Since his career as a hitmaker first took off with Kelly Clarkson’s 2004 smash “Since U Been Gone,” Lukasz Gottwald — a.k.a. Dr. Luke, Tyson Trax and others — has reigned as one of the world’s top hitmakers via songs with Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me,” Pink’s “U + Ur Hand” and many more, and his Prescription Songs proves he’s no slouch as a publisher, either. While he’s kept a lower public profile in recent years (due to a widely publicized series of allegations from former protégé Kesha, all of which he has denied and defeated in court), his work with Doja Cat and Saweetie has seen him riding high into the 2020s.
Each year, Variety has a list of questions that we send to our Hitmakers about their honored songs, and to our surprise, Luke — who rarely does interviews — went deep on just about all of them, which in his case were about Doja’s “Kiss Me More” (featuring SZA) and Saweetie’s “Best Friend,” which features Doja. His answers appear in full below.
What was the inspiration behind making “Best Friend”?
I was noticing that on TikTok there were a lot of duos doing videos together. Many had two people doing it together, like it was easier for them to do with somebody else, and maybe they were too shy to do it alone. [Co-writers] Theron Thomas, A1 LaFlare and [co-writer/co-producer] Rocco Valdes and myself were talking about it in a room, and that’s how the inspiration for “Best Friend” happened. It was just a fun, upbeat record and I played it for Saweetie and then Doja Cat. They both killed it and wrote their verses to bring the song to life. I had them both do the chorus and their verses and cutting between them kept it action-packed.
Was there a tipping point to this song – a social media moment, a key synch, radio add or specific playlist/platform that amplified the record?
We were all lucky with “Best Friend” because there were many great things happening with the song to keep it going – and it’s still going. Both Saweetie and Doja’s careers were blowing up and the song was just contagious fun. I have always said a hit record is the right song, with the right artist, at the right time, and this song checked all those boxes. I also believe this song was special because there are not enough artists supporting each other and working together. Having both Saweetie and Doja at this time was key.
What is it about the song that grabbed listeners? Was it the chorus? The beat? The lyrics? The hook? The melody? The message?
I think this song worked because it checked all the boxes. Great concept, beat, lyrics, hook, etc. “Best Friend” continues to get synched more than many other big songs. It’s girl-power fun. They did a great job with the video and the “Thelma and Louise” nod as well.
During the life of the song, what has been your proudest moment?
Personally, I feel like my proudest moment was making this song with my friends and having fun doing it. Saweetie, Doja, [co-writers] Theron Thomas, SupaKaine, A1 LaFlare, [co-writer/co-producer] Rocco Valdes and myself all had fun making it and that is the part I remember best. Some hits are a struggle to get there. “Best Friend” was a good time making it.
In your opinion, where does music discovery happen these days?
Discovery of music is happening many ways, but TikTok seems to have the biggest sway on the streaming charts. But music is not ALL data: There has always been curation and there should still be more of that.
What’s the most pressing music industry issue that your field is facing right now?
I think songwriters / publishing should be getting more of the money split with master side. As somebody who has both masters and publishing income, I can say that it’s not fair, and that the publishing/ creator side needs to get a bigger share of the profits.
How did the pandemic influence lyrical content and / or tone of this song or how was it received?
I think the pandemic forced many of us to recalibrate some and find new ways to create. It feels like there may have been an opening for fun music and actual singing, rather than moody whisper pop all the time. Personally, I have enjoyed making music that people have fun to.
Did you work with any new songwriters or producers this year who really impressed you? If so, who, and on what project?
Man, I’m so grateful I get to work with so many amazing talented people. We’re always having conversations and talking about where this is all going. I get inspired talking to great talents like Ester Dean, Theron Thomas, J. White, Rocco Valdes, Ryan Ogren, KBeaZy, Vaughn Oliver, Kim Petras, Aaron Joseph, and many others I’m sure I’m forgetting at this moment.
Outside of the recording studio, where was the first time you heard the song and what did that feel like?
I first heard this song on the radio and that always feels good. These days, the best part about it is getting to experience how the younger A1s and Kaines feel because it’s newer for them. It still feels great for me, but I also remember my first few hits and that was special.
Is there anyone besides the artist you’d like to shout out for helping make this song a hit?
Apart from the co-writers/co-producers that worked on this record with me, there are a few people I would definitely like to shout out — without their support this record would not be possible: Max Gousse, Adam Small, Lydia Asrat and Yeti Beats. Without these people, neither artist would have recorded the song. And Hannah Montgomery and the team at Prescription Songs. Thank you guys!