We know that Justin Bieber got his “Peaches” out in Georgia and his weed from California, but tracing the collective composition of his No. 1 hit isn’t so simple.
That’s because it took 11 songwriters to bring that R&B-pop bop from Bieber’s 2021 album “Justice” into fruition. Which is a far cry from solely self-written smashes — certified classics all — from 50 years ago, such as Don McLean’s “American Pie,” Neil Young’s “Heart of “Gold” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”
In fact, when the 64th annual Grammy Awards goes down on Sunday, April 3, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (airing at 8 p.m. ET on CBS with host Trevor Noah), “Peaches” will hold the distinction of being the Song of the Year nominee with the most co-writer credits in the history of music’s biggest night.
The 11 tunesmiths who have a piece of the pit for one of Bieber’s eight nominations is two more than the previous record-holder, Beyoncé’s “Black Parade,” which had nine co-writers, up for Song of the Year in 2021. Although Bey didn’t win, Bruno Mars did take home that prestigious Grammy with seven of his pen pals for “That’s What I Like” in 2018.
Once frowned upon by the purists in the Recording Academy, songwriting by committee — when you’re not even in the same room working together — is the way that many of today’s biggest hits are made. And Nile Rodgers — the Songwriters Hall of Fame chairman who has worked with everyone from Diana Ross and David Bowie to Madonna and his own band, Chic — says that it’s the new normal.
“‘Peaches’ is not unusual. That’s actually probably the way most hit records are done now,” Rodgers, 69, told The Post. “The finished product is really what’s important. And nobody really cares how you get there … The end justifies the means.”
Although Grammy-winning songwriter-producer Eric Seats — who has collaborated with the likes of Aaliyah, Missy Elliott and Destiny’s Child — doesn’t think that a breezy ditty such as “Peaches” (featuring Giveon and Daniel Caesar) sounds as if it needed 11 cooks in the kitchen, he agrees that it’s all about the end result.
“There’s no formula, no right or wrong to the process,” said Seats. “It is really about the outcome. So, good for all of those people being able to collaborate on one song. I don’t know how that worked out.”
The hip-hop effect — not relying on traditional music and instrumental training — in both pop and R&B has certainly changed the songwriting game. The building of today’s trendiest tracks just isn’t the same as sitting at the piano or strumming the guitar and making the magic happen solo dolo.
“People became very comfortable with a person doing this bit, a person bringing in that part,” said Rodgers.
And with the proliferation of hip-hop-style samples and interpolations, more writers are getting non-collaborative credits on songs. “When Kanye [West] and Dr. Dre and The Weeknd and all those other people sampled [Aaliyah’s] ‘Rock the Boat,’ they had to list our names in those credits,” said Seats. “I wasn’t even near the sessions, but they had to credit us.”
After the estate of Marvin Gaye famously won a copyright suit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell over their hit “Blurred Lines” in 2018, more artists are being careful about crediting those who have obviously influenced their work. In fact, Olivia Rodrigo — who is up for seven Grammys — retroactively added songwriting credits to two of her big hits: Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff and St. Vincent for “Drivers License”; and two members of Paramore for “Good 4 U.”
But some songwriters are still doing it old-school style by themselves. In fact, this year “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” the ubiquitous “Encanto” hit, became the first song written by a single person — Lin-Manuel Miranda — to go No. 1 since Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” in 2017.
“It happens, but those songs are not nearly as popular,” said Rodgers.
“Especially in other genres — jazz and country and even gospel — there’s definitely still those single people with that pen,” added Seats. “Because it’s almost like it’s their testimony.”
And just because the process isn’t always the same as, say, when Alicia Keys won Song of the Year as the sole writer of “Fallin’” 20 years ago at the 2002 Grammys, Rodgers says that doesn’t diminish the achievement. Indeed, he believes it’s just a part of the evolution of music.
“I always like to recognize the fact that artists have more colors to paint with,” said Rodgers. “I got signed because I could write it and play it and perform it … The world is different now — and songwriters have more tools available to them.”