Feb. 17, 2011 -- When the superstars of Pop hand their latest tracks off to Lukasz Gottwald, it seems almost guaranteed that adding his music-mixing medicine will turn their songs into sure-fire hits.
Trust him -- he's a doctor.
Gottwald, a 37-year-old music producer and songwriter more affectionately known as "Dr. Luke," has 21 No. 1 hit singles and two Grammy nominations under his belt, making him the most successful (and sought-after) hit-maker on today's pop music scene.
"I'm looking for voices that are distinctive," Gottwald said. "That's the most important thing to me. I mean, obviously they have to be able to sing."
From Conway Studios in Hollywood, Gottwald has helped produce breakout hits for an impressive list of stars, including the Princess of Pop herself -- Britney Spears.
"She gets it done," Gottwald said. "She's pretty focused when she gets in and records, and she sounds good fast, you know? She's a lot busier than I am, so she comes in and gets it done and she's out."
In his latest project, Gottwald is one of the principal architects for Spears' latest song, "Hold It Against Me," and her upcoming album, "Femme Fatale," due out in March.
He has also shaped the "American-Idol"-bred barrage of Kelly Clarkson, the candy-coated track, "Teenage Dream," by Katy Perry, the polished punk rock of Pink and the intoxicating beats of Ke$ha. Time and again, Gottwald has proven that he knows the magic sound for what Pop-music lovers crave.
"Maybe I just didn't mature or something," Gottwald joked. "I mean, I do have three sisters, and I think that has something to do with it. One of my sisters is 15."
But producer Gottwald said he doesn't just make music just for the fans. He said he has to think the song sounds good before it's released.
"I like to like it," he said. "I have to like it, otherwise it'd be weird."
Gottwald's First Big Hit Was Kelly Clarkson's 'Since U Been Gone'
Gottwald says he has been enthralled with music for decades. After studying jazz at The Manhattan School of Music, he spent ten years as a guitar player in the "Saturday Night Live" house band. It was through his work that he became fascinated by the mechanics of how Pop songs were built.
"The hardest thing, and the most difficult thing, is to do the most simple thing," he said. "Because that means that you've had to weed out every other option. I kind of feel like that about a good Pop song, too. When it's right, it's perfect, you know?"
Gottwald also spent some time DJ-ing at New York City clubs, where he met Max Martin, the Swedish Pop producer best known for his work with Britney Spears' breakout hit, "Hit Me Baby One More Time" in 1999.
The two producers eventually collaborated to produce another megahit in 2004, Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone."
"I have a lotta A&R [the record label] people who I'm friends with to this day who are like, 'Yeah, I passed on that song,'" Gottwald said. "But I think one of the things that actually made the song special is [Clarkson's] voice. You know, it was definitely a breakthrough."
"Since U Been Gone" skyrocketed to Billboard's No. 1 spot, and sealed Gottwald's fame in the music producing business. With Max Martin as his mentor, Gottwald left "SNL" in 2007 to focus on producing full time. Along the way, he discovered a teenaged vocalist whom he though had a unique sound: Ke$ha.
"I found her when she was in Nashville," Gottwald said. "She was sleeping on people's couches...she worked a lot, wrote a lot and got it together."
After taking Ke$ha, now 23, under his wing, Gottwald helped coach and transform her into the megastar she is today.
"We kind of developed the sound together," Ke$ha said. "It was me, like, being a sassy lady, and then him kind of helping me put that into a pop song."
That "sound" produced Ke$ha's "drunk-tastic" hit single, "Tik Tok," which put Ke$ha on the Pop music map. "I brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack / 'Cause when I leave for the night, I ain't coming back," she sings.
Ke$ha on Working with Gottwald: 'His Sense of Melody Is Like a Gift From God'
"His sense of melody is like a gift from God," Ke$ha said. "It's bizarre. Everything that comes out of his mouth is incredible and is so catching and hooky."
But the doctor doesn't just know the perfect formula for punchy lyrics, he's also a master at blending and mixing sounds together, as evidenced by one of his most popular productions: Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream."
The song features a mind-boggling 182 different tracks, including guitar, an entire crowd of people for the chorus, and of course, Perry herself.
Gottwald has joined forces with Max Martin once again for Spears' "Hold It Against Me," a song he said he found himself recreating on the fly when Spears wanted changes.
"I don't want to disappoint people," he said, laughing. "Especially with an icon like Britney. You don't want to be the one who messed it up. Hopefully I won't fail, you know?"
When asked what it was about Pop music that made it all worthwhile, Gottwald said that the songs were all about "feeling good."
"I wanna feel that way," he said. "I feel like if you can make music, and get people to, you know, evoke that feeling out of other people through writing songs, that's a pretty cool thing to do."