Going Gaga: RedOne riding a hot streak, working with Usher, Adam Lambert
Despite the cartoonish outfits, Lady Gaga may not be the best of pop stars to introduce to your children, what with the whole pant-less space queen look and the thinly veiled sexual metaphors in her music. Yet no one’s going to blame producer RedOne for dressing his tyke in Gaga-inspired fashions.
After all, the once-burgeoning studio magician has become one of the industry’s most in-demand players in the last 12 months, thanks in large part to the rather sudden emergence of the Gaga empire. Since its release last fall, Lady Gaga’s debut, “The Fame,” has sold more than 990,000 albums in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, and should top 1 million within the next week or two.
She currently has two singles in the top 10 on the U.S. pop charts -- “Poker Face” and “Love Game,” both of which feature RedOne’s ‘80s-inspired handiwork. Such success comes with perks. The obvious benefit is the privilege of working with everyone from Michael Jackson to Usher to “American Idol’s” Rolling Stone cover boy Adam Lambert.
Then there’s the free baby clothes.
“Lady Gaga is thinking all the time about how she’s going to design some new idea she has, like breaking glass and making a bra with it,” says the Moroccon-born RedOne, who requests to be known only by his stage name. “When I had my baby, I got a call from Gaga, and she made a baby Gaga suit. You never know what to expect. It’s always a show with her, and she shocks you with something.”
RedOne will step out of his Hollywood-based studio this week and join Gaga for a few weeks on her European tour. The two, says the producer, are beginning work on the follow-up to “The Fame,” although it may be a while, with word last week coming from Kanye West that he and the New York-bred 23 year-old pop star would be staging a fall tour.
In the meantime, plenty of albums will be released featuring RedOne’s work. When he spoke to Pop & Hiss last Friday around 1 p.m., the producer shared his schedule leading into the weekend. The Backstreet Boys had the producer until 8 p.m., and then RedOne said he had about five hours scheduled with “Idol” runner-up Lambert.
“I want to go rock -- David Bowie and Queen, but make it more easy for people to get,” the producer said of his vision for Lambert. “It has to be rock, but with an interesting dance angle to it, you know? You’ll like it.”
RedOne said he hopes to record at least six songs with Lambert, but that doesn’t guarantee that they'll all make Lambert’s RCA debut (a Lambert representative was unable to be reached prior to posting). An “Idol” finalist comes equipped with a built-in fan base, and RedOne said he’s eager to play with people’s expectations.
“You know what I like about him? He’s fresh,” said RedOne. “You can go almost whatever direction with him. People know him from being on ‘American Idol,’ singing other people’s songs, but you can take him in a new direction, and this will be the first time you hear Adam Lambert with his signature. My goal is to get his signature out from him to the world.”
The heavily accented RedOne worked in Sweden for much of the ‘90s, recording with the likes of the ABBA-inspired A*Teens, and had a major breakthrough in the U.S. with Kat DeLuna’s “Whine Up,” which has the thick, vibrant retro synth sounds RedOne favors. With Lady Gaga, RedOne describes the sound as possessing “futuristic, aggressive snyths.” The electronic-heavy production work has long been a staple on the European dance scene, but it should strike a familiar chord to most American pop fans.
“I love ‘80s music,” RedOne said. “It’s all about emotions, and the chorus elevates you. If you look back in three years, and you look at the hits, they all have the same things. They have a verse, a pre-chorus and a chorus -- one that’s dynamic and elevates you. You need to make people go crazy when the chorus comes. That’s so important on every song with Gaga.”
While spending time in Europe, RedOne plans to see one of Jackson’s 50 dates at the O2 Arena in London. RedOne recorded with Jackson for his long-awaited follow-up to 2001’s “Invincible,” but, of course, he can’t reveal any details. Instead, the conversation is often steered to the material he’s working on with Lady Gaga (“Anytime I have a crazy idea, I save it for Gaga,” he said), or Gaga-associated electronic artist Space Cowboy, who RedOne is also recording with.
“The world, with the recession, needs this,” he said.
“That’s one of the things I think with my music,” RedOne continued. “It brings a lot of joy to people, and people want to escape from what’s going on. The ‘80s was happy music, and that’s what I’m doing musically. People are reacting positively to big choruses, joyful music.”
-- Todd Martens
Photos from top: RedOne. Credit: Keith Munyon; Lady Gaga. Credit: Getty Images; Adam Lambert. Credit:Fox / Associated Press