5 Secrets Behind Timbaland's Biggest Hits
From late '90s R&B to the explosion of pop of the 2000s, Timbaland has created some of the most recognizable songs of our time – signature hits from the likes of Justin Timberlake, Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Jay-Z and more.
Even though the super-producer makes it look easy, there are secrets to the madness and in honour of the industry vet's 46th birthday on Saturday, iHeartRadio has decided to shine some light on his techniques and revisit some of his old interviews to learn his studio secrets.
1. You keep on recording take after take until it feels right.
Back in the early 2000s, Timbaland helped Missy Elliott with one of the biggest songs of her career, "Work It," but it didn't come without doing take after take after take until they found a winning formula.
"We cut the song at least five times before it was right," he told Entertainment Weekly. "She had different lyrics, different [flows], but I just didn’t care for it." Elliott then thought of the idea to take "put my thang down, flip it and reverse it" and simply verse them. "That’s something that she did creatively. When she came back and played it for me [backward], I was like, ‘That’s the one.'"
2. Listening to inspiration often helps get the creative juices flowing.
When creating "SexyBack," he and Timberlake listened to a lot of Prince, which according to Timbaland and protégé Danja, influenced the accompanying Futuresex/LoveSounds immensely. Now, whether or not, JT's line in "Give It To Me" featuring Canada's Nelly Furtado, was a swipe at the Purple Wonder remains a mystery.
3. Volume control doesn't matter in the studio.
Speaking of Furtado, in her recent feature in The FADER, the singer recalled her time in the studio with the super-producer while they were creating "Maneater."
"We were playing the music so loud that the large speaker on top of the console started to smoke, and then a flame came out of the speaker. It was on fire!," she admitted. "It was a really cool omen, you know? But we were actually scared, like, 'Are we conjuring the devil or something?! What's going on?' We didn't pull that song up for a couple weeks."
4. Sometimes the envelope must be pushed, and he champions that idea.
Furtado was pretty hesitant about recording the sexually-charged "Promiscuous," but the hitmaker decided to push her beyond her comfort zone.
"I told her, 'You can't be that same Nelly Furtado laying on the grass playing with birds,'" Timbaland recalled to EW. "She was like, 'Oh no, Tim, I'm not doing that!' I told her, 'I'm not saying exploit yourself, I'm saying showcase yourself.'"
5. Working with people that understand your vision and creative process is key.
During his 2015 interview with Vanity Fair, the hitmaker spoke about creating music for Empire, revealing that there's no particular process to soundtracking a show like this.
"There's no form or method to how it works. Sometimes things are written to beats, or we go over the script," he admitted. "I've got a great relationship with (Empire producer) Brian Grazer, and Lee [Daniels] is letting me be free—letting me interpret the words into music and emotion. Elsewhere he spoke of his "team of great people," including the likes of Jim Beanz. "He writes most of the work, and I tell him the concept of what I want," he explained. "I oversee it, I listen to it, I change a word here, or add something to a beat, switch that over there … like that."
Original article by James Dinh at iHeartRadio