropped off a four-page format – you know ‘girl from the Midwest, moves to Minneapolis, gets a job in a newsroom, can’t afford her apartment etc.’ which gave me the flavor of what it was all about.

“So I sat down there and then and wrote that song probably before any other songwriter  had even started on one, and just after lunch I rang Doug Gilmore back and said ‘where do I send it?’ and he sent me over to see James L. Brooks…”

Brooks and his partner Allan Burns co-created The MTM Show. They had worked together the previous season on Room 222, a high school-set comedy which drew praise for its “relevancy” (a buzz word of the era) and multi-racial casting. (Room 222 also had a memorable theme song, a classy, subtle instrumental composed by Jerry Goldsmith.)

In the interview with Liddane, Curtis picked up the story of his first meeting with Brooks. “He said ‘We’re not at the stage of picking a song yet, but I’ll listen anyway.’ So I played the song, just me and my guitar, and next thing, he started phoning people, and the room filled up, and then he sent out for a tape recorder.”

Brooks was wise to listen to the song even though he hadn’t planned to do that yet. Perfection doesn’t fall in your lap every day.

Curtis released the song as a single in 1970, but it didn’t chart. He re-recorded it in 1980, giving it more of a country flavor. That version reached No. 29 on Hot Country Songs. Both versions are gentle acoustic ballads. (The version heard on TV was punchier and more dynamic.)

The song has since been covered by a wide range of artists, affirming the adage that a great song can be performed in any number of styles. Sammy Davis, Jr. and Ray Conniff both recorded glitzy, jazzy versions. Davis sang it on a 1972 album, Portrait of Sammy Davis, Jr., that reached No. 128 on the Billboard 200. Davis changed “girl” to “babe,” in keeping with his hip-cat persona. Conniff recorded the song for his 1976 album, Theme from ‘SWAT’ and Other TV Themes.

Several rock acts have recorded the song. Hüsker Dü, which hails from Minneapolis, cut the song in 1985, releasing it as the B side of their single “Makes No Sense At All.”  Their video has the band replicating iconic scenes from The MTM Show’s opening credit sequence.

Christie Front Drive, an emo band from Denver, Colo., recorded the song for a 1995 compilation, Punk TV.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts recorded a scrappy version which bubbled under the Hot 100 (at No. 108) in 1996. It was the closing track on their 1996 album, Great Hits. Jett even performed it on Late Show with David Letterman, whose host had co-starred in Moore’s short-lived 1978 variety series, Mary.

Jett’s kick-ass version is a reminder of the fact that, in its unflashy, unassuming way, The MTM Show was a revolutionary series for its time. (It debuted four months before All in the Family, which toppled TV taboos in a more overt way.) The radical (for its time) idea in The MTM Show was that Mary Richards was more interested in pursuing her career than in finding a husband.

Curtis has written or co-written three top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 — The Everly Brothers“Walk Right Back” (No. 7 in 1961), The Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought the Law” (No. 6 in 1966), and “More Than I Can Say” (a Bobby Vee B-side from 1961 that Leo Sayer took to No. 2 for five consecutive weeks in 1980-81). “I Fought the Law” is as much of a classic, in its own way, as the MTM Show theme. Fuller’s recording was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015.

“I Fought the Law” and “More Than I Can Say” (which Curtis co-wrote with Jerry Allison) both first appeared on The Crickets’ 1960 album, In Style with the Crickets, the group’s first album following the death of front man Buddy Holly.

Curtis’ membership in The Crickets earned him induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. (Holly had been inducted as part of the inaugural class in 1986.)

The Curtis hit that “Love Is All Around” most resembles is “The Straight Life,” an amiable song that Curtis took to No. 45 on Hot Country Songs in the summer of 1968. Bobby Goldsboro and Glen Campbell both recorded it soon after. Goldsboro’s version made the top 40 on the Hot 100 in November 1968. Campbell’s version was featured on his album Wichita Lineman, which topped the Billboard 200 for five weeks in 1968-69. “The Straight Life” (the title refers to following the rules) sounds very much like a TV theme. All it needed was the TV show.

