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Kurstin, Kurstin

I hate to admit this, but I sort of like that Kelly Clarkson song, “Stronger.” Today I realized why, and no, it’s not the line dancing in the video. Or the 52,000,000 views or that cloying minor third hook. It’s something else.

But first…

One of my favorite bands in recent years is the LA-based duo, The Bird and The Bee–which if you’ve been following this blog for a while will recognize as a common topic of conversation. Look, they wrote a song called “Would You Be My F*cking Boyfriend?” Hello, awesome? I thank them for making the years between 2008-2010 just that much better for me. To be specific, those years were made exactly this much better:

Figure 1.1 (the “how much better” slide)

bNb Effect
The BnB Effect (in red) over a baseline of contentment, 2008-2010 with a 4% sampling error

So what does Clarkson’s maddeningly repetitive, pentatonic sugar puff of a song have to do with the aforementioned sophisticates of pop? (Because obviously it’s something, or else the sidebar was just a diversion to talk about myself and this blog, which though fair game was not my intention.)

The answer: songwriting credits. That’s right, keyboardist/producer/songwriter Greg Kurstin, the brains behind The Bird and The Bee, also wrote the Clarkson ditty. It’s what he does. He’s a poppy genius who serves delectable yums-yums to all manner of stars including Britney Spears, Foster the People, Ke\$ha, Pink, and on and on. I think it’s safe to say that this former indie darling is finally getting paid.

Greg Kurstin

What I especially like about Kurstin is his pedigree. Greg (can I call him that?) started as a jazz piano student at the New School, but quickly realized that jazz musicians are a bunch of elitist assholes and took off (which I say from a place of love, being an elitist asshole myself). In the end, I’m sure the training proved useful in his pop career–the part about dealing with assholes, at least.

Finally let’s discuss the above picture (which I stole from the LA Times). I’m going to name every keyboard in that photo. Because I can.

From L-R, T-B: Moog Minimoog, Roland Juno-60, Roland SH-101 (so far I own every one of these), Moog MicroMoog, Roland Jupiter-4, Roland Vocoder+, a Wurlitzer electric piano, and the best of ’em, a Yamaha CS-80!! Christ that thing cost \$7000 in the 1978. Today it commands roughly the same price in used markets. Venturing a guess: Kurstin dropped about \$25K on that rack of vintage awesomeness. Envy! That’s still far less that the gold Lexus I saw Joel Osteen driving today–he parked next to me in an office park in Houston. I quickly walked the other way but then ran into him again at the elevator. I started humming “Stronger, something-something-something Longer, dum dum dum.” No reaction. Weird…




  • Emma Kate Tsai

    I laughed out loud at this post for a number of reasons, but first and foremost, the GRAPH. Adorable and interesting, not to mention intriguing. I LOVE Bird and the Bee and that Kelly Clarkson song. Does that mean what I really like is the songwriter’s skills? That is something, by the way, I don’t think of often enough–the songwriter. I remember how disillusioned I was and felt when I discovered in middle school that Janet Jackson didn’t write her own songs, which was just a turn-off point to discovering that about nearly every singer I liked. Also, I am impressed that you’re able to name all those keyboards. One thing I really like about your posts about music: when you talk about the technical aspects of music and relate that back to the experiential. I wish I could do that.

    • Andrew


      Yeah the graph. You know, sometimes information is best understood visually. Thank you, Excel. I have to admit laughing to myself while making it though. #nerd

      Songwriters are the one who make all the money, by the way. Every time their song plays, they get paid.

  • Shannon

    Love it! Laughed out loud at your keyboard naming exercise. In more ways than one on this post, you made me smile. You? Humming Clarkson? In an elevator with Osteen? Priceless!

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