January 20, 2009 / 11:53 PM / 10 years ago

Moroccan producer RedOne dancing atop charts

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If the U.S. and British pop charts are any guide, a producer from Morocco might be one of the hottest names in the music industry right now.

American pop singer and songwriter Lady GaGa performs at the Isle of MTV music concert in Floriana, outside Valletta, in this June 25, 2008 file photo. Los Angeles-based RedOne produced and co-wrote dance-pop singer Lady GaGa's single "Just Dance," which has ruled the charts on either side of the Atlantic for two weeks. The tune will also vie for a dance Grammy on Feb. 8. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi/Files

Los Angeles-based RedOne produced and co-wrote dance-pop singer Lady GaGa’s single “Just Dance,” which has ruled the charts on either side of the Atlantic for two weeks. The tune will also vie for a dance Grammy on February 8.

“Just Dance” is one of six RedOne contributions to Lady GaGa’s debut album “The Fame,” which is currently No. 3 in Britain and No. 14 in the United States.

RedOne (real name: Nadir Khayat) is currently working with Enrique Iglesias, and has partnered with his friend, R&B singer Akon, on top-secret sessions with Michael Jackson.

He has no idea when — or even if — their recordings will see the light of day. No plans have been announced for a Jackson album.

“With Michael you never know until you see the CD,” RedOne said in a recent interview. “If it happens or not, it’s OK. I worked with Michael. It’s something I’ve done in my life.”

It’s been a long road from Morocco, where the 36-year-old was the youngest of nine children in an educated, Westernized family, to the old Charlie Chaplin film lot in Hollywood, where RedOne rents a basement recording studio.

As a child of ‘80s pop music, he can thank the Swedish rock group Europe from rescuing him from a career in architecture or medicine. One of his brothers, who had been studying in France, brought home the Europe album “The Final Countdown.”

RedOne played the bombastic title track until the vinyl wore out, grew his hair long — no mean feat in an Islamic kingdom — and decided he had to go to Sweden to meet the band’s singer Joey Tempest. He was about 19 at the time.

“I was trying to find his house, as a crazy fan,” RedOne recalled.

In America, that would be considered stalking and grounds for deportation. But the Swedes, back then at least, were evidently more relaxed.

“He was nice and all that. ‘Oh come in ... You’re from Morocco and you know my music?’ He gave me a guitar and we sang together.”

Tempest gave him tips on getting into the music industry in Sweden, and RedOne slowly worked his way up from sleeping on music studio floors to his first success with the Swedish girl-group Popsie in the mid-1990s.

There were plenty of setbacks too, and RedOne despaired of ever enjoying more hits. But then the A*Teens came along, and some other acts, and RedOne set his sights on America.

He speaks six languages, but his vocabulary seems to be limited to the words “fun,” “quality,” “unbelievable” and “magical,” terms he uses over and over to describe his professional life.

Working with Yonkers-born Lady GaGa (birth name: Joanne Stefani Germanotta) on “Just Dance” took about an hour, he said.

“We started singing together, doing the melodies together. She comes with the lyrics, unbelievable, psycho, sophisticated lyrics that she is. It’s not overthought. It’s just one hundred percent inspiration.”

Careful listeners can tell when a track is produced by RedOne. One of his signature sounds is a break before the verse leads into the big chorus.

“A chorus has to lift. People have to start jumping even more. It’s like a trip, y’know?”

Raised on the likes of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, Julio Iglesias, Foreigner and Tina Turner, RedOne has tried to reciprocate the feeling by injecting some Moroccan sounds into his work.

“But people are not ready for it. It’s too complicated, rhythmically,” he said. “But I’m gonna bring more to the table because there’s so much stuff and it could be incredible.”

Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Jill Serjeant

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