TV themes and hit singles are similar art forms: Both are based on getting right to the point. Dionne Warwick’s 1967 recording of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s effervescent “I Say a Little Prayer” was not a TV theme, but it sure sounds like one. It’s the theme to the great single-woman sitcom that never was, the show that might have been the bridge between That Girl (which debuted in 1966) and The MTM Show.

While Curtis, now 83, never quite reached No. 1 on the Hot 100, he has hit the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. Keith Whitley’s “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” topped the chart for two weeks in April 1989—one month before Whitley died of alcohol poisoning at age 33. The single went on to win a CMA Award for single of the year. (Curtis co-wrote the song with Ron Hellard.)

“Love Is All Around” so perfectly summed up Moore’s persona that it became her signature song. It was closely identified with her until her death in 2017 at age 80. An  instrumental version of the song was used for the opening of Moore’s short-lived 1979 variety series, The Mary Tyler Moore Hour. The 2000 TV movie Mary and Rhoda opened with a mash-up of Curtis’ gentle original version and Jett’s brash remake.

A 1984 episode of Saturday Night Live featured a sketch that quoted the lyrics to the MTM Show theme. Guest host Ed Asner reprised his Lou Grant character for a scene in which he is hiring mercenaries to “rescue” Mary from “syndicated reruns.” Two of the mercenaries, played by Rich Hall and Jim Belushi, ask about her:

Mercenary #1: “Is it true what they say about her?”
Lou Grant: “What?”
Mercenary #1: “She can turn the world on with her smile.”
Lou Grant: [ sentimental ] “Yeah… yeah, she could…”
Mercenary #2: “And could she really take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?”
Lou Grant: “No, of course not! Don’t be stupid!”

Nick Mason on Reimagining Early Pink Floyd – But Not ‘Becoming My Own Tribute Band’

“Syd had a strange way of writing, which made it sound like a ‘normal’ pop song, and then it would lurch into something else,” recalls Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason of the late Syd Barrett, the band’s original singer whose mental health struggles led to his departure during their second album, 1968’s A Saucerful of Secrets. “[That] makes it such a great vehicle for us,” the rock legend continues, referring to his new group Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, which has spent the last few years reinventing Floyd’s earliest material on stage.

“The trouble with the later albums is that we ended up with a tendency of trying to play them as perfectly as they were recorded. But Syd’s writing is interesting, because it covers really quite a wide sort of genres, so this material is so much easier to wander off and do one’s own version of, say, the slightly bucolic, almost folk song-type rural idyll of ‘Scarecrow’ or the very free-form ‘Astronomy Domine’ or ‘Interstellar Overdrive.’”

A new live album and concert film captures Saucerful Of Secrets’ 2019 show at London’s fabled Roundhouse, where the Barrett-era Floyd also performed around the time of their 1967 debut, Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The only album to feature Barrett as the band’s frontman, Piper is a certified psychedelic classic — but unlike the band’s beloved ’70s output, their earliest albums remain comparatively neglected.

“It’s the tyranny of the ‘Big Four,’” Mason explains, referring to The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall. “I’ve always been interested in the idea of exploring the old catalog. After the Pink Floyd Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition, I was reminded how special and undervalued the early period of Pink Floyd is. Then Lee Harris came along with the suggestion of putting a band together. It had been 25 years since I’d been out with a band playing live, but it made me realize I wanted to play this music live again, so the timing was everything.”

“I dreamed this thing up, sure,” confesses Harris, the former guitarist of legendary U.K. band the Blockheads. “But Nick was surprisingly interested, and without him it wouldn’t have come together. He was the constant in Pink Floyd – it was his drumming that really was the backbone of that band – so without him it just would not be the same.”

Still, it’s Syd Barrett who — more than fifty years after leaving Pink Floyd, and over a decade after his death — remains the inspiration for the project, and the glue that binds it together.

