A-Plus: Writing For Choice

Keeping family first is hard within the politics of the music business, but songwriting duo A-Plus has navigated through the game to write songs for J. Lo, Ciara, Tamia and a growing list of artists. The songwriting team of sisters Antea and Anesha received a career break when Grammy producer Rodney Jerkins signed them to his production company. After writing Shareefa’s lead single “Need A Boss,” which reached top ten on the Billboard R&B chart, this the duo have become in demand. In our conversation A-Plus touches on censorship, how image effect music and being able to write songs for male artist.

Singersroom: Is it a different approach writing for a guy since you are females?

Antea: It is a little bit more difficult writing for a guy but the reason why we are able to pull it off is because every guy no matter how hardcore he is has a softer side. I think as women writers, we can embrace that softer side and because we are from Detroit we know a lot of hood guys too. So it is easy to picture a dude you know and then write a story or concept.

Singersroom: Fans want artist who portray the lyrics that they sing because fans want authentic music. Some artists have a spilt image; their artist image and their personal life. How do you create songs that fit the artist character?

Antea: It is kind of like you read a novel and then you read the cliff notes of the novel; the songs are like the cliff notes and the novel is the artist. So basically we get the gist of what they want. We don’t really get caught up in the artist persona versus the real life and house shoes and house coat. Whatever you want to look like, whatever you want to sound like, tell us. We summarize it in the music to make sure the emotion they are trying to personify is who we actually are given in those songs.

Singersroom: For somebody that has a couple of records, they may have a certain sound, how do you help them create more edgy material?

Antea: A good example is where Ciara is; she came from the whole “Goodies” sound, the Atlanta R&B sound. Now she is trying to go Euro-club. That makes it a bit challenging when you go in assuming we just gonna do a Ciara record and she is like “bam this is what I want.” It makes it a little more challenging it that respect.

Singersroom: People are continuously complaining lyrics are being “dumb down,” do you think it is true and what do you think the reason is?

Antea: Yes and no, it all depends on the genre. I think you have hooks that are being dumb down and concepts that are being more thought out and intricate. So you have “Ice Box” and “Like A Boy” with easy singable hooks but are crazy concepts.

Singersroom: When you are writing records, do feel like you know when you have a hit record?

Antea: Anesha says “yes” but I say yes and no. Because we have written records before when we are like this record is ok then we give it to an artist and they are like this is incredible. Sometimes what we hear as being hot and being a hit is not the same thing as somebody else’s ear. That is why I can turn on the radio and say “I hate this song” and the song is number two in the country, somebody think it’s hot as does somebody who thinks its garbage. It is up to the individual listener. You can follow the basics of what it takes to have a number one song, like catchy hook, easy melodies, and good concepts and usually if you follow those kinds of guidelines nine times out of ten you will have a hit record. To be honest what makes a song a hit record is the artist that sings it. You can write a hit but if you give it to a new artist that doesn’t get a lot of radio play and that artist is not able to give it the feet that it needs to run then it won’t do anything. So y’all have a song that most people say “that is a terrible record” but because it went number one it is [considered] a smash. When really we all know the truth!

Singersroom: Is there a difference in recording different genres?

Antea: You mean the difference in recording a Pop song versus recording a Gospel song?

Singersroom: Yes.

Antea: Yes, It is very different. Not to diss anybody that is out right now but I consider myself and Anesha to be very genuine writers. We are not people that figured out writers make a lot of money so let’s do this for a living. We write from our inside, we write from a creative place, we don’t just pull stuff from out the air. So a lot of it is based off of emotion, spirituality, life love, feelings, all that. It is a very different spectrum to write Gospel and R&B, that is why I think me and Anesha are on the cutting edge of where the industry is on its way to. You have a lot of writers and producers who are out right now that write in one particular sound and that’s it. They do it well and that’s great. But that’s not what me and Anesha do. We are able to pull from any aspect of our lives and able to throw it into any genre from Gospel to a Euro-Pop to a hook on a Rap song.

Singersroom: Are there words that you refrain from using in your lyrics?

Antea: Yes there is. That is a touchy subject for both me and Anesha because we both are Christian woman and it is a very fine line as to what we will and won’t write. There have been moments when we will get a track an be like lets just do this and say that and we end up sending it out to who ever thinking they are not gonna mess with it. Then to our dismay they do want to mess with it and we are like “oh my God” we just sent them a record with all these cusses all over it, “we going to hell.” It is something that we deal with because you never want to put yourself out there “saying I believe in Jesus and I’m saved” then somebody puts on a record and is like “this is you talking about this right here.” It is very difficult for us, we are still human beings, we still live in the world everyday and do the things everybody else does, and we deal with the same things everybody else deals with. Its just when you claim to be a Christian, you are put under a magnifying glass even more because of our confession of faith. Unfortunately there are records that have slipped out of our hands that we’re not as proud of because they just don’t exemplify who we are as women. But we all make mistakes.

Singersroom: Image is nothing.

Antea: I agree. That is why I’m not in charge of the music industry. Because if image was nothing, I would get all the big ole church girls in the choir that blow and [put] them all in the Grammy’s. For me I would rather hear good singing. I am not into what somebody looks like, but that’s just me. I’m a small minority in the big picture of what the music industry is right now.

Singersroom: But I think you can have the people who don’t fit the Beyonce body type but have the right story. Like Fantasia is not what Beyonce is on the eye but she has a great story as a person where you feel a personal connection.

Antea: She is not as big as Beyonce though so it is hard to compare. She has an incredible story; she has come from a lot. She is pretty much the average girl in America but not as big as Beyonce.

I think we live in a country of denial where people would much rather look at the perfect picture. That is more acceptable than this chick from the hood; she got a baby, she couldn’t read all the way till she was almost grown. So when people put on headphones and listen to music they would rather be fed a fantasy rather than a reality. It’s sucks because I love Fantasia, if I had my pick as far as singers it would her, I think she has one of the best voices in the industry because it is so real. But when you look at the two packages and what the general public wants to see, they don’t really want to see a girl from the hood. They would rather have a pretty picture painted for them. It sucks because that is not what music should be but it is.

Singersroom: Do you really blame that on the public because there are some people that want it and others that it’s being forced on.

Antea: You’re absolutely right; I can’t blame it on the public. This is what the music industry and the people who make the decisions dictate. They kind of think for the listener. This is what is beautiful, this is what is right, this is what sounds good, this is what you should talk about and say and look like. Because it is shoved down our throats, that is what everybody accepts and there is not a big enough majority of people to say i’m not accepting that, I want to think for myself and pick and choose what I like. That is why you have a person like Beyonce who is exceptional gorgeous and talented shooting to number one and staying at number one. Somebody like Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Ciara, these are all beautiful slim woman who dance and have these fantasy lives because that is what the industry portrays. Then people like Chrisette Michelle, Fantasia, Jill Scott, and Angie Stone are people who get left in the shadow; who have wonderful voices but because they don’t portray that picture perfect image that black and white America want to see I don’t think the music industry embraces it as much. —— By: Interview By Adeniyi Omisore


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