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The Continuous Work Ethic Of Benny Blanco

"I think what makes a song good is, for a listener, there always has to be something new happening," Benny Blanco says.
Matt Adam
Courtesy of the artist
"I think what makes a song good is, for a listener, there always has to be something new happening," Benny Blanco says.

You may not recognize the name Benny Blanco, or his voice, but that's by design. Blanco is one of the producers behind Top 40 hits like Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," Rihanna's "Diamonds" and Halsey and Khalid's " Eastside." Now, he's released his new album, Friends Keep Secrets, with a twist. Blanco says he will continue to add songs to Friends Keep Secrets, as he continues to write more songs with more artists.

"The way that streaming is right now, and the way that technology has progressed, you can do things a little bit differently," Blanco says. "So, I came up with the idea to not only put out one body of work, or two bodies of work ... but have them all live as one continuous album."

From the time he was 4 years old, Blanco's life was overtaken by music. His brother would bring him to a record store in their hometown of Reston, Va., where Blanco became obsessed with singles and tapes. His parents got him a keyboard, and Blanco began making music. At 9, Blanco won a songwriting contest, landing him with his first recording, and, by 13, multiple record deals. To his parents chagrin, Blanco opted for music instead of college.

"I just went for it, and eventually I realized no one wanted to hear a chubby Jewish kid rap," Blanco says. "So, I was like, 'Oh, I' guess I'll make all my own music, and I'll write songs for other people."

But along the way, he's seen the bad side of the music industry, too. The budding producer worked alongside Dr. Luke, who has been in the spotlight in recent years due to his legal battle with Kesha. In 2014, the singer filed a civil suit against Dr. Luke and accused him of sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abusing her throughout the course of their working relationship. Since then, Dr. Luke and Kesha have been involved in this ongoing legal battle.

"I don't have any relationship to him any more," Blanco says. "I haven't had a relationship in many, many years. It's a bad situation, and I feel terrible for what happened."

Despite these difficulties, Blanco has continued to write songs, a task which he describes as a "24-hour thing." He even creates music in his sleep. "Sometimes I literally write songs in my dreams and have to wake up and try to write 'em down," Blanco says. The result of his continuous work, is a fittingly ever-evolving album.

"I get this like weird feeling that's like a rush in my heart," Blanco says. "And I think what makes a song good is, for a listener, there always has to be something new happening. ... Usually the song's done once I hate the song, or hate myself so much that I have to get it to mix."

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.