“Syd’s ghost has held sway over every British music movement that’s come along since he left Pink Floyd,” says bassist Guy Pratt, who started playing with Pink Floyd in 1987 and has since toured regularly with David Gilmour. “It is interesting getting inside the glass display case of Syd, re-humanizing Pink Floyd, rather than doing some note-perfect stadium show. Our Pink Floyd is this rather scrappy, poppy, punk group.”

Along with Mason, Pratt and Harris, Saucerful of Secrets also includes Gary Kemp, the guitarist (and actor) best known as the songwriting force behind the ’80s new romantic group Spandau Ballet, and keyboardist Dom Beken, who worked with Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright on his final solo sessions before his death in 2008.

“I became aware of early Pink Floyd through David Bowie, and later Johnny Rotten,” says Kemp, who breathes new life into the songs as the band’s primary vocalist (and whose guitar playing throughout Live at the Roundhouse is nothing short of stunning). “Syd was definitely an inspiration for both of those artists, and they were both hugely important to me. Also, as someone who comes from London, I kind of get where Syd’s head was at. Plus, there’s the unique style of storytelling that Syd had — never in the same voice twice — that as an actor myself helped me approach the songs in character.”

For his part, keyboardist Beken adds a bit of a wildcard element to the band. “There’s only two people in this band who are not lifelong Floyd fans: me and Nick,” he jokes. “I did work with Rick (Wright), but I think that distance is essential when you’re playing music that is so alive and of the moment.”

Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets has a loose, imprecise approach that owes as much to early The Who as to Pink Floyd, giving them the edge needed to bring Barrett’s music, long confined to recordings that hardly captured the improvisational nature of its origins, to life.

“The best review was our first review,” Kemp recalls, excitedly. “Neil McCormick called it ‘Punk Floyd,’ which I loved, because there is that energy Floyd had before they became posh. When we got the band together, it wasn’t like, ‘Well, let’s try and emulate those records.’ Also, we’re not trying to be a tribute band. Nick is the genuine article, so we agreed, ‘Let’s make this band as fresh as we possibly can.’”

For Mason, things weren’t quite that simple. “I remembered the basics of the songs, but what I underestimated were the complexities that Syd had written into them,” he admits. “I’ve always feared becoming my own tribute band. The bands who do that, I’ve never wished to stop them. But for me, rock n’ roll has always been about one’s own interpretation of the music, and Syd’s music is perfect for that.”

Pratt agrees that the anarchic nature of Pink Floyd’s early music is what sets Saucerful of Secrets apart from the myriad acts playing the band’s music live. “The early Floyd stuff is just nuts. It’s all over the place,” he says emphatically. “No one else could do this, and David and Roger [Waters] certainly don’t seem to want to, so Nick owns this stuff now, and rightly so.”

Now, at 76, Mason is no longer quite so ready to hang up his drumsticks.

“Before the lockdown went into effect, we were working constantly, doing it night after night,” he shares. “With Floyd, the tours were usually so short, we’d be just getting into it and learning the show properly, and then, more or less, we were getting ready to pack up and go home. If a miracle happened, and Roger and David suddenly said, ‘Do you know what? We really need to go and do this tour,’ for some worthwhile cause or other, I’d happily do it. But I’m certainly not holding my breath, because what’s exciting is that this is the beginning of a band, rather than a midpoint or an ending. So my focus right now is this band, because I’m having the time of my life. Besides, I don’t think any of us will want to pack it up and open a restaurant or anything, and if at some point somebody brought in new music to work on, great. That, I think, would be the greatest tribute we could pay to Syd, in a way.”

A$AP Ferg Sits Down With Dennis Rodman to Announce ‘Floor Seats II’ Album

A$AP Ferg had fans on the edge of their floor seats since his 2019 EP, but the A$AP Mob member recruited former Chicago Bulls power forward Dennis Rodman to announce Floor Seats II will come out next Friday, Sept. 25.

