Top of the Pops: Johan Karl Schuster, Łukasz Gottwald, Wouter De Backer, and other pale males

As commenters have been pointing out, the songwriters of today's most popular pop hits tend to have names that sound like they were cribbed from the New Grove Dictionary of classical composers.

I like to take found lists assembled by other people for other purposes and look up their demographic backgrounds on Wikipedia:

ASCAP bragged last November:

"According to Billboard magazine, the top songwriters - all ASCAP members - from the past three months are:

image
Shellback / Johan Karl Schuster

"Shellback (Maroon 5's "One More Night," Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together")

From Wikipedia:

Johan Karl Schuster, better known by the stage name Shellback, is a Swedish songwriter, record producer and musician. ... Julius kept sending Schuster's indierock/deathmetal demos to Max [Martin], who became curious about what it would sound like if Schuster would make pop music.

image
Harris / Wiles

"Calvin Harris (Rihanna's "Where Have You Been," Scissor Sisters' "Only the Horses")

Adam Richard Wiles (born 17 January 1984), better known by his stage name Calvin Harris, is a Scottish DJ, singer, songwriter, and record producer. [Unfortunately, Wikipedia neglects to mention whether or not Harris/Wiles is related to Andrew Wiles of Fermat's Last Theorem. They don't look all that different.]

image

"Max Martin (Katy Perry's "Wide Awake," Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together")

Martin Karl Sandberg (born 26 February 1971), known professionally as Max Martin, is a Swedish music producer and songwriter. ... Martin grew up in Stenhamra, Ekerö Municipality, a suburb of Stockholm

"Savan Kotecha (One Direction's "Live While We're Young," Maroon 5's "One More Night")

Savan Kotecha is an Indian-American from Texas who made himself an honorary member of the Swedish songwriting mafia by spending six years in Sweden and marrying a Swedish girl.

"Dr. Luke (Rihanna's "Where Have You Been," Ke$ha's "Die Young")

Łukasz Gottwald (born September 26, 1973), better known as Dr. Luke, is an American songwriter, record producer, and remixer. ... Luke was born in Westerly, Rhode Island[4] to an architect father and an interior-designer mother, but spent much of his formative years in New York City.

 

image
Cirkut / Walter

"Cirkut (Katy Perry's "Wide Awake," B.o.B.'s "Strange Clouds")

Henry Russell Walter, known professionally as Cirkut, is a Canadian music producer and songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. 

 

"Greg Kurstin (Pink's "Blow Me One Last Kiss")

Gregory Allen "Greg" Kurstin (born May 14, 1969)[2][3] is an American songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. 

 

"Luiz Bonfa (Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know")

Luiz Floriano Bonfá (often seen as Luis Bonfá) (October 17, 1922 – January 12, 2001) was a Brazilian guitarist and composer. He was best known for the compositions he penned for the film Black Orpheus.[1]

 

image

However, Gotye, the adapter of the Brazilian jazz guitarist's tune into a current hit, is:

Wouter "Wally" De Backer (born 21 May 1980), also known professionally by his stage name Gotye (pronounced /ˈɡɔːti.ɛə/), is a Belgian-Australian[1] multi-instrumental musician and singer-songwriter. The name "Gotye" is derived from "Gauthier", the French equivalent of "Walter" or "Wouter". 


Here's Gotye's video, which emphasizes that he is, indeed, an extremely pale male.

There are a variety of ways of thinking about this phenomenon.

This could just be a matter of who you know, based in sizable measure on knowing Max Martin, who has been a major figure in what's normally a fad-driven business for a long time now.

Or, if you look at the last 500 years, the European continent produced the vast majority of music still known today, while its English-speaking periphery was peripheral in music. In the 20th Century, however, the English-speaking world came to dominate popular music. But in the long run, the future, like the past, may belong to the Euros, although they may need more vibrant-looking frontpersons.

It could be that changes in music technology have put the music crafting advantage back in the hands of white guys who are good at being creative while sitting alone in a room with precision devices.