“You know what? September 25, check out this kid’s album,” Rodman exclaimed, as Ferg squatted down in the trailer to lay down what fans could expect from the rapper’s next project.

“You already know what it is! I got Marilyn Manson on it, I got a song called ‘Dennis Rodman’ on it featuring Tyga, I got Jay Gwuapo, I got Lil Wayne, I got Mulatto,” he listed.

Ferg has previously released “No Ceilings,” featuring Lil Wayne and Jay Gwuapo and “Move Ya Hips,” featuring Nicki Minaj and MadeinTYO,” ahead of Floor Seats II. The latter track went No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Sales Chart and peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August.

Rodman, who’s gassed about being the eponymous subject of one of Ferg’s songs, ended the video announcement with proclaiming, “I’m the sexiest guy in the world,… sexier than [Michael] Jordan.”

Watch the two hype up Floor Seats II from their seats below.

Brandi Carlile Is Giving Back With Her Brand New Sparkling Rosé

With the current state of the world, everyone is looking for ways to give back. Now, singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile is doing just that with a tasty new offering.

On Wednesday (Sept. 16), Carlile announced her brand new line of sparkling rosé wine with XOBC Cellars, her official wine club, on Instagram. The new XO Sparkling Rosé offers a “crisp, dry, floral and insanely elegant” flavor of grapefruit and strawberry, as Carlile said in her post.

“Today @xobccellars and I are launching by far the most delicious tasting sparkling rosé I have ever had in. my. LIFE,” she wrote in her announcement post. “Cath and I drank so much of it last night for our anniversary … Order some of this NOW for the Fall, I don’t think it’ll be hangin’ around.”

The new wine also benefits Carlile’s Looking Out Foundation, a charitable organization aimed at raising money through music and concerts toward a wide range of causes, including funding for various organizations in the sectors of arts, education, health and civil rights.

Check out Carlile’s official announcement below, and order her new wine here.

 

It’s the End of the World as We Know It & R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe Has Had Enough of Its Leaders

R.E.M.‘s Michael Stipe described President Donald Trump as a “bloviating, puff-adder sack of lies” on Late Night With Seth Meyers Wednesday night (Sept. 16).

“So he started as a failed Midtown real estate developer, then became a successful reality TV star… and now we get this bloviating, puff-adder sack of lies. What next?” he told Meyers while retracting Trump’s steps into the White House.

His plan to take him out involves an online art installation on PlanYourVote.org, which works with artists to encourage their fans to not just vote but to plan ahead and spread awareness about voting in their immediate communities. But Stipe’s passion for politics didn’t only surge when Trump was elected in 2016: He’s felt this way since former President Ronald Reagan was in office and he and his former R.E.M. bandmates were touring through Europe, unbeknownst to them as U.S. representatives.

“When we were traveling outside of the country, this was during the Reagan years, and we suddenly in Europe were representative of America. And people were saying, you know, we’re there to play a show, a completely unknown band, and people are like, ‘What the f— are you people thinking? What are you doing over there?'” he recalled. “And so we had to, in a way, kind of politicize ourselves and educate ourselves about who we are to the rest of the world and who we are to ourselves.”

Stipe also penned an op-ed for The Guardian today (Sept. 17) that expressed his discontent with how the leaders of his Georgia home state and R.E.M.’s homebase handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, a Donald Trump acolyte, was slow to order safety measures and quick to lift them, even limiting individual cities’ abilities to create a stronger framework than his recommendations,” he wrote.

Stipe outlined some recommendations for the state’s leadership “that have kept similar communities elsewhere at a much lower risk,” including keeping bars and other close-quarters spaces limited to outdoor seating, limiting the size of everyday gatherings, having no fans in the stadiums if college football season resumes, and improving COVID-19 testing capacity and turnaround time for results.

“From REM’s modest start at the 40 Watt Club in Athens to the triumph of the main stage at Glastonbury, I have spent most evenings of my adult life in the company of thousands, or tens of thousands, reveling in a shared celebration of life. 2020 is the time, however, that we must find a different and more intimate source of warmth and revelry, rather than assembled masses,” Stipe penned. “The safety we create this fall and winter will make all those gatherings and events in future years more meaningful when this pandemic is behind us, having been shared by our friends and loved ones emerging with their health and lives intact.”

He ended his op-ed by listing prominent musical acts from Georgia, such as James Brown, The B-52’s, Jessye Norman and Childish Gambino, and making the point that their home and legacies “deserve a stronger level of support than this state and its key institutions have provided thus far.”

Watch Stipe’s segment on Seth Meyers below.

Jessica Agombar, Co-Writer of BTS’ ‘Dynamite,’ Says Goal For the Song Was ‘A Positive, Huge Ball of Energy’

Jessica Agombar knows exactly what it feels like to thrust into the global spotlight and hear your song booming out of speakers everywhere you go. Only these days, the former member of British girl group Parade is the one writing the songs, and BTS are singing and dancing to her grooves.

Agombar and frequent collaborator songwriter/producer David Stewart at the dynamic duo behind the K-pop group’s No. 1 smash “Dynamite.” She tells Billboard that the process of writing the song was all about capturing the South Korean superstars’ irrepressible energy and enthusiasm in 3:45 of concentrated joy.

“I’m so open to allowing an artist to speak their truth… it’s not about me, but about the artist feeling as comfortable as they can,” says Agombar. The songwriter has had an epic run this year, with credits on the Jonas Brothers’ “What a Man Gotta Do” and Hailee Steinfeld’s “I Love Yous,” as well as songs by Griff and Lennox and upcoming tracks with Stewart for Rita Ora, songs for the next album from Hamilton star Anthony Ramos and new Interscope signee Claudia Valentina.

Agombar is a native of East London — home to such grime superstars as Dizzee Rascal and Wiley — and before she plunged full-time into songwriting, she spent several years in the mid-2000s five-member British girl group Parade, after kicking off her showbiz career with a bit part in the 2009 British comedy St. Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold. The group landed a pair of singles in the U.K. top 40 (“Louder,” “Perfume”) in 2011 before splitting two years later.

“It was an amazing, incredible experience, but if I’m being honest it was a massive crash course in the music industry,” says Agombar. She credits her stint in the group with making her realize her heart really lay in writing songs and staying behind-the-scenes: “When the group disbanded it was like a huge weight was taken off my shoulders, and I knew what I wanted to do.”

She threw herself into songwriting, putting in more than her 10,000 hours during seven-day-a-week sessions, during which she began working with fellow up-and-coming songwriter/producer David Stewart. “David finishes my sentences for me… having a partner like that to collaborate with is invaluable,” she says of her frequent songwriting collaborator, explaining, “I will start a melody and David will finish it, or I’ll start lyrics and David will finish the concept.”

Billboard spoke to Agombar about her telepathic connection with Stewart, as well as the whirlwind process of writing “Dynamite.”

What is the process when you and David write together?

With David I feel like we’ve got the same work ethic, the same positive energy and we want to work with incredible artists every single day for the rest of our lives… Sometimes with creatives it’s a very up-and-down job and David was on exactly the same frequency as me — as in, “Let’s get in, let’s get the job done, let’s have the best day.” I think that’s what draws us together. We laugh the whole day whilst working. It’s the best fun, it’s not a day job at all.

What is the division of work? Do you both play music, write lyrics?

It’s pretty much all together. I’m not a producer — so David produces the music, he plays piano chords, drums, guitar, he’ll definitely coordinate the music — but when it’s melody and lyrics, it can literally depend on the day, the mood of either one of us. I might come in one day with a concept because I watched a Netflix series and was very, very inspired — or David might start singing a melody and I go, “You know what? That lyric goes incredible with the melody you just sung.” We’re lucky we completely collaborate on all ideas.

I read that BTS put out word this year that they were looking for their first all-English language song. Where do you start as a writer when you hear that? There are a lot of factors there: the language barrier, the pressure of following up on their success. It feels like a heavy creative lift.

It came from [Columbia Records CEO] Ron Perry and our publisher Tim Blacksmith at Stellar Songs, who said they were looking for the first English-speaking single. Me and David thought to ourselves, “What would they need to say right now to uplift the world? It needs to be energetic, fun, hopeful, positive and just like a huge ball of energy.”

I think we needed it at the time as well because it was lockdown, there wasn’t much going on, nobody really wanted to do sessions. Me and David always say we have a telepathy, because we’ve worked together for so many years. We know what the other one’s thinking, and we often do say exactly the same thing at exactly the same time. And we said exactly the same for this song: it needs to be an explosive ball of fun.

And I think that’s what we delivered to Ron Perry… it was amazing how quickly [BTS’ management company] Big Hit got back, so BTS obviously loved it. We were like, “We’ll tweak or change anything that doesn’t suit the boys,” and we went back-and-forth and did a couple of tweaks of the lyrics — and they said, “We absolutely love it and we’re going to get the boys to cut it straight away.” Which of course was incredible, and I was flabbergasted. I didn’t actually believe it until they confirmed it and I saw the artwork, because I just didn’t want to get my hopes up. We completely and utterly tailored it for the boys.

From the time you first started working on it, how quickly did it go?

In credit to everyone involved, our publishers at Stellar got straight on to Ron Perry, who knew exactly what he wanted and is the most unbelievable and communicative A&R… back and forth, texts. We had him on FaceTime and his wife, [vocal producer/arranger] Jenna Andrews, was vocally producing the boys. She was on FaceTime with us, we were tweaking the lyrics with Big Hit A&R. “Is this the vibe the boys want?”

Me and David were so hellbent on getting the single — because we felt so, so passionately that this was going to be great for them — [that] everyone worked 100 miles an hour. From start to finish, it all happened within a couple of months. Which is mad, because I’ve had other songs that have sat around for years… I mean the song with the Jonas Brothers was kind of the same. I thought it was really, really quick as well, but that took about six months to come to fruition. Looking back now that seems like an age in comparison to what happened here.

Do you remember what the first kernel of the song was, what got you two started on it?

“It needs to be explosive” — and obviously explosive then became “Dynamite.” Any kind of word like that… I’m always thinking of fireworks, or “Firework,” because I’m a massive Katy Perry fan. I just wanted anything high-energy. It wasn’t a particular lyric, it was a bundle of ideas: explosive, fireworks, dynamite, party, fun, energetic, worldwide takeover.

I went on Twitter and checked all the fan tweets from the ARMY — and I’ve never, ever come across a fan base like BTS’ fanbase. They’re absolutely incredible, they’re like this huge, huge family. I wanted that essence, like a worldwide gang could sing this song and it would be like world domination. We’re all singing something positive and uplifting at this time and I looked at all the tweets from them and I thought, “Wow, the fanbase are literally doing the A&R, the PR for this band.”

So it just had to match the energy of everything surrounding BTS. It was less a line than a feeling. The BPM had to be quick, we have to have horns, it has to be uptempo.

Because it’s in their second language, what factors did you have to keep in mind that you might not otherwise consider?

I didn’t worry, because they sound incredible — and as soon as we got the vocal back we were like, “Wow.” Their vocals are so clean. They all can sing, every single one of them have got amazing voices.

I was more worried about being culturally respectful of them… me and David kept saying, “If they wouldn’t say that we’ll take it out.” We had a few lyrics in there where we were like, “I don’t think that they would say that,” so we tweaked it. And they were like, “That’s much better — much cooler, friendlier.” Being the first English single was such a massive thing, so we really needed it to be different. And I think we did the job basically, which is what I wanted people to say about it: It’s summer, positive and uplifting, at a time when we need it more than ever.

What was the group’s first reaction to it? Did they have any personal notes?

To be honest, there were not that many notes other than “keep it really cool, really young, really fresh, energetic, just happy and positive.” With some of the lyrics, me and David were like, “There’s no way they’re gonna sing that.” And I think they come back and tweaked a few lyrics. There wasn’t like specific notes from them… [because] we overthought it so much, and were so careful speaking to Ron Perry, that I felt like we delivered in the first or second time delivering it to them.

That’s amazing, because it seemed like a heavy lift, songwriting-wise.

Yeah, it was a big responsibility and that’s why we took whatever they said so seriously. There were a few small tweaks: “Make it more friendly, fun, more playful.” Because we had done it straight away, and didn’t push back and be like, “This lyric must stay the same,” I think they were so, so open.

How long did it take to write the music and lyrics?

I think to get the initial song without the tweaks, it was like one day. We went for lunch, had some pasta, we had a coffee, came back and then, yeah, it was done.

For the initial session you two were in the studio together for a day, but then the rest was over Zoom?

Yeah, I think so. To be honest, I think the bulk of was actually written over Zoom call, but because we’ve got telepathy, me and David, and we work together so much, it was just easy, really, really easy. Yeah, we finished the song over a Zoom call. Bloody hell!

 

And then you hit the top of the Hot 100 Songwriters Chart recently, which was a first for both of you. Safe to assume that was a highlight of your summer?

Billboard No 1, for sure. Me and David wrote “What a Man Gotta Do” for the Jonas Brothers — and that did huge amounts, that was everywhere. They performed it on the Grammys this year, I was lucky enough to fly to L.A. to see the performance, it was incredible.

But, honestly, this is just a moment that I will never forget. It’s actually life-changing. It’s a dream come true. I know that sounds so clichéd, but just seeing the stats and the figures and the records that they’re breaking humbles me, to know that I’m doing the right thing for a creative and a songwriter. And after putting in the 15 years or work it makes it all worth it for sure. I’ve not had a moment like this. I mean I don’t know how I’m going to have another moment like this. Yeah, I’ve ruined it for myself!

Watch the “Dynamite” video below.

 

Latin Artist on the Rise: Alex Fernández on Taking Mariachi Music to a Younger Audience

Hunkered down in Jalisco, Mexico, rising mariachi singer Alex Fernández is working on what will be his second studio album – which will follow his debut album Sigue La Dinastía – with the guidance of his grandfather, the music icon Vicente Fernández, and his superstar dad Alejandro Fernández.

“It’s been a beautiful process but I’ve also learned so much from them,” says the 26-year-old who recently released his new single “Lo Que Tú Necesitas” off of his forthcoming album. “I think of them as my guardian angels who although are titans in the music industry, they’re also excellent teachers.”

After going full force in 2018, when he launched his career and that unforgettable performance at the Latin Grammys alongside his father and grandfather in 2019, the COVID-19-imposed lockdown postponed all his shows but he’s used the moment to learn and record new music.

“We had a full agenda for this year but now everything is on pause and I’ve taken this moment to really plan out my career, restructure my show and work on this new record,” says Fernández.

His new album, slated for the end of the year, is a celebration of mariachi music with a mix of traditional rancheras with more rhythmic ones like his new song “Lo Que Tú Necesitas.” “I loved that song since the first time I heard it. It’s fun and danceable, which is what I hope will help me reach a younger audience and new generations,” says Fernández.

Learn more about this week’s Latin Artist on the Rise below.

Name: Alex Fernández

Age: 26

Major Accomplishment: “My major accomplishment has been to receive so much support from the fans. But if I had to choose one specific moment, it would have to be performing at the Latin Grammys with the two people that are not only my teachers but are my family.”

Recommended Song: “‘Lo Que Tú Necesitas.’ It’s my new single and the perfect song to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.”

What’s Next: “I’ll be releasing more singles and music videos prior to the album. We’ve done a few virtual concerts but not sure if I’d do more. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of these performances because they don’t compare to the real thing. To sing to a camera instead of singing in front of people doesn’t do it for me. God willing, we’d be able to resume concerts in